Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook Review

On the other hand, the keyboard is extremely comfortable. The rounded keys are backlit, which allowed me to type this review right from my dimly lit seat on the back of the plane. It would have been nice, however, if the shortcuts for volume, screen brightness, etc. along the top keyboard row didn't require you to hold down the Function button.

The $999 model of the XPS 13 has a Core i5 processor, 4GB of RAM, and a 128GB solid-state hard drive. The drive is much faster than typical hard drives, booting the laptop in just 28 seconds and letting it resume from sleep in just four. I found both of those features to be incredibly useful when I needed to get online right away at an airport or as soon as I got the office.

On top of that, the laptop is very fast once you are up and running Windows 7. Everything was very responsive as I simultaneously wrote this review in Microsoft Word, checked a number of websites in the Google Chrome browser, and listened to music in iTunes. Dell has done a nice job not polluting the machine with trial software. In fact, out of the box, the only thing that appears on the desktop on the screen is the Recycling Bin shortcut.

But one's satisfaction doesn't last long enough because of a weak battery. In typical use, I only got about five hours of battery life, which wasn't quite long enough to get me through the entire flight from New York to San Francisco. In a more rigorous test, where I looped an HD video, I got four hours and seven minutes of battery life. The MacBook Air lasts over six hours on similar tests and in general use.

Dell's XPS 13

I also noticed that the fan on the machine can get very loud at times. While it kept the bottom and keyboard cool, the fan interfered with a video I was watching.

The XPS 13 is extremely well built, the keyboard is very comfortable, and it's very thin and light. And for $999, it's certainly a good value for those looking for an attractive and fast Windows 7 laptop. But the aforementioned glaring issues really do hold it back from being the best thin and light laptop on the market. If you want a better trackpad and screen and longer battery life, you'll probably want to have the MacBook Air in that seat pocket, even if it costs $300 more.

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