back to article Dell's flagship XPS13 – a 2-in-1 that may fatally frustrate your fingers

When my kids were very little, they'd do something a tiny bit naughty and I'd wiggle my index finger as if to threaten a tickle for their mock misbehaviour. They'd then make a great show of running away shrieking. And now I've discovered that finger has another power, namely making a premium laptop look bad. Said laptop is …

  1. Unicornpiss Silver badge
    Meh

    Lack of indicator lights and ports

    This has been a trend with all new Dells, and probably many other manufacturers. It used to be you got a nice, full complement of ports and lights indicating power, charging state, and hard drive activity at the least. My Dad used to lament the disappearance of gauges in cars giving way to 'idiot lights'. He probably would have had a lot to bitch about with laptops--now you don't even get those.

    It would be nice if engineers would have a say in the design, and not marketing folks going for "the clean look", or whatever delusional thing they're going for. And I'd cheerfully pay an extra $50 for a laptop that had an extra port or two and could tell me what's going on internally.

    This is especially a nuisance when a machine is getting updated--the Windows update process gives you scant information already, and without even a drive activity light to tell you what's going on, you just have to guess if the damn thing is actually doing anything or if you should hold down the power button and start over. And it sounds like the power button isn't very cooperative either.

    1. Mephistro
      Thumb Up

      Re: Lack of indicator lights and ports

      I've been seeing this crap even in a few desktop computers. It's painful, stupid and painfully stupid.

      The savings obtained by removing the HDD led probably won't pay the cost of a round of drinks for the execs, The alienated customers and techies will remain alienated for a long time, though.

      1. big_D Silver badge

        Re: Lack of indicator lights and ports

        That is one of the nice things with my Spectre x360, the power switch at least has an LED in it, which lights up (on) or blinks (stand-by). It also has an LED for the power supply. The only thing missing is an SSD activity light, as the OP said.

        Back in the 90s, I wrote a little utility that showed resource usage (cpu, memory, swap, HD space etc.) and the status of the caps, num and scroll lock keys. It was an always on top and you could move it to any corner of the screen. It proved very popular with my colleagues and customers.

      2. Martin Gregorie Silver badge

        Re: Lack of indicator lights and ports

        This is also my only real complaint about a Lenovo laptop I bought earlier this year. Equally to the point, this isn't a recent problem: the machine is a T440, so this 'designer' idiocy has been a thing for at least three years.

        1. big_D Silver badge

          Re: Lack of indicator lights and ports

          Interstingly, we use Fujitsu Lifebooks at work and they have battery, mains, power, caps and num lock and SSD/HDD indicator lights on them, even the current Kaby Lake version. The same for the Lenovo Y70-70 Touch that I use at work (except for caps/num lock).

        2. Missing Semicolon
          Facepalm

          Re: Lack of indicator lights and ports

          +1

          The daft thing is, it does have a few LEDs.

          * A microphone mute indicator

          * Fn Lock indicator

          * A power-on/charge indicator.... sorta.

          So, no HDD LED (fit a SSD, then guess if it's working).

          No user-facing power/charge indication.

          The power LED is the dot on the 'i' in Thinkpad. When the machine is plugged in to charge, it blinks a few times, then stays off. Is it still charging? Who knows! But it only lights red, 'cos that goes with the logo.

    2. Christian Berger

      Well if good engineers had their say...

      ... you'd probably get a rather slim laptop which you could dock onto one or more external batteries. The display would be easy to replace with interchangable displays for all models with the same size, possibly even between vendors. The displays would also be available in most technologies, from OLED to sunlight readable transflective LCDs, and all in various resolutions.

      1. BobChip
        Unhappy

        Re: Well if good engineers had their say...

        Dreams. Ah, dreams. Wonderful things, dreams. Sadly, reality calls.......

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Lack of indicator lights and ports

      Is W10 like W7 - in that "hibernate" no longer shows an XP style progress screen? It is annoying having to watch the power LED to know when it is safe to pack it away. With no disk or power LEDs you would be dependent on hearing the slight sound drop of the disk and fan motors.

      I support several Dell E6410 laptops bought on eBay for about GBP200 each many years ago when the general business tech refresh cycle kicked in. They have been very solid and reliable - unlike the previous Dell laptops manufactured for the home consumer market which literally fell apart.

