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  4. Dell XPS 15 Review
Editor's Choice
  • Pros /

    Strong overall and graphics performance; Excellent battery life; Bright, vibrant screen; Runs cool; Attractive, if dated, design

  • Cons /

    Awkwardly placed webcam

  • Verdict /

    The Dell XPS 15 offers serious power and nearly 12 hours of battery life in an attractive chassis.

Dell's XPS laptops are considered the gold standard when it comes to premium notebooks, and the newest XPS 15 is no exception. Priced at $1,549 ($1,049 to start), this is one of the most powerful laptops on the market, thanks to its Intel Core i7 processor and Nvidia GTX 1050 graphics. It's also drop-dead gorgeous with its slim, modern industrial design, incredibly thin bezels and lovely display. The 15-inch still suffers from the XPS line's biggest flaw -- an ill-placed webcam -- but, overall, this is one of the best Windows laptops you can buy and a formidable foe to Apple's much pricier 15-inch MacBook Pro-

Specs

Design

With its clean industrial silver aluminum lid and undercarriage sandwiching a soft-touch black interior accentuated by smooth, rounded corners, the latest XPS 15 looks pretty identical to its predecessors. It's not a bad thing, as the laptop is very sleek and looks great in an office. The laptop is a little underdressed for a LAN party, but it's still an attractive system no matter how you slice it. Similar to the 15-inch Apple MacBook Pro, the laptop sports only one adornment -- the glossy Dell insignia in the center of the lid. It's a minimalist chic that I dig.

Swathed in soft-touch black-carbon-fiber, the laptop's interior is just as familiar as its exterior, down to the power button that doubles as a fingerprint reader in the top-right corner. The barely there InfinityEdge bezel surrounds the 15.6-inch display, giving way to the large bottom bezel housing the webcam.

MORE: Laptops with the Best Overall Performance

Measuring 14.1 x 9.3 x 0.5-0.7 inches, the 4.2-pound XPS 15 is one of the slimmer notebooks in its class. The Microsoft Surface Book 2 also weighs 4.2 pounds, but has a much thicker profile at 13.5 x 9.9 x 0.9 inches, much like the HP Spectre x360 (4.6 pounds, 14.1 x 9.8 x 0.8 inches). The Apple MacBook Pro (13.8 x 9.5 x 0.6 inches) is slimmer and lighter at an even 4 pounds. The Huawei MateBook X Pro is the smallest of the bunch at 2.9 pounds, 12 x 8.5 0.6 inches, but it also has a smaller 14-inch screen.

Ports

The XPS 15 has enough ports to allow for a solid work or gaming battlestation.

On the right sits a USB 3.1 Type-A port, an SD card reader, a Noble lock slot and a battery status indicator flanked by five lights.

There's another Type-A port on the left alongside a Thunderbolt 3 port, an HDMI 2.0 port, a headset jack and a port for the AC adapter.

Display

As evidenced by the fine veins and deep red color of the flower in the XPS 15's wallpaper, the matte 1920 x 1080 display is capable of producing rich color and sharp detail. When I watched the trailer for Support the Girls on the 15.6-inch panel, Regina Hall's honey-brown skin seemed to radiate, despite her silver-frosted eyeshadow. Details were clear enough that I could see individual strands of the actress' chestnut-brown hair, including her honey-blonde lowlights.

Given how vivid the color is on the XPS 15's panel, I wasn't too surprised to learn that it can reproduce 115 percent of the sRGB gamut. It was enough to coast past the 111-percent premium laptop average. However, the competition was even more vibrant with the MacBook Pro, Spectre x360, MateBook X and Surface Book all registering 117 percent or higher, respectively.

MORE: Laptops with the Best Display Brightness

The XPS 15 performed a bit better on the brightness test, averaging 371 nits, which was enough to outshine the 310-nit average as well as the Spectre x360 (340 nits) and the MacBook Pro (354 nits). However, the Surface Book (417 nits) and the MateBook X (458 nits) were significantly brighter.

Audio

I wasn't expecting much from the XPS 15's speakers, but I was happy to be enveloped in loud, relatively clean audio. The laptop's bottom-mounted speakers filled our conference room with Kevin Ross' gorgeous voice as he sang Andre 3000's "Prototype" a cappella. The melodies were nice and clean while the mouth pops and finger snaps were precise. The only rough spot was when the singer went for the high notes, which introduced significant distortion that I tried to smooth out with the pre-installed Waves Audio software, to no avail.

Keyboard and Touchpad

Normally, if a keyboard had shallow travel like the XPS 15 (0.7 millimeters), I'd be ripping it a new one, since it falls beneath our preferred 1.5mm. But the island-style keys' saving grace is the above-average 70 grams of actuation force that adds some much-needed bounce to the typing experience. I hit my typical 70 words per minute on the 10fastfingers typing test without bottoming out.

