“An almost perfect laptop”
Ever since it debuted back in 1993, Dell’s XPS branding has been associated with top-of-the line hardware. Laptops in the XPS range are generally designed for users who want a powerful system for work and entertainment. With the XPS 15, Dell has managed to produce a machine which meets most peoples’ requirements, and then some!
From the off, it is obvious that this premium device has been made to take on some of the best laptops currently available, including the MacBook Pro. After all, it costs $2,299 with a 512GB SSD. The XPS 15 has a similar design and an almost identical thickness to the Apple product. But Dell has added a few nifty features which help the XPS 15 outgun its more illustrious competitor.
Even before you turn the laptop on it manages to create a good impression. The aluminum shell is strong and light. The rest of the body is made using carbon fiber with a soft matt finish which not only looks good, but also makes the laptop comfortable to use. The lack on an optical drive – a side effect of the slim design – shouldn’t be a big drawback. There is no Ethernet port for a wired LAN connection either. Otherwise, the laptop has a good set of connectivity options with one USB 2.0 port, three USB 3.0 ports, a Mini DisplayPort and an HDMI port.
With the XPS 15, Dell has gone for a minimalistic design without any wild lines or curves. The weave on the carbon fiber is still visible – especially on the bottom of the body – and it looks great. The curved metallic edges have been chamfered to add a bit of extra sophistication. The rubberized wrist-rest is strong and even manages to hide finger prints and dust. However, pressing on the back of the lid could cause the screen to distort a bit – something that is absent on the MacBook.
At 17mm, the XPS 15 is a millimeter thinner than the MacBook and weighs less too (1.88kg). Dell has also added some small and functional design elements such as a metal plate which hides serial numbers and codes, and an LED battery indicator on the left side.
A distinguishing (and remarkable) feature of the XPS 15 is what Dell calls a Quad HD+ display. The screen has a massive resolution of 3200×1800, and manages to produce deep blacks and punchy and bright colors. This 15.6-in IPS panel has a pixel density of 237.9ppi and a contrast ratio of 1171:1 – outclassing even the Retina display on the MacBook. Dell has also tinkered with text scaling in Windows to make sure that everything is readable.
The display is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass which is smooth, strong, and easy to clean. On the down side, it makes the screen a bit reflective under bright lights which can be distracting. Viewing angles are as good as they get and the hinge is strong enough to prevent unnecessary wobbling.
Keyboard and Trackpad
The chiclet style full-sized keyboard in the XPS 15 is backlit and easy to use. It has excellent (and audible) feedback and a flex-free design. Actuation pressure has been calibrated in such a way that resting your fingers on the keys won’t lead to accidental presses. Even though there is enough space, the keyboard layout is in such a way that there is no dedicated button for functions like PgUp, PgDn, Home and End. They are secondary functions on the arrow keys and can only be used in conjunction with the Fn key. If you are used to these buttons, the keyboard could take a while to get used to.
As usual, there is a large touchpad under the Space button. Unlike many laptop manufactures, Dell has a history or producing good trackpads, and this one is no exception. The surface is easy to use and provides just enough traction to prevent unwanted mouse movements when clicking. Clicks are registered quickly no matter which portion of the trackpad is used.
The XPS has more than enough power to tackle most tasks. The review piece has a quad-core 2.3GHz Intel Core i7 4712HQ – one of Intel’s most post powerful laptop processors – which is able to achieve burst speeds of up to 3.2GHz. This is a faster chip than the one used in the MacBook Pro and is coupled with 16GB DDR3 RAM and a 512GB SSD for fast performance.
In most benchmarking tests, the XPS 15 achieved really high scores. For instance, the PCMark 7 score of 5,764 is one of the highest achieved by a laptop. The SSD managed sequential read/write speeds of 518MB/s and 420MB/s respectively, which is very good.
Graphics is handled by an NVidia GT 750M GPU which runs at 967MHz and has 2GB GDDR5 RAM. While the 750M is more powerful than many laptop-GPUs, it is not powerful enough to run modern games at maximum settings. But, that is not to say that it can’t handle those games. At 1920×1080, Stalker: Call of Pripyat ran at 68fps. Batman: Arkham City only gave 21fps at the maximum setting of 3200×1800. But turning down the resolution to 1920×1080 gave a smooth frame rate of 50fps.
According to Dell, the 6-cell 91Wh battery used in the XPS 15 will last for around 11 hours. But, it only managed to run for around 5 hours of continuous video streaming which should translate to around 7 hours of casual use – which is a bit disappointing. The MacBook Pro was able to last for a longer time. The Quad HD screen is one of the biggest consumers of power and turning the brightness down could help improve battery life.
- Brilliant display
- Powerful components
- Can be used for gaming
- Slim body
- Great build quality and design
- Average battery life
- Can get very warm and loud when under heavy load
The Dell XPS 15 has a great design and houses some powerful components. This is one of the best 15-inch Windows laptops you can buy at the moment.