Hardware Laptops Reviews

Dell XPS 15 review: the first 15in laptop you can love?

Dell XPS 15 review
What you need to know From £1,299

Product Name: Dell XPS 15

Product Description: Dell's most luxurious 15in laptop and it's packed with high-quality, powerful components

Price: 1299

Currency: £

Availability: InStock

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  • Power
  • Design
  • Battery life

Our verdict

A powerful clamshell laptop that includes a gorgeous 15.6in screen and a roster of components that will make power users weep in joy

Overall
4.7

Pros

Lovely screen; stonking speed; sleek design

 

Cons

Expensive; not our very favourite keyboard; webcam placement

Large laptops aren’t objects you can fall in love with. You buy them for their function not their looks, knowing you’ve entered a devil’s pact where you get power in exchange for backache should ever put them in your travel bag. Not here. As you’ll see in this Dell XPS 15 review, it offers a stunning balance between raw speed, good looks and portability.

BTQ: Brief Tech Questions

How much is it?Prices start at £1,299 on Amazon and fly past £2K if you buy the top machine on Dell’s website.
How chunky is it?You can’t cheat physics, so this is still no ultraportable: it weighs 1.8kg to 2kg, depending on the specification you choose, and is over a foot wide. It’s slim, though.
How fast is it?Damn fast. Even the lowest spec includes a top-notch processor and a dedicated graphics chip, which means speed is always at the forefront.
What about the Dell XPS 15 2-in-1?A good question. We cover that in a whole different article…

Dell XPS 15 review: a need for speed

If you don’t need a genuinely fast machine then there’s no point in spending over £1,000 on the XPS 15. Part of the deal here is that this is a machine that can slice through video and play games at slick frame rates. If all you’re doing is checking email and Facebook then spend £800 on the Asus ZenBook UX410UA instead. (Read my original review of the UX410UA here, but note its specs have since been upgraded.) 

I could regale you with the particular speeds of the XPS 15 I tested here, but they’re only relevant for that specification – and, as with the Asus above, that will change in time. What matters is that Dell’s design means there’s plenty of cooling for the hot-running components inside, so your speed won’t be throttled due to heat like lesser designs.

The downside? The noise from the fans. Once you start pushing the XPS 15, whether in demanding tasks such as video encoding or shooting rivals in Fortnite, that fan will ramp up to a noisy level.

Dell offers the XPS with a GeForce 1050 or GeForce 1050 Ti. If you’re a gamer, then definitely opt for the latter. Not so worried? Then the 1050 remains a fine chip. It’s even capable of powering Windows Mixed Reality, but will struggle with the Steam VR environment.

To give you an idea of its speed, here’s how my test machine (with a top-end Core i7, 16GB of RAM and a GeForce GTX 1050 Ti graphics card) compared to the Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 in a selection of tests.

Dell XPS 15 review: ports & battery life aplenty

There’s plenty of room around the XPS 15 for Dell to pack in the ports, and it combines a forward-thinking Thunderbolt 3 port with two practical if old-hat USB ports plus a full-size HDMI output. There’s no Ethernet, but you do get an SD card slot.

You can charge the XPS 15 via the Thunderbolt port, but Dell includes a standard power adapter here. Which brings me to one of its best points: battery life.

I’ve come to expect powerful laptops such as this to keep going for six hours max, but the XPS 15 lasted for nine hours in our battery-rundown tests. Now this is a simple test – looping a video at medium brightness until the battery gives in – but that’s a great result.

Dell XPS 15 review: screen and keyboard quality

Dell XPS 15 review
The 15.6in screen on the Dell XPS 15 is something to behold

The XPS 15 has one of the best screens you’ll see on a laptop. It can reproduce every colour, it’s bright (hitting 460 candela in our tests) and while its colour accuracy is iffy that won’t matter for most people. Netflix looks great, photos pop off the screen, and only the glossy finish might annoy some people – that does mean reflections.

Note you can choose a 4K screen or a 1,920 x 1,080 resolution (sometimes called 1080p or FHD). The 4K screen is gorgeous, and makes sense on a big display like this, but it’s something I’d be happy to compromise on to save money. Also note that the touchscreen is optional. While it’s nice to have touch, it definitely isn’t vital, so again that’s a possible cost saving.

I’m not so enamoured with the keyboard, with too much clack for my particular tastes, but I’m being picky: the keys are big and easy to hit, they have a nice cushioned feel to them, and Dell makes no stupid layout mistakes. Another nice touch, literally, is that the power button doubles as a fingerprint reader.

There’s no Windows Hello-compatible infrared webcam, though, while frequent Skypers will want to invest in a separate camera: the built-in unit’s location under the screen doesn’t produce flattering views.

I also expected more from the speakers, but again I’m being picky: they don’t distort at volume and are fine for watching films. I wouldn’t listen to any kind of music on them, though.

Dell XPS 15 review: who should buy it?

Dell XPS 15 review

So, as with any laptop, there are some niggles here. And I can’t get away from that price: you should only buy the Dell XPS 15 if you’re after serious power.

All that said, this is a phenomenal machine that power users will love. It’s fast, it’s compact and the photos don’t lie: it looks great. You now just need to decide which one to buy…

Dell XPS 15 review: which model to buy

I need to clarify one thing before we go any further: this review is of the “new” Dell XPS 15, as described on Dell’s website. You may find it on third-party sites such as Amazon under the title “Dell XPS 9570”.

If you see a Dell XPS 15 9560 then that’s last year’s model. It’s fine, just a bit slower. The 9550 was released back in 2016, so only buy one of those if it’s at a bargain price.

While Dell constantly refreshes the units on sale on its site, they aren’t always the cheapest. Here are three I’ve found on Amazon that you might prefer:


Core i5, 8GB RAM, 128GB SSD, 1TB hard disk, GeForce GTX 1050, 1080p non-touch

The cheapest at £1,299, but there’s only 8GB of RAM and there’s no touchscreen. A great value buy. 

Core i7, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD, GeForce 1050 Ti, 1080p non-touch

A step up in power with a larger SSD, twice the RAM, a superior graphics card and significantly faster processor. At £1,830 inc delivery you must be sure you’ll take advantage – and note it’s still no touchscreen.

Core i7, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD, GeForce 1050 Ti, 4K touchscreen

This is the machine we tested and, if we had the money in our pockets, is the one we’d buy. A shade over £2,000 once you add delivery, but it’s lovely.

Read this next: Could you save up to £1,000 and buy the HP Envy 13 instead?

About the author

Tim Danton

Tim Danton is editor-in-chief of PC Pro magazine and has written about technology since 1999. He enjoys playing with gadgets, playing with words and playing tennis. Email tim@bigtechquestion.com

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