If you’ve been waiting for a 13-inch laptop with the best display technology, Dell now has an option for you. Dell has finally released a OLED version of its XPS 13, and I’m typing this review on it right now.
The test unit sent to me has a Core i7-1185G7, 16GB of RAM and 512GB of storage. The OLED setup costs exactly the same as a non-OLED 4K model with identical specs ($ 1,699.99) and $ 300 more than an FHD touchscreen model with identical specs. Nothing else about this XPS is new: it has the same thin and light construction, the same tiny bezels and webcam, the same fiberglass palm rests, and the same 16:10 aspect ratio as the past couple Dell XPS 13s I saw again. So the considerations here really boil down to how much you need an OLED display and what you’re willing to sacrifice for it.
The display itself is great. This is a 3.5K (3456 x 2160) panel with a claimed 100,000: 1 contrast ratio. It maximized our colorimeter, covering 100 percent of the DCI-P3 color gamut. It’s not as bright as the FHD model, but it’s still very bright, peaking at 369 nits. I had no problem using the device outdoors and generally used it below 30% brightness indoors. Aside from the numbers, it delivers a truly stunning picture with vivid, vibrant colors and crisp details.
The downside, of course, is that there is an impact on battery life. I haven’t reviewed the Dell XPS 13 4K so can’t comment on the longevity of this device. But compared to the FHD model I reviewed, the OLED model struggles with battery life.
Battery life, for context, was a huge selling point for the other XPS 13 models. I lasted an average of nine hours and 15 minutes using the Model FHD as my main driver working around 200 nits of brightness. With the OLED model, I was getting about five hours with the same workload at the same brightness.
It’s … well, that’s a big gap. And that should be a serious consideration if you are considering purchasing this device. After all, the FHD screen is still pretty good. The blacks on my review unit weren’t as deep as on this OLED panel, but the image it delivered was still fantastic and it wasn’t something my non-artistic eyes had trouble with. (On the other hand, the non-OLED 4K display doesn’t seem to have much battery life either, through other Comments. The OLED is therefore more competitive with this model, especially since it is the same price.)
For this reason, I would still recommend most people to go with the XPS 13 FHD over the OLED model. Five hours isn’t a good battery life, but it’s certainly not great for an ultraportable laptop this close to the $ 2,000 mark. It’s definitely a snap for me, even though everything else on a laptop is perfect. That means I should have this thing plugged in a few times a day, although one of its main benefits is supposed to be that it’s light enough to carry anywhere. I want.
Meanwhile, as pleasing as the OLED display is, I can’t imagine it will make a huge difference in the quality of life for everyone except the most discerning viewers. That certainly shouldn’t be a big enough difference to offset a $ 300 premium and four-hour impact on battery life. If you’re someone for whom OLED is worth the money, you probably know who you are.
Photograph by Monica Chin / The Verge