Intel created the term “ultrabook” to define notebooks that are slim, light, stylish and fast, with most using solid-state drives for faster start-up and shutdown. The PC industry jumped on the idea, due in part to the pace set by Apple’s sexy MacBook Air. And the Air’s influence is clear in Dell’s new XPS 13
. The aluminum look and keyboard are similar and the specs are lockstep with the 13-inch Air: the Dell is 1 mm thicker and slightly heavier (1.36 kg to the Air’s 1.35 kg) but not as wide, at 316 mm compared to the Air at 325 mm. But those are differences that make little difference: both are slim, light and sexy. But Dell does win on price: similarly configured (13-inchscreen, dual-core i5 processor, 4GB of RAM and a 128MB SSD drive), the XPS 13 costs $1,100, $200 less than the MacBook Air.
Comparisons aside, the Dell is a joy to use and the ultra book to beat. The backlit chiclet keyboard is responsive and well designed and the inclusion of a Trusted Platform Module supports Bitlocker for securing data. Now, the notebook is not perfect. I dislike the mini DisplayPort, which forces you to buy a conversion dongle to plug into most monitors or LCD projectors, and while the five and half hours I got out of the battery under actual work conditions (Wi-Fi on,screen at 50 per cent brightness and keyboard backlight used half the time) is good, it falls well short of Dell’s promised nine hours. But those are minor quibbles. Right now, ultrabook-type notebooks are the best notebooks on the market, and the XPS 13 may be the best ultrabook.
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