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Dell Admits Battery Failure Caused XPS 15 Explosion [Update]

Update Oct 8: A representative at Dell responded to our request for comment stating that an investigation on the affected XPS 15 determined that one of its lithium-ion battery cells had failed. The company told Laptop Mag that this is not a systemic issue and that all other XPS 15 devices are safe to use, but did not provide evidence proving these claims. 

Dell's full statement: 

"Safety is our biggest priority at Dell. We immediately contacted the customer, retrieved the system and conducted an investigation. The investigation concluded that the incident resulted from an internal failure within one of the lithium ion battery cells. This is not a systemic safety issue and Dell XPS notebooks meet all applicable safety standards and all other units are safe to use in the intended manner. Dell products are tested and certified to industry safety standards, including UL 60950-1, the Standard for Safety of Information Technology Equipment. We apologize for the damage this caused the customer and have worked with them to replace the unit."

Original article, Oct 7: 

Dell XPS 15 owners might want to get their laptop batteries checked as soon as possible.

A trending post on the r/Dell subreddit describes how an XPS 15 exploded for no apparent reason as it charged overnight.

Redditor "u/mdntfox" writes that they had plugged the laptop in before going to bed, then heard a fizzing sound and saw a "bright orange inferno" lighting up the room. The XPS 15 owner ran out to grab water but returned to find the room filled with smoke.  

"My house still smells like smoke, and I’m worried these fumes are toxic and cancerous," the Redditor posted. "My lungs still feel funky. I had to move my pet out of the house and Into my neighbors the smell was so strong. I don’t even now [sic] if it’s safe still having that thing in my home!"

Dell responded to our request for comment and said that an investigation into the affected laptop determined that the explosion was caused by an internal failure within one of the lithium-ion battery cells. The company claims that this is not a systemic issue and that all other XPS 15s are safe to use, but did not provide evidence showing that other potentially at-risk laptops had been looked into. 

Images of the burnt XPS 15 show the extent of the damage. If you're squeamish, you might want to look away. 

As you can see from these images (see the Reddit post for links to more images), the source of the explosion appears to be the XPS 15's 84Wh lithium-ion battery but the eruption was large enough to cause damage to the display, touchpad and deck of the laptop. 

This particular XPS 15 9560 isn't under any warranty, however, Dell previously agreed to replace the batteries of out-of-warranty XPS 15 9550s after several users complained that battery swelling was causing their touchpad to lift. 

If you own an XPS 15, you might consider keeping your laptop unplugged overnight or when you are out of the house until Dell can provide evidence that all other units are safe. What's most concerning is that Dell confirmed that the explosion was caused by a battery error but didn't provide any reason for why it might have happened (damage to the laptop or using an unsupported third-party charger have been known to cause these types of incidents).  

Then again, exploding gadgets are more common than you might think. Damaged or defective lithium-ion batteries can undergo a catastrophic chain reaction called thermal runaway that ultimately causes them to ignite. It's the fear of this reaction that caused major airlines to ban the MacBook Pro from flying after Apple recalled the 2015 model when it determined that some units could "overheat and pose a fire safety risk."

Samsung's extinct Galaxy Note 7 is perhaps the most notable offender for having faulty batteries. The phone was ultimately recalled, but not before shedding light on the potential dangers of the batteries used in modern electronics. 

We'll update this article with details about the XPS 15 explosion as we learn more. 

Phillip Tracy is a senior writer at Tom's Guide and Laptop Mag, where he reviews laptops and covers the latest industry news. After graduating with a journalism degree from the University of Texas at Austin, Phillip became a tech reporter at the Daily Dot. There, he wrote reviews for a range of gadgets and covered everything from social media trends to cybersecurity. Prior to that, he wrote for RCR Wireless News and NewBay Media. When he's not tinkering with devices, you can find Phillip playing video games, reading, listening to indie music or watching soccer.