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

The Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 displays a paper keyboard and display.

Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 (9315)

MSRP USD 1150.00

“The Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 delivers efficient productivity performance with a high-quality IPS display, but its battery life is mediocre and the inking experience can’t be better.”

Positives

  • More affordable

  • Durable build quality

  • Excellent productivity display

  • HD webcam

  • Good production performance

Negatives

  • Folio has limited angles

  • The keyboard lies flat

  • There is no built-in kickstand

  • No headphone jack

The detachable Windows tablet is back. It’s been years since we’ve had some new designs in this category, which have been dominated by the Microsoft Surface Pro line – but 2022 has seen the emergence of some new models that hint of a comeback.

The new Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 (9315) might be the most significant of the bunch, ditching the convertible form factor for something meant to squarely face the Surface Pro 9. The late arrival of the tablet meant that Dell should have had plenty of time to improve its design. How did you do that? Well, it’s a solid design with many welcome features, but it’s not enough to stand out from the most popular machines in the industry.

Specifications and configurations

Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 9315
Dimensions 11.50″ x 7.90″ x 0.29″
Weight 1.60 EGP
Folio 1.23 EGP
Healer Intel Core i5-1230U
Intel Core i7-1250U
Graphics Intel Iris XE
RAM 8 GB LPDDR4x
16 GB LPDDR4x
Show 13.0 inch 3: 2 3K (2880 x 1920) IPS touch screen
storage 512 GB PCIe SSD
1 TB PCIe SSD
touch yes
ports 2 x USB-C with Thunderbolt 4
Optional SIM slot
wireless Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.2
Webcam 1080p Infrared Camera Facing for Windows 11 Hello
2160p wallpaper
The operating system Windows 11
battery 49.5 W/h
price $999 or more

Price and configurations

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. The cost of adding the folio keyboard and active pen is $100.

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

Durable but less comfortable design

Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 Angled front view showing the monitor and keyboard folded out.
Mark Kubock / Digital Trends

There are few computing products that define it somewhat as clearly as the Microsoft Surface Pro 9 does. The Surface Pro launched the modern detachable tablet, and Microsoft has done a solid job improving it over the years. Simply put, the XPS 13 2-in-1 competes with a solidly well-established standard.

However, the Surface Pro 9 isn’t perfect, so the new product has a chance to shine. The XPS 13 2-in-1 starts well in this direction, with a slate part that sticks to the XPS line’s usual solid build quality and exacting tolerances. It’s made of aluminum around the edges with a glass back cover designed to accommodate Wi-Fi and optional 5G WWLAN radios. Since I’m holding the tablet, I’m surprised the back is glass – much like metal. The XPS 13 2-in-1 easily matches the rugged Surface Pro 9.

The Dell tablet is a square design with sharper corners than a rounded surface, and has smaller bezels around all its edges. You can choose between Sky (blue) or Slate (black) colors with the Wi-Fi version and Slate only with the 5G version. The biggest difference in design, and importantly, is that the XPS 13 2-in-1 lacks the compact and extremely flexible stand of the Surface Pro 9. Instead, you’re limited to the three corners provided by the detachable Dell newspaper that also houses a panel Keys and touchpad and acts as a cover. This makes the XPS 13 2-in-1 less convenient to use as a tablet on its own and with the included sheet.

The Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 displays a foldable keyboard.
Mark Kubock / Digital Trends

Another difference is with the paper itself. While the Surface Type Cover keyboard is angled for more typing comfort, the Dell version only stays flat. The keyboard itself is fine, it has an edge-to-edge keyboard with large keycaps similar to the keyboard on the XPS 13 Plus, but not as comfortable to use. The Surface Type Cover has a slight bounce that the XPS 13 2-in-1 keyboard avoids, but without the corner, my wrists tire more quickly with Dell. The clipboard’s built-in touchpad is excellent and provides quieter, more consistent button clicks 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 it’s lighter at 1.60 pounds versus 1.95 pounds. This makes the Dell tablet significantly smaller, but both are considerably heavier with the keyboards attached to them.

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

get up and go

Rear view of the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 showing the paper and camera.
Mark Kubock / Digital Trends

Outside of the Asus ROG Flow Z13, detachable tablets are not known for their performance. Even those running Intel CPUs instead of slower (and colder, longer-lived) ARM processors aren’t built for speed. The XPS 13 2-in-1 is a classic example of powering 12th generation Intel 9-watt CPUs. You can choose between a Core i5-1230U with 10 cores (two performance and eight efficiency) and 12 threads, and a Core i7-1250U with the same number of cores but running at 4.7 GHz versus 4.4 GHz.

