Laptops

Dell XPS 13 (2018) Review: Still the best in its class

The benchmark of portable laptops

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When talking about premium laptops, the flagship models of PC manufacturers are automatically part of the list. You’ve probably already heard of Dell’s XPS line of notebooks. If you haven’t, maybe you’ve seen it before in a cafe or at a store because it’s pretty distinct. Just look for the notebook with an incredibly thin display bezel, and that’s most likely the Dell XPS 13.

Since its introduction in 2012, the design of the XPS 13 hasn’t changed much. It was in 2015 that the Ultrabook (the name of premium Windows notebooks before) got its recognizable bezel-less display. Dell is not yet ready to give the XPS 13 a major makeover, so the 2018 version only has slight changes. Is it still the XPS 13 we know and love? Here’s my review.

The edge-to-edge design lives on

Let’s first talk about the display because it’s the first thing one would notice about this notebook. Since the introduction of the InfinityEdge display on the XPS line, we’ve been wanting other laptops to have the same design. Dell is able to achieve an 80.7 percent screen-to-body ratio with the XPS 13.

My particular XPS 13 comes with a 4K Ultra HD IPS panel with touch input, but it also comes in Full HD with the base configuration. Dell already claims to have covered 100 percent of the sRGB color space with a 1500:1 contrast ratio. Not only that, it’s got a Corning Gorilla 4 with an anti-reflective coating and it can reach 400-nits of brightness which guarantees optimum screen visibility outdoors.

Watching Final Space on Netflix is way more fun with this notebook

Basically, there’s nothing to complain about the XPS 13’s display: It’s color accurate, bright, and immersive. I can’t say the same for the side stereo speakers, though. While the display excels, the speakers do fall a bit behind. They do sound quite pleasant but distort a bit at max volume.

As with smartphones, there’s a catch to borderless designs. Thankfully, nobody has tried releasing a notebook with a notched display, but the webcam has to go somewhere, and here it’s at the bottom of the display. I’ve been using the Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S as my daily driver which also has its selfie camera in an unusual position, so this camera placement isn’t weird for me.

It could be also be called the knuckles cam since fingers get in the view when typing

To be frank, I don’t use the webcam that much. Most of the time, I open it to act as a mirror. When I do need to call someone on Skype or any video-calling service, the camera is looking right up my nose and the quality is so-so.

Good thing it’s not a plain webcam. It has an additional infrared sensor that’s fully compatible with Windows Hello. I never had to type my password or PIN to unlock the XPS 13 because the facial recognition unlock is nearly instant.

Windows Hello works great with the infrared camera

Aside from face recognition, there’s also a fingerprint reader embedded into the power button. So when I wake the notebook from sleep by pressing the power button, it already authenticates and automatically unlocks the device. Pretty neat!

The power key and fingerprint sensor in one button

Moving on to the left side, there’s a couple of USB-C ports with support for Thunderbolt 3 and four lanes of PCI Express Gen 3. So, an external GPU (eGPU) will be able to turn the XPS 13 into a graphics powerhouse.

This will make the XPS 13 both a great laptop on the go and a workhorse when docked. There’s also a 5-LED battery indicator and a Noble lock slot beside these ports.

The battery indicator is a small feature but useful when on the go

On the other side, there’s another USB-C port. This one doesn’t support Thunderbolt 3, but it’s DisplayPort-compatible for external monitors. Thankfully, there’s also a 3.5mm port for headphones and microphones but I’m disappointed about the microSD card reader.

It would have been 100 percent better as a full-size SD card reader

The bottom of the laptop hides the unsightly grilles for ventilation and maintenance screws. There are two long rubber feet to keep the laptop in place when on a surface. The back foot is raised a bit higher, making the XPS 13 slightly inclined. You don’t notice this but it actually gives you a better angle when typing.

The heat dissipates away from the user

Speaking of typing, it’s easy to adjust to the layout of the XPS 13’s keyboard. Every key is where I like it to be with a good amount of spacing, and the travel of each key is just right. Overall, the whole keyboard never felt cramped.

What I like more is the touchpad. Despite being a bit constrained due to the size of the notebook, it’s smooth, responsive, and has full Windows Precision Touchpad support. Windows 10 now has many useful gestures and they’re a breeze to flip through.

This notebook has one of the best touchpads on a Windows notebook

The new rose gold exterior with white interior variant is also new on the 2018 version of the XPS 13, and it’s more than a new tint. We’re looking at an “alpine white woven glass fiber palm rest” which claims to be UV- and stain-resistant to prevent yellowing over time and staining. Just like last year’s XPS 13, it’s body is cut from a single block of aluminum.

A powerful yet compact notebook

Now onto the specs, the XPS 13 (2018) is powered by the latest eighth-gen Intel Core processors. The model I have has a quad-core Intel Core i7-8550U processor paired with 8GB DDR4 RAM and Intel UHD Graphics 620. The base clock speed of the new ultra-low power processor is 1.8GHz with a turbo boost to 4GHz when needed.

It’s a specced-out notebook for everyday use and it can handle Adobe Photoshop and some video editing with Adobe Premiere Pro. Gaming is also not an issue for the XPS 13, but don’t expect it to play AAA titles at high frame rates. The likes of CS:GO and League of Legends on low to medium settings is what it can handle.

The XPS 13 boots fast and is zippy. There are some minor hiccups from time to time but that’s pretty normal when Windows 10 is under stress. What grabbed my attention though is how fast apps load. This is probably due to the fast read times of the notebook’s 256GB M.2 SSD storage.

