Dell: 2018 Brand Report Card
Taking third place for the second year in a row, Dell makes some of the best laptops money can buy, while providing the top support of any PC vendor (tied with Samsung). The Round Rock, Texas-based company also got high scores for innovation and for its extensive selection; Dell makes every type of laptop you can imagine.
Though the XPS, Alienware and Precision lines stack up well against similarly priced competitors, the company's mainstream consumer and business laptops are mired in mediocrity. If Dell could take some of the DNA from its XPS 13 and sprinkle it onto the Inspirons and Latitudes, the company would finish higher.
Dell's Key Strengths
- Great premium laptops: The company's XPS line remains the leader in consumer and prosumer notebooks, thanks to its innovative features, gorgeous designs, long battery life and brilliant screens.
- King of gaming: Dell's Alienware line leads the pack regarding performance, features and value. Its Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming is a great value, and its upcoming G-line also looks impressive.
- Personalized support: If you call Dell for help, you'll get your own, dedicated support tech. During our tech-support showdown, agents gave us their direct email addresses for follow-up questions.
Dell's Main Weaknesses
- Uninspiring Inspirons: The company's mainstream consumer laptops just don't stack up to the competition. The Inspirons are usually affordable, but they suffer from bland design and mediocre screens and keyboards.
- Lackluster Latitudes: While not as problematic as its Inspiron line, the company's Latitude business laptops just aren't as attractive or innovative as its competitors'. However, if your company is wedded to Dell, you can find some decent systems. The company's Precision workstations, particularly the Precision 5520, are impressive.
Dell's laptop lineup is a tale of two companies: It makes some of the best premium, gaming and workstations on the market, but its mainstream consumer and business laptops are uninspired. The Dell XPS 13 is our favorite consumer laptop overall and has been for the past several years, while the Alienware 17 and Alienware 15 dominate the gaming space. On the other side of the spectrum, there are laptops like the Inspiron 15 5000 Gaming, which suffers from a dull screen, weak battery life and a stiff keyboard.
The average XPS, Alienware or Precision laptop scored 3.9 out of 5 stars last year, while the average Inspiron scored 3. The typical Latitude fared better, scoring 3.7. A troubling five out of 38 (or 13 percent) of Dell laptops scored under 3 stars.
It's Dell's XPS line that continues to push the envelope, particularly the XPS 13 9370, with its white-and-gold chassis and almost nonexistent bezels. Made from aluminum and woven crystalline silica fiber, it's pretty and stain-resistant.
The Inspiron line is not as inspiring. Aside from the Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming, the line is pretty boring with its silver MacBook-clone-like design, which isn't ugly, but it doesn't stand out in a crowd, either. And while the Latitude line is incorporating the InfinityEdge display into a few of its laptops, it's still a rather meh presentation.
Although we love the customizable lighting zones on Dell's Alienware gaming laptops, the overall design language is getting old and could use an update.
Support and Warranty (18/20)
Dell does everything it can to make sure your system has been fixed, offering solid phone support, excellent social-media helpers and personalized, dedicated support agents who give you their direct email addresses for follow-up questions. During our Tech Support Showdown, we were never put on hold for a single moment when dealing with Dell, which is more than we can say for anyone else.
Not only can you upgrade your memory and/or storage without voiding your warranty, but if you need Dell to repair your product, it covers shipping to and from its premises. Also, the company offers two versions of its extended warranties: with and without accidental-damage coverage.
Dell has been on an innovation tear in its high-end machines. The company made its flagship laptop, the XPS 13, thinner and lighter with the use of new thermal technologies, and added software that lets you make calls and texts and, on Android phones, control your entire handset from your desktop. In addition, it just released the Dell XPS 15 2-in-1, its first XPS convertible of that size, using Kaby Lake G.
On the Alienware front, the company is adding a new Control Center with easy overclocking and settings on a per-game basis. But Dell isn't innovating as much on its lower-level Inspiron laptops and business-focused Latitudes. On those laptops, we're still seeing the same bland designs, middling performance and lackluster screens that are nothing to write home about.
Value and Selection (13/15)
A ton of Dells came through our lab in 2017, showcasing the company's wide range of laptops that target every market segment, from kids to gamers to business users. There were low-end Inspirons between $200 and $800, including some, like the Inspiron 13 5000 2-in-1, that flip back into tablets. If you don't need Windows, Dell offers a few Chromebooks, like the Chromebook 3189. Those who want the best of the best can go for an XPS 13 or XPS 15, with top-of-the-line specs and bezel-free displays.
MORE: The Best Dell Laptops
In business, there's a wide range of Latitudes, and you can configure them with a range of features. Creative professionals lean toward the Precision line, with high-end workstations like the Precision 7720, which has Nvidia Quadro graphics and a Xeon CPU.
Dell is also a leader in gaming. The company owns Alienware, which makes some of the best premium gaming rigs money can buy. The company also offers more affordable options, such as the sub-$1,000 Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming. In 2018, the Inspiron Gaming line will lose the "Inspiron" moniker and be renamed the Dell G series.