Dell: 2019 Brand Report Card
Dell continues to be one of the most consistent and forward-thinking laptop brands out there, maintaining its third-place spot in our rankings for the third year in a row. The Austin-based PC maker has stayed near the top of the pack with its stellar premium laptop lineup (led by the XPS line), and some of the slimmest and sexiest designs out there. The company also made some much-needed innovations this year, finally ridding the XPS 13 of its dreaded nose cam while introducing the world’s smallest business 2-in-1.
Dell still does stumble in a few areas, as its mainstream and budget systems fared less favorably in our reviews than its high-end machines did. And while the company provides great tech support via social media, we found its phone agents to be a bit lacking. Still, with a great lineup of laptops, generous warranty options, and a wide range of options for all budgets and use cases, there’s a reason Dell remains near the top.
Dell’s Key Strengths
- Premium powerhouses. Dell’s high-end laptops remain the best in the business, with the XPS 13 and XPS 15 topping our roundups of the best laptops and best 15-inch laptops.
- A laptop for every need. Dell’s value and selection is near-unparalleled, as the company offers everything from high-end mainstream and business notebooks like the XPS and Latitude series, to the surprisingly strong budget gaming laptops found in the G series.
- Innovative, attractive designs. Dell fixed the one glaring problem with the XPS 13 by finally getting a webcam at the top of the machine’s impossibly slim bezel. And the latest Latitude 7400 2-in-1 redefines how smart a business machine can be.
Dell’s Key Weaknesses
- Mixed review performance. While Dell’s PCs comprise some of our favorite laptops, not all of them are winners. The company’s notebooks scored an average 3.5 out of 5 stars in the past years, with its four Editor’s Choice winners all being premium notebooks.
- Phone support. Dell’s customer support is generally good, but the company’s phone agents tend to insist on taking over your machine and solving your problems themselves rather than giving you quick answers.
Top Rated Dell Laptops
- Best Laptop Overall: Dell XPS 13
- Best 15-inch Laptop: Dell XPS 15
- Best Business Laptop: Dell Latitude 5420 Rugged
Dell continues to dominate in the premium market yet struggles to make good mainstream and budget laptops. With scores ranging from 2 to 4.5 stars, Dell's laptops are all over the board. But when averaged, those scores come out to a rather disappointing 3.5 stars. Four Dell laptops earned an Editor's Choice Award (second to HP), though none of those costs less than $1,000.
Dell's standout laptops are all premium machines. The XPS line continues to impress, and the XPS 15 even earned the top stop on our best 15-inch laptops page. The latest XPS 13 is a smaller version with a compact chassis along with a vivid display and long battery life. Dell also sells some excellent business laptops, including the Precision 5290 2-in-1 and Latitude 5420 Rugged.
With such a large catalog of laptops, there's bound to be some hits and misses in Dell's lineup. The 2018 and 2019 XPS 13 and the XPS 15 sit at the top of the pyramid with their stately, sturdy builds. The XPS 15 offers a mix of aluminum and soft-touch finish and Dell's proprietary woven crystalline silica fiber interior. Colors on the XPS 13 ranged from dark gray to gold to light silver.
But the XPS line isn't the only looker in the lineup. You’ve got stunners like the Precision 7730 and the Latitude 7490 with its carbon-fiber lid. There's also the Latitude 5290 2-in-1, with its metallic back panel and auto-deploying kickstand. The company's gaming laptops also got a much needed makeover with the G7 15 and G5 15, which boast such bold colors as white, blue, black and red.
However, Dell's notebooks continue to vacillate between captivating and lost in the shuffle. Laptops like the Precision 3530, Latitude 3390 2-in-1, Inspiron 15 5000 and Inspiron 17 5770 fall into the latter category as they're not ugly, but not exciting, either. Rounding out the catalog are the company's rugged laptops (Latitude 7424 and Latitude 5420), which are large, and with massive loads of MIL-SPEC-certified toughness to boot.
Support and Warranty (16/20)
Our undercover investigation showed that Dell's best tech support is found on its social media, where agents demonstrated a solid understanding of its technologies and provided answers within minutes. We just wish its telephone agents were a bit more focused on providing answers than taking control of our system and doing everything for us.
Dell allows you to extend its warranties for the XPS and Inspiron laptops by up to four years, and the company covers shipping both to and from its centers. The company also offers an accidental damage protection as an add-on.
In 2019, Dell built on the best laptop by cramming a crazy-small 0.08-inch HD camera into the XPS 13, so you get the same barely there bezels without the nose cam. Meanwhile. the Inspiron 13 and 15 7000 2-in-1s for consumers sport a clover magnetic pen garage built in to the hinge. Dell's Mobile Connect software is one of the best solutions for transferring files between phones and PCs, and a beta feature allows you to access your phone in virtual reality.
On the business front, the upcoming Dell Latitude 7400 2-in-1 is the world's smallest commercial 2-in-1, but it also offers proximity sensing from Intel to make unlocking your PC as easy as walking up to it. Dell also put AI to work in the Precision workstation line with new software that uses artificial intelligence to optimize performance.
Value and Selection (14/15)
Dell's machines can get pricey, but the company offers a wide selection. On the entry-level side, there's the $149 Inspiron Chromebook 11, Inspiron 11 3000 that starts at $179 and the Dell Chromebook 5190 ($259), which we praised for its rugged design and long battery life. Consumers looking for a middle-of-the-road laptop should check out the Inspiron 14 5000 2-in-1 which starts at $549 or the Inspiron 15 7000 ($729). Of course, Dell also sells its premium consumer lineup, with the acclaimed XPS 13 and XPS 15 (starting at $899 and $999 respectively), which are among our top-rated laptops in their categories.
MORE: Best Dell Laptops
Professionals looking for a reliable business notebook should check out the 14-inch Latitude 3490 which starts at $589 or the Latitude 7480 ($898). Looking for something a bit more premium? Check out the $1,389 Latitude 5290 2-in-1 or the superdurable Latitude 5420 Rugged ($1,399 starting), which both boast enough battery life to get you through the workday.
If you're a creative pro, you'll want to pick up the Precision 7730 ($1,199 starting) for its viciously vivid 17.3-inch display and excellent performance. Even with its Alienware counterpart, Dell also makes gaming laptops, like the G3 15 ($849) and G7 15 ($949), which are apart of its budget and mainstream lines, respectively. Dell recently launched a 2019 G Series that boasts RTX GPUs, which dips into premium gaming, though we haven't reviewed that machine yet.
Despite Dell's large selection, we'd like to see better prices on systems like the XPS 13, which gives you only a Core i3, 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD for $800.