Groundbreaking — that’s the word that comes to mind when we think of Dell. The Texas-based tech giant pioneered the four-sided, bezel-free display with its popular XPS line-up. Dell also discovered a way to increase touchpad, screen and keyboard real estate while minimizing a laptop’s overall footprint. It’s that eye for innovation that helped propel Dell into second place, and could potentially catapult the company into the top spot.
Another impressive facet of Dell is its wide-ranging catalog of laptops that caters to all PC niches, including gaming, business, education and more.
The company’s innovation and diverse product offerings launched it into its second-place ranking. However, what held Dell back from snatching the first-place crown is its mixed performance on this year’s tech support report. If Dell can improve its customer service, it can nab the first-place throne as the best laptop brand on next year’s report.
Dell’s Key Strengths
- Inventiveness: Dell isn’t afraid to take huge leaps and bounds through the jungle of innovation. On last year’s brand report card, we were amazed by Dell’s ability to squeeze a tiny camera into the XPS 13’s super-small top bezel, and this year, Dell became the first company to introduce a bezel-free design for an immersive visual experience.
- Wide selection of products: There’s something for everyone among Dell’s wide-ranging catalog of laptops. Whether you’re a gamer, a general-purpose user, business-minded consumer or a budget-conscious buyer, Dell will have a product that will fit your personal needs.
Dell’s Main Weaknesses
- Phone and web support: While we were satisfied with Dell’s live chat tech support, the company’s social media and phone support needs some sprucing up. Due to unhelpful bots on Dell’s Twitter and Facebook support platforms to poorly trained phone agents, Dell was impeded from climbing to first place this year.
Top-Rated Dell Laptops
- Best Laptop: Dell XPS 13 (2020)
- Best 2-in-1 laptop: Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 (2019)
- Best Budget Laptop: Dell Latitude 5400 Chromebook
Dell took a risk by revamping its XPS lineup this year, and it paid off. The company tied with Asus for the most laptops to earn an Editor’s Choice award at seven. Five of those were XPS laptops and one of them, the XPS 13, was awarded a perfect 5-star rating and remains our favorite overall laptop.
Those who need a larger display should get the XPS 15, the current best 15-inch laptop available. What makes these XPS laptops so good? For one, the new models flaunt a true edge-to-edge display, having reduced the bottom chin this time around. The lack of bezels lets your eyes focus on the gorgeous panels Dell uses for these laptops. They’re also top performers in their respective categories and deliver long battery life.
Dell has also had success with its Latitude and Precision business laptops, which received some much-needed updates in recent months. The G-series budget gaming laptops are also starting to find a foothold although the competition is fierce.
Looking at all of the Dells we reviewed this year, we had few complaints. It’s kind of hard to when you’re being presented with premium anodized aluminum chassis with either black carbon fiber or custom white glass-fiber weave like you find on the Dell XPS 13 (late 2019), Dell XPS 15 (2019) and Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 (2019). Thankfully, 2019 is the year that Dell did away with the nosecam once and for all, creating one of the smallest webcams in the industry and putting it in its rightful place.
However, Dell didn’t stop there. With the 2020 versions of the Dell XPS 13 and 15, the company managed to make both laptops significantly smaller with larger keyboards and touchpads. It also made the four-sided InfinityEdge display and changed the aspect ratio to 16:10 for more vertical space.
But if we have one complaint, it’s that the other laptops are basically XPS clones. Sure there are some standouts, such as the Inspiron 13 7000 2-in-1 Black Edition, with its internal magnetic pen holder. However, others like the Precision 5540, are thicker, heavier takes on the XPS. It’s not bad, but we’d love to see some variation between the Latitudes and Precisions. And for laptops like the Latitude 5400, ditch the plastic, but keep the MIL-SPEC certification.
One place you’ll get a touch of variety is Dell’s gaming laptops. While the G3 15 and G7 15 (2019) are made of plastic, the budget laptops don’t look like carbon copies of the XPS. And with the black and blue color scheme, they don’t look like other gaming laptops, either. We’re fond of the G5 15 SE with its stunning white lid, but again, we wish it was metal instead of plastic.
Support and Warranty (14/20)
Dell shines in their live service, with their operators being thorough and gentle in guiding us through things step by step. However, the company's phone and web service support fell short in comparison to other brands. Through Dell’s social media support and Twitter and Facebook, we were greeted by a bot who refused to help us due to an out-of-date warranty and a service operator who spent an hour providing the wrong information. Additionally, the company’s phone service agents were quite courteous and tried their best to help, but frequently provided incorrect information until we nudged them in the right direction.
Most Dell systems come with a limited one-year hardware warranty which covers defects, provides troubleshooting services over the phone and free two-way shipping throughout the United States. There are also extended warranties, premium warranties and premium support warranties.
Dell is a trendsetter. It is the first company to introduce a four-sided, bezel-free design in its popular XPS line-up. Dell is also a whiz at shrinking its laptops’ footprint for a thin-and-light form factor while still maximizing keyboard, touchpad and screen real estate. Thanks to Dell, other laptop makers are jumping on the bezel-less display bandwagon and freeing us from thick-bezel hell.
Now, let’s talk about our longest-lasting laptop ever — the Dell Latitude 9410 2-in-1, which lasted almost 17 hours on the Laptop Mag battery life test. How Dell managed to manufacture a long-lasting, power-efficient laptop with a touchscreen and vivid display — both battery-life suckers — is beyond us.
Dell is also the first laptop maker to introduce EyeSafe displays to select laptop models, including the Dell G7 15. EyeSafe reduces the amount of harmful blue light that can cause a strain on one’s eyes during prolonged laptop use.
Value and Selection (14/15)
Dell offers all sorts of consumer products, gaming and non-gaming, ranging from budget to premium. There are business laptops, workstations, and even rugged laptops designed to withstand serious abuse. However, the company doesn’t offer a great variety of Chromebooks; they’re either super expensive or dirt-cheap.
If you want to get down and dirty with Dell’s affordable laptops, check out its Inspiron line, which ranges from budget (sub-$400) to mainstream ($400 to $799). However, Dell’s crown jewel is without a doubt its XPS series, which includes the XPS 15 ($1,299). Dell skimps on its Chromebook selection, offering the Dell Latitude 5400 Chromebook ($1,259) and cheaper 11-inch Chromebooks.
Dell has been killing it with its business and workstation lines recently. The Dell Latitude 7400 2-in-1 ($1,599) came out swinging with one of the longest battery life runtimes we’ve seen on a laptop. Meanwhile, the Dell Precision 5540 ($3,197) dressed up as a thick XPS 15, only with the strength of one of the most powerful workstations around.
When it comes to gaming, Dell has strayed away from relying on Alienware for its heavy-duty stuff. The Dell G5 15 SE (2020) is one of the best budget gaming laptops and among the best mid-range gaming laptops, ranging from $879 to $1,299. Dell also dipped its toes into premium gaming with the Dell G7 17, which can be configured with up to an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 Super GPU for a hefty $2,329.