If you're a serious road warrior, and not a Chromebook Pixel fan like I am, you have two real choices: the Lenovo ThinkPad line and the Dell XPS line. Now, Dell has two new XPS versions and they're looking sweet.
I had a chance to play with both the Dell XPS 13 and the XPS 15 at CES. Each comes with Windows 8.1 by default. There will also be, as there has been in the past, a special developers edition that comes with Ubuntu. Sources close to Dell said this Linux-powered model will appear in February and will run Ubuntu 14.04
All models feature Intel's fifth-generation "Broadwell U" Core chips. With these chips, the new Dell laptops should boast much better graphics performance and much longer battery lives. Both versions will come with the full Broadwell U family ranging from the 2.1GHz Core i3 on the low end to the top-of-the-line 3.2GHz Core i7 version.
Between these new chips and a bigger, better battery Dell claims that the XPS 13 will get up to 15 hours of run-time on a single charge.
For storage, you'll have a choice of 128GB, 256GB or 512GB SSD. My one complaint is that 4 and 8 GBs are your only RAM choices. I'd like to see a 16GB version for those who want a top-of-the-line workstation on the road.
The screens are lovely. The XPS 13's optional UltraSharp Quad HD+ infinity display, with 5.2mm bezels, comes with 5.7 million pixels. Dell claims this will make "movies and presentations burst with eye-popping color and precise detail."
What they don't say is that it won't be getting 15 hours of battery life with that display. Still, having had a chance to play with it, I must say the screen is a pleasure to use.
This is complemented by an aluminum upper half, and a carbon fiber base. At 2.6 pounds the XPS 13 will also give your shoulder a break as you run from one meeting to another.
Besides having a larger display, the XPS 15 boasts an UltraSharp 4K Ultra HD touch display, with more than 8 million pixels. Dell claims that the 4K Ultra HD screen option is the highest resolution panel available on a 15-inch laptop today.
It is indeed one of the best screens I've ever seen and the processor was able to keep motion smooth and flawless while playing a movie on an engineering sample.
There will be a broad array of pricing points in the new Dell XPS laptops. The XPS 13 starts at $799.99, far cheaper than other versions of the XPS line, and will be available starting January 6. Frankly, for all you get even on the low-end, I think this may be the best deal on a laptop I've seen in years.
The XPS 15 will be appearing later in the first quarter and its high-end screen will come with a high-end price: $2,349.