If spending R37,000 is something that doesn't phase you, and you're in dire need of a really good laptop that'll get the basics done (including editing and some light Minecrafting), this is perfect. If more hardcore tasks are what you need doing, then your money might be better spent on something with a bigger display and dedicated GPU.
It’s not often that the world sees a laptop that isn’t trying to do one of two things; unlock some hitherto unknown sensitivity towards flashing lights or pierce its new owner’s skin with its sharpened edges. That’s (more or less) what you get with the latest gaming laptops, though more and more ‘business-centric’ brands have begun swaying their design teams towards whatever they think is the ‘new look’.
Dell is different. It has no issues releasing a clean, yet still plain-looking laptop. It proved as much with the Inspiron 16 5620. It would much rather just let the internals speak for themselves. The Dell XPS 13 Plus 9320 chants the same mantra, though it spent more time standing in front of the mirror judging by how well it stands out from its Dell brethren. The important bits are still inside, but there’s nothing wrong with putting on a nice shirt and styling your hair occasionally, is there?
If you’re in need of a laptop capable of some hardcore gaming or editing, then this isn’t the machine you’re looking for. But if you need something to pull up spreadsheets faster than all your co-workers you can’t really go wrong here.
Oooooh, shiny matte!
Before we discuss those oh-so-important insides we were blathering on about, there’s still the case (literally) of the XPS 13’s outer beauty. It won’t be winning Ms. Laptop trophies, but it could certainly be nominated for an award. We’re not sure what would win that award, but if the XPS put in a little more effort, it would stand a real shot at winning.
This isn’t a big boy. This is a 13.4in machine that’s meant to sit around in your laptop bag until called upon at the office. Our model came in graphite, though a slightly worse-looking (in our opinion) platinum is available. The entirety of the lid is a brushed aluminium matte coating, with Dell’s glossy logo plastered right in the centre. And that’s it. We told you – Dell is serious.
The rest of the chassis is void of anything to look at. There’s one Thunderbolt 4 USB-C port on each side and uh… that’s it. We guess that’s all you really need, though we do miss having at least one USB-A and a headphone aux to play around with. The box does come with a USB-C to Aux dongle, though we’d rather not take up a valuable port just for audio.
The first thing you’ll notice about the XPS 13 Plus is that there’s no trackpad and a rather large gap between the keyboard and the screen. At least, that’s what Dell wants you to think. The trackpad is there, just hidden from the naked eye under a layer of frosted glass. It’s smooth, responsive, and covers almost the entirety of the space beneath the keyboard.
Spare a second to look for the ‘on’ button (next to the backspace) and watch the touchbar behind the keyboard light up. Here’s where you’ll find the escape, function, and volume controls that are all absent on the physical keyboard. Personally, we liked the disappearing touchbar. It’s fast and light to the touch. But we’d understand if it wasn’t something that was universally popular.
Turn me on, Scotty
Our XPS 13 was pretty much packing just about everything you could ever need for a speedy office worker. The twelfth-gen Core i7-1260P processor, more than enough RAM (16GB of LPDDR5), and a 1TB NVMe SSD to top it all off. Chuck in Intel’s Iris Xe Graphic chipset to make this a truly decent offering.
Then you’ve got the 13.4in FHD (1,920 x 1,200) display, though some models can come with a far better 3,456 x 2,160 OLED panel that’ll more than bump up the price. The FHD is more than enough for a machine like this one, whose main purpose is to keep enough Word and Excel spreadsheets open while also keeping numerous Chrome tabs running consecutively.
The 60Hz refresh is good enough to get you by on supported YouTube videos, but it won’t be enough to get some real custom tasks like editing or gaming in. Unless you’re counting Minecraft as ‘serious gaming’ which it is if you’re adding every mod and shader under the sun to the game. But if you’re just looking to squeeze in a quick vanilla session, the XPS 13 is more than up to the task.
The Dell XPS 13 feat
The speakers on a laptop don’t usually concern buyers. If it has any built-in and the option to connect a pair of headphones (wireless or otherwise), that’s enough. Seeing as there’s no wired option here, it leaves us with a choice of wireless headphones or the setup that Dell has provided. As far as laptop speakers go, they’re… fine. We’ve heard better – even from our 2019 MacBook Pro. But if you’re in a jam and need to quickly consume whatever content you’re into, these will do the job. We’d still recommend a decent set of headphones, however.
If your office is still slowing down your Wednesdays with Zoom meetings, then the 720p webcam above the screen will do enough to help you through. It won’t stand out, but it’s adequate enough that you shouldn’t desire anything much better. Just add in Nvidia’s Eye Contact AI and you’re all set. If you’re above typing a pin or password, the scanner that’s integrated into the on button is an option too.
If your office is fancy enough to have a WiFi 6E-capable router, then Intel’s AX211 Wifi 6E module Dell shoved in there will actually help you make the most of the router’s speed.
Dell XPS 13 Plus 9320 Verdict
After using the machine for a solid week, once we finally decided to get to the writing part of the review, we were a little shocked to discover a R37,000 price tag attached. We know it’s got some oomph, but that caught us a little off-guard. Dell’s website lists it for R57,000 though it’s currently going for R37,000 on sale. When checking out this model, however, it costs R35,000 for a slightly less capable 512GB SSD instead of our 1TB model. If you must have the 1TB model, then we’d guess that the R37,000 price tag isn’t far off. Just don’t fall for Dell’s marketing ploys.
All-in-all though, this is a solid everyday work beast. It can tackle more than a few Chrome tabs and handle every piece of Office 365 work you throw at it. The 16GB of RAM and 1TB SSD were very welcome, though any of Apple’s MacBook Air models that come in for under R30,000 might be more deserving of your cold hard cash. That is if the lack of Windows isn’t an issue. But hey, at least it looks pretty.