Dell XPS 13: Initial Impressions and Setup

I got a Dell XPS 13 last week. It’s one of the best ultraportable laptops out there right now, it got consistently great reviews, and I’m pleased with it so far (though not so pleased with the sales and service from Dell). When I received it I made a few tweaks to it to make it nicer to use. These are some notes for anyone who wants to do the same, with screenshots. I hope it saves someone a bit of time Googling ☺

First Impressions

  • The bezel is small. Seriously small.
  • The speakers are really good.
  • It boots up extremely quickly.
  • Battery life is decent.

Setup

  • Everything looks huge, due to the display scaling which is set at 250% by default. Reducing this to 150% allows you to make more out of the great screen without having to squint quite as much as at 100%.

Reducing scaling to make the most of the screen
  • Some bloatware is installed. I immediately uninstalled the Amazon app and McAfee LiveSave. The latter especially slows down startup and can exacerbate this bug in Google Chrome.
  • The trackpad isn’t very sensitive — luckily this is easy to change.

Increasing trackpad sensitivity
  • The function keys are inverted —instead of holding Alt+F4, for example, you need to hold Alt+Fn+F4. Some people prefer this as it means you don’t have to hold down Fn to change brightness/volume, but I don’t. To change this, go into the BIOS (hold F2 on startup) and activate the ‘Lock Mode Enable/Secondary’ radio button.

Inverting Fn keys to get them back to ‘normal’.
  • Clicking items in Windows Explorer checks them. This seems to be the default in Windows 8 for some reason. To disable, just uncheck the option ‘item check boxes’.

Disabling item check boxes
  • Setting the background of your start screen to the same as your desktop background makes the whole start screen experience much less jarring.

Setting the Start screen background to the same image as the desktop background
  • If you’re new to Windows 8, watch this video. It’s four minutes long but will save you hours.

For those using Chrome, these are a few useful extensions that I find especially handy on a laptop:

If you have trouble following any of the above feel free to get in touch.

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