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Dell's new design on the XPS 13 is a mistake and it's less fun to use in everyday life

Dell XPS 13 9340
Dell XPS 13 9340
Dell has presented the new XPS 13 9340, a super compact laptop—in everyday use, however, the new design requires a few compromises to be made. The manufacturer has brought on some unnecessary issues in the shape of its capacitive touchbar, in particular. Furthermore, the base display has massively failed to produce the brightness which is advertized.

On its new 2024 lineup of the XPS models, Dell has adopted the old XPS 13 Plus' design—including its unconventional input devices. After previously testing both of the larger models, namely the XPS 14 and the XPS 16, it is now the compact XPS 13 9340's turn. In general, the new XPS 13 continues to impress with its very compact footprint, which is in part thanks to its slim bezels. This may be beneficial if you only have little space to work with but at 1.2 kg, it isn't necessarily the most lightweight device. A further disadvantage of the small XPS 13 is its meagre connectivity selection which only includes 2x USB-C/Thunderbolt 4. Of course, these ports are very versatile and one connection per side has the advantage that you can charge the device on both sides, however, with the power supply connected, you then only have one single port still free to use. The laptop doesn't even have an audio jack.

The XPS 13's input device are an issue and the touchbar with its capacitive function keys is something that has annoyed us more than once. In general, you can only see the keys when they are backlit. However, after a period of inactivity, the lighting switches off and you simply cannot tell where you need to press. This resulted in us accidentally clicking the key for "project" instead of "print" a few times, for example. On the other hand, the backlighting remained activate when we played a video during our test—which was of course pretty annoying. We see absolutely no advantage of these capacitive function keys (aside from lower costs for the manufacturer). Even Apple recognized this years ago. The keyboard itself takes some getting used to as well due to its missing spaces in between the keys, although it does generally feel comfortable to type on it.

Unconventional keyboard and annoying capacitive function keys
Unconventional keyboard and annoying capacitive function keys

Another problem is the keyboard's backlighting, which is controlled by a sensor and can only be activated or deactivated manually. However, the intensity cannot be adjusted manually and the sensor switches the lighting back on even with small changes in ambient brightness—even if you have deactivated it manually 5 seconds beforehand. Especially with the white model featuring its light keyboard and the white backlighting, you can sometimes see less with the lighting activated than when it is deactivated (depending on the ambient light). In principle, sensors are of course a good aid, but they should help and not interfere with use. In contrast to the function keys, Dell could get this problem under control with a software update.

Performance-wise, you shouldn't expect too much from the new Meteor Lake Core Ultra 7 155H. In short bursts, its performance is good (which is important for everyday use) but when you place the device under more stress, its performance quickly plummets and especially when it comes to its processor, we subsequently noted barely any difference compared to the old XPS 13 with its Core i7-1360P—featuring two performance cores fewer. You can at least order the XPS with up to 64 GB RAM.

Our test device was equipped with the basic display, which is an IPS screen with a resolution of 1,920 x 1,200 pixels. On its small screen diagonal, this resolution definitely sufficient and the panel is also very efficient, which of course has a positive effect on the laptop's battery life. All-in-all, we don't have much to criticize about the IPS panel, especially since no PWM is used and movements benefit from its increased refresh rate (120 Hz). However, light areas appear slightly grainy and it has a slight blue tint straight out of the box. The biggest problem, however, is that the advertized brightness of 500 cd/m² can clearly not be achieved (the maximum we measured was 429 cd/m² and after calibration, only just over 400 cd/m²), which can be particularly noticeable on bright days outdoors.

In general, we believe that the latest XPS models' development is heading in the wrong direction and that the manufacturer is only making life more difficult for itself with the new input devices. All further information surrounding the new Dell XPS 13 9340 can be found in our detailed review.

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> Expert Reviews and News on Laptops, Smartphones and Tech Innovations > News > News Archive > Newsarchive 2024 05 > Dell's new design on the XPS 13 is a mistake and it's less fun to use in everyday life
Andreas Osthoff, 2024-05-17 (Update: 2024-05-16)