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Help Me, Laptop: Which 15-Inch Dell Should I Choose?

Dell's 15-inch laptops dip into a variety of categories, from high-end consumer laptops to cheap gaming machines, which can make it difficult to choose one. One user, santhoshkakarot, posted about this exact issue on the Tom's Guide forums.

The user asked us to choose from three systems with these specs:

  • G7 15 Gaming: Intel Core i7 8750H, 16GB of RAM, Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 Max-Q
  • XPS 15: Intel Core i7 8750H, 16GB of RAM, Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti
  • Alienware 15 R4: Intel Core i7 8750H, 8GB of RAM, Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 OC

santhoshkakarot writes, "Which is better in terms of performance and build quality?" Don't worry; we're going to figure out which 15-inch Dell laptop is right for you.

G7 15 GamingXPS 15Alienware 15 R4
Starting Price$849.99$999.99$1,399.99
Intel Processors8th Gen Core i5, Core i78th Gen Core i5, Core i78th Gen Core i5, Core i7, Core i9
GPUGTX 1050, 1050 Ti, 1060Intel UHD 630, GTX 1050 TiGTX 1060, 1070, 1080
ColorsLicorice Black, Alpine WhitePlatinum SilverBlack, Silver
Display15.6 inches (1920 x 1080)15.6 inches (1920 x 1080), 4K (3840 x 2160) touch screen15.6 inches (1920 x 1080), Nvidia G-Sync
RAM8GB, 16GB8GB, 16GB, 32GB8GB, 16GB, 32GB
Drives1TB 5,400-rpm SSHD; 512GB SSD; 126GB SSD + 1TB HDD1TB 5,400-rpm SSHD; 256GB SSD; 1TB SSD1TB 7,200-rpm HDD; 128GB SSD + 1TB HDD; 256GB SSD + 1TB HDD
PortsThree USB 3.1, one Thunderbolt 3, HDMI 2.0, headphone/mic, Ethernet, 2-in-1 card reader, Noble lock slotThree USB 3.1, two Thunderbolt 3, HDMI 2.0, DisplayPort 1.2, VGA, headphone/mic, SD card slot, Noble lock slotTwo USB 3.0, one Thunderbolt 3, one USB Type-C, HDMI 2.0, Mini DisplayPort 1.2, Alienware Graphics Amplifier port, headphone/mic, audio out, Ethernet, Noble lock slot
Battery Life5:3711:535:15
Keyboard Travel0.94 mm0.8 mm2.0 mm
Bluetooth5.04.24.1, 5.0
Size15.3 x 10.8 x 0.9 inches14.1 x 9.3 x 0.5~0.7 inches15.3 x 12 x 1 inches
Weight6.3 pounds4.2 pounds7.8 pounds

 Design

The G7 15 Gaming sports a silky-white paint job with some neat blue accents that make it look like a glossed-up race car. Its hinge and meaty grilles look pretty slick, too, as they curve just slightly outward from the chassis.

Meanwhile, the XPS 15 rocks a more minimalist approach, with its sleek platinum-silver finish on the lid and carbon-fiber black on the internal chassis. While the bottom bezel webcam may seem awkward, that sacrifice allowed the rest of the bezels to be practically nonexistent. Additionally, the XPS 15's display is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 4.

The Alienware 15 R4 is quite the beast, donning a full black, Batman-style paint job combined with 13 customizable lighting zones pumping through the chassis. The hinge is also farther down the chassis, allowing more room for vents and ports on the back.

There's definitely a weight-class difference among all of Dell's children. The Alienware is a titan, at 7.8 pounds and 1 inch thick, while the G7 15 solemnly looks up to its big brother, which is 6.3 pounds and 0.9 inches thick. The XPS 15, however, is in a league of its own, at a light 4.2 pounds and thin 0.5 to 0.7 inches thick.

Winners: XPS 15 and Alienware 15 R4

Display

The 15.6-inch G7 15 Gaming, XPS 15 and Alienware 15 R4 all had 1920 x 1080 displays when we reviewed them. But the Alienware has a configuration with Nvidia G-Sync, and the XPS 15 has a config with a 4K touch-screen display.

On our tests, the G7 15 covered a measly 62 percent of the sRGB color gamut and emitted 232 nits of brightness. The Alienware measured 119 percent and hit 311 nits, while the XPS 15 was a couple of points off at 115 percent but hit a whopping 371 nits of brightness.

In terms of color accuracy, all three laptops are strikingly similar, with both the XPS 15 and the G7 15 hitting Delta-E scores of 0.3 and the Alienware registering a 0.33. (Lower numbers are better.) Additionally, the G7 15 and the Alienware sport some pretty chunky bezels, while the XPS 15's are barely there.

Winner: XPS 15

Keyboard

The G7 15 Gaming and the XPS 15 aren't that comfortable to type on because of their incredibly shallow key travel of 0.94 and 0.8 millimeters, respectively. The XPS 15 is the better of the two, however, due to its well-spaced keys.

The Alienware 15 R4 is definitely the superior of the three, since its keys travel at a deep 2.0 mm and require a meaty 78 grams of actuation force, making them punchier than the G7 15's and XPS 15's keys, which require 61 grams and 70 grams, respectively. Our standard for key travel lies between 1.5 and 2.0 mm, and we typically look for a minimum of 60 grams of actuation force.

The G7 15's keyboard is accented in blue with blue backlighting, and it's the only laptop of the three that has a number pad. For comparison, the XPS 15 has a typical black-and-white keyboard with white backlighting, but it's more compact and similar to those on 13- to 14-inch laptops. The Alienware, however, has thick, intimidating keys with full RGB backlighting, as well as a set of convenient hot keys attached to it.

