Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 (2022) review: a cheaper Surface Pro?

Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 front view showing display and folio keyboard.

Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 (9315)

MSRP $1,150.00

“The Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 delivers competent productivity performance with a high-quality IPS display, but the battery life is mediocre and the inking experience is subpar.”

Advantages

  • more reasonable price

  • Robust build quality

  • Excellent productivity display

  • high resolution webcam

  • Excellent productivity performance

disadvantage

  • Folios have limited angles.

  • The keyboard lies flat.

  • No integrated kickstand

  • No headphone jack

The removable Windows tablet is back. It’s been years since Microsoft launched a few new designs in this category dominated by Microsoft’s Surface Pro line, but in 2022 several new models are debuting that hint at a comeback.

The new Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 (9315) may be the most practical product, ditching the convertible form factor that aims to work directly with the Surface Pro 9. The tablet’s late release meant Dell had plenty of time to optimize its design. How did it go? Well, it’s a solid design with a few welcome features, but not enough to compare it to some of the industry’s most iconic machines.

Specifications and Configurations

Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 9315
size 11.50 inches x 7.90 inches x 0.29 inches
weight 1.60 pounds
Polio 1.23 pounds
processor Intel Core i5-1230U
Intel Core i7-1250U
graphics Intel Iris Xe
lamb 8GB LPDDR4x
16Gb LPDDR4x
Denote 13.0-inch 3:2 3K (2,880 x 1,920) IPS Touch
save 512GB PCIe SSD
1TB PCIe SSD
contact Yes
Harbor 2 x USB-C with Thunderbolt 4
SIM slot (optional)
wireless telephone Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.2
webcam 1080p Facing Infrared Camera for Windows 11 Hello
2160p rear
operating system Windows 11
battery 49.5 watt hour
price $999+

Pricing 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. Add Dell’s Folio Keyboard and Active Pen for $100.

That’s the same entry-level price as the Surface Pro 9, but Microsoft’s tablet has only 128GB of storage on the lower end. The Surface Pro 9 costs a whopping $2,700 with a Core i7, 32GB of RAM, and a 1GB SSD, at $2,200 matching Dell’s high-end configuration. Plus, the Surface Type Cover keyboard and Surface Slim Pen 2 add $280 to the price.

Robust but less comfortable design

Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 Front Angle View Display and Folio Keyboard.
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

Few computing products define the type as clearly as the Microsoft Surface Pro 9. The Surface Pro introduced a modern detachable tablet, and Microsoft has spent a lot of time improving it over the years. In a nutshell, the XPS 13 2-in-1 competes with established standards.

But the Surface Pro 9 isn’t perfect, so there’s a chance the new one will shine. The XPS 13 2-in-1 starts off nicely in that direction, with a slate section that adheres to the tight tolerances and rugged build quality typical of the XPS line. Aluminum around the edges with a glass back cover designed to best accommodate Wi-Fi and optional 5G WWLAN radio. When I grabbed the tablet, I was surprised to find that the back was glass. It feels like metal. The XPS 13 2-in-1 easily matches the rugged Surface Pro 9.

Dell’s tablet has a square design with sharper corners than a rounded surface, with smaller bezels around every edge. In the Wi-Fi version, you can choose either Sky (blue) or Slate (black) colors, and in the 5G version you can only choose Slate. The biggest and most important design difference is that the XPS 13 2-in-1 lacks the integrated and highly flexible kickstand of the Surface Pro 9. Instead, it is limited to three angles provided by a detachable Dell Folio that also includes a keyboard and touchpad and acts as a cover. This makes the XPS 13 2-in-1 less comfortable to use alone as a tablet or with a folio attached.

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

Another difference is in the folio itself. The Surface Type Cover keyboard stands up at an angle for more comfortable typing, but Dell’s version is flat. The keyboard itself is great and it sports a front keyboard with the same large keycaps as the one on the XPS 13 Plus, but it’s uncomfortable to use. The Surface Type Cover has a bit of a bounce that the XPS 13 2-in-1’s keyboard avoids, but the lack of angle makes my wrist fatigue faster with the Dell. The touchpad integrated into the folio is excellent and provides a quieter and more solid button click than the Microsoft version.

The XPS 13 2-in-1 is thinner than the Surface Pro 9 at 0.29 inches compared to 0.37 inches (5G version) and is lighter at 1.95 pounds versus 1.60 pounds. So while Dell’s tablets are significantly smaller, they’re both fairly thick and heavy with a keyboard attached.

Thanks to its thin chassis, the XPS 13 2-in-1 has only two USB-C ports with Thunderbolt 4, one of which is used for power. As with the XPS 13 laptop, Dell is removing the 3.5mm audio jack from the tablet and instead provides a dongle (with a USB-C to USB-A adapter) in the box. Microsoft also dropped the jack. In addition to Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.2, the XPS 13 2-in-1 offers the option of 5G WWAN support, which is only available in the Surface Pro 9 ARM-based 5G version.

its get up and go

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

Apart from the Asus ROG Flow Z13, the detachable tablet is not well known for its performance. Even processors running Intel CPUs, rather than slower, 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 12th gen CPU. You can choose between the Core i5-1230U with 10 cores (2 performance, 8 efficient) and 12 threads and the Core i7-1250U running at 4.4 GHz versus 4.7 GHz with the same number of cores.