      1. A-nonCoward
        Happy

        Re: Lack of indicator lights and ports

        thanks. I'll keep an eye on the E6410 when it comes time to replace the cutie I have now

      2. big_D Silver badge

        Re: Lack of indicator lights and ports

        With an SSD, I just close the case and pack it in my bag.

        In the meantime all of my notebooks have SSDs, even my old 2010 Sony Vaio Core i7; once it became an SSD, it was nearly as fast in general use as my more modern Surface Pro 3 - although not as portable and the battery only last about 2 hours, instead of the 8 - 15 hours of a modern notebook.

      3. Steve the Cynic

        Re: Lack of indicator lights and ports

        ""Is W10 like W7

        Don't get me started about W10's "fast startup" option, which is actually a sort of semi-hibernate. It does weird things to the shutdown process as a result. Specifically, it switches off the display about half-way down, then continues running, I think while writing out the semi-hibernate data to disk. But it's a bit spooky, watching the screen switch off while the machine is still clearly doing something.

    4. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Unhappy

      "and not marketing folks going for "the clean look", "

      Oh you can bet the engineers did.

      "clean" = cheap.

      Fewer parts to install on board X number of holes in case --> bigger profit.

    5. Triggerfish

      Re: Lack of indicator lights and ports

      It's amazing how annoying it is not to have a capslock or num lock light on my laptop.

      1. Stese

        Re: Lack of indicator lights and ports

        It's the only bugbear of the laptop I currently have... the indicator lights are on the front edge, rather than on the keyboard it'self.

  2. jason 7

    Another vote...

    ...for at least a HDD activity light. Back in the day you could at least put the laptop to your ear and hear the whirr and clunk of a HDD (oh yeah it's 'doing something!') but not with those silent SSDs.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge
      Windows

      Agreed

      Enough with "designer". A laptop is a tool, not a toy (well at least it should be). As such, I want to see HDD activity, I want a volume slider and I want a brightness slider.

      I remember having those things on my Thinkpad in 1996. Now I look at my HP and all I have is a power button.

      I guess I should count myself lucky to have at least that.

  3. djstardust

    Not great ....

    I have a 3 year old Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro and it has been absolutely faultless. It cost £1200 but has been worth every penny and there really is nothing wrong with the design or performance.

    It's a shame with Dell because they screw up on the basics time and time again and never listen to customer feedback.

    Same with the XPS 15 which has plenty of room for a "proper" keyboard but they put the one from the 13" in to save a couple of quid

    Idiots.

  4. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    True, you can download FloatLED (provides a pair of blinkenlights on your desktop for HDD activity) but it is not the same thing as a physical HDD LED.

    Every time I get a laptop which's painfully slow, I want to see if the HDD is churning, but there's no indicator light - have to dig through stuff to find the performance applet and see if the HDD is behaving itself or not.

    Just not on, especially when doing windows updates on shutdown - then you can do zippo.

    1. jabuzz

      If you have an SSD why do you care about a HDD LED? I have used laptops for 22 years now, and I *used* to care about a HDD LED because I wanted to know that the HDD had stopped spinning before I stuffed in a bag and started carrying it around. With an SSD I don't give a hoot because there is zero chance of the head slamming into the platter and ruining the disk.

  5. Teiwaz Silver badge

    Power on LEDs

    Unfortunately when an LED is provided for whatever reason (but the usual culprit is POWER ON) it is usually cannily and unerring positioned to meet you at eye level from whatever angle you happen to be looking at the machine from, and designed to slowly burn out your retinas.

    1. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Power on LEDs

      On my HP Spectre x360 they are on the side of the unit, so can't be seen and on the Lenovo Y70-70 Touch I use at work, they are under a lip on the front of the case and relatively dim, so they don't get in the way. The Fujitsu Lifebooks we use have them on the front edge (6 LEDs), they are brighter, but not blindingly bright.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Power on LEDs

        Asus S202E, LED's are on the forward left visible from above or front. And the brightness is perfect here. I really, really love this laptop which powers its way through all the loads I overload it with.

    2. A-nonCoward

      Re: Power on LEDs

      Hear hear. My Toshiba used to have a piece of thick duct tape to deal with that. Until it died, then I never again picked up that brand.