Moreover, the base of the XPS 13 feels pretty cool when on my lap, yet it does get really warm while being charged. Its fans are relatively quiet unless I’m running a game or benchmarking software. Overall, I have nothing to complain about the laptop’s fan noise even when it’s under heavy load.

Long-lasting on a single charge

We buy 13-inch notebooks for portability, but that normally comes at the cost of battery life. Fortunately, the XPS 13 is able to last long on a single charge.

I consider my use of the laptop as moderate, which includes constant Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, Chrome with multiple tabs, and brightness levels staying around 50 percent most of the time. On average, I get about seven and a half hours of power. The longest I got was around nine hours when I mainly used the notebook to binge-watch the whole day.

When it’s time to fill up, the XPS 13 charges through any of the USB-C ports. Ain’t that convenient? It takes about two hours to fully charge the notebook using the included small 45W charger. Maybe a bigger charger with a 65W output can charge the notebook faster.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

If you’re looking for the best 13-inch Windows laptops out there, the Dell XPS 13 (2018) should top your list. Why? I have three reasons.

First, the display and design alone will make you want an XPS 13. Second, it’s a portable powerhouse because it can also be an editing and gaming machine with the help of an eGPU. Ideally, I’d use the XPS 13 when I’m on the road, then plug it in at home to a bigger monitor and eGPU to transform it into a capable desktop PC. Lastly, after my more than two weeks of use, I didn’t have any negative experience that left a bad impression.

The lack of full-size ports might turn off some, but living the dongle life is pretty unavoidable with new laptops, especially when they’re this small. As long as it’s got Thunderbolt 3, you’re safe and there are a number of quality and useful adapters already available in the market.

The Dell XPS 13 (2018) starts around US$ 999 in some markets with the base configuration. The particular variant I have here retails for US$ 1,450 in the US, SG$ 2,399 in Singapore, and PhP 99,990 in the Philippines. It’s quite pricey, but you’re getting a premium notebook and not just another Windows 10-powered laptop.

SEE ALSO: Dell Latitude 7390 2-in-1 Review: The complete business laptop

Gaming

Honor launches Hunter V700 gaming laptop with a kickass design

Honor’s first gaming laptop

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Honor’s first gaming laptop has arrived and the brand is confident it can make a mark in the market. Starting with the Hunter V700, the brand says it packs best-in-class performance, excellent heat dissipation, as well as portability.

To start off, the laptop has a very aggressive design that focuses on RGB lighting, ergonomics, and sustained performance. Honor has managed to fill a high-end configuration despite the thin chassis.

It has a 16.1-inch display with a 144Hz refresh rate that’s accompanied by 4.7mm thick bezels, 100% sRGB color, and a maximum brightness of 300 nits. Unlike Apple’s laptops, Honor has managed to pack a USB-A port, HDMI, and an RG45 ethernet jack.

Honor has also included a new hinge that it likes to call Wind Valley design. According to the brand, the design facilitates up to 40 percent more volume of air for cooling.

“Traditional gaming notebooks tend to be thick and heavy to meet the high-performance and heat dissipation requirements expected in this category. Honor believes the pursuit of performance can co-exist with a lightweight and portable design,” Honor said in a statement.

The Honor Hunter V700 starts at CNY 7,499 (US$ 1,105) for the Core i5-10300H,  GeForce GTX 1660 Ti, 16 GB of RAM, and 512 GB of storage.

It’s followed by a Core i7-10750H with an RTX 2060, along with the same volume of RAM and storage, costing CNY 8,499 (US$ 1,250).

Lastly, you can get a Core i7-10750H, RTX 2060, 16 GB of RAM, and a 1TB SSD storage for CNY 9,999 (US$ 1,475). The sale is currently limited to China via VMall.

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Gaming

ASUS ROG, ACRONYM partner for Special Edition Zephyrus G14

Bringing together impressive power and top-tier design into one device

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ASUS ROG ACRONYM

ASUS ROG pits its ROG Zephyrus G14 as its most all-around gaming laptop. It comes with powerful hardware in a sleek design, along with features fit for a personalized experience. In essence, it’s the ultimate laptop for gamers and content creators, alike. And apparently, ASUS isn’t the only one who sees it that way.

Errolson Hugh, co-founder of leading technical appparel company ACRONYM has his vision of an empowered user. He believes that more empowered users aren’t strictly just gamers, but is also a thinker and a creator. Since 1994, the company built an extensive portfolio of apaprel sourced from top notch materials.

These initiatives make ACRONYM an ideal partner for ASUS ROG, and it’s seen in their Special Edition Zephyrus G14. In terms of hardware, the Special Edition ROG Zephyrus G14 still carries the latest AMD Ryzen 9 CPU and NVIDIA RTX 2060 GPU. Now, ACRONYM infuses its own design philosophy and brings distinct visual features to the device.

Pricing and availability for the Special Edition ASUS ROG Zephyrus G14 have yet to be announced.

SEE ALSO: ASUS ROG Zephyrus G14 review

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Accessories

Huawei MateBook X (2020) + FreeBuds Pro + Watch GT 2 Pro Hands-On

Huawei ecosystem done right

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It seems like the pandemic isn’t stopping companies from announcing their newest tech. Today, Huawei announced not just new software features, but also their latest hardware in the annual Huawei Developers’ Conference (HDC).

Whether it’s the newly-updated MateBook X, Pro-rated iterations such as the FreeBuds Pro and the Watch GT 2 Pro.

Head over to our latest hands-on video as we talk about these devices and how Huawei’s seamless ecosystem can make your life meaningful.

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