Dell XPS 13 OLED Impressions: Great Display, High Price

The Dell XPS laptops are the company’s flagship ultraportables, and the Dell XPS 13 2021 edition now comes with an OLED display to make it even more appealing. The Dell XPS 13 was known for its sleek and stylish chassis but with the new display, did Dell have to forego some other key features to be able to offer this option? This variant is currently only in the US and UK market, and we got our hands on one to use and review. Here are our first impressions of the Dell XPS 13 OLED.

Just like the previous versions, the 2021 variant of the Dell XPS 13 is also extremely lightweight and compact. It weighs only 1.2kgs, which is the same as Apple’s M1 Macbook Air. As you’d expect from a laptop in this series, it’s a good looking laptop, and the Arctic White variant I tried out is quite striking. It has a brushed silver lid, with the Arctic White finish on the inside. The palm rests are made of woven glass fiber like in the previous XPS line-up for the premium feeling.

But it’s not just the design that makes this feel like a premium laptop. The 512GB storage and 16GB RAM variant with the OLED screen will make you shell out a hefty $1,599 (or approximately Rs. 1,19,000). There are slightly cheaper FHD and UHD options also available.

Since the OLED display is the star of the show here, let’s talk about that. The bezels around the screen are so minute that the screen immediately commands attention. We have used and reviewed the 4K screen of the past variants but the OLED one is truly stunning. This version comes with 3,456 x 2,160 pixels, or what Dell (and Dell alone) calls the 3.5K. The display difference is really noticeable if you put an OLED with a non-OLED screen. The colours are vibrant with sharp details and deep blacks. Watching Netflix on this was a delightful experience and the laptop delivers a gorgeous picture every time. The pixel dense display really throws up a lot of detail. The visual richness of Queen Elizabeth’s reign in the Netflix series The Crown is spectacular on this screen and really comes to life.  

It’s not the brightest screen that’s out there though. The brightness maxes out at 400 nits, but working outdoors was a decent experience. It was not reflective at all and I didn’t have a problem with glare either. Dell’s XPS line-up is known for its touchscreens and here also, the touchscreen works well and is very responsive, although this is not a feature you end up using much. It’s quite an afterthought on a laptop like this that runs pretty smoothly as is. But testing it out, I realised it does not leave very visible smudges or fingerprints on the screen.  

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Dell XPS 13 now comes with an OLED screen option

In terms of battery life, on a single charge I could use the laptop for only about seven hours with different day to day functions like browsing the web, watching Netflix for an hour and a little bit of gaming. I did use it in dark mode so that helped a bit. But playing Fortnite on this drained the battery faster than I expected and it needed to be charged pretty fast.

Another gripe I have with the Dell XPS 13 2021 is the limited number of ports it comes with. The ultra thin aluminium chassis has two Thunderbolt 4 ports, a headphone jack and a micro SD card slot. A USB Type-A is missed here but Dell does pack in a Type-A to Type-C dongle in the box.

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Thunderbolt 4 and Micro SD Card slot seen on the left of the laptop

There are speakers located on the underside of the laptop in small cut-outs. The sound is punchy and loud especially when the Dell XPS 13 is placed on a flat and even surface. The sound definitely adds to the excellent media experience.

Not much has changed with the Dell XPS 13 other than the OLED screen option, but the keyboard has been improved. The keys are not too clicky but not rigid either. Typing my first impressions piece on this felt easy and comfortable. There is also a two-stage backlighting on this keyboard which looks really good against the white finish. The 4.4 x 2.5 inch touchpad is silky smooth and reacts instantly.

In terms of performance, the OLED variant of the Dell XPS 13 comes equipped with an Intel Core i7-1185G7 CPU with 16GB of RAM by default. This is more than enough power for day-to-day tasks and it could handle opening multiple webpages, and streaming 1080p videos with ease. There is an Intel Iris Xe graphics card which can assist with editing videos and playing games like Fortnite but only on lower graphics settings.

The webcam is inconspicuous and almost hidden in the bezel. I tried taking a few work calls with it and the output was slightly grainy especially in low light, but for a camera that size it did an okay job.

The Dell XPS 13 debuts the OLED screen and the borderless InfinityEdge display is gorgeous, improved further by the OLED panel. Since Dell has not experimented much with the performance or design, there is not much to be said about those aspects. The design is true to its premium ultraportable category and the performance will do well in day-to-day tasks.

The battery does take a slight hit on this model with the OLED screen. On first impression, with a lofty price of $1,599 (or approximately Rs. 1,19,000), the OLED option of the Dell XPS 13 will appeal more to visual enthusiasts who might be particular about screen quality and colour reproduction. But there are FHD and UHD options as well, and these actually give you some room for RAM and memory customisation choices as well.


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