Dell’s New MacBook Air Is Pretty Cool Actually

When it comes to slim, manufacturers are having a tough time beating Apple’s MacBook Air. Dell’s new Air competitor, the XPS 13, may have missed the mark by a whole millimeter—but we weren’t too put off. Especially since the XPS is considerably smaller otherwise, and still manages to include a 13.3 inch high definition display that looks like it’s floating in midair.

The insides definitely aren’t as polished or streamlined as in a MacBook Air, although they certainly look very similar—enough that you could convince us the XPS was a prototype of the Air. Perhaps a prototype from a time before repair was tossed off the list of Apple’s design priorities. Clearly, repairability is still a design concern at Dell—a free service manual, and labels on nearly every screw and connector are a huge help during reassembly. When all was said and torn down, the Dell XPS 13 handily bagged a 7 out of 10 on the repairability scale.

Dell XPS 13 teardown

Teardown Highlights:

• The little-mentioned webcam lives in the lower display bezel. This unusual placement allows for thinner top and side bezels. Unfortunately, it also means getting an occasional keyboard in your selfie, not to mention unflattering angles.

• We find a hodgepodge of tape, cables, and connectors inside the XPS 13’s guts; the internal components are a tangle of layered bits as well. And sometimes the construction looks more than a little ridiculous. Waiter! There’s a screw in my tape!

• Buyer beware: Just like in the MacBook Air, the RAM in the XPS 13 is soldered to the motherboard, and cannot be replaced. When you’re picking out your new laptop, configure what you think it’ll need…forever.

• Wait, did we accidentally get a MacBook display somehow? The clutch cover comes off in much the same way as on a MacBook Pro, revealing a plastic frame of antennas.

• After painstakingly cracking the display assembly clam, we find a mysterious black thread running along the inside of the top case. There’s no mention in the service manual, but we’re betting we just stumbled onto the easy way to get the LCD out. The thread is routed in a channel beneath the display adhesive—pulling along the side ought to slice right through and free the panel, like cutting clay off a block.

  • Chips Powering the XPS:
    • 5th Gen Intel Core i5-5200U processor (up to 2.70 GHz) with Intel HD Graphics 5500
    • Winbond 25Q64FVS10 64 M-bit serial flash memory
    • Elpida/Micron J8416E6MB-GNL-F 8 GB (8 x 1 GB) DDR3L-RS 1600 MHz dual-channel RAM
    • Realtek ALC3263 audio codec
    • SMSC MEC5085 low power embedded flash
    • Broadcom BCM4352KML 5G WiFi 2-stream 802.11ac transceiver
    • Broadcom BCM20702 single-chip bluetooth 4.0 solution with BLE support
    • Skyworks SE5516 dual-band 802.11a/b/g/n/ac WLAN front-end module
    • Realtek ALC3263 audio codec
    • 2 x Samsung 431 K9CHGY8S5M-CCK0 64 GB TLC NAND flash
    • Samsung 428 K4P2G324ED-FGC2 512 MB LPDDR2 DRAM
    • Realtek RTS5249 card reader controller
    • Texas Instruments TPS2544 USB charging port controller and power switch
    • Parade PS8713B single port USB 3.0 repeater/redriver
    • SMSC (Microchip) ECE1117 multi-function BC-Link/SMBus companion device
    • Elan Microelectronics eKTH3915SUS digitizer controller
    • Novatek NT71394MB8 display driver IC