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The New King of 2-in-1 Laptops Has Arrived

Better than a Chromebook and cheaper than a MacBook.

A few weeks ago I took a long lunch to grab a beer and watch a soccer game. My club, Liverpool, were playing Leicester City in the English Premier League — a big match — but our starting center defenseman was out injured, so Lucas Leiva, a diminutive midfielder, was forced to play out of position. An hour and a half later Leicester City had torched Leiva several times, scoring three goals. Liverpool was left weeping and I went back to work, depressed.

Then, less than a week later, Liverpool comprehensively beat venerable Arsenal with the same squad, except Leiva was replaced by a proper defenseman, the big and brutish Ragnar Klavan. The simple moral: play the best players in their best positions and the team will actually play well. That’s the way I felt when I switched from testing a Samsung Chromebook Pro to testing the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 ($1,300).

The Dell XPS 13 2-in-1, on the other hand, takes a pop at both the iPad Pro and MacBook Pro.

The Samsung Chromebook Pro played its part. It was affordable, and I could do most everything on it that I normally do on a laptop — namely, working on Chrome. But the keyboard and trackpad felt cheap, so long spells on the computer led to dissatisfaction. Plus, the Chromebook Pro had virtually no internal storage and little offline functionality. Bottom line: it wasn’t fun to use for more than an hour at a time (unless I was watching Netflix). If Samsung was trying to compete with the iPad Pro, the Chromebook Pro wasn’t the answer. The Dell XPS 13 2-in-1, on the other hand, takes a pop at both the iPad Pro and MacBook Pro.

Specs: Dell XPS 13 2-in-1

Display: 13.3-inch InfinityEdge touch display
Resolution: 1920 x 1080
Processor: Intel Core i7
OS: Windows 10
Storage: 256GB
Memory: 8GB
Graphics: Intel HD Graphics
Ports: two USB-C (one Thunderbolt 3), microSD
Weight: 2.70 pounds
Buy Now: $1,300

It’s a rethinking and an upgrade of Dell’s original XPS 13, which boasted long battery life, great wi-fi connectivity and a very thin design. The newer Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 is a convertible laptop (the original wasn’t), and it also has an even slimmer design. Beyond that, both models are near identical: they run Windows 10, have a near-infinity screen and can be configured with Intel’s Core i7 processor and a beautiful Quad HD+ display (3200 x 1800 resolution), if you’re willing to spend a couple hundred extra. (I only tested the 1080p model, so unfortunately I wasn’t able to experience all the promised pixelated glory.) The main difference with the 2-in-1 — other than its convertibility — is that it lacks fans, meaning it probably won’t run visually demanding games or programs like Photoshop or Lightroom quite as well as the original XPS 13. Then again, you won’t be bothered by a humming fan, either.

I’m not a power user when it comes to laptops. I’m not a hardcore gamer, nor am I uploading or meticulously editing thousands of hi-res photos. So my experience testing the Chromebook Pro, Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 and even my current MacBook Pro (the non–Touch Bar version, which I own) comes down to feel and how intuitive the computer is. Obviously, the XPS 13 2-in-1 had better specs compared to the Chromebook Pro (a better processor, more RAM, more storage), as you would expect in a premium laptop. But it was the design details that made me enjoy testing the XPS.

The backlit keyboard was a joy to type on; it was even more comfortable than my MacBook Pro’s. The near-infinity display made the 13-inch laptop feel more like an 11-inch one. And the stylus pen (an add-on) made those few instances where I wanted to annotate screenshots and take quick notes simple and precise.

Some little things bugged me, like the slow boot time; the device doesn’t come out of sleep mode immediately after it’s flipped open. And as a guy who’s used to navigating OS X on a daily basis, dealing with Windows 10’s quirks — especially the constant McAfee virus protection notifications — tried my patience. But for the most part, I enjoyed my time with the XPS 13 2-in-1. It had the same versatility as the Chromebook Pro, yet it felt and ran more like a high-end laptop. It also happens to work seamlessly as a tablet and is several hundred dollars less expensive than a MacBook Pro. So if you’re looking for a new Windows 10 device, the XPS 13 2-in-1 is a strong player for your lineup.

Starting at: $1,000

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