  6. lafnlab
    Linux

    "The plate pivots on a band of a dark polymer that doesn't seem built to survive years of fidgeting."

    Not sure why you'd need to read the collection of compliance logos so often that this would become a worry. I have an XPS13 built in 2012 (via Project Sputnik) that gets used daily, and I think I've only needed to open this plate thrice. Leave it alone and stop fidgeting.

  7. Chris Miller

    "Prices start at £1,299/US$999."

    I realise the £ has fallen against the $ (and one includes VAT and the other doesn't), but that's still a bit harsh!

    1. Jame_s

      Re: "Prices start at £1,299/US$999."

      it's a lot more than a bit harsh. at the time of posting, £1299 is about $1678.32 - more than 65% harsher.

      1. Chris Miller

        Re: "Prices start at £1,299/US$999."

        True, but when the exchange rate was ~£1=$1.50 IT kit was still (often) priced at $1=£1. 'Twas ever thus!

  8. Bloodbeastterror

    Non-PC company

    No pun intended.

    I've had quite a few Dells, PDAs, desktops and laptops. But no more. I won't give money to an organisation which supports a racist admnistration:

    http://gizmodo.com/dell-says-ceo-will-continue-to-advise-trump-even-after-1797876463

    1. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Non-PC company

      There was a saying back in the 90s, "friends don't let friends buy Dells."

      The problem is, if everybody leaves the council except for yes-men, who is going to challenge bad ideas and bad decisions? It is a difficult situation, I can understand those that quit and I can understand Dell's point of view. If there is nobody there who doesn't agree with Trump, who is going to steer the conversation?

    2. inmypjs Silver badge

      Re: Non-PC company

      "give money to an organisation which supports a racist admnistration"

      An administration democratically elected by America.

      Buy from a Chinese company that supports that nice Chinese administration then you lefty butt hurt moron.

      1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

        Re: Non-PC company

        "An administration democratically elected by America."

        2.8 million Americans say you're dead wrong.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: Non-PC company

          But you are fine having an ARM cpu in your phone?

          Even though they are part owned by the Saudis?

          So you fully support their attitude to women, gays, Yemenis???

        2. imanidiot Silver badge

          Re: Non-PC company

          @Lord Elpuss,

          Unfortunately for you the US election system allows someone to WIN the election (And thus be democratically elected) with a minority of the popular vote because the PEOPLE don't elect the president. The electoral college does. The people only vote for the people who get to "represent" them at the electoral college.. Sucks for you. So stop your whining about the supposedly racist administration, and start whining about your " first past the post" electoral system that is broken beyond belief (and was designed that why by the supposedly fantastic and not racist at all "founding fathers". (And read up on why the system is broken. You'll find your democratic system is racist by design)

          1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

            Re: Non-PC company

            @imanidiot

            Doesn't suck for me, I couldn't care less. I don't really have a problem with the administration per se, more with the tangerine fucktrumpet at the top of the tree.

            Oh and - #notmypresident.

            1. imanidiot Silver badge

              Re: Non-PC company

              Yet here you are, complaining about it.

              1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

                Re: Non-PC company

                "Yet here you are, complaining about it."

                Not really complaining, youreanidiot, just enjoying the show. In the same way I enjoy those car crash compilations on youTube. This one's a doozy; 221 days long, with no ad breaks.

                Which reminds me; one should never argue with an idiot, they'll drag you down to their level then beat you with experience. Bye now.

      2. Bloodbeastterror

        Re: Non-PC company

        @inmypjs

        "An administration democratically elected by America."

        Even if that were true (which Lord Elpuss shows it is not) all you're saying is that the US elected a racist administration. Not really something to boast about, is it?

        1. inmypjs Silver badge

          Re: Non-PC company

          "all you're saying is that the US elected a racist administration"

          No, that is what you are saying by your definition of racists. Lefty morons call anyone who disagrees with them racist, and anyone they strongly disagree with nazis.

          Oh and redefine the definition of other words like democratic and elected to suit their argument.

          1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

            Re: Non-PC company

            "No, that is what you are saying by your definition of racists. Lefty morons call anyone who disagrees with them racist, and anyone they strongly disagree with nazis."

