The best Windows laptop you can buy just got even better
How do you make the best Windows laptop around even better? Slapping on an immersive OLED display isn’t a bad way to start. The Dell XPS 13 OLED (starting at $1,518; dell.com) does just that, packing a nearly borderless 13-inch screen that makes watching movies, editing photos and even catching up on Slack chats more engrossing — though it does come with some caveats.
Fancy new screen aside, this is the same XPS 13 that has long been our favorite Windows laptop, thanks to its svelte design, fast overall performance and comfortable keyboard. However, the laptop’s speakers and webcam are still lacking, and this particular model’s battery life suffers a bit due to its high-resolution OLED screen.
Is the XPS 13 OLED worth the splurge over the standard model? Here’s what we think after weeks of working and playing on Dell’s latest laptop.
Who it’s for: The Dell XPS 13 OLED is for folks looking for the best overall Windows laptop for basic work and entertainment, and who don’t mind splurging for an extra-immersive display. Those who don’t care about OLED will be fine with the standard XPS 13.
What you need to know: The Dell XPS 13 OLED delivers the same gorgeous and compact design, comfortable keyboard and speedy performance we’ve enjoyed on the most recent XPS 13, but with an OLED screen for more vivid visuals. However, this laptop’s battery life isn’t quite as good as competitors (likely due to that OLED display), and its webcam and speakers are underwhelming.
How it compares: The XPS 13 OLED outshines its close competitor in the Surface Laptop 4 (starting at $999) in terms of build quality, overall performance and display richness, though Microsoft’s laptop has a taller screen, deeper keyboard and better battery life. Dell’s laptop makes a great Windows alternative to the MacBook Air (starting at $999), though Apple’s notebook offers more overall power and endurance as well as a superior webcam.
The Dell XPS 13’s display has always been a stunner, especially ever since Dell chopped off nearly all of the bezels in the 2020 models to deliver truly immersive viewing for work and play. It was hard to imagine this notebook’s screen getting any better, but Dell managed to add OLED to the mix — and the results are awesome.
OLED (organic light-emitting diode) displays are known for delivering especially deep blacks and high contrast, two perks that immediately became apparent as soon as we laid eyes on the 13.3-inch InfinityEdge screen on the XPS. The black backgrounds of Slack and Twitter looked incredibly bold and rich in dark mode, allowing messages and tweets to come through with a satisfying and legible white pop without any of the fuzzy “blooming” effect that can sometimes happen when these colors clash. The reverse also looked great — black text popped nicely on top of white backgrounds in Google Docs — but if you’re someone who finds dark mode more pleasing and easy on the eye, you’ll especially love this display.
Of course, the XPS 13’s OLED screen is good for more than just reading text. An 8K nature video exploded with vivid color and true-to-life detail on Dell’s display — the orange-brown fur on a pack of deer and the bright greens of a forest were especially striking, and we could make out every strand of fur on a lion’s mane during a close-up. When watching the same video on a Surface Laptop 4, there was a stark difference in saturation and vibrancy that made Microsoft’s still-impressive display look dull by comparison.
While the XPS 13 OLED makes a great display even better, the laptop’s audio output is still just OK. Energetic rock tracks like Real Friends’ “Nervous Wreck” got plenty loud but also became muddy once the crunchy guitars kicked in, while the quieter indie melodies of Julien Baker’s “Relative Fiction” fared much better. The XPS 13’s speakers made it easy to hear colleagues during work calls, but you should probably reach for a dedicated pair of headphones or speakers if you plan on bingeing lots of music or movies on this laptop.
OLED screen aside, the latest XPS 13 is more of the same — and that’s largely a great thing. Dell’s flagship laptop remains one of the most attractive PCs you can buy, with razor-thin edges and a comfortable interior that looks especially stunning in Arctic White (there’s also a more subdued black option). And if you find yourself on the go more these days, the XPS 13 is very travel-friendly at 2.8 pounds and just over half an inch thin.
Just as the XPS 13’s beautiful design remains untouched, so does its relatively slim port selection. You get two USB-C Thunderbolt 4 ports, which can be used for everything from charging the laptop up to connecting multiple 4K monitors, as well as a microSD card slot and a headphone jack. While that’s not a lot of connectivity, we do appreciate that Dell includes a USB-C to USB-A adapter in the box for using older accessories.
We’ve enjoyed typing on various versions of the XPS 13 for years now, thanks to keys that are especially soft to the touch and have a nice amount of bounce to them. The textured wrist wrest certainly doesn’t hurt either. However, after spending time with the deeper, snappier keyboards on newer laptops like the Surface Laptop 4 and Acer Chromebook Spin 713, we do wish that the XPS 13’s keys offered a bit more feedback and travel.
We’ve always found the Dell XPS 13 to be more than powerful enough for our daily workflow, and that trend continues with the new OLED model. Our review unit came loaded with an 11th Gen Intel Core i7 processor, 16GB of RAM and 512GB of solid-state drive storage, which translated to snappy and smooth multitasking no matter how many things we did at once.
We regularly had 30 or more Google Chrome tabs during a typical workday, and never noticed any hiccups as we bounced between various documents, websites, Twitch streams and a browser-based photo editor. The XPS 13 continued to hold steady as we added eight apps to the mix, including Slack, Spotify, Discord, the Audacity audio editing app and a 4K video running via VLC player.
Simply put, you’re going to have a hard time slowing this machine down. One word of warning, however: The XPS 13 got noticeably hot on the bottom under this heavy load, so we’d recommend working on a desk rather than your lap if you’re doing lots of intensive multitasking.
While the XPS 13 OLED can chew through just about any combination of everyday work tasks, you’ll want to keep its charger handy if you plan on working long hours on this thing. Dell’s laptop lasted a pretty underwhelming six hours and eight minutes on our battery test, which consists of playing a 4K video on a loop at half brightness with Wi-Fi off. That’s a notable step down from the 8.5 hours we got from the Surface Laptop 4, and below Dell’s 8-hour rating for streaming content from the comparable XPS 13 4K model.
The latest XPS 13 configuration also fails to fix one of the laptop’s few glaring weaknesses: the webcam. Photos we took on the notebook’s 720p camera were dark and noticeably pixelated, even when we were facing direct sunlight. The XPS 13’s camera works fine in a pinch, but we’d recommend springing for a dedicated webcam for important interviews or meetings — or considering the superior camera in the MacBook Air.
The Dell XPS 13 OLED (starting at $1,518; dell.com) adds an even more immersive display to our favorite laptop, with vivid colors and deep blacks that make movies, images and text come to life in a way that really stands out from the base model. If you’re big on creative work or simply want the best possible laptop screen for your next Netflix binge, this is the XPS 13 configuration to get.
However, that beautiful OLED screen can suck up battery life pretty fast, as this version of the XPS 13 doesn’t last as long as the starting 1080p model or competitors such as the Surface Laptop 4 (starting at $999; microsoft.com). We also still wish Dell would improve the laptop’s underwhelming webcam and speakers, which pale in comparison to what you get on the MacBook Air (starting at $899; amazon.com).
If you’d rather save some cash, the standard XPS 13 (starting at $949; dell.com) still delivers most of what we love about this PC, including an incredibly slim design, a great keyboard and zippy 11th Gen Intel performance. But if you’re willing to splurge to get an extra-gorgeous display on the best overall Windows laptop around — and don’t mind taking a hit on battery life — the Dell XPS 13 OLED offers a whole lot for its premium price.