Dell: 2017 Brand Report Card
Dell offers one of the best and most diverse laptop lineups on the market, with affordable Inspirons, sturdy Latitude business laptops, premium XPS Ultrabooks and Alienware gaming rigs. The high-end machines did great in our reviews, while most of the mainstream and budget systems were acceptable, but unexciting.
Dell's tech support is mediocre, but its excellent warranty covers shipping costs on all laptops when you need to send them in for service, and it offers a slew of extension options.
Dell’s Key Strengths
- XPS: The XPS 13 and XPS 15 are still as great as they’ve ever been, with drool-worthy InfinityEdge displays, comfortable keyboards, wonderful build quality and long battery life.
- Alienware: Arguably the best gaming laptops in the business, Alienware pushes the envelope with high-end performance, gorgeous designs and cutting-edge features like an OLED display.
- Great warranty: If you need to send in your laptop during the one-year factory warranty period, Dell will cover the shipping costs in both directions.
Dell’s Main Weaknesses
- Forgettable low-end and business models: No Inspiron, Vostro or Latitude earned a score higher than 3.5 or received an Editor’s Choice award.
- Mediocre tech support: Support reps didn’t know basic information about the company's preloaded software and kept us on hold for a long time.
Top-Rated Dell Laptops
- Dell XPS 13: 14+ hours of battery life and beautiful screen
- Dell XPS 15: 0.6 inches thick, Nvidia GTX 1050 GPU
- Alienware 17: 4K display options, lots of ports, optional graphics amp
MORE: The Best Dell Laptops
A trend emerged in Dell’s reviews last year. The company’s XPS 13, XPS 15 and Alienware gaming notebooks are some of the best laptops on the market, but most other products were unimpressive.
We reviewed 37 Dell laptops, five of which earned our Editors’ Choice nod (two XPS models and three Alienware). Dell’s XPS 13 2-in-1 and a few select Latitude notebooks earned 4 stars, but Dell's Vostro lineup was poor, and both the Latitude and Inspiron series laptops were merely average.
Dell continues its quest to one-up Apple at every turn, with minimalist aluminum designs in colors such as silver, gold and rose gold, like you'll find on the Dell XPS 13. But Dell gets its biggest wins with innovative designs like the XPS 13 2-in-1, which measures an incredibly slim 0.32 inches and features a barely-there InfinityEdge display.
Mid-level laptops such as the Inspiron 13 5000 and the impractically large Inspiron 17 7000 2-in-1 combine style and functionality. Dell isn't afraid to play with colors, as evidenced by the bold hues of the Inspiron 17 5000 and the Inspiron 15 7000. The company also knows how to make a rather striking business notebook (Latitude 13 7000).
On the gaming front, the Alienware 13, 15 and 17 have undergone some major design upgrades that yielded thinner, lighter, more sophisticated frames while retaining the intergalactic aesthetic that we know and love. However, outside of a few prominent redesigns, many Dell laptops are refreshes from two- or three-year-old chassis.
Dell's website has plenty of tips, how-tos, diagnostics and FAQs to help you help yourself. However, when we called for phone support, we often got phone agents who didn't know what our test laptop was capable of, telling us that our XPS 13 had no audio control software (it does) and that there's no built-in way to change the network priorities (the preloaded Killer Network Manager does just that).
The XPS 13 2-in-1 is the best example of Dell’s innovative spirit. This hybrid offers the same stunning, bezel-free InfinityEdge display as the regular XPS 13, but it can be used as a tablet, too. More important, Dell figured out a way to squeeze more power out of Intel’s Y Series processor; its Dynamic Power Mode delivers more speed when you need it without requiring a fan in the design. Another true standout for the brand was the addition of an OLED display to the Alienware 13, providing the most colorful images we’ve ever seen from a gaming laptop.
Value and Selection (15/15)
Dell easily has the most diverse lineup of any laptop maker, including strong entries in the mainstream consumer, business and gaming markets. Its catalog includes super-tough systems like its Rugged Extreme notebooks, productivity powerhouses like the Latitude 7280 and affordable laptops like the pint-size Inspiron 11 3000. The company's Alienware gaming laptops are always among the very best in the industry.
All Dell laptops come with limited one-year warranties, and unlike some competitors, the company covers all shipping costs if you need to send a product in for service.
Upgrading your RAM or storage drive does not void your warranty. Dell also gets points for offering a wide variety of extended-warranty options, which include increasing the length up to four or five years with on-site service and adding accidental-damage protection.