Since October 2014, I’ve tested numerous pre-release versions of Windows 10 on a wide range of existing PCs, tablets, 2-in-1s and phones. But this week, I had the opportunity to experience Windows 10 on a new Dell XPS 13. And despite the obvious allure of free upgrades for existing Windows 7 and 8.1 PCs, one thing is quite clear: you’re still going to have the best experience on a new PC.
I want to write about the Dell XPS 13 in more detail separately, and will do so. As you must know, the XPS 13 arrived with much fanfare earlier this year, and was of course originally configured with Windows 8.1.
But the version I’m using is one of several models that Dell allowed customers to preorder with Windows 10, and as I write this, the preorders are shipping to those customers. Too, the XPS 13 was designed with Windows 10 in mind. And while it doesn’t offer provide access to some of the more forward-leaning Windows 10 features—Continuum or Windows Hello—this device is quite state-of-the-art when it comes to mobile productivity and as expected it works even better with Windows 10 than it did with Windows 8.1.
The review system Dell provided ships with Windows 10 Home, and as such it includes a number of interesting starting points, including some Start menu shortcuts for apps and games like FreshPaint, LINE, Dragon Mania Legends, and others. To be clear, these are not installed on your PC. Instead, when you first click the Start tile, you are brought to the Store where you can learn more and choose whether to install each in turn. And you can of course remove these shortcuts from Start.
While bracing for my unwanted install of Candy Crush Saga—nothing yet, thankfully—a new Twitter app was also downloaded and installed to the PC on July 29. This app sports a new tile-based UI, and while I’m not sure yet if it’s a good Twitter client per se, it does have a neat presentation.
Dell also provides its own goodies, but thankfully doesn’t bog down the system with crapware. There’s the requisite McAfee security suite, of course, and yes it does expire, but not for a full year. Dell also provides a Dropbox offer plus its own Help & Support app, which is useful, and a Dell Shopping app, which is not. But nothing objectionable. And of course each can be removed at your discretion.
Looking at the system tray and Startup items in Task Manager, I see the Intel HD Graphics control panel, Realtek HD Audio Manager, Dell Update, and Intel Rapid Storage Technology, the latter of which will make zero sense to almost any customer. Dell Update is set up to automatically check for updates, and is typical for PC maker preloads. I’ll let it do its thing.
Anyone worried about a massive day one update will be disappointed. I saw touchpad and audio updates for the XPS, and a few security and non-security updates for Windows 10, but nothing major, and certainly nothing to trouble the tin hat crowd.
The Dell XPS 13 is one of the first—and still only—PCs to ship with a precision touchpad. (Microsoft’s Surface 3 and Pro 3 Type Covers do as well.) This provides a number of customization capabilities that are not possible with traditional touchpads, including some neat three-finger gestures for switching apps and invoking Cortana. Not surprisingly, the XPS 13 touchpad is excellent, and among the best I’ve used, but more on that in my coming first impressions article.
The Dell also provides advanced audio hardware that is supposed to make voice controlled Cortana—“Hey, Cortana”—more usable, especially in noisy environments. I can’t say I’ve had a chance to test this per se, but I have enabled Hey Cortana—you have to do so manually in Cortana Settings—and it’s working normally.
The XP3 also has a wonderfully sensitive touch screen (though I understand you can purchase a version without this option too). This lets you interact with the screen using touch, of course, and perform edge gestures for Action Center and Task View.
Depending on the hardware you get, there are a few other things to look for in new PCs.
Continuum. This feature lets your 2-in-1 or tablet move automatically between Tablet mode and the normal usage mode as you add/remove keyboards or dock and undock the device. You can always do so manually, of course, but the ability to have Windows configure itself optimally for the current conditions on the fly is pretty impressive, and works well. My Surface Pro 3 is configured to do this automatically, for example, when the Type Cover is removed or attached.
Windows Hello. Microsoft’s biometric sign-in option requires special hardware in the form of a facial, iris or fingerprint scanner. I’ve used the facial scanner with a developer-oriented RealSense camera, which is included in some Dell models, but not the XPS. And I’ve used the fingerprint scanner on various recent ThinkPads, including the X1 Carbon and T450S.
I’m looking forward to putting the XPS 13 through its paces this month while traveling in France, and I’ll post my overwhelmingly positive first impressions of this device soon.