Dell: Best and Worst Laptop Brands
Dell offers the strongest and most diverse lineup of PC laptops in the industry. From value-priced 2-in-1s to premium business systems and high-end gaming laptops, there's a high-quality Dell for every need and budget.
Dell also has one of the industry's best warranties, paying return shipping on even its least-expensive products. However, the company's mediocre phone support leaves a lot of room for improvement.
Dell has some very original designs that benefit from edge-to-edge screens or creative splashes of color. The XPS 15 and XPS 13 each provide a very unique aesthetic, offering impossibly thin display bezels with black, carbon-fiber interiors; the 13-inch model is even lighter than the MacBook air. There are some great flashes of individuality in the Inspiron 15 5000, which comes with an optional bright red or blue lid, and in the suave, dark-gray Chromebook 11. The Inspiron 15 7000 is also a stunner, in sexy, black soft-touch finish.
The Alienware 17, 15 and 13 continue to shine with their built-in light shows and spaceship-gray frames. However, the chassis on these gaming laptops have remained the same for several years and could use a makeover. Unfortunately, a couple of Dell systems, like the Inspiron 11 3000 2-in-1, look too derivative, with a bright silver aesthetic that screams "MacBook."
This year, Dell's average laptop rating slipped from third to fourth place. Even though the brand garnered the most Editors' Choice awards (nine in total), its score was held back by one too many merely decent 2.5-star models. Dell's XPS 13 and XPS 15 are shining examples of how good the company's laptops can be, featuring brilliant design, good performance and a wide range of configuration options.
Tech Support (16/20)
If your Dell needs professional help, you can reach out via live chat, email and even the company's proactive diagnostic tool. We only advise that you not try calling Dell, as the company secured the shameful title of Longest Average Call Time (40 minutes) in the most recent Tech Support Showdown. Dell reps accidentally hung up on us midcall and even advised us to roll back from Windows 10 to Windows 8.1, when the solution to our problem only required a single box be unchecked.
MORE: Dell Tech Support Rating
As part of its standard one-year warranty, Dell pays for return shipping on all of its laptops, no matter what they cost. If you have an Alienware laptop, you may also be able to get on-site service. You can upgrade your laptop without voiding the warranty.
Dell's Alienware gaming laptops ship with plenty of useful utilities and no bloatware at all.
Our reviewers have praised Dell for the limited amount of bloatware on the company's consumer notebooks this past year. A couple of notebooks, like the Dell XPS 13, came with a few stragglers like Candy Crush Saga and McAfee LiveSafe.
Several laptops, including Inspiron and XPS line, offered 20GB of free storage with Dropbox, which is 10 times the amount of free space you usually get without paying for the service. Dell Update keeps the system's software modernized, and Dell Backup and Recovery will help ensure you don't lose precious files.
Dell's Alienware gaming laptops ship with plenty of useful utilities and no bloatware at all. The Alienware Command Center suite on the Alienware 17 and 15 lets you change lighting settings with AlienFX, adjust program-specific settings with AlienAdrenaline, tweak power settings with AlienFusion and make backups with AlienRespawn.
Last year, Dell blew us away with the Dell XPS 13, an incredibly thin and lightweight laptop with a nearly bezel-free Infinity Display.
The company has since brought the same eye-popping display and svelte designs to other laptops, including the larger XPS 15, the Precision 5510 workstation and a couple of Latitude business laptops. This year, Dell's Alienware division will ship the first gaming laptop to have an OLED screen.
Value and Selection (15/15)
There's a Dell laptop for every budget and interest, from the $179 Windows-powered Dell Inspiron 11 3000 to the $2,449 Alienware 17 gaming rig. The Texas-based company offers a wide variety of mainstream consumer laptops as part of its Inspiron line, a couple of industry-leading Ultrabooks in the XPS 13 and 15, and a compelling Latitude business lineup. Dell offers plenty of 2-in-1s, from its inexpensive, consumer-targeted Inspiron 11 3000 2-in-1 to the pricey Latitude 12 7000 for enterprise. Though marketed as a separate brand, the company's Alienware laptops are among the best and most popular gaming systems in the industry.
You can get some great values from Dell, but you may have to compromise on specs. The company's low-end Inspiron 14 and 15 3000 start at less than $300, but offer shallow keyboards and dull screens and mediocre performance. The XPS 13 is a relatively good deal, at its starting price of $799, but for that price, you have to settle for a Core i3 CPU. We couldn't find any Dell with a 1080p display for less than $799. Like Lenovo and HP, Dell allows you to configure some of its laptops to order, if you purchase them directly from the manufacturer's site.
How Dell Can Improve
Dell needs to make sure all of its laptops meet the high standards set by its best laptops: products like the Dell XPS 12, which suffered from short battery life, and the Inspiron 15 3000, which was way too slow, brought its overall score down. To provide better value, the company should lower the price of laptops with 1080p-or higher-resolution screens. Dell's phone support also needs to get a lot quicker.