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The XPS 13 2-in-1 – an Engineering Feat


In April 2016, the XPS design team was in an impossible situation.

We were in the early stages of designing a new flagship 2-in-1 laptop. We envisioned a laptop that had would spark envy at the airport. It needed to be small, beautiful, powerful and have good battery life.

Unfortunately, it was impossible to meet all of these goals with the technology that was available to us in January 2016. With the existing technology it could be mobile or powerful or battery efficient but not all three.

We didn’t give up. If we couldn’t do it with existing technology, we’d have to create something new.

We started by putting a Core I Y based processor in the laptop. The Y series is designed for maximum mobility. It uses less power which means it runs cool and maximizes battery life. The Y series also enables small, quiet, beautiful design by eliminating the need for fans.

However, the typical implementation is only powerful enough for light work like web surfing, doing email or writing novels. To meet our goals, we needed to push more power through the Y series processor than we ever had before. This creates a problem: the processor could get too hot to handle.

To solve the problem, we turned to our performance engineering team. They regularly have to meet heat management challenges in our super high performance Alienware and Precision designs.

They developed a new grounds-up power management technology called Dynamic Power Mode. Every laptop has power management technology built in but Dynamic Power Mode is uniquely efficient.

All power management technology keeps the laptop at a usable temperature by throttling the processor when it gets too hot. The typical technology makes an assumption about how hot a processor can get before the laptop is unusable based on prototype testing. Then it uses that assumption to set a fixed upper limit on how hot the processor can get. The problem with this approach is that it isn’t smart enough to adapt to real world scenarios.

Dynamic Power Mode does something different; it uses seven thermal monitors spread throughout the computer to measure ambient computer temperature. It doesn’t have to use broad assumptions because it uses more relevant measurements. Dynamic Power Mode can find more opportunities to comfortably increase performance than the typical power management technology. Alex Shows, our performance engineering lead, wrote a white paper which provides more technical details.

The combination of a Y series processor with Dynamic Power Mode allowed us to meet all our design goals. The XPS 13 2-in-1 is the smallest 13 inch 2-in-1 with a sleek fanless design and just the right amount of power. It has won 20+ awards including Most Outstanding of CES 2017 and multiple Best of CES awards. The reviews have been great. For example, HotHardware says “There’s plenty of horsepower available here to meet all but the most demanding power user’s workloads.” Laptop Mag,, and Notebookcheck agree.

I’ve been using an XPS 13 2-in-1 as my primary laptop since January 2017 and it’s been an awesome experience.

The small size and convertible functionality have proven invaluable to me as I spend far too much time flying in tiny airplane seats every month. E-mail and spreadsheets have run seamlessly and I’ve been able to create and edit even the largest of presentations with ease.  I’ve even been playing some old-school games like Age of Empires and Defense Grid on it; they run great.

If you’re happy with your XPS 13 2-in-1, please let our engineers (Gary Lusk, Alex Shows and others) know with a thank you in the comments as they made the impossible possible for us all to enjoy!

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