Review: Dell's XPS 13 2-in-1 9310 flies, but not always in the right direction

Dell's XPS 13 2-in-1 9310 is compact, light and has a lovely-looking screen - but is that enough to make this a must buy?
Dell's XPS 13 2-in-1 9310 is compact, light and has a lovely-looking screen - but is that enough? Photo credit: Newshub

The Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 9310 is compact, lightweight and with Intel's 11th generation i7 processor on board, lightning quick.

But how does it stand up to its competitors? Are the 360-degree hinges that allow you to use the keyboard as a stand or prop it open to use it like a tablet genius or not?

And are the payoffs needed for such a compact package worth it when it comes to functionality?

I've been using the Dell 9310 for a few weeks now and here are my thoughts.

The good

When you first open the flash box, the relatively nondescript silvery laptop that faces you belies the power and beauty that sits within.

It's only when you open it up do you truly get the opportunity to see how gorgeous it is, with little space wasted. The keyboard pushes right towards the edge of the laptop and, unlike the Microsoft Laptop Surface 4, the bezels are impressively small.

Dell's XPS 13 2-in-1 9310 laptop.
Photo credit: Newshub

That adds up to a device that not only fits comfortably in my backpack but, thanks to it's USB-C charging, I don't even have to remember to take the plug with me everywhere. And, at under 1.5kgs, it doesn't put too much extra strain on my old shoulders. 

It's an impressive start that continues with the ability to login via Windows Hello, the facial recognition system that is currently the best login option on laptops. It's quick, secure and handles the random decisions as to whether I'll wear a hat or my glasses well. It'll always be way quicker than typing in a PIN or password.

There is also a fingerprint scanner for those who want to feel like they're living in a Mission: Impossible movie, but I can't be bothered with those.

The screen is, as I've come to expect from modern laptops, pretty great. This one is up there with the best. I threw on a couple of favourites - Pixar's Coco and The Matrix - and the colours were clear, vivid and precise. The picture looked great, with only some of the dark scenes in the latter excepted.

The battery life is also pretty impressive on the 2-in-1. I used it over the course of many days, for a couple of hours at a time and at no point did I have to panic that I was going to run out of juice.

This will easily get you through a day's work and an evening's browsing before needing to be charged again.

And, as I mentioned before, it's quick. Tab after tab in the popular browsers, streaming YouTube videos on silent while playing Spotify was of no concern to the processor. Editing multiple high-res photos failed to strain the combined Intel power and 16GB of RAM in this review unit.

But not everything with the laptop was as impressive as the above.

The bad

The 2-in-1 version has a maximum screen resolution of just 1920x1200 which, while not terrible, does limit the quality if you're really into watching high definition movies and television on a little screen.

If we accept that most people don't care as much as I do, then it's probably not a deal ending limitation. Other things annoyed me more.

Dell's XPS 13 2-in-1 9310 laptop
Photo credit: Newshub

To pay for the very small footprint, there is no USB-A port on the laptop; instead there are a couple of USB-C, Thunderbolt 4 ports and a MicroSD port as well as a headphone jack. Thankfully a USB-C to USB-A adapter is included in the package, which meant my old peripherals aren't totally useless - but there is only one.

It does mean I can't use the trusty USB headphones I've come to rely on for video conferencing at the same time as being able to plug in my external mouse and keyboard unless I used my home office setup, though.

Talking about the keyboard, I just didn't find it as good as the class-leading keyboard on the recent Microsoft Surface products and nowhere near as comfortable as my external ergonomic Logitech beast.

My accuracy suffered a bit and I didn't want to keep on using it, which would be a problem if I was using the laptop as a stand alone.

Dell's XPS 13 2-in-1 9310 laptop
Photo credit: Newshub

As is common for these types of devices, they're not gaming machines - with the Intel Iris XE graphics able to support older games in my Steam library for some adhoc fun - and you can't upgrade the storage or RAM once purchased so you're going to want to make sure you get your configuration right for your usage.

I also felt ridiculous turning the keyboard right around and using it as either a stand or as the back of a tablet. The latter is the worst - holding it as a tablet meant my left hand simply couldn't avoid touching the keys. It was a weird experience I'm not keen to repeat.

The final thing I wasn't a fan of was the speaker system, which I only found out by accident. On a hard surface I was able to blast Ozzy Osbourne's 'Crazy Train' and it was clear and wonderfully loud. That changed, however, when I used the laptop in bed. The speakers are actually on the bottom of the unit so when placed on soft surfaces, the volume and quality noticeably suffers.

Again, this comes from the necessity to put them somewhere because there is no room at the side or up top - but it's not ideal compared to others I've used.

The verdict

The Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 9310, with an RRP of $3298.98, is a great machine for those who are looking for the dual benefits of the touchscreen with a powerful and quick processor.

I'm just not sure who those people are. I remain confused by just who is using touchscreen laptops with non-removable keyboards. I either forget I can touch the screen, or the keyboard just ends up getting in the way.

If, like me, you're mainly going to use it plugged into an external monitor, then you're going to be better off with one of the non-touch screen configurations on the Dell website.

All up, while this is a nice device to use, it's a couple of ports short and a touch screen too much to be up there as a truly great business laptop. I would, however, happily use this to watch gorgeous, colourful content all day long.

Newshub was supplied a Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 9310 for this review.