Dell XPS 13 Plus (2022) Review: Like a heatwave – Reviewed

Updated August 23, 2022
The Dell XPS 13 Plus (available at Dell) makes a good first impression. It’s attractive, compact, and boasts a stunning OLED display with rich contrast and vivid color. These perks sour quickly, however, as excessive heat, limited ports, and a disappointing keyboard make day-to-day use a chore. We recommend staying away from this laptop.
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About the Dell XPS 13 Plus
What we like
What we don’t like
Should you buy the Dell XPS 13 Plus?
Related content
Alluring design
Excellent OLED display
Great multi-core performance in some senarios
Mediocre performance in normal use
Gets uncomfortably hot
Lack of useful ports
Here are the specs of the laptop we tested:
Entry-level configurations start with an Intel Core i5-1240P, but our test system came equipped with the Intel Core i7-1280P, a stunning powerhouse with a total of 14 processor cores and 20 threads.
It also received an upgrade from 8GB to 16GB of RAM, but the 512GB M.2 PCIe SSD comes standard. The XPS 13 Plus is expensive, though, with an as-tested MSRP of $1,949—and high pricing makes flaws hard to tolerate.
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Dell has come a long way since the “Dude, you’re getting a Dell!” era of beige box towers and drab charcoal laptops. While its entry-level PCs are mundane, the XPS laptop line is full of stunners—and the XPS 13 Plus is arguably the best-looking yet.
The XPS 13 Plus makes the most of a thin-bezel design with a true edge-to-edge keyboard that spans every millimeter of the laptop’s width.
The design takes unusual steps to minimize anything that might interrupt the laptop’s sleek, svelte profile. This includes the removal of the function keys, which are replaced by a touch-sensitive surface (similar to, but less sophisticated than, the Touch Bar on some MacBook Pro models), and the lack of a physical bump or border to indicate the boundaries of the touchpad. These quirks come with compromise, but they certainly help XPS 13 Plus stand out from the crowd.
Material quality is top-notch. While Apple sticks to cold, clinical aluminum, Dell mixes an aluminum exterior with a pleasant and inviting soft-touch interior. Prior XPS laptops took a similar approach but often used a faux-carbon fiber weave. The minimalist gray-white interior of the XPS 13 Plus is even more alluring.
The Dell XPS 13 Plus is lightweight and compact.
The XPS 13 Plus is light, weighing in at 2.71 pounds (or 2.77 pounds with an OLED screen). Lighter 13-inch laptops are available: the Samsung Galaxy Book2 Pro, for example, weighs as little as 1.93 pounds. However, the XPS 13 Plus is as light as Apple’s new M2 MacBook Air, which weighs 2.7 pounds.
It’s a small laptop at 11.63 inches wide, 7.68 inches deep, and 0.6 inches thick. Its thickness isn’t notable, but the lack of width and depth stands out compared to similar laptops; The new MacBook Air is about an inch wider and a half inch deeper. Microsoft’s Surface Laptop 4 is just as thin and light as the Dell but nearly an inch larger in width and depth.
The lack of width, depth, and weight makes for a portable laptop. The XPS 13 Plus is similar in size to Apple’s old 11-inch MacBook Air (now discontinued) and roughly equal to many 11-inch netbooks sold a decade ago. That’s good news if you want to carry a laptop in a small messenger bag or large purse.
Both the display lid and lower chassis are rigid, showing no noticeable flex when the laptop is opened or held from one corner. The XPS 13 Plus is as solid as Apple’s new MacBook Pro and Air models, and far better than any LG Gram, Samsung Galaxy Book, or Asus Zenbook I’ve tested. Lenovo’s ThinkPad Carbon models are comparable, but most are substantially larger.
Experience a superb sense of depth and contrast with the OLED screen.
The base Dell XPS 13 Plus has a 1920 x 1200 IPS LCD non-touch screen, but my review laptop came equipped with a 3456 x 2160 OLED touchscreen. This alone adds $300 to the laptop’s price, but the image quality is fantastic.
OLED screens control brightness on a per-pixel level and can turn off individual pixels entirely, a feat traditional LCD screens can’t achieve. This provides a deep, rich experience with superb contrast and a convincing sense of depth. The OLED screen has an extremely wide color gamut, meaning it can display a vast range of colors, and colors appear accurate.
The XPS 13 Plus OLED display’s 3456 x 2160 resolution technically falls short of 4K (which is 3840 x 2160) but still provides a razor-sharp experience. Pixel density works out to 301 pixels per inch, nearly double the pixel density of a 27-inch 4K monitor.
