Dell told us "thin and powerful is where it's at" when it threw its netbooks in the grave, and it's living up to its word here at CES. It's no Adamo XPS in terms of design or thinness, but the XPS 13 ultrabook is definitely looking to fill that void in the company's line up. It might live along the other XPS models, but it's a much thinner and lighter option; similar to the XPS 14z, Dell's using a thin-bezeled display that allows the 13-inch display to fit in more of a typical 12-inch laptop case. At 2.9 pounds, the laptop is .71 inches at its thickest point and .24 inches at its thinnest, making room for USB 3.0, USB 2.0, 3.5mm headphone, and MiniDisplay ports. The biggest oversight of this system may be the missing SD card slot.
However, some may just be willing to look the other way on that point since the 13 seems to have a solid array of specs for the price. The $999 starting configuration has a Core i3 processor, 4GB of RAM, and 128GB SSD. That package also includes the standard backlit keyboard and the 1366 x 768-resolution 13.3-inch display, which has been covered in Gorilla Glass. Sadly, there isn't a higher resolution display option. Dell's also bragging about its implementation of Intel's Smart Connect technology, which automatically joins a network and updates your email or calendar.
Like the rest of the XPS line, the 13 has a solid aluminum cover, but the magnesium alloy palmrest is coated in a soft-touch material. The bottom, however, is made of a carbon fiber, that's been covered in a similar soft silicone. I got a chance to see an early unit a couple of weeks ago, and while my first thought was how similar it looked to the MacBook Air (at least when closed), I did like the feel of the system and the all-black interior. The redesigned keyboard was comfortable, with the keys having a decent amount of travel, and two-finger scrolling and navigating on the glass ClickPad was smooth. My biggest complaint was the sharp metal aluminum edges; they seemed even sharper than the ones on the Air, which consistently irritate my wrists. Of course, it was an early unit, so I'll hold my final judgement until I get one in to review at the end of February, when it is expected to start shipping.