Dell’s New XPS 13 Shows the Price of Going Too Thin

Ever since Steve Jobs pulled the first MacBook Air out of a manilla envelope at the MacWorld Expo in 2008, the laptop industry has been chasing accolades for the thinnest and lightest designs. And while the MacBook Air has continued to be a white whale, one Windows laptop has become almost as recognizable: the Dell XPS 13.

But the new Dell XPS 13 (9315) is a drastic change from its predecessors. While the XPS 13 as an ultrabook dates back to 2012, the XPS 13 as most of us remember it started in 2015, the first time the company added its "InfinityEdge" display, reducing the bezels. Thanks to that and a sturdy metal shell and mostly comfortable keyboard, the laptop became an icon. As other laptop manufacturers chased the MacBook Air, so did they chase the XPS 13. So when the XPS 13 goes thin enough as to be almost totally unrepairable or upgradable by users, I took notice. How much would Dell give up to shave 0.03 inches off the prior model?

The Dell XPS 13 (9315), which was announced on Thursday, keeps the thin bezels. But it's ditching the carbon fiber keyboard deck, and most of its ports, in Dell’s quest for a thinner, more portable design at just 0.55 inches thick. It uses Intel's 12th Gen U-series processors at nine watts (going up to 12W depending on the use case), leaving the more powerful P-series parts to the XPS 13 Plus.

But perhaps most importantly, it has Dell's smallest ever motherboard (approximately 180.15 x 38.34 mm). This allows the company to cram a large, thin battery in, keeping the laptop tiny and, presumably, long-lasting. (We haven't gotten to test the XPS 13 yet, but we look forward to it.) It's borrowing from the smartphone engineering world for both the motherboard and the RAM, soldering memory that typically goes over smartphone processors to the motherboard.