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Dell XPS 15 Review

Dell XPS 15 Review

Dell XPS 15The XPS line has been a fixture in Dell’s consumer ranges for some years, and the latest version of the Dell XPS 15 looks set to maintain the brand’s excellent reputation. Delve into our Dell XPS 15 review to find out more.

The updated machine looks great, but that’s not all – it’s got enough power to make sure that it’s able to handle home life, office tasks and even some gaming.

Dell XPS 15 Review – Design

Dell’s premium laptops always impress in the design department, and the XPS 15 continues that tradition. It’s machine-cut from a single block of aluminium, and its interior recesses are filled with carbon fibre.

The luxury materials make for a stunning, two-tone system, and the little details bolster the design. The lid is decorated with a smart logo, and opening the machine reveals a subtle carbon-fibre pattern, a smart power button and a keyboard with an unfussy white backlight. The right-hand side has a subtle battery indicator, and the machine’s base panel is a slab of attractive aluminium.

The screen has a tiny bezel – just 5.7mm thick. Dell has achieved this by cramming a 15.6in screen into a chassis designed for a 14in panel.

Dell XPS 15It’s not the first time we’ve seen this trick. The Gigabyte Aero 15X also used a 15.6in screen inside a smaller chassis, and it also had a tiny bezel. That was a good-looking machine, although its black aluminium and visible seams don’t look quite as good as the Dell’s metal and carbon-fibre.

The Dell XPS 15 doesn’t just look better than the Gigabyte. It’s 18mm thick and weighs 1.8kg, which means it undercuts the Aero 15X by two millimetres and a couple of hundred grams.

It’s a supremely sturdy bit of kit, with barely any flex in any surface. It’s the kind of laptop that will withstand life in a bag without a protective sleeve, although its metal exterior may suffer the occasional scratch.

If there’s one area where the Dell suffers, it’s connectivity. It’s got a single USB 3 port and a sole Thunderbolt connector, but the Gigabyte had three USB jacks. The Dell doesn’t have an Ethernet port, and there isn’t an adapter – while the Aero did include on-board Ethernet.

Dell XPS 15 Review – Ergonomics

The Dell XPS 15 has superb keyboard quality. The buttons are large and lit with an adjustable white backlight, and they’re comfortable for prolonged typing.

Dell XPS 15They’ve got enough travel for a Scrabble-tile unit, and their action is consistent and satisfying. The firm action is even accompanied by solid aural feedback – these keys even sound good.

We’ve no problems with the Dell’s typing action, but the layout is a little suspect. There’s no numberpad, the Return key is narrow, and the cursor buttons are tiny.

The Return and cursor buttons aren’t a huge issue – prolonged use will see their size become second-nature. However, the lack of a numberpad is a bigger problem, especially if you work with spreadsheets or financial applications.

It’s also one area where the Dell falls behind. The Aero 15X had similarly solid typing, but that unit used the full width of its smaller chassis to include a numberpad. It had RGB backlighting, too.

The Dell’s trackpad is similar to the Gigabyte’s pointing hardware: in short, excellent. Their surfaces are accurate, and both laptops have fast and consistent buttons.

Dell XPS 15 Review – Components

Our review sample is a mid-range Dell XPS 15 model – user order code ‘cnx95606’ to find this particular model. It costs $1,700 in the US, and £1,649 in the UK.

Dell XPS 15It’s powered by the Core i7-7700HQ, which is ideal for productivity. Its four cores are Hyper-Threaded, so they can address eight concurrent tasks – great for complex applications.

The chip runs at 2.8GHz with a Turbo peak of 3.8GHz, so it’s got ample speed for more conventional single-threaded tasks, too. It’s paired with 16GB of 2,400MHz memory and dual-band 802.11ac wireless.

This Dell XPS 15 is technically out of date, as Kaby Lake has been superseded by Coffee Lake, but Intel has said that laptops with its updated, full-fat mobile chips won’t appear until Christmas – or, perhaps, the New Year. Even though the XPS 15 technically has an older processor, it’s no slouch, and these chips will likely still be around in laptops for a long time yet.

Graphics power comes from the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050. It’s a modest Pascal chip, but it still has 640 stream processors and a 1,354MHz clock – so there’s ample ability for photo editing, CAD tools and even video production.

Dell XPS 15We’re pleased that Dell has opted for the mobile variant of this chip, too. The mobile GTX 1050 has 4GB of memory – twice as much as the desktop equivalent. That gives the card more ability right now and better longevity when more demanding applications are released.

The Dell’s GTX 1050 might have enough power for graphical applications and some after-hours gaming, but this is one area where the Gigabyte pulls ahead. That pricier portable has the GTX 1070 Max-Q, which has 2,048 stream processors and double the memory of the GTX 1050.

Elsewhere, the Dell and Gigabyte machines are similar. Both have the i7-7700HQ processor and 16GB of memory, and both have 512GB Samsung SSDs.

As usual, Dell offers numerous alternative specifications. The cheapest XPS 15 in the UK costs £1,399 and includes a Core i5 processor, a conventional hard disk and 8GB of memory, and there are four other models excluding the one we’ve reviewed here. The priciest UK XPS 15 costs £2,299 and arrives with 32GB of memory, a 1TB SSD and a 4K touch display.

