Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 (2022) review: A cheap Surface Pro?


Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 (9315)

MSRP $1,150.00

“The Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 delivers capable productivity performance with a high-quality IPS display, but its battery life is mediocre and its inking experience may not live up to the best.”

professionals

  • more affordable price

  • solid build quality

  • excellent productivity performance

  • high-resolution webcam

  • good productivity performance

Shortcoming

  • Folios have finite angles

  • keyboard is flat

  • no integrated kickstand

  • no headphone jack

The detachable Windows tablet is making a comeback. We’ve had some new designs in this category, which is dominated by Microsoft’s Surface Pro line – but 2022 saw the introduction of a few new models that signal a return.

The new Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 (9315) may be the biggest of the bunch, ditching the convertible form factor with the aim of taking on the Surface Pro 9 straight away. The tablet’s arrival of late means that Dell should have had enough time to optimize its design. So how did it? Well, it’s a solid design with a number of welcome features, but it’s not enough to stand out against the industry’s most coveted machine.

specs and configuration

Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 9315
Dimensions 11.50 inch x 7.90 inch x 0.29 inch
weight 1.60 pounds
folio 1.23 pounds
Processor Intel Core i5-1230U
Intel Core i7-1250U
graphics Intel Iris Xe
to hit 8GB LPDDR4x
16GB LPDDR4X
show 13.0-inch 3:2 3K (2,880 x 1,920) IPS Touch
storage 512GB PCIe SSD
1TB PCIe SSD
Touch Yes
ports Thunderbolt 4. With 2 x USB-C
optional sim slot
cordless Wi-Fi 6e and Bluetooth 5.2
webcam 1080p Hello Face to Face Infrared Camera for Windows 11
2160p rear-facing
Operating System windows 11
battery 49.5 watt-hours
worth $999+

Price and configuration

The XPS 13 2-in-1 starts at $999 for a Core i5-1230U CPU, 8GB of RAM, and a 512GB SSD. My review unit came with a Core i5, 16GB of RAM, and a 512GB SSD for $1,150. The most expensive configuration is the $1,500 model with a Core i7-1250U, 16GB of RAM, and a 1TB SSD. It’s $100 to add to Dell’s Folio keyboard and Active Pen.

It’s the same entry-level price as the Surface Pro 9, but Microsoft’s tablet comes equipped with just 128GB of storage on the low end. The Surface Pro 9 with a Core i7, 32GB of RAM, and a 1GB SSD is $2,700, and matching Dell’s high-end configuration, it’s $2,200. On top of that, the Surface Type Cover keyboard and Surface Slim Pen 2 add another $280 to the price.

A solid but less comfortable design

Dell showing off XPS 13 2-in-1 front angle view display and folio keyboard.
Mark Koppock/Digital Trends

There are few computing products that define a type so clearly as the Microsoft Surface Pro 9. The Surface Pro took off the modern detachable tablet, and Microsoft has done a solid job of improving it over the years. Simply put, the XPS 13 2-in-1 strongly competes against the established standard.

However, the Surface Pro 9 isn’t perfect, so a new product has a chance to shine. The XPS 13 2-in-1 starts off nicely in that direction, with a slate part that adheres to the XPS line’s usual solid built quality and tight tolerances. It’s aluminum with a glass back cover around the edges that’s intended to best accommodate Wi-Fi and the optional 5G WWLAN radio. As soon as I hold the tablet, I wonder if the back is glass – it feels like metal. The XPS 13 2-in-1 easily matches the excellent Surface Pro 9 in its solidity.

Dell’s tablet is a square design with sharper corners than a rounded surface, and it enjoys small bezels around all of its edges. You can choose between the Sky (blue) or Slate (black) colors with the Wi-Fi version and the Slate with 5G only version. The biggest difference is in design, and more importantly, that the XPS 13 2-in-1 lacks the Surface Pro 9’s integrated and highly flexible kickstand. Instead, you’re limited to the three angles provided by the detachable Dell Folio, which also houses a keyboard and touchpad and acts as a cover. This makes the XPS 13 2-in-1 less comfortable to use as a tablet alone and with an attached folio.

Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 top down view showing the folio keyboard.
Mark Koppock/Digital Trends

Another difference is with the folio itself. While the Surface Type Cover keyboard folds forward at an angle for more comfortable typing, Dell’s version just lies flat. The keyboard itself is fine, sporting an edge-to-edge keyboard with large keycaps similar to the keyboard on the XPS 13 Plus, but it’s not quite as comfortable to use. The Surface Type Cover has a slight bounce to the XPS 13 2-in-1’s keyboard, but without angling, my wrist tired more quickly with the Dell. The integrated touchpad in the Folio is excellent and offers quieter, more solid button clicks than Microsoft’s version.

The XPS 13 2-in-1 is 0.29 inches thinner than the Surface Pro 9 by 0.37 inches (5G version), and it’s lighter at 1.60 pounds versus 1.95 pounds. This makes Dell’s tablet meaningfully small, but both are quite thick and heavy with their keyboards attached.

Thanks to its slim chassis, the XPS 13 2-in-1 has just two USB-C ports with Thunderbolt 4, one of which is used for power. Like the XPS 13 laptop, Dell ditched the 3.5mm audio jack from the tablet and instead offers a dongle (with a USB-C to USB-A adapter) in the box. Microsoft dropped Jack as well. The XPS 13 2-in-1 offers optional 5G WWAN support, which is only available on the Surface Pro 9 ARM-based 5G version, in addition to Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.2.

its get up and go get up and go

Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 rear view showing folio and camera.
Mark Koppock/Digital Trends

Outside of the Asus ROG Flow Z13, detachable tablets aren’t known for their performance. Even those running Intel CPUs instead of slower (and cooler, longer-lasting) ARM processors aren’t made for speed. The XPS 13 2-in-1 is a classic example, running an Intel 9-watt 12-gen CPU. You can choose between the Core i5-1230U with 10 cores (two performance and eight efficient) and 12 threads and the Core i7-1250U with the same core count but running at 4.7GHz versus 4.4GHz.

The Surface Pro 9 Intel Edition offers a choice between the 15-watt Core i5-1235U and Core i7-1255U processors (our review unit) with the same core counts and frequencies. We reviewed the XPS 13 2-in-1 with a Core i5, and its performance was mixed against the Surface Pro 9. I tested in both balanced and performance modes using the Dell utility, and it held its own in our Handbrake test that encodes 420MB of video as H.265, lagging behind in Geekbench 5 and Cinebench R23. The latter score was particularly noteworthy, being a benchmark that pushes the CPU for more extended periods of time.

The XPS 13 2-in-1 is fanless and therefore completely silent. This limits its thermal performance, and it ran at low frequencies throughout our testing, but was not officially throttled. The chassis was a bit hot during extended high-CPU use, but it was never too hot to handle. Interestingly, the XPS 13 2-in-1 was faster than the Dell XPS 13 9315, which had all the same CPUs except for Cinebench.

Ultimately, the XPS 13 2-in-1 is fast enough for productivity workflows and will match the Surface Pro 9 in typical daily tasks. But it won’t be of much use in creative tasks like video editing, or for really demanding productivity workers. And it’s not a gaming laptop with a slow implementation of Intel’s Iris XE graphics.

