Dell’s new Haswell based XPS 13 laptops are released today

Dell’s 3 pound XPS 13 range of thin and light laptops refreshed with new Intel 4th generation Haswell processors have been released today. And along with the Windows 7 or Windows 8 versions, the developer edition known as Project Sputnik also receives the Haswell update. So far Dell has two versions of the Ubuntu XPS 13 listed on their business site. One version priced at $1249 is based on the 4th generation Intel Core i5-4200U processor with a 3M Cache. This dual core i5 processor has a base clock speed of 1.6 GHz with turbo up to 2.6 GHz. Not too speedy but this is a thin and light laptop so the processor’s 22 nm lithography and 15 watt max TDP will ensure it sips electricity from the 55 watt hour integrated 6 cell battery. Which is good because the battery is not user replaceable. The higher end version of the XPS 13 DE runs on an Intel Core i7-4500U processor with a 4M Cache and a 1.8 GHz base clock speed that ramps up to 3.0 GHz when the turbo kicks in. This version is priced at $1549 and includes a 256 GB SSD.

Both versions of the XPS 13 Developer Edition run Ubuntu 12.04 LTS or Long Term Support. This version has been tweaked by Dell’s Project Sputnik team to ensure that it runs smoothly out of the box on this slick lightweight hardware. Both of these XPS 13 laptops now include a full HD 13.3 inch 1920 x 1080 touchscreen and 8GB of Dual Channel DDR3 SDRAM running at 1600MHz. They weigh in at a svelte 3.02 pounds. These low powered, long running laptops do not have room for a dedicated graphics card but run the 13.3 inch display through the adequate Intel HD Graphics 4400 built into the CPU.

If you want to run Microsoft Windows on your new Haswell based XPS 13, there are 3 choices available. The most affordable starts at a penny less than a grand and is the only version that includes classic Windows 7 Home Premium instead of Windows 8.1. While you get the familiarity of Windows 7, this version is hobbled by a relatively slow Intel Core i3-4010U processor with a 3M Cache and base clock of 1.7 GHz. While similar to the base clock speed of the other XPS 13 processors, the i3-4010U does not have any Turbo Boost technology to speed up demanding tasks. You are stuck at 1.7 GHz with your dual cores and 4 threads of processing. This puts the processing capability of the lone Windows 7 configuration closer to netbook territory. Though with the Windows 7 version of the Haswell XPS 13, you get a full HD 13.3″ screen unencumbered by the light obscuring touch screen layer. With no turbo boost eating up precious battery juice, this version could be the battery life champ of the new XPS 13 laptops. The i3-4010U based XPS 13 should be fine for long hours of browsing and basic office tasks, just don’t try running Battlefield 4 on this little puppy.

The other 2 Windows configuration of the new XPS 13 run Windows 8.1 on their full HD touch screens and use the same processors as the Ubuntu versions. Prices run from $1299.99 for the i5-4200U version with 8 GB RAM and 128 GB SSD, while the i7-4500U version goes for $1599.99 and has the same 8 GB of RAM but a 256 GB Solid State Drive. All of the versions include a backlit keyboard.

No matter which of the 3 available operating systems you choose if you decide to pick up the new Haswell based XPS 13, you’ll be getting a handy portable system with a full HD screen and a long battery life, but these are not full blown gaming or desktop replacement computers that can handle intensive 3D graphics. But if you want an SD card slot, an old fashioned copper RJ-45 port  or a full size HDMI port (without using an adapter) in a similar sized package, you’ll have to look at something like the HP Spectre 13t-3000. Though the Haswell based HP Spectre 13 only ships with Windows 8.1, so if you want to run linux, you’ll have to install it yourself. Will Fedora or Ubuntu run on the Spectre 13? Good question. Haven’t had a chance to test that one yet. The specs are similar to the Dell XPS 13 but the HP Spectre 13 has a new “HP Control Zone” trackpad designed for Windows 8 style touchscreen swiping using the trackpad instead of the screen. Finding the correct linux drivers for that piece of wizardry could be problematic. Though the middle part of the trackpad should behave like a normal trackpad under linux. Like most of the new breed of thin and light Ultrabooks/laptops, the HP Spectre 13 has a buitl in sealed battery that is only factory replaceable. Unless of course you are handy at cracking these this machines open and soldering the parts back into place.

Full specs of the new Dell XPS 13 laptops are listed in this pdf.