While the outer surface is matte aluminum, the inside is basic black, with a subtle dark pattern over the wrist rest and black keys set into a black keyboard tray. The keys are backlit, which is a welcome bonus in a system this thin and small. While on the shallow side, the island-style keys are responsive and well-spaced for touch typing. Media functions on the F-key row are reversed, which means you can adjust the volume and screen brightness without having to hold down the Fn key.
The large clickpad-style touchpad is similar to what we've seen on recent high-end Dell systems. It works fine for basic navigating and tapping or clicking, but I also find the all-important two-finger scroll to be not as smooth as I'd like (or as smooth as one would expect from a MacBook). It felt notably smoother using Microsoft's IE11 Web browser than in Google's Chrome. Navigating up and down long Web pages often sent me to the touchscreen on the first, higher-end XPS 13 we reviewed, but in this less expensive, non-touch configuration, you're out of luck.
The 13.3-inch display has a nearly borderless edge-to-edge design, available in two versions, a 3,200x1,800-pixel touch panel and a 1,920x1,080-pixel non-touch version. We've now had a chance to test and use both versions, and which one you choose makes a fairly significant difference to the overall experience.
The higher-resolution screen has a glossy glass overlay that provides touch control and also serves to create a single-layer smooth surface over the entire top panel of the laptop. The 1080p version has a matte finish and lacks that glass overlay. That means the bezel is slightly raised above the screen itself, and you don't have a single, level surface, but instead a screen that is slightly inset.