The 4 x 3.1-inch touchpad provides plenty of space to navigate web pages and documents, and was quick and responsive to boot. I had no problem pinch-zooming to enlarge or decrease images or doing a three-finger tap to launch Action Center.

Performance

For such a relatively slim system, the XPS 15 packs quite a punch. The laptop's 2.2-GHz Intel Core i7-8750H processor with 16GB of RAM had no problem running Windows Defender while I watched an episode of My Hero Academia with 20 open Google Chrome tabs -- some of which had Twitch streams and Slack running.

The XPS 15 did equally well on Geekbench 4, where it notched 19,775, besting the 11,492 premium laptop average. It cruised passed the Surface Book (1.9-GHz Intel Core i7-8650U), the MateBook X (1.8-GHz Intel Core i7-8550U) and the Spectre x360 (3.1-GHz Intel Core i7-8705G), and their respective scores of 12,505, 12,913 and 15,340. But the MacBook Pro and its overclockable 2.9-GHz Intel Core i9-8950HK took the win with a score of 23,138.

For such a relatively slim system, the XPS 15 packs quite a punch. It had no problem running Windows Defender while I watched an episode of My Hero Academia with 20  open Google Chrome tabs.

During our Excel productivity test, the XPS 15 paired 65,000 names and addresses in 44 seconds, crushing the 1:32 category average. The MacBook Pro came in second at 0:52, with the Spectre x360 right behind at 0:57. The Surface Book and the MateBook X clocked in at 1:31 and 1:49, respectively.

When we ran the hard drive test, the XPS 15's 256GB M.2 PCIe SSD duplicated 4.97GB of multimedia files in 23 seconds, which translates to a write speed of 221.3 megabytes per second. That matches the Spectre x360 (512GB M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD) but misses the 419.7MBps average. The MateBook X (512GB NVMe PCIe SSD) was a bit faster at 282.7MBps, and the Surface Book (1TB PCIe SSD) did even better at 318.1MBps. But the MacBook Pro and its humongous 2TB PCIe SSD scorched the competition with a ridiculous 2,599.6 MBps.

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The XPS 15 rebounded on the Handbrake Video Editing test, taking only 10 minutes and 12 seconds to transcode a 4K video to 1080p, smoking the 21:35 average. The MacBook Pro wasn't too far behind at 10:16. The Spectre x360 clocked 15:01, while the Surface Book and the MateBook X posted times of 23:00 and 27:18.

Gaming and Graphics

Beneath the silvery skin of this premium mainstream laptop beats the heart of an entry-level gaming laptop. Outfitted with an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti Max-Q GPU with 4GB of VRAM, the XPS 15 can crunch numbers with the best of them and play a game or two at low-to-medium settings. The laptop demolished our Dirt 3 benchmark with a frame rate of 189 fps. That's more than half the 71-fps premium laptop average. The Spectre x360's AMD Radeon RX Vega M GL GPU wasn't far behind with 182 fps. The MateBook X (GeForce MX150 GPU) and the MacBook Pro (Radeon Pro 560X) delivered respective scores of 117 and 83 fps.

The XPS matched the 22-fps average for Rise of the Tomb Raider (1920 x 1080 on Very High), but missed our 30-fps playability threshold. The Surface Book and its GTX 1060 GPU obtained 33 fps. The Dell performed much better on the Hitman test, achieving 60 fps, but it couldn't match the Surface Book's 72 fps.

Outfitted with an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti Max-Q GPU, the XPS 15 can crunch numbers with the best of them, and play a game or two at low-to-medium settings.

When you aren't trying to save the world from impending doom via zombies, demons or aliens, the XPS will automatically switch to its integrated Intel UHD Graphics 630 GPU via Nvidia's Optimus technology.

Battery Life

The XPS 15 can conduct a master class on endurance. The notebook lasted 11 hours and 53 minutes on our battery test, which consists of continuous web surfing over Wi-Fi at 150 nits of brightness. It easily outlasted the 8:26 category average, the Spectre x360 (5:20), the MateBook X (9:55) and the MacBook Pro (10:21). The Surface Book came closest to matching the winner with a time of 11:34, which dropped to 3:12 when we tested the tablet on its own.

Heat

Despite its metallic lid and undercarriage, the XPS 15 did a good job of staying cool. When we measured key points of the laptop after streaming a full-screen HD video for 15 minutes, the touchpad hit 90 degrees Fahrenheit. The center of the keyboard reached 83 degrees, while the bottom registered 92 degrees. Each measurement was well within our 95-degree comfort threshold.

