Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook Hands-On: Gorilla Glass Screen and Intel Smart Connect for $999

LAS VEGAS — Dell has entered the Ultrabook race in a big way at CES 2012 with the XPS 13, a superslim aluminum and carbon fiber notebook that crams a 13-inch screen in a body that’s 15 percent smaller than the MacBook Air. The XPS 13 stands out from other Ultrabooks with its durable Gorilla Glass display and Intel’s Smart Connect Technology, which updates data in the background even when the lid is closed. Starting at $999, the XPS 13 will go on sale at the end of February.

Learn more about the XPS 13 below, and check out our full gallery and hands-on video.

Dell’s sleekest laptop yet, the XPS 13 measures 0.24 inches to 0.71 inches and weighs 2.99 pounds. It’s not the lightest Ultrabook around but it’s certainly one of the thinnest. The lid is made of sturdy aluminum, while the base uses carbon fiber to keep things cool. Dell includes a full-size backlit keyboard and glass touchpad for navigation. The screen uses the standard 1366 x 768-pixel resolution, but we like the edge-to-edge glass look.

The left side of the XPS 13 houses the power jack, USB 2.0 port and headphone jack, while a Mini DisplayPort, USB 3.0 port and battery gauge indicator line the right side. Unfortunately, Dell didn’t include an SD Card slot, which is a pretty big omission.

Like other Ultrabooks, the XPS 13 boots quickly, thanks to its 128GB SSD, but Dell goes further than the competition by being the first to include Intel’s Smart Connect Technology. This feature allows the notebook to wake periodically and update important info like your email and calendar.

The XPS 13 will have multiple processor options, including Core i5 and Core i7 and will come with 4GB of RAM standard. Dell promises up to 8 hours of battery life. The Core i5 model will cost $999 and go up to $1,299 for a 256GB SSD. No word yet on pricing for the Core i7 model.

If you can live without an SD Card slot, the XPS 13 looks like one of the most compelling Ultrabooks yet. We really like the idea of Intel’s Smart Connect, because your data will be updated as soon as you open the lid. Stay tuned for a full review.

Mark Spoonauer
Mark Spoonauer
Responsible for the editorial vision for Laptop Mag and Tom's Guide, Mark Spoonauer has been Editor in Chief of LAPTOP since 2003 and has covered technology for nearly 15 years. Mark speaks at key tech industry events and makes regular media appearances on CNBC, Fox and CNN. Mark was previously reviews editor at Mobile Computing, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc.
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  1. LionelatDell Says:

    Mark: Thanks for the post, hope you are well. See you included a lot of good details in your post. If others are interested in more background, check out Rene’s blog post on Direct2Dell:

    Thanks again,

  2. Christine Says:

    No SD card slot…seriously? With only 128gb, most users will want to store data/info on an SD card; without an SD slot it’s a deal killer!

  3. TrackSmart Says:


    I agree that an SD card slot is desirable (I use mine semi-often). That being said, SD cards only go up to 32GB, so that wouldn’t be a huge boost in permanent storage space. If you need to keep it cheap, a number of ultrabooks are using hard drives paired with small SSDs that are used to cache frequently used files. Or you could spend some serious money on a larger SSD…

  4. Shameer M. Says:

    Is this ultrabook using the Intel Sandy Bridge or Ivy Bridge processors? This model looks really good. I’d consider purchasing it.

  5. S Says:

    The design is nice. 1366×768 screen res is a deal breaker for me, when the ASUS UX31 has 1600×900. Also, no SD card slot is another big negative.

  6. Dell laptop lover Says:

    I am loving what I see here. This is exactly what Dell has been needing to put out. I am huge Dell supporter and I’ve been waiting for a nice sleek thin laptop to travel with. I can’t wait to get this and review it. Great information Mark. SD cards in my perspective aren’t useful anymore as long as there is a Bluetooth connection!

  7. Sam Says:

    what i really want is that wallpaper! i’m getting one of these in March, can’t wait! anyone know wher i can get that wallpaper?

  8. J Says:

    Although the Dell XPS 13 has a lower resolution than the Asus Zenbook, the color are much more vivid and alive. Plus, text is just getting ridiculously too small with the higher resolutions. I think Dell did a great overall job on this system. I’ve reviewed every ultrabook to date except the Lenovo U300 and I have to say the xps13 has the best build of all of them although the touch-pad needs some serious work (drivers).

  9. Victor Says:

    Not having an SD card reader is a failure. Every single laptop I’ve seen in recent years, even 11″ and 10″ ones have it. Not because the extra storage, but just because it does not take much space and since you’re removing other things…
    Folks, do not forget that this thing is so thin that it does not have an RJ45 ethernet jack. So if you’re going to travel with this to many places, make sure there’s accessible Wifi….
    I still prefer to have an ethernet port, sorry, just gives you peace of mind.

  10. W Says:

    SD storage? Please. There’s cloud storage out there. That small jewel has displayport so you can connect it to your 2560 external display.

  11. Elisa Says:

    Lindo!!! Quero um para mim agora!

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