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Dell XPS 13 9380 Review

The 2019 update to the XPS 13 is Dell’s 8th iteration of their popular ultra-thin notebook. This time, Dell has finally nailed it. I’m not one to label anything perfect, but the new XPS 13 9380 is that good, I don’t really have anything to complain about it.

The Dell XPS 13 9380 has benefited from many years of refinement. While bringing a spec refresh to a notebook that is mostly similar to last year’s XPS 13 9370, the XPS 13 9380 finally addresses a design flaw that has plagued the XPS 13 series for many years.

I’m referring to the webcam. The XPS 13 9380 finally puts the webcam where it ought to be, above the display, rather than other awkward positions that only serve to look up your nose. Even if they might not use the webcam much, this is still often a showstopper for many people. I’m overjoyed that Dell has finally got this sorted out.

In terms of its overall physical design, the XPS 13 9380 is largely the same as last year’s XPS 13. It has dimensions measuring 302 x 199 x 11.6 mm (7.8 mm at the front edge), and weighing 1.23 kg. This is a really slim, compact, ultra-thin notebook, and it’s easy to bring around anywhere.

The XPS 13 9380’s build quality is remarkable. It feels very solid and rigid. There is no hint of flex any way the notebook is handled. The hinge for the lid is a little stiff. This can be a good thing for a touch-enabled notebook, since you don’t want the screen to wobble around too much, but also means you can’t open up the notebook with one-handed.

The 13-inch display on the XPS 13 9380 comes in either Full HD 1920 x 1080 resolution or 4K Ultra HD 3840 x 2160 resolution versions. They both use an IPS panel with glossy finish. Anti-reflective coating on the screen helps cut out some of the unwanted reflections.

My review unit is configured with the 4K Ultra HD display. It is bright, 400 nits at max, and vibrant. Colour gamut coverage is decent. In testing with the Spyder5PRO colourimeter, this 4K Ultra HD display scored 97% sRGB, 68% NTSC, and 73% AdobeRGB colour gamut coverage.

Dell’s InfinityEdge display means that the bezels, at least on the sides and top, are very minimal. You will notice that the top bezel is slightly thicker than the sides. This is a good thing, since it enables Dell to finally put back that webcam where it belongs, above the display. I think everyone will just about agree that slightly increase the thickness is worth it to have a properly placed webcam.

That webcam has just HD resolution, so it is nothing great. However, it suffices for casual Skype calls. The webcam is also accompanied by a 4-array digital microphone with far-field Cortana capability. You can talk to Cortana from across the room just fine.

The keyboard on the XPS 13 9380 is great. Even though there is just 1 mm of key travel, the keys actually feel quite nice to type on. The standard keys layout means there are no surprises with strangely placed keys. Furthermore, there are dedicated PgUp and PgDn keys. I’m fine with the way they are crammed with the arrow keys, but some people might prefer full-sized left and right arrow keys.

The touch pad feels good to the touch, and works well with Windows Precision support. A fingerprint reader is integrated into the power button in the top right corner.

On my review unit, the palm rest has a unique woven fibre glass material that adds a rather interesting texture. This is only available with the Rose Gold and Frost colour options of the XPS 13 9380.

There are three USB Type-C ports on the XPS 13 9380. The two on the left support 40 Gbps Thunderbolt 3 with 4 lanes of PCIe which will support external GPUs. There’s also a security lock slot on the left, along with a handy series of LEDs for indicating battery level.

The last USB Type-C port is on the right, and this one is just plain USB 3.1. It still does support Power Delivery, as do the Thunderbolt 3 ports on the other side, so you can charge the XPS 13 9380 on any side.

The XPS 13 might be too small for a full sized SD card slot, but you’ll still get a microSD card slot. Also on the right side, you’ll find a 3.5 mm combo audio jack.

It would have been nice to have a USB Type-A port. However, we have come far enough that the lack of a USB Type-A shouldn’t be a showstopper these days.

The XPS 13 9380 has Intel’s latest Whiskey Lake versions of the 8th generation Core processors. My review unit is configured with an Intel Core i7-8565U with 16 GB of RAM and 512 GB of NVMe storage.

The Whiskey Lake processors prove to have an appreciable edge over the Kaby Lake Refresh ones. In PCMark 10 benchmarks, the Dell XPS 13 9380 scored 2868 (overall), 8269 (essentials), 6723 (productivity), 3283 (digital content creation) and 1003 (gaming). The Geekbench 4 single and multi-core scores are 5241 and 16866 respectively, and 38361 for the compute score.

Battery life is decent. On PCMark 8 Home Conventional battery test, the XPS 13 9380 ran for 4 hours and 23 minutes. It’s a little less than last year’s XPS 13 9370, but certainly acceptable for ultra-thin notebooks with a 4K Ultra HD display.

The Dell XPS 13 9380 ships with a 45 Watt USB Type-C power adapter, and a USB Type-A to Type-C adapter.

Overall, the XPS 13 9380 is an excellent ultra-thin notebook. Into its 8th generation, this update to the XPS 13 isn’t just a spec refresh, but also fixes that nagging webcam issue. The XPS 13 9380 is so good, we have to nitpick to find something to complain about. Battery life on the 4K model, for example, could be better. But otherwise, this is pretty much the best in its class of 13-inch ultra-thin notebooks.

The Dell XPS 13 9380 retails from S$1,999. My review unit configured with an i7-8565U, 16 GB RAM, 512 GB storage, and 4K UHD display, presently sells at S$2,798.98 from the Dell online store.

The three colour options available are: Platinum Silver Machined Aluminum with Black Carbon Fiber Composite Palmrest; Rose Gold Machined Aluminum with Arctic White Woven Glass Fiber Palmrest (this is the review unit); and Frost Machined Aluminum with Arctic White Woven Glass Fiber Palmrest.

Conclusion

Dell finally nails it with this year’s XPS 13 9380 ultra-thin notebook. With the webcam in the right place, there’s nothing left to complain about.

Pros:

  • Well-built, refined, ultra-thin chassis
  • Fast 8th generation Whiskey Lake Intel processors
  • Excellent overall performance
  • Great keyboard

Cons:

  • We can always hope for more battery on the 4K model

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