US-based buyers can choose from four models. The cheapest is a $999 unit with a Core i3 processor and a 500GB hard disk, and the most expensive costs $2,050 and has a 512GB SSD and the 4K touch display.

Dell XPS 15 Review – Full Specification

CPU: 2.8GHz Intel Core i7-7700HQ
Memory: 16GB 2,400MHz DDR4
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 4GB
Sound: On-board
Screen size: 15.6in 1,920 x 1,080 Full HD
Hard disk: 512GB Samsung PM961 SSD
Weight: 1.8kg
Ports: 1 x USB 3, 1 x USB 3.1 Type-C, 1 x HDMI 2.0, 1 x Thunderbolt, 1 x audio, 1 x SDXC
Dimensions: (W x D x H): 357 x 235 x 18mm
Extras: Windows 10 Pro 64-bit, dual-band 802.11ac WiFi
Warranty: 2yr RTB

Dell XPS 15 Review – Performance

Dell XPS 15There’s very little to choose between the Dell and its rival when it comes to processing performance – hardly a surprise, because they share the same Core i7 chip and memory.

The Dell’s Geekbench results are a couple of hundred points behind the Gigabyte, no doubt because of the Aero’s better graphics, but the Dell still returned some of the quickest scores we’ve seen from a quad-core i7-based laptop.

It was a little slower in PC Mark 8, and quicker in Cinebench’s CPU test. The Dell XPS is competitive, and it’s got the power to handle most work tasks: the single-core speeds will run Office tools and web browsers, and its four cores will tackle tougher applications like database tools and photo-editing packages.

Samsung’s PM961 drive offers 463GB of formatted space, and its read and write speeds of 3,200MB/s and 1,513MB/s are among the best in the industry.

The GTX 1050 is a fine GPU, but it can’t match the Aero’s GTX 1070. The Dell’s 3D Mark score of 5,568 wasn’t even half as quick as the Gigabyte, and the relative gap widened in the Extreme test.

Dell XPS 15The GTX 1050 4GB lags behind in games tests, too, but it’s still equipped with enough grunt to handle gaming at 1080p: its weakest average of 30fps is fine, and its best result of 56fps is easily enough to ensure smooth gameplay.

The Dell’s minimums did occasionally dip below 30fps, which indicates that graphical settings may have to be tweaked to get the toughest games running smoothly.

This machine is a solid thermal performer. Its near-silent idle performance gives way to modest fan noise even at peak levels, and there’s no sign of irritating tone modulation. The exterior panels remained cool, and the CPU and GPU peak temperatures of 89°C and 77°C are fine.

There’s barely anything to choose between the Dell and the Gigabyte in battery tests. The XPS 15 lasted for five hours and six minutes in the PC Mark 8 test, which is only nineteen minutes short of the Gigabyte.

With a bit of careful power management, the Dell XPS 15 will manage a full day away from a plug socket – just like the Gigabyte.

Dell XPS 15 Review – Screen and Speakers

Dell XPS 15This Dell XPS 15 has a 1080p screen without touch – to get a touch-sensitive 4K panel you’ll need to upgrade. That 4K screen also has the advantage of full Adobe RGB compatibility.

Nevertheless, this screen offers exceptional quality. The brightness level of 388cd/m2 is huge, and it ensures that the Dell’s screen will be seen beneath the strongest office lights. The black level of 0.25cd/m2 is deep, and those figures create a contrast ratio of 1,552:1.

That figure is fantastic, and it means that every single shade will look its best: darker tones will have loads of depth, bright areas will be vivid, and subtle differences in colour will be properly rendered. This panel also delivered an sRGB colour gamut level of 93%.

Colour accuracy is ensured thanks to the average Delta E measurement of 0.33, and the colour temperature of 7,233K is fine – a little cool, but not enough to prove noticeable. Uniformity is consistent, too.

Gigabyte’s panel served up a contrast ratio of 1,336:1, an average Delta E of 0.5 and a brightness level of 334cd/m2. They’re good results, but the Dell is consistently better. Only those who do design work that demands perfect AdobeRGB colour reproduction will find the 1080p panel wanting.

The speakers are good, with ample punch and volume for this class of machine. There’s not much bass, but that’s forgivable when there’s no room for a subwoofer.

Dell XPS 15 Review – Conclusion

Dell XPS 15There isn’t much to dislike about the slim, stylish and superb Dell XPS 15.

Its aluminium and carbon-fibre body looks the part while undercutting its rival for size and weight, and the internals are solid: the processor is fast, the graphics chip is quick enough, and there’s a solid SSD.

The Dell has the best screen we’ve ever seen on a laptop, and that’s paired with solid battery life and ergonomics.

The rival Gigabyte machine offers more graphical power and connectivity, but at a higher price. The Dell XPS 15 is cheaper, prettier, and pairs its better screen with ample processing power. It’s an almost-perfect portable for work, home use and light gaming.

The Dell XPS 15 is available for $1,700 in the US and £1,649 in the UK. Like what you see? Tell us on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

Dell XPS 15

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Dell XPS 15

About Author

Mike Jennings

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