Webcam

While I appreciate super-slim bezels, Dell and other companies have to find a better place for the webcam than positioned right above the hinge. When I launched the camera app, the "nose cam" lived up to its name, capturing my chest and nose in the shot. It took quite a bit of adjusting on my part to get an appropriate angle.

Still, the XPS 15's integrated camera managed to perfectly capture the color in my bright pink dress. Details were sharp enough to capture some pilling on the garment as well as striations in the fabric.

Software and Warranty

Dell pre-installed several helpful branded utilities, including Power Manager, which allows you to run diagnostics on the system's battery as well as adjust fan speed and power consumption for more demanding tasks. Mobile Connect lets you access your smartphone from your laptop, including calling a Lyft or playing a mobile game like Futurama: Game of Drones. If you need to troubleshoot an issue, Dell also included Help & Support, which features informative videos, shows your warranty status and runs system diagnostics.

Unfortunately, the system has its fair share of bloatware, including Cooking Fever, Candy Crush Saga, Royal Revolt 2: Tower Defense and Netflix. There are, however, more useful third-party applications such as Killer Control Center, which lets you prioritize network bandwidth. Dell also included McAfee Security, and 20GB of cloud storage via Dropbox for a year.

MORE: Best Hard Drive Speed

The Dell XPS 15 ships with a one-year limited-hardware warranty. See how Dell fared in our Tech Support Showdown and Best and Worst Brands ranking.

Configurations

I took the $1,549 iteration of the Dell XPS 15 for a spin. It has a 2.2-GHz Intel Core i7-8750H processor with 16GB of RAM, a 256GB M.2 PCIe SSD, an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti Max-Q GPU with 4GB of VRAM, an Intel UHD Graphics 630 GPU and a 1920 x 1080 panel.

The base mode costs $1,049 and drops the CPU down to a 2.3-GHz Intel Core i5-8300H chip with 8GB of RAM, a 1TB 5,400-rpm hard drive, an Intel UHD Graphics 630 GPU and a 1920 x 1080 display.

Want a 4K screen? Be prepared to fork over at least $2,599, which will get you the 3840 x 2160 touch screen with double the RAM of my review model, with a 1TB M.2 PCIe SSD. If you want even more power, Dell has a $2,949 model that offers an overclockable 2.9-GHz Intel Core i9-8950HK CPU.

Bottom Line

Productivity, multimedia and even a bit of gaming -- the Dell XPS 15 can do it all -- and do it well. For $1,549, you get a system that has an attractive, slim design that's bursting with power, including an Intel Core i7 processor and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti Max-Q. The keyboard is surprisingly comfortable, and the display is simply lovely. Throw in nearly 12 hours of battery life, and you've got a certified beast. It's just enough to overlook the annoying camera placement.

But if you're hungry for power and have ridiculously deep pockets, there's the 15-inch MacBook Pro, which starts at $2,399 and commands a hefty $2,899 when you step up to a Core i9 CPU and Radeon Pro 560X graphics. But if you're looking for a relatively unassuming powerhouse that can do a little of bit everything relatively well, the Dell XPS 15 should be at the top of your list.

Credit: Laptop Mag

Editor's Choice
  • Pros /

    Strong overall and graphics performance; Excellent battery life; Bright, vibrant screen; Runs cool; Attractive, if dated, design

  • Cons /

    Awkwardly placed webcam

  • Verdict /

    The Dell XPS 15 offers serious power and nearly 12 hours of battery life in an attractive chassis.

CPU 2.2-GHz Intel Core i7-8750H processor
Operating System Windows 10
RAM 16GB
RAM Upgradable to 32GB
Hard Drive Size 256GB
Hard Drive Type M.2 PCIe SSD
Display Size 15.6
Highest Available Resolution 3840 x 2160
Native Resolution 1920x1080
Optical Drive None
Optical Drive Speed n/a
Graphics Card Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti Max-Q/Intel UHD Graphics 630 GPU
Video Memory 4GB
Wi-Fi 802.11ac
Wi-Fi Model Killer 1535 802.11ac
Bluetooth Bluetooth 4.2
Touchpad Size 4 x 3.1 inches
Ports (excluding USB) Thunderbolt 3
Ports (excluding USB) HDMI 2.0
Ports (excluding USB) Headset
Ports (excluding USB) Noble Lock
Ports (excluding USB) USB 3.1
Ports (excluding USB) DisplayPort
USB Ports 3
Card Slots SD memory reader
Warranty/Support 1 Year Ltd Hware Warranty: Mail-in; Customer supplies box, Dell pays shipping
Size 14.1 x 9.3 x 0.7~0.5 inches
Weight 4.2 pounds
Company Website www.dell.com