Maximum sustained maximum brightness came in at 372 nits which, although decently high, is not always enough to overcome glare. Those who often work in bright spaces may prefer the base 1920 x 1200 screen, which has an anti-glare finish and higher maximum brightness (according to Dell’s specifications). Viewing angles aren’t that hot, either, as portions of the screen have a shimmering look when viewed from the side.
These issues won’t be a problem for everyone, however, and they’re offset by OLED’s advantage in image quality. It’s a visual treat that beats LCDs in every way OLED is a particularly good choice for viewing (or editing) photos and videos, as its vivid color and excellent sharpness help this content look its best.
I knew the OLED display would be good before I turned it on, not least of all because it’s nearly identical to the OLED in 2021’s Dell XPS 13 OLED. What I didn’t expect was a sonic experience to match.
The XPS 13 Plus has a pair of 2-watt speakers and a built-in woofer. None of this is remarkable on paper, but I was satisfied by the results. The speakers deliver a clear mid-range with crisp vocals but also manage a hint of bass thump.
Volume is high, as well. The XPS 13 Plus won’t blast holes in your drywall, but it’s loud enough to fill a home office. The speakers do sound unpleasant near maximum volume in music that pairs multiple vocalists alongside deep and persistent bass, but the results are enjoyable between 60% to 80% of maximum.
The speakers are downward-firing, however, so audio quality can vary depending on where the laptop sits. Hard surfaces maximize bass and volume while soft surfaces provide a more mellow sound. This inconsistency can be annoying if you frequently move the laptop around a home or office.
The Dell XPS 13 Plus I tested had an Intel Core i7-1280P processor. It’s a beast with six performance cores, eight efficient cores, and a maximum boost clock speed of 4.8GHz. It was paired with 16GB of fast DDR5 5200MHz memory and a 512GB NVMe solid state drive. Unfortunately, the laptop’s impressive specifications led to mixed results.
Geekbench 5 reached a single-core score of 1508 and a multi-core score of 8212. This defeats the Asus Zenbook S13 OLED, which hit a single-core score of 1376 and a multi-core score of 6841 with its AMD Ryzen 7 6800U processor. But the XPS 13 Plus falls short of Apple’s MacBook Pro 13 with M2 chip, as it scored 1895 and 8983, respectively.
Cinebench R23 was less favorable for the XPS 13 Plus, as it posted a multi-core score of just 7015. That’s behind the Asus Zenbook S13 OLED, which scored 8747, and the MacBook Pro 13 with an M2 chip, which scored 8696.
To be fair, the Dell XPS 13 Plus is not slow. It’s a very capable machine that will embarrass most laptops with older Intel 11th-gen Core processors or AMD Ryzen 3000, 4000, or 5000 series hardware. Still, the Dell XPS 13 Plus falls behind the competitors I previously mentioned.
The XPS 13 Plus relies on Intel Iris Xe integrated graphics for gaming and general 3D performance. It posted a score of 1625 in 3DMark Time Spy. This beats laptops with AMD’s Ryzen 5 5000-series processors that use integrated graphics; Lenovo’s Yoga 6, which had a Ryzen 5 5500U, scored 1063.
However, AMD’s new Ryzen 6000-series chips can retake the lead. The Asus Zenbook S13 OLED, powered by AMD’s Ryzen 6800U with Radeon 680M integrated graphics, scored 2058 in this benchmark.
Results can be improved by manually switching the performance mode from Optimized to Ultra Performance. I doubt most users will do this, as the setting is not readily visible, but it makes a difference. The Geekbench 5 multi-core score rises from 8212 to 10413. Cinebench R23 soars from 7015 to 10808. These results are more impressive and do beat the similar competition.
This laptop will leave you breaking a sweat.
Unfortunately, Ultra Performance comes with a troubling downside (or, depending on your perspective, a hidden feature). The laptop can double as a hot plate.
I recorded a maximum external temperature of 129.9 degrees Fahrenheit (54.3 degrees Celsius) with an IR thermometer while running the Cinebench R23 benchmark. It’s not hot enough to fry an egg but certainly enough to be painful to touch after five to ten seconds. We do not recommend putting this laptop on top of your lap for that reason.
Temperatures are lower in more mundane use, like web browsing, but still high. Keyboard temperatures generally range between 90 to 100 degrees F (32.2 to 37.7 C) when the laptop’s power mode is set to Optimized, and the hotspot on the laptop’s bottom hits 105 F (40.6 C).
