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Dell XPS 13 9365 2-in-1 Review: Updated Windows laptop/tablet convertible for 2017

4.5

The Good

  • Flexible
  • Great keyboard
  • Smooth performance
  • Rugged, premium design

The Bad

  • Stylus sold separately
  • Pricey

Dell’s XPS 13 9365 convertible offers two Windows 10 devices in one, packing premium specs and the kind of flexibility that creative professionals will love. Here’s our full Dell XPS 13 9365 review.

These days, why take two devices on the road when you can pack just one? Laptops which convert into tablets have been around for a good few years, offering a flexible all-encompassing way to stay productive on the move.

Dell’s XPS 13 9365 is one of the latest to hit the UK, giving consumers both a high-performance Windows laptop and a touchscreen tablet for precise input. Of course this 13-inch device isn’t exactly ‘affordable’, starting at well over a grand, although you do at least get plenty of bang for your buck.

With a powerful Kaby Lake processor on board, as well as your choice of Full HD or QHD+ screen, this laptop is particularly suited for creative use. These creative creds are further boosted by the reversible screen hinge, which allows you to bend the display all the way back and convert the XPS 13 into a tablet device. With its touchscreen functionality and support for Dell’s own accurate stylus pen (sold separately), you can get stuck into sketches and make fine edits on documents, wherever you roam.

Alternatives to the XPS 13 9365 include the Asus ZenBook Flip S and Microsoft Surface Pro, which again convert from a laptop into a tablet. Or if you're looking for something more affordable, check out the excellent value Asus Transformer Mini T102H. Alternatively you could try MacOS instead of Windows, with the latest 13-inch Macbook Pro.

Here’s what we think of the Dell XPS 13 9365 after using it as our full-time work machine for over a week.

Dell XPS 13 9365 2-in-1 Review: Design

Dell’s laptop sports an aluminium surfacing on the lid and rear, offering quite a smart finish without adding much weight to the device. That lid is reassuringly sturdy all the same, protecting the display mounted on the opposite side. We found it scuffed up rather easily, but that was easily dealt with; a quick wipe is enough to remove most marks and the silver surface seems quite resistant to scratches.

Those steel hinges feel just as well constructed, holding the screen firmly in whatever position you need it.

In tablet mode, you can poke and prod with your finger thanks to that touchscreen display. Windows’ Tablet Mode is of course on hand to simplify the interface and make it more finger-friendly. Alternatively, you can get creative with Dell’s own Active Pen stylus. Like the Apple Pencil and other rivals, this boasts thousands of levels of pressure sensitivity, for accurate responses to your strokes.

Of course, at 1.24kg the XPS 13 isn’t anywhere near as light and portable as the likes of Apple’s iPad Pro tablets. It’s perfectly usable when clutched with one hand, although you’ll want to rest it across your forearm when working for more than a few minutes, to keep your bicep from aching.

The carbon fiber interior boasts a pleasing soft-touch finish, which adds to the comfort levels when resting your palms. This too seems to resist scuffs and scratches, so the look stays fresh even after plenty of use.

When it comes to connectivity, the XPS 13 doesn’t disappoint. You get a Thunderbolt 3 port for charging, a DisplayPort over USB Type-C and a microSD memory card slot. No full-sized USB, sadly, although that’s no surprise given the skinny build.

You also have a Noble Lock slot, for securing the XPS 13 when needed.

Dell XPS 13 9365 2-in-1 Review: Keyboard and touchpad

The XPS 13’s keyboard offers a comfortable typing experience, even when smashing out a novel across a lengthy commute. Those isolated keys are well-spaced and enjoy a surprising amount of travel. Typing at full speed is also a reasonably quiet affair too, so you shouldn’t disturb any loved ones during those all-night marathon work sessions. If you do work a lot at night, the keyboard backlighting will also be a great help.

My only bugbear with the keyboard is that single-row return key. This took some time to adjust to after using several laptops with a double-row key, as I kept bashing the \ key when touch typing. The arrow keys are also far too tiny, although that’s pretty much unavoidable on these compact machines.

Beneath the XPS 13’s keyboard is a dinky touchpad. The bottom left and right corners can be pushed in, which mimics a left and right mouse click. Alternatively, you can simply tap the surface of the pad at any point to left-click.

