Juha Saarinen is a tech blogger for nzherald.co.nz.

Gear Friday: Dell XPS 13 and BrydgeAir update

Dell XPS 13 (2015). Photo / Arstechnica
Dell XPS 13 (2015). Photo / Arstechnica

The days of ugly laptops are over. Well, almost. PC makers still add shiny logo stickers to advertise that they're using certain components inside their laptops and the Dell XPS 13 that's been my main Windows 10 machine for a while is no exception.

Other than that though, the XPS 13 is very nicely designed. It's not the slimmest laptop out there, but not annoyingly thick either. The case is apparently cut from a single piece of aluminium, and there's a 13.3-inch Corning Gorilla Glass display too, which promises to be scratch resistant.

There's carbon-fibre like material on the inside of the clam-shell XPS 13, and a good mousepad and keyboard with decent travel. And ports and connectors! You don't know how much you miss an SD card reader until you leave the standalone one at home and need to get some images uploaded quickly.

Unfortunately, the cool design and nice looks come at price: the $2,399 XPS 13 model I had is actually the cheapest of the range at $2,399 including GST.

For that you get an Intel "Skylake" Core i5 processor, 8 gigabytes of memory and 256GB of solid-state storage — ample for most things.

That money only buys a 1920 by 1080 resolution display however. If you want the super high res 3,200 by 1,800 pixel InfinityEdge (that's what Dell calls the thin bezels), you need to stump up another $400 for a better-specced XPS 13.

The costlier XPS 13 sounds like a better option, actually. Apart from the improved display resolution, the screen is touch enabled as well, and the processor is upgraded to an Intel Core i7 model.

Anyway, the Core i5 is fast enough, and I was pleased to get 11 hours of battery life out of it. The higher-spec model with a power-sapping screen and faster processor might not last as long.

Now, there is one area where the design of the XPS 13 became too difficult for Dell: the 720p wide-angle webcam.

The thin-bezeled InfinityEdge display is most likely the reason, but Dell placed the camera at the bottom of the screen, to the left-hand side.

That's a really bad place for it, unless your video caller recipients for instance like to check out your nostrils or chin. Windows Hello which uses facial recognition to unlock your computer didn't work all that well with that camera position either. I found that I had to lift up the XPS 13 a bit for Windows Hello to recognise my mug.

The camera isn't terribly usable where it is and you wonder why Dell didn't just ship the XPS 13 without one.

Leaving the weird camera position and the high-ish price aside, the XPS 13 is a nice laptop with long battery life that works well with Windows 10.

Hold on, Brydge

The local representative for Brydge contacted me after the review of the BrydgeAir keyboard last month and said I probably had a review sample that had been bashed about, and didn't clip onto the iPad Pro 9.7-inch as tightly as it should.

A new BrydgeAir keyboard arrived, with clear silicon shims to secure the iPad. This means "you should be able to hold the iPad and shake it and the keyboard won't move".

Without further ado, let's see if the BrydgeAir will hold onto the iPad:

Unfortunately not. It doesn't make a difference if I shake the keyboard or the iPad, the two still separate quite easily.

There's probably some way to make the BrydgeAir and iPad Pro stay together more securely, but I don't think I would trust the hinge-clamps to hold the tablet securely.

- NZ Herald

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Juha Saarinen is a tech blogger for nzherald.co.nz.

Juha Saarinen is a technology journalist and writer living in Auckland. Apart from contributing to the New Zealand Herald over the years, he has written for the Guardian, Wired, PC World, Computerworld and ITnews Australia, covering networking, hardware, software, enterprise IT as well as the business and social aspects of computing. A firm believer in the principle that trying stuff out makes you understand things better, he spends way too much time wondering why things just don’t work.

Read more by Juha Saarinen

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