That’s still too much. Using the Dell XPS 13 Plus for more than fifteen minutes left me with sweaty palms, a hot lap, and a grumpy disposition.
The keyboard has a spacious layout but feels rather shallow.
The XPS 13 Plus makes the most of its limited interior space with an edge-to-edge keyboard that provides a surprisingly spacious layout. Most keys are large and those that are cut down, such as the Backspace key, are just slightly smaller than usual.
The keys feel shallow and wooden, however, which can make it difficult to know when a key is activated. The problem is not that the keys are unresponsive, but instead that the key switch mechanism doesn’t offer a good tactile response. Typing feels cumbersome and vague, especially when touch-typing at more than sixty words per minute.
In a controversial move, the XPS 13 Plus replaces the function with a row of backlit, touch-sensitive keys. The idea, as mentioned, is similar to the MacBook Pro Touch Bar but less sophisticated, as the keys are merely printed above the keyboard. It’s attractive but annoying to use. I found myself touching function keys multiple times when my first attempt wasn’t registered.
The touchpad, which lacks any physical border to define its limits, measures roughly four inches wide and two inches deep. I often tapped outside the borders of the touchpad without realizing it which, of course, forced me to move my finger and try again.
Multitouch gestures are a chore. The lack of defined borders, along with the small surface area, meant I sometimes messed up a gesture by moving a finger outside the touchpad’s usable area. This is most noticeable with Windows’ more elaborate gestures, such as the reverse four-finger pinch used to clear the desktop of open windows.
Dell’s competitors have the XPS 13 Plus beat. Laptops like the LG Gram 14, Asus Zenbook S13 OLED, and Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 offer slightly better touchpads and much better keyboards. Apple’s MacBook Air and MacBook Pro 13 remain the reigning champions of touchpads with a far larger and more responsive touch surface.
The XPS 13 Plus has two Thunderbolt 4 ports. Both ports support USB 4 with Power Delivery and DisplayPort Alternate Mode, so they can be used to connect a display and charge the laptop.
That’s all the physical connectivity you get. There’s no video-out aside from DisplayPort on the Thunderbolt 4 ports. No Ethernet. No USB-A. Even the 3.5mm audio jack is missing. Yes, that’s right: You can’t use wired headphones without an adapter.
That adapter is in the box, at least, along with a USB-C to USB-A adapter for connecting older USB-A devices. I’m happy to see Dell include adapters, but they highlight the lack of ports. It’s impossible to charge the Dell XPS 13 Plus with both adapters in use (unless you connect a third-party USB-C hub).
Dell ships the XPS 13 Plus with a 55-watt-hour battery. That’s a reasonable size for a 13-inch laptop but it’s clearly outmatched by this laptop’s 14-core processor.
Our standard battery benchmark, which automatically loops through 20 open browser tabs, led to seven hours and 18 minutes of battery life. That’s better than the Asus Zenbook S13 OLED, which hit six hours and 50 minutes, but worse than the Lenovo Yoga 6, which achieved ten hours and nine minutes. The Dell XPS 13 Plus also falls behind the Acer Swift X 14, Asus Vivobook 14 OLED, and Samsung Galaxy Book, among others.
Apple’s MacBook Pro 13 with an M2 chip is in another league, lasting an epic 19 hours and two minutes. The Dell XPS 13 Plus can’t hope to match the endurance of any MacBook with an M1 or M2 chip.
The XPS 13 Plus should come with an ice pack handy.
I want to like the XPS 13 Plus. It has wonderfully thin bezels, a true edge-to-edge keyboard, and a 14-core processor that can, under optimal conditions, post impressive results.
But ultimately, Dell made an achingly attractive laptop with a middling keyboard, annoying touchpad, and too few ports. The 14-core processor overwhelms the cooling system, leading to excessive exterior temperatures.
Dell’s outgoing Dell XPS 13 9310 was a better laptop. It had a better keyboard and touchpad, the same gorgeous OLED display, longer battery life, and wasn’t as hot in day-to-day use. The new XPS 13 Plus is superior only in performance—but you’ll need an ice pack to make the most of it.
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Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.
Matthew S. Smith
Contributor
Matthew S. Smith is a veteran tech journalist and general-purpose PC hardware nerd. Formerly the Lead Editor of Reviews at Digital Trends, he has over a decade of experience covering PC hardware. Matt often flies the virtual skies in Microsoft Flight Simulator and is on a quest to grow the perfect heirloom tomato.
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