There are also some unique improvements that you can't easily see. The company added a variable torque hinge to the XPS 13, which makes it easier for you to open it one-handed. It flips up smoothly but adds more resistance as you open the screen further. You probably won't even know this feature exists, but it'll likely save you plenty of frustration every day.
Under the hood, Dell included Intel's latest eighth-generation Core CPUs, and it supports up to 16GB of RAM and a 2TB SSD. Since it relies on Intel's integrated UHD 620 graphics, I didn't expect it to be much of a gaming powerhouse. Still, this is one area where I'd like to see Dell innovate a bit. ASUS' ZenBook S13, which is even lighter than the XPS 13, features NVIDIA's MX150 GPU. That gives you enough of a graphics boost to play Overwatch at 1080p beyond 60 frames per second, whereas the XPS 13 struggles to reach 30FPS in 720p. The ZenBook S13 also features thinner screen bezels: It's pretty obvious ASUS is trying to take the XPS 13 down a notch.
Even though the competition is heating up, the XPS 13 remains a speedy little ultraportable. I didn't expect any less, though, since our review unit was outfitted with a Core i7-8565U CPU and 16GB of RAM, the fastest configuration you can order today. I lived with the XPS 13 for weeks, and it took on my daily workload with ease. That typically involves bouncing across dozens of tabs in multiple browsers, image editing, Slack chats and Skyping, all while playing a few tunes on Spotify. Based on the PC Mark 8 benchmark, its performance is on par with other modern ultraportables, but that's not a huge surprise, since most of them are running the same low-power Intel CPUs.
When the XPS 13 was under load, I noticed it felt a bit cooler than last year's model. Dell says it doubled the amount of heat pipes and fans to push out heat more efficiently. While that's great for overall system stability, on occasion the fans tended to spin up loudly. It wasn't noisy enough to bother me much, but if you're looking for a truly silent experience, it's worth looking into fanless laptops like the XPS 13 2-in-1. Just be aware you'll sacrifice CPU power with those machines.
So the XPS 13 performs well, but that doesn't matter much if the battery life can't keep pace. Based on our test, which involves looping an HD video until the juice runs out, it lasted 12 and a half hours, two and half hours longer than last year's. It doesn't quite match the nearly 16 hours of juice we've seen from the Surface Laptop 2, but at least it's on par with the new MacBook Air. Basically, you won't have to worry about the XPS 13 dying on you during a typical workday.