The Intel version of the Surface Pro 9 comes with a choice of 15-watt Core i5-1235U and Core i7-1255U processors (our review unit) with the same number of cores and frequencies. We reviewed the XPS 13 2-in-1 with a Core i5 and its performance was mixed with the Surface Pro 9. I tested it in both balanced and performance mode using the Dell utility and it held up on its own in the Handbrake test encoding. 420MB video in H.265 while lagging behind on Geekbench 5 and Cinebench R23. The latter score was particularly noteworthy as a benchmark that pushes the CPU over longer periods of time.

The XPS 13 2-in-1 is fanless and completely silent. This limited thermal performance and was run at low frequencies throughout the test, but was not officially throttled. The chassis was a bit warm during CPU intensive use, but not too hot to handle. Interestingly, the XPS 13 2-in-1 is faster than the Dell XPS 13 9315, which all use the same CPU except for Cinebench.

After all, the XPS 13 2-in-1 is fast enough for productivity workflows and matches the Surface Pro 9 for typical everyday tasks. But it won’t be very useful for creative tasks like video editing, or for truly demanding productivity workers. And it’s not a gaming laptop that slowly implements Intel’s Iris X graphics.

Geekbench
(Single/Multi)
handbrake
(candle)
Cinebench R23
(Single/Multi)
PC mark 10
Perfect
Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 9315
(Core i5-1230U)
Feet: 1,435 / 6,099
Performance: 1,572 / 7,028
Feet: 139
Performance: 144
Feet: 1,064 / 3,032
Performance: 1,065 / 3009
4,535
surface pro 9
(Core i7-1255U)
Feet: 1170 / 6518
Performance: 1,598 / 8,165
Feet: 166
Performance: 127
Feet: 1124 / 7537
Performance: N/A
4,045
Dell XPS 13 9315
(Core i5-1230U)
Feet: 1393 / 4,459
Performance: 1,477 / 5,350
Feet: 333
Performance: 192
Feet: 1379 / 3457
Performance: N/A
4,023
HP Specter x360 13.5
(Core i7-1255U)
Feet: 1,566 / 7,314
Performance: 1,593 / 7921
Feet: 169
Performance: 120
Feet: 1,623 / 5,823
Performance: 1,691 / 7,832
5,203
ASUS ROG Flow Z13
(Core i9-12900H)
Feet: 1,784 / 9,387
Performance: N/A
Feet: 103
Performance: 87
Feet: 1,548 / 9,664
Performance: 1,906 / 13,400
6,417

Despite a slightly larger battery (49.5 watt-hours vs. 47.7 watt-hours) and a lower wattage CPU, the XPS 13 2-in-1 lags behind the Surface Pro 9 in battery life. For example, it only scored 6 hours in the web browsing test compared to the 8 hours on the Surface Pro 9. Dell managed 8.5 hours in a local video looping test. This is below average on all the laptops we tested, but is normal for tablets.

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

The XPS 13 2-in-1 won’t get the job done all day. The charger is small and not too heavy to carry around.

Good display quality not good for ink

Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 front view showing the display.
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

The XPS 13 2-in-1 has a slightly smaller screen than the Surface Pro 9 at 13.3 inches versus 13.0 inches, with the same resolution at 2880 x 1920. This makes Dell’s display a bit sharper. The IPS panel of the XPS 13 2-in-1 was brighter at 409 nits versus 480 nits, and had a much deeper contrast ratio at 1,840:1 compared to 1,050:1. The colors are pretty close to premium laptops, just average, and the accuracy is excellent with a DeltaE of 0.81 (below 1.0 is good for professional work).

In terms of quality, the display of the XPS 13 2-in-1 is better for productive users and medium for creators who demand the widest color gamut. However, the refresh rate is pedestrian at 60Hz compared to the Surface Pro 9’s fluid 120Hz. Dell’s Active Pen is great and attaches conveniently with a magnet on top for charging, but Microsoft’s Surface Slim Pen 2 doesn’t have built-in haptic feedback. This, combined with a faster refresh rate, makes Surface Pro 9 great ink. experience.

Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 front view with webcam shown.
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

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

back to drawing board

The Surface Pro 9 isn’t the perfect Windows tablet. Frankly, such an animal does not exist. However, the Surface Pro 9 is an overall better device than the XPS 13 2-in-1. The latter is a detachable 2-in-1, but there’s no reason to choose it over Microsoft’s tablet other than the price. The XPS 13 2-in-1 is inconvenient to use in tablet mode or with a keyboard connected, and the battery life slows it down. If you’re buying a tablet primarily to use ink, the Surface Pro 9 also offers a better experience.

Again, price matters. For the same $1,000 price, the XPS 13 2-in-1 gets 4x more storage than the Surface Pro 9, and it’s $700 cheaper from Dell when configured with 16GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD. It’s hard to ignore. However, in our final analysis, the XPS 13 2-in-1 isn’t cheap enough to make up for its shortcomings, and the Surface Pro 9 is too expensive, so we don’t recommend Dell’s tablet.

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