            No dispute on the definition of bellend though. Bellend.

      3. Alan Edwards

        Re: Non-PC company

        > Buy from a Chinese company that supports that nice Chinese administration

        Nah, you let some corporation weed out the DOAs and buy an ex-lease 3 year old one on eBay for a tenth of it's new price.

        1. Bloodbeastterror

          Re: Non-PC company

          I was tempted to upvote you for a moment until "a tenth of it's new price". I detest illiteracy.

          "a tenth of it's new price" means "a tenth of it is new price" or maybe "a tenth of it has new price".

          Which one do you mean, because neither makes sense?

          1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            Re: Non-PC company

            Thats' the problem with the one's from ebay - many were owned by greengrocer's

    3. fandom

      Re: Non-PC company

      Sure, because no thread is done until a political nut turns it into political shit.

  9. Jonathan 27 Silver badge

    Yeah...

    I have a last-gen XPS 15 (9550) and I can tell you that the keyboard isn't an issue after you get used to it. It takes a few weeks, but after that you'll never think about it again. It also has an issue with being hard to open, not because the slot is hard to get to, but because you have to hold both sides of the laptop to pry it apart because the hinge is so stiff, that's annoying. I can't say anything about your other issues, my notebook has a power/charge LED and a 5 LED charge indicator on the side. The power button is also fairly large.

    But after saying that, I had a QC issue with my notebook that arose about 1 month in to my ownership of the laptop (GPU died) and it took, and I'm not exaggerating here, 3 months to get them to fix it. In the intervening time I actually got angry and built another computer. Since they fixed it I haven't had any issues with it, but it also doesn't get that much use... the desktop is now my primary computer. After my horrible experience with their support line I don't think I'll buy a Dell any time soon, especially since this isn't the first time I've had a problem with a Dell. I had an XPS 15 L521x and that thing was such a huge pile of crap that they bought it back, after 3 attempted replacements because the entire model is faulty.

    1. TReko

      Re: Yeah...

      I actually like the separate PgUp/PgDn keys. One reason I bought a Lenovo over a Dell.

    2. Tom 64
      Facepalm

      Re: Yeah...

      I have the regular XPS13 (which cant flip over). Great laptop, but also has a very difficult-to-open hinge.

      You'll have more luck prizing open clams and mussels. To be fair that is just about it's only fault.

      1. Zolko
        Linux

        Re: Yeah...

        @Jonathan 27: "my notebook has a power/charge LED and a 5 LED charge indicator on the side."

        I have the regular XP-13 (with a traditional hinge) and I hadn't noticed, nice, thank-you.

        "The power button is also fairly large."

        ...and has a light. As the CAPS-lock button.

        @Tom 64 : "Great laptop, but also has a very difficult-to-open hinge."

        mine doesn't even have any notch, I must insert my nails between the 2 shells: did nobody test that bloody laptop ? How are we supposed to open it ?

        Apart from that, very nice laptop. Excellent Linux support, works out-of-the box with the latest Ubuntu LTS. Even the camera. Battery use is average, and curiously the suspend state is quite power-hungry.

  10. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    So, 1300 quid and if I want to use it with a proper mouse, full-size keyboard and any or all of memory stick, printer, scanner, ... then I need to dangle a USB hub off the side and if I want to plug in an external monitor then I can go take a hike. (I expect the USB ports are jammed close together or something, so if I want to plug in something wide (like some SD card readers) then I effectively use both ports.)

    What's the obsession with *refusing* to make these things connectable? It's like they design these things on the assumption that you'll never want to use them for anything. ("Sure have a grand or so. It was burning a hole in my pocket and I'm glad to be shot of it. What's this doodad you're offering me anyway?")

    1. RNixon

      Modern printers and scanners connect wirelessly, as do quite a few keyboards and mice.

      If you really want to use a wired keyboard AND mouse AND monitor, get a USB-C docking station that has HDMI, multiple USB, ethernet, and will also charge the thing at the same time. Or better yet, get a Thunderbolt docking station, since one of the ports is Thunderbolt. Oh, and both of the USB ports also work as DisplayPort outputs, if you just want to plug up a projector for a presentation.

