Hardware Laptops Reviews

Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 review: too flipping expensive?

What you need to know From £1,699

Product Name: Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

Product Description: A 15in 2-in-1 laptop that also packs enough firepower to run modern games

Price: 1699

Currency: £

Availability: InStock

Buy now

  • Power
  • Design
  • Battery life

Summary

The best 15in 2-in-1 laptop out there, but you have to pay a significant price

Overall
4.5

Pros

Powerful and capable of gaming; Stylish and slim design; Big for a tablet (see cons)

Cons

Expensive; Needs active pen at additional cost; Big for a tablet (see pros)

The name gives it away, but it’s worth emphasising: there’s only one reason to buy the Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 over the Dell XPS 15, and that’s the fact the screen flips around 360 degrees. When Dell is charging around £300 for this privilege compared to the plain XPS 15, you have to be darn sure you’ll use this feature.

In this Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 review, we’ll explore why it might just be worth it – and whether it’s worth all that extra cash.

BTQ: Brief Tech Questions

Is it really an extra £300 over the plain XPS 15?Pretty much. In fact, the specification you’re buying isn’t quite as good, so arguably it’s even more than £300.
So is the 2-in-1 slower than the other XPS 15? Yes. The processor isn’t as fast, nor the graphics chip – but don’t fret too much, this is still a speedy machine.
Will the touchscreen work with any stylus?No. It will work with your fingers, but you’ll need an “active” pen – one powered by batteries. Dell’s offerings range from around £50 to over £100.

Dell XPS 15 2-in-1: How fast is it?

The key thing to understand about the XPS 15 2-in-1 is that it contains Intel’s G series of Core processors. The G is important because it signifies that it includes a dedicated graphics chip from Intel’s archrival AMD. 

Why do this? Simple: so that an extremely thin and light laptop can play the latest games. The plain XPS 15 is that little bit thicker, which means Dell can squeeze in a separate Nvidia graphics chip, but there’s no such luxury when your chassis is 1cm thin.

Here’s how the two machines compared in four gaming benchmarks:

The big difference came in the synthetic GFXBench benchmarks, which tend to take advantage of features that don’t always make their way into games. Notably, when we put both laptops through their paces in the real game of Metro: Last Light there was much less difference.

We also tested the laptops in the cross-platform Geekbench, where again the XPS 15 took the lead. How much does this matter? For 95% of the population 99% of the time, not a jot. It’s only when you’re performing complex tasks (our go-to example is video editing, because that takes a long time and pushes the processor to the limit) that you’d notice the difference.

Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 review: How well does it work as a tablet?

I was a little sceptical about using a 15in laptop as a tablet due to the incredibly obvious disadvantages compared to, say, an iPad:

  • It’s big – the chassis is 14 inches wide, for goodness sake
  • It’s heavy – 2kg to be precise
  • It runs Windows 10!

Now, to tackle Windows 10 first, it’s true that it will always fall behind iOS (the iPad’s operating system) for choice. The iPad is so successful that app makers target it first, especially when Apple makes it so easy to pay for things.

Windows 10 is getting better, especially for creative apps. For example, both Adobe and Affinity have released powerful tools designed for use on a Windows 10 tablet. Microsoft continues to make its operating system more pleasant to use as a tablet too.

However, I don’t want to over-egg the argument: I’d still rate Windows 10 as a 2/5, maybe 3/5, for tablet use, compared to 5/5 for an iPad.

Then we come to the size and weight. Is this a problem? If you intend to hold the XPS for any length of time, then yes. Really, though, this is a tablet to be rested on a table.

I started to really enjoy using it as a sketching tool, with the 15.6in screen acting as an easel – I rested my hand just behind the screen to stop it falling down, and this worked well.

It’s a shame, though, that there’s nowhere to stow the Active Pen should you decide to buy it. And that the premium one, which offers 4,096 levels of pressure, costs an extra £130.

Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 review: How nice is it to use as a laptop?

The Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 isn’t a machine I long to travel with. Although its battery life is excellent, lasting for over ten hours when I set a video running, the bulk I mentioned above is a distinct drawback.

I’d also be a little wary of annoying my fellow travellers as I typed, becuase this is a noisy keyboard. Clack clack clack will be your constant echo. I also wish Dell had added a bit more resistance to the keys: it doesn’t feel like you’re pressing against anything.

Where Dell compensates is the excellent screen, which I could happily stare at all day. It didn’t actually fly through our technical tests (for colour accuracy and gamut coverage) as well as I hoped, but films look superb and it’s more than bright enough too.

Note there are no old-style USB ports. Instead, Dell includes four USB-C ports, two of which support the excellent Thunderbolt 3 standard.

That’s a pain right now if you want to plug in a monitor or USB drive, but if you’re paying this much for a laptop then another £100 or so for a third-party Thunderbolt 3 docking station makes a lot of sense: it’s just one plug to remove when you need to head off on your travels.

Which Dell XPS 2-in-1 should I buy?

Core i5, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD, Radeon Vega, 1080p touchscreen

The lowest priced option is probably the best value. At £1,699, it’s fast enough (this is the model we tested) and we’re happy with a 1080p rather than 4K screen. After all, you need to pay for that Active Pen still…


Core i7, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD, Radeon Vega, 4K touchscreen

You have to pay an extra £500 for this model, but it has a much better specification – that 512GB SSD will be a big boon after a year or two’s use. Still good value at £2,199, which isn’t a phrase we write often.

Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 review: So should you buy it?

I have my criticisms, but there’s no doubt that this is a terrific convertible laptop. The best 15in 2-in-1 I’ve ever used, in fact. 

There’s also no doubt that the Dell XPS 15 is better value and more powerful, so really your decision comes down to one thing: will you take advantage of the around lid? If so, buy it.

Related: The cheaper 14in convertible that you might just prefer

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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