geekbench
(single / multi)
handbrake
(seconds)
Cinebench R23
(single / multi)
PCMark 10
Complete
Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 9315
(Core i5-1230U)
Hair: 1,435 / 6,099
Completed: 1,572 / 7,028
Hair: 139
Perfect: 144
Hair: 1,064 / 3,032
Completed: 1,065 / 3009
4,535
Surface Pro 9
(Core i7-1255U)
Hair: 1170 / 6518
Completed: 1,598 / 8,165
Hair: 166
Parf: 127
Child: 1124 / 7537
Full: N/A
4,045
Dell XPS 13 9315
(Core i5-1230U)
Child: 1393 / 4,459
Completed: 1,477 / 5,350
Hair: 333
Parf: 192
Child: 1379/3457
Full: N/A
4,023
HP Specter x360 13.5
(Core i7-1255U)
Hair: 1,566 / 7,314
Completed: 1,593 / 7921
Hair: 169
Perf: 120
Hair: 1,623 / 5,823
Completed: 1,691 / 7,832
5,203
Asus ROG Flow Z13
(Core i9-12900H)
Hair: 1,784 / 9,387
Full: N/A
Hair: 103
Perfect: 87
Hair: 1,548 / 9,664
Completed: 1,906 / 13,400
6,417

Despite its slightly larger battery (49.5 watt-hours versus 47.7 watt-hours) and lower-wattage CPU, the XPS 13 2-in-1 fell behind the Surface Pro 9 in battery life. It hit just six hours in our web browsing test, compared to the Surface Pro 9’s eight hours, for example. The Dell managed 8.5 hours in our local video looping test, which is below average among all the laptops we tested but fine for a tablet.

Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 Side view showing the edges.
Mark Koppock/Digital Trends

The XPS 13 2-in-1 isn’t likely to get you through a full day’s work. However, the charger is small, so it’s not too much of a burden to carry it around.

Good display quality, not as good for incoming

Showing off the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 Front View display.
Mark Koppock/Digital Trends

The XPS 13 2-in-1 has a slightly smaller screen than the Surface Pro 9, at 13.0 inches versus 13.3 inches, and has the same resolution at 2880 x 1920. This makes Dell’s display a little brighter. The XPS 13 2-in-1’s IPS panel was brighter at 480 nits versus 409 nits, and it had much darker contrast at 1,840:1 compared to 1,050:1. Colors were nearly as wide and average for a premium laptop, while accuracy was excellent at a DeltaE of 0.81 (less than 1.0 is suitable for professional work).

In terms of quality, the XPS 13 2-in-1’s display is better suited for productivity users and mid-range for creators who demand a wider color gamut. But its refresh rate is a pedestrian 60Hz, compared to the Surface Pro 9’s fluid 120Hz. And while Dell’s Active Pen is nice and easily attaches magnetically to the top for charging, it doesn’t have the haptic feedback built into Microsoft’s Surface Slim Pen 2. Along with the faster refresh rate, this feature makes the Surface Pro 9 a better inking one. Experience.

Showing Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 Front View Webcam.
Mark Koppock/Digital Trends

In terms of other multimedia aspects, the XPS 13 2-in-1 packs an excellent 1080p front-facing camera and a 2160p rear-facing camera. There’s also an infrared camera for Windows 11 Hello passwordless login, like the Surface Pro 9, while the XPS 13 2-in-1 also includes a fingerprint reader. Two side-firing speakers provide serviceable audio.

back to the drawing board

The Surface Pro 9 isn’t a true Windows tablet. To be honest, such an animal does not exist. But the Surface Pro 9 is a better overall device than the XPS 13 2-in-1. The latter is a nice detachable 2-in-1, but that doesn’t provide any reason other than the price to choose it over Microsoft’s tablet. The XPS 13 2-in-1 isn’t as comfortable to use in tablet mode or with the keyboard attached, and it’s slow with less battery life. If you’re buying a tablet primarily for inking, the Surface Pro 9 is an even better experience there.

Then again, price matters. At the same $1,000 price, you get four times the storage with the XPS 13 2-in-1 compared to the Surface Pro 9, and $700 less when the Dell is configured with 16GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD . It’s hard to ignore it. But in the final analysis, the XPS 13 2-in-1 isn’t cheap enough to meet its weaknesses, and the Surface Pro 9 being so expensive doesn’t make Dell’s tablet a recommendation.

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