Coming from the mighty touchpad of the 13-inch Macbook Pro, the XPS 13’s pad at first seemed rather squashed. That said, your swipes are intelligently registered, so a quick drag of your finger instantly takes you from one side of the display to the other, while more careful swipes result in subtle movements on-screen. You’ll still need to occasionally lift your finger to get where you’re going, but you should never be frustrated.

Dell XPS 13 9365 2-in-1 Review: Display and media

Our XPS 13 review model came with a 13.3-inch Full HD 1920x1080 resolution display, although you can also upgrade to a QHD+ panel if you demand supremely crisp visuals.

I was perfectly happy with the image reproduction of the Full HD screen, which proved well up to every task I ploughed through. It’s certainly sharp enough for photo editing purposes, as well as kicking back with a movie or a game on the go. Colours are punchy, breathing life into your photos and video.

At a maximum of 400 nits, the XPS 13’s panel is certainly bright enough to cut through irritating sun glare. Windows has a built-in blue light filter also, which makes night viewing more comfortable.

The screen stretches pretty much to the very top, left and right edges, making the most of the space available. With that fully reversible design, you can tilt it to basically any angle, which makes for a comfortable experience no matter how you’re positioned.

The XPS 13 also boasts some decent built-in speakers. Boost the volume up and you’ll have no problem hearing in a noisy environment, although clarity does take a minor hit. You’ll certainly want to connect a dedicated speaker or ‘phones if you want to enjoy the finer details of your music.

Dell XPS 13 9365 2-in-1 Review: Features

Full Windows 10 comes pre-installed on the XPS 13, offering all of the usual software and features. Microsoft’s Cortana assistant is on hand 24-hours a day to answer any queries, while you have an internet’s worth of software at your fingertips.

Check out our Windows 10 features for more info on Microsoft’s latest OS:

Windows 10 tips and tricks guide

Windows 10 Anniversary Edition, best new features

Windows 10 Fall Creators update, best new features

What is Windows 10 S?

Security is boosted by a fingerprint sensor, mounted on the palm rest below the keyboard. This works in conjunction with Windows Hello, to allow you to unlock your laptop with a quick scan. It’s reasonably responsive, often unlocking the laptop in under a second, although the black surface of the sensor blends in all too well with the laptop chassis. No problem usually, until you try unlocking your XPS at night and end up groping around.

Between 128GB and 512GB of storage comes packed inside the XPS 13 9365, depending on the precise model you choose. Dell’s solid state drive is super-fast, so copying files on and off is a pleasingly nippy experience, helped along by that Type-C USB connectivity. When copying video files to the device from a phone, for instance, a 1GB file was transferred in just a handful of seconds.

A 720p infrared webcam points at your mug when using the device, so you can Skype or simply snap a selfie when desired. Even when you’re sat in the dark. For whatever reason.

Dell XPS 13 9365 2-in-1 Review: Performance and battery life

An Intel Core i7-7Y75 processor runs the show, backed by a generous 8GB of RAM. This Kaby Lake chipset means you can play back and edit 4K video footage no problem. Professional photo editing and other creative tasks are handled with ease as well.

Of course, the XPS 13 doesn’t have a dedicated graphics card, instead using the integrated HD Graphics 615 GPU. This means you’re limited when it comes to gaming and other graphically intensive tasks.

That said, we happily played older games such as F.E.A.R 3, with only the occasional little stutter. More simple titles such as point and click adventure games were also handled just fine.

Battery life is respectable for a device with this kind of power. A full charge won’t quite see you through a full working day, although you should get a solid four to five hours of use. That’s as long as you’re simply editing documents and browsing the web. If you get stuck into more demanding tasks such as video editing, you can still expect around three to four hours of operation before the XPS 13 is drained.

Dell XPS 13 9365 2-in-1 Review: Verdict

If you’re after a professional device that’s fully flexible, the XPS 13 9365 is a solid option. It’s not exactly cheap, but like Apple’s Macbooks, you get what you pay for. Dependable performance, impressive craftsmanship and strong creative creds make for a great Windows 10 device.

You can buy the Dell XPS 13 9365 here in the UK right now, starting from £1299.

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