The XPS 13 Plus is the most beautiful notebook of the year, but it only represents “half” of the future

Ever since Dell unveiled the redesigned XPS 13 Plus at CES this year, there's been a lot of controversy about it.

Many people think that its design style is quite daring, very risky, and even slightly "impractical". TheVerge even wrote that the design of the XPS 13 Plus is the most extreme of all replacement design manufacturers.

To this end, WindowsCentral launched a reader survey and found that 78% of readers liked the redesigned XPS 13 Plus, and the remaining 22% disagreed.

▲ I also voted Yes. Image from: WindowsCentral

The difference of opinion is not on the overall design style, but mainly on several "innovations" of the traditional design of the XPS 13 Plus.

One, touch-sensitive function keys, and two, a gridless keyboard, and a seamless trackpad.

▲ The so-called "seamless" actually refers to the B side of the XPS 13 Plus. Image from: TheVerge

For these controversial design changes, Dell officials said that they mainly focus on the concept of "seamless", and this will be a major trend for future PCs and laptops, and the XPS 13 Plus is leading innovation.

The XPS 13 Plus is essentially a traditional laptop

Thin and light can be said to be one of the biggest labels of Dell XPS.

▲ Dell XPS 13-9300.

The extremely narrow bezel screen of the first generation XPS became an instant hit. After several years of changes, the XPS series has been optimized based on the traditional design style. The keyboard keys have become larger, the bezels have become thinner, and the body has become smaller.

It's just that the XPS series has not been able to break through, but is somewhat stuck due to past achievements.

The XPS 13 Plus completely broke this balance, and the re-differentiated product line undoubtedly released hands and feet.

Innovative industrial design can be said to focus on the future, and it can also be said to be what the current flagship product should look like.

The touch-sensitive function keys are reminiscent of the Touch Bar that once appeared on the MacBook Pro. Cool, but not practical enough.

▲ The Touch Bar on the MacBook Pro.

Dell's philosophy is actually quite different from the Touch Bar. It's still a tactile "physical button" and will use touch simulation to give some feedback.

In addition, when you press the Fn key on the keyboard, the "Media" key in the touch area will switch to the F function key.

In fact, this design is also after market research. The traditional function keys have a relatively low usage rate, but they occupy some space.

After "optimizing" them into capacitive touch buttons, in addition to being more beautiful, it also saves some space for radiating heat sinks and improving heat dissipation performance.

If this is a relatively restrained change, the integrated palm rest and trackpad are far more radical.

Not only the consistent use of materials, but also for visual unity, Dell did not mark the boundaries of the touchpad, which may affect the accuracy of dragging.

It's also the biggest point of contention about the design of the XPS 13 Plus, with the 22% of dissenting opinions in the WindowsCentral reader survey mostly because of the unibody trackpad.

Dell once believed in an interview that it is easy for people to form muscle memory when using the touchpad of a notebook, and they will unconsciously remember the effective touch area, which is somewhat similar to touch typing on a keyboard.

This kind of integrated design is not a "discarding the basics".

The keyboard functional area and touchpad have been seamlessly processed, and the keyboard area has also been processed similarly, removing the grid of traditional notebooks and increasing each keycap, which looks like cutting a piece of aluminum alloy into multiple keys.

However, the keyboard structure is still the traditional "scissor foot", and the key travel is also maintained at 1mm, similar to the rest of the XPS.

The new design of the XPS 13 Plus is almost concentrated on the B side. It is not so much "seamless", in fact, "integration" is more accurate.

The three major improvements make its B-side more integrated and completely differentiated from traditional laptops. In terms of design language, the XPS 13 Plus is sufficiently radical and pioneering.

▲ The A side of the XPS 13 Plus is similar to the XPS 13.

However, in terms of returning to use, it is still facing the present. The structure of the traditional scissor-pedal keyboard has hardly changed, and the touch key design is very restrained.

And, in the form of a laptop, the XPS 13 Plus is still in the traditional style, without a two-in-one or 360-degree rotation.

Judging from the current node, the XPS 13 Plus is more like a traditional laptop that introduced the "all-in-one" design concept. It is still geared towards "practicality" rather than radical innovation.

"Integration" is the future, but not the present

In fact, it can be concluded that almost all consumer electronic devices are evolving towards "integration".

The process of integration is not only a style change in the appearance of industrial design, but also requires a lot of technical upgrades behind it.

▲ The Tapic Engine that simulates multi-level earthquakes in the iPhone. Image from: Dice Insight

The changes to the B side of the Dell XPS 13 Plus, especially the touchpad integration and the design of the touch buttons, are the R&D team introducing the touch feedback on the smartphone into the notebook, so that the notebook has a similar touch experience.

The XPS 13 Plus is equipped with a 28W TDP Intel 12th-generation processor (i5-1240P and i7-1280P), which has better performance release than the previous 15W CPU. In fact, this is also due to the continuous improvement of processor performance. upgrade.

▲ Intel Core i7-1280P.

However, the XPS 13 Plus has narrowed the frame, but it still fails to make a difference with other thin and light notebooks in thickness and weight, and the x86 architecture processor still needs active cooling, which is still a little far from true integration.

In recent years, the emergence of the Arm-based desktop CPU, or the concept of SoC, especially the success of the Apple M1 series, has made the emergence of extremely thin and "integrated" products possible.

▲ Apple MacBook. Image from: The Verge

In the past, Apple's MacBook had the ultimate thickness, which greatly simplified the structure of the machine and only used passive heat dissipation, trying to make the MacBook series replace the MacBook Air as a synonym for extreme thinness.

However, the Core M series at that time could not exert its due energy efficiency in the extreme space, and the corresponding MacBook series gradually became lonely.

In the follow-up, after the Apple iPad series became "your next computer", the MacBook series was completely shut down. Even after the M1 high-efficiency SoC appeared, the MacBook, which had the most potential to become an "all-in-one" notebook computer, failed to revive.

On the contrary, with the M1 chip, the performance of the iPad Pro is almost similar to that of the Mac. The most important thing is that the iPad is already very close to "integration" and "seamless" in form. Whether it becomes a new personal PC or not, we only have to wait for the evolution of iPadOS.

▲ The XPS 13 Plus is the ultimate traditional PC. Image from: Game News 24

The keyboard on the traditional PC has become an accessory of the iPad, which is also the choice made by Apple in the integration of the PC.

It's just that among traditional manufacturers, traditional laptops still have mechanical structures such as hinges, keyboards, and fans. Even the XPS 13 Plus, which is considered to be a "future" laptop, still hasn't radically removed these structures. be more integrated.

The Dell XPS 13 Plus is still essentially a traditional laptop. Even in the Microsoft Surface series with a big brain hole, "integration" is not the main theme, but the ever-changing form is, so they are still facing the present, and Not the "future" in the true sense.

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