The Surface Pro 9 Intel Edition offers a choice between 15W 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 mixed performance with the Surface Pro 9. I tested in both balanced mode and performance with a Dell tool, and I held it in our Handbrake test that encodes 420MB video as H.265 while it lags On Geekbench 5 and Cinebench R23. The latter result was particularly notable, being a benchmark that pushes the CPU for longer periods.

The XPS 13 2-in-1 is fanless and completely silent. This limits its thermal performance, and it ran at low frequencies throughout our testing but didn’t officially throttle. The chassis was a bit warm during extended CPU usage, but never too hot to handle. Interestingly enough, the XPS 13 2-in-1 was faster than the Dell XPS 13 9315 with the same CPU in all but the Cinebench.

Ultimately, the XPS 13 2-in-1 is fast enough for a productive workflow and will match the Surface Pro 9 for everyday tasks. But it won’t be of much use for creative tasks like video editing or for productivity workers. And it’s not a gaming laptop with its sluggish implementation of Intel Iris Xe graphics.

jeepbench
(single/multiple)
handbrake
(in seconds)
Cinebench R23
(single/multiple)
PCMark 10
complete
Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 9315
(Core i5-1230U)
Pal: 1,435 / 6,099
Performance: 1,572 / 7,028
Pal: 139
Performance: 144
Pal: 1,064 / 3,032
Performance: 1065/3009
4535
Surface Pro 9
(Core i7-1255U)
Pal: 1170/6518
Performance: 1,598/8,165
Pal: 166
Performance: 127
Pal: 1124/7537
Performance: N/A
4045
Dell XPS 13 9315
(Core i5-1230U)
Pal: 1,393 / 4,459
Performance: 1,477/ 5,350
Pal: 333
Performance: 192
Pal: 1379/3457
Performance: N/A
4023
HP Specter x360 13.5.0 Update
(Core i7-1255U)
Pal: 1566/7314
Performance: 1,593 / 7921
Pal: 169
Performance: 120
Pal: 1,623 / 5,823
Performance: 1,691 / 7,832
5,203
Asus ROG Flow Z13
(Core i9-12900H)
Pal: 1,784 / 9387
Performance: N/A
Pal: 103
Performance: 87
Pal: 1,548 / 9,664
Performance: 1,906 / 13,400
6417

Despite its slightly larger battery (49.5 Wh vs 47.7 Wh) and lower wattage CPU, the XPS 13 2-in-1 lags behind the Surface Pro 9 in battery life. It only came to six hours in our web browsing test, for example, compared to eight hours for the Surface Pro 9. Dell managed 8.5 hours in our local video loop test, which is below average across all the laptops we tested. But it’s OK for a tablet.

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

The XPS 13 2-in-1 isn’t likely to help you get through an entire day at work. The charger is small in size, so carrying it is not a big burden.

Good display quality, not good for inking

Front view of the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1.
Mark Kubock / 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 its resolution is the same at 2,880 x 1,920. This makes the Dell screen a bit sharper. The IPS XPS 13 2-in-1 panel was brighter at 480 nits versus 409 nits, and had much deeper contrast at 1,840:1 compared to 1,050:1. Colors were wide and medium only for premium laptops, while resolution was excellent. At a DeltaE level of 0.81 (below 1.0 is suitable for professional work).

In terms of quality, then, the XPS 13 2-in-1 display is better for high-throughput users, and average for creators who demand the widest color gamut. But its refresh rate is 60Hz for pedestrians, compared to the Surface Pro 9’s 120Hz. And while the Dell Active Pen is fine and comfortably attached magnetically to the top for charging, it doesn’t have the haptic feedback built into Microsoft’s Surface Slim Pen 2. Combined with a faster refresh rate, this feature makes Surface Pro 9 a superior ink experience.

Front view of the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 showing the webcam.
Mark Kubock / Digital Trends

In terms of other multimedia aspects, 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 password-free login, like the Surface Pro 9, while the XPS 13 2-in-1 also includes a fingerprint reader. Two side speakers provide serviceable sound.

Back to the drawing board

The Surface Pro 9 isn’t the perfect Windows tablet. Frankly, such an animal does not exist. But the Surface Pro 9 becomes a better overall device than the XPS 13 2-in-1. The latter is a nicely detachable 2-in-1, but it 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 slower with lower battery life. If you’re buying a tablet primarily for inking, the Surface Pro 9 is a better experience out there, too.

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

Editors’ Recommendations






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