I took the 10fastfingers.com typing test on all three laptops. On the G7 15 and the XPS 15, I produced 61 words per minute, but on the Alienware, I nailed a speedy 68 wpm.

Winner: Alienware 15 R4

Gaming, Graphics and VR

When we take a look at their armory, the G7 15 Gaming packs an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 Max-Q GPU with 6GB of VRAM, and the XPS 15 is outfitted with a GTX 1050 Ti Max-Q GPU with 4GB of VRAM. The Alienware 15 R4 deviates from santhoshkakarot's request a bit with an overclockable GTX 1070 GPU with 8GB of VRAM.

On the Rise of the Tomb Raider benchmark on Very High, 1080p settings, the XPS 15 hit an unplayable 22 frames per second (30 fps is considered acceptable). The G7 15 hit a solid 35 fps, but the Alienware straight up dominated at 72 fps.

The XPS 15 did considerably better on the Hitman benchmark (Ultra, 1080p), hitting a smooth 60 fps. The G7 15 slightly surpassed it at 63 fps, while the Alienware once again took the crown at a whopping 92 fps.

On the Grand Theft Auto V benchmark (Very High, 1080p), the XPS 15 took another nosedive at 27 fps, the G7 15 hit a solid 45 fps and the Alienware averaged 74 fps.

It's no surprise that the Alienware is the absolute king of VR, and that goes beyond the current competition too, as it scored a perfect 11 on the SteamVR performance test. The G7 15 nailed a 6.3 out of 11, while the XPS 15 pumped out a 3.0. You can technically use the XPS 15 to play in VR due to Oculus' Asynchronous Spacewarp technology, but it won't be perfect.

Winner: Alienware 15 R4

Performance

The G7 15 Gaming, the XPS 15 and the Alienware 15 all have the same beast powering that heat: a 2.2-GHz Intel Core i7-8750H processor. On the Geekbench 4 overall performance test, the XPS 15 came out on top, with a score of 19,775, and the G7 15 was just short of it, at 19,516. Surprisingly, the Alienware lagged behind at 16,981.

On the HandBrake benchmark, the Alienware redeemed itself by transcoding a 4K video to 1080p in 10 minutes and 28 seconds. The G7 15 was slightly slower, at 10:40, but the XPS 15 was still the fastest, at 10:12.

The G7 15 took a speedy 41 seconds to match 65,000 names and addresses on our Excel test, which knocked out both the XPS 15 (0:44) and the Alienware (0:50). Both the Alienware and the XPS 15's 256GB SSD pumped out a copy data rate of 221 megabytes per second, but the G7 15 was left behind at 102 MBps due to its 1TB 5,400-rpm HDD.

Winner: XPS 15

Battery Life

All three of Dell's laptops were put through the ringer on our battery test, which consists of continuously web surfing over Wi-Fi at 150 nits of brightness. The XPS 15 came out on top, at 11 hours and 53 minutes. The G7 15 Gaming (5:37) and the Alienware 15 R4 (5:15) scored much lower than the XPS 15, but they still performed relatively well compared with other gaming systems.

Winner: XPS 15

Value and Configurations

The starting configuration of the G7 15 Gaming costs $849 and comes with an Intel Core i5-8300H processor; 8GB of RAM; 1TB 5,400-rpm SSHD; and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 GPU with 4GB of VRAM. The XPS 15 starts at $999 and is outfitted with a Core i5-8300H CPU; 8GB of RAM; 1TB 5,400-rpm SSHD; and an Intel UHD 630 graphics card.

The Alienware 15 R4 is, unsurprisingly, the most expensive, at $1,399. It features an Intel Core i5-8300H processor; 8GB of RAM; a 1TB 7,200-rpm HDD; and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 GPU with 6GB of VRAM.

In terms of value, the G7 15 offers better specs than the XPS 15 for a lower price, and the Alienware is too pricey for a bump in GPU and no additional upgrades. Even concerning the original specs that santhoshkakarot wanted, the G7 15 is over $300 cheaper with similar specs. If you're willing to sacrifice a good display and keyboard, the G7 15 is a clear winner. However, if you can spend a little more, definitely get the Alienware with the Core i7-8750H; 16GB of RAM; 128GB SSD; 1TB 7,200-rpm HDD; and GTX 1060, which is currently priced at $1,399.

Winner: G7 15 Gaming

Overall Winner

Even though the XPS 15 and the Alienware 15 R4 have been trading blows constantly, there can be only one winner. (Sorry, G7 15 Gaming, but they have the high ground.) Overall, the XPS 15 came out on top, even with its graphics disadvantage.

G7 15 GamingXPS 15Alienware 15 R4
Design
Display
Keyboard
Gaming, Graphics and VR
Performance
Battery Life
Value & Configs
Total143

If you're more interested in running taxing games at higher quality, choose the Alienware. If you're less concerned with build quality, you can save a couple hundred dollars and get the G7 15. But ultimately, the XPS 15 offers the best performance and build quality, and it's even great for gaming at lower settings.

Credit: Laptop Mag

As soon as Rami Tabari sprung out of the College of Staten Island, he hit the ground running as a Staff Writer for Laptop Mag. He reviews every shape and form of a laptop as well as all sorts of cool tech. You can find him sitting at his desk surrounded by a hoarder's dream of laptops, and when he navigates his way out to civilization, you can catch him watching really bad anime or playing some kind of painfully difficult game. He’s the best at every game and he just doesn’t lose. That’s why you’ll occasionally catch his byline in Tom’s Guide, taking on the latest Souls-like challenge.