      What's the obsession with lading a slim'n'light laptop up with legacy ports the vast majority of customers will never use? Subnotebooks have never had a plethora of ports without adding a big ol' docking station.

      (And a price note: While the 2-in-1 XPS13 does 'start at' $999, the version with the 4K screen is $1600 list. Is El Reg comparing the 4k UK price to the 1080p/i5 US price?)

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        I want my iPhone to have a physical HP-IB port

      2. Unicornpiss Silver badge
        Meh

        We can all buy extra accessories for connectivity..

        ..but why should we have to? When I buy a car, the passenger seats aren't extra. (yet anyway)

        The whole point of a laptop is portability, but not at the cost of reduced functionality. Yes, the sleeker ones are maybe a little more portable for people with tiny stick arms that do nothing but travel and probably no meaningful work. If I have to lug around another peripheral device so I can plug in more than one USB device or (heaven forbid) use a physical connection to a monitor or projector, then what's the point of having the smaller, sleeker machine?

        Maybe I'm complaining too much--we all know wireless connectivity works flawlessly all the time, and venues where you might have to present are always up to date with the current wireless technology.

  11. Alan Sharkey

    and another thing...

    The trend for offering a micro-sd slot (or none) is crap. How many cameras do you know that use micro-sd.

    At least my HP Spectre (2015 model) has a full size SD slot (along with an on/off LED).

    Alan

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: and another thing...

      My cameras use CF cards.... so I don't really understand this trend of offering SD slots only... <G>

      1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

        Re: and another thing...

        "My cameras use CF cards...."

        Then I don't think you're the target market.

    2. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: and another thing...

      How many cameras do you know that use micro-sd.

      It's all about the phones these days.

    3. Gene Cash Silver badge

      Re: and another thing...

      > How many cameras do you know that use micro-sd.

      All of the new GoPro models and most of the "action" cameras these days use micro-sd. The newer Raspberry Pis use them too.

  12. TheRealRoland

    Huh... had to check my machine first

    Don't think it's any different on an HP x360 Spectre. Same issues. Keyboard needs getting used to, difficult to pry open the closed laptop, the powerbutton in such a place where you press it while moving the laptop on a desk, and some delay on when pressing the button.

    Weird. Badge Engineering happening on laptops?

  13. Daedalus Silver badge

    Death throes

    This is just the dying of the PC market as perceived by a company that doesn't get it, so they're doubling down on what isn't working. The drones are moving their highly important activities to phones and tablets, leaving PC's for the people who know what to do with them. Dell and HP haven't figured this out yet, so they keep producing laptops that look good instead of ones that work. Lenovo seem to have gotten the message, which is why I bought one. The minor players are also looking like they've read the writing on the wall.

    Live by marketing, die by marketing.

  14. jake Silver badge

    Two things ...

    1) Agree on lack of indicators and ports on many modern laptops. The need for indicators should be obvious (if you're not a marketing "genius"). As for ports ... these sometimes infuriating contraptions are general purpose computers. I use them for all kinds of things, sometimes requiring external bits of hardware. Limiting my ability to use the bits of hardware that I need makes for a lack of sale on your part.

    2) I'm all for verbing adjectives, at least for the most part. But footling? Maybe not so much.

    1. BlartVersenwaldIII
      Headmaster

      Re: Two things ...

      > 2) I'm all for verbing adjectives, at least for the most part. But footling? Maybe not so much.

      "Footle" is the verb ("to footle about"), "footling" ("footling about") is the adjective. Means to engage in or muck around with a generally fruitless activity or doing something useless or trivial, making it a close analogue to "frobnicate".

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    I based my decision not to purchase on the following information...

    1. It's made by Dell.

    2. It runs Windows.

    This saved me needing to read the entire article as well.

  16. Krack73

    Lenovo T410

    Has all the right lights. HDD (Replaced with SSD), power status. Caps lock, scroll lock along with a decent keyboard. Running well since I brought it back in 2011.

  17. Potemkine! Silver badge

    Reliability

    We have a XPS13 of the previous generation (9360) in our fleet, and the user is not really happy with it: the laptop often freezes, and it's far from being an unique occurrence. It's very frustrating from a computer hailed as Dell's flagship.

    His next laptop will be a HP spectre x360.

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