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Dell XPS 15 review

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Dell XPS 15
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Summary

Our Score:

9

Pros

  • Stylish design
  • Great CPU and GPU performance
  • Good battery life
  • Excellent screen

Cons

  • A little heavy
  • Could do with another ThunderBolt port
  • Noisy fans

Key Features

  • Quad-core, 2.8-3.8GHz Intel Core i7-7700HQ
  • 16GB DDR4 RAM
  • 4GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050
  • 15.6-inch 1,920 x 1,080 matte screen
  • 2 x USB 3.0, 1 x Thunderbolt 3.0 & USB-C 3.1 combo, 3.5mm headset jack, HDMI out
  • SD card reader
  • 802.11ac Wi-Fi
  • Model reviewed: 9560
  • 92wH battery (57wH in cheaper models)
  • Weight: 2kg
  • Manufacturer: Dell
  • Review Price: £1,599.00

What is the Dell XPS 15?

For the last couple of years, the Dell XPS 15 has been the standard-bearer for Windows 10 laptops. With powerful quad-core processors, dedicated graphics and a sub-£2,000 price, this is the machine that takes it to the top-end 15-inch MacBook Pros.

The latest model, the 9560, is perhaps the best yet. With the latest 7th-Gen Intel Kaby Lake processors, Nvidia’s power-efficient Pascal graphics architecture and that now-famous “InfinityEdge” display, this remains Trusted’s favourite Windows laptop.

WATCH: Dell XPS 15 squares off against the MacBook Pro and Razer Blade

Dell XPS 15 – Design and Build

The new XPS 15 9560 is pretty much identical to last year’s in terms of design. But that’s no bad thing and it’s still a great-looking machine, with an aluminium chassis, soft-touch carbon-fibre-composite palm rests and that wafer-thin screen bezel.

The bezel means you get a 15.6-inch screen in a 14-inch body – it even fits in a 13-inch laptop sleeve – so it’s much more portable and easy to use on trains and planes.

Related: Best laptops for all budgets

It’s still fairly hefty in terms of weight, tipping the scales at around 2kg if you go for the bigger 97Wh battery (which you should). Despite its svelte form factor, there’s still room for an impressive range of ports including two full-size USB 3.0 ports, a third USB 3.1 Type-C connector with ThunderBolt 3, a full-size HDMI 2.0 port, an SD card reader and a 3.5mm headset jack. You also get a locking port and a proprietary power port.

Dell XPS 15 3

The XPS 15 9560 is available with an optional fingerprint reader. It supports Windows Hello, so rather than typing in a password you can use your finger to log in. It’s a neat feature and works consistently and quickly.

There are two minor downsides to the design of the XPS 15. First is the carbon-fibre finish. While it undeniably looks great, it does highlight sweat patches when you have your wrists resting on it. The other is that while the XPS 15 is a quality piece of kit, it lacks the unibody design of the MacBook Pro and therefore feels substantially less solid.

Dell XPS 15 – Keyboard and Touchpad

You get a full-size, backlit, chiclet-style keyboard which offers 1.3mm of travel. The action is responsive and the keys are well-spaced. It lacks the sort of clacky feedback you’d get on a Macbook Pro, so it could come across as a little spongy. For me it’s definitely one of the best Windows laptop keyboards.

The precision trackpad is just as good – the smooth surface feels great under your fingers and I’ve got no complaints about tracking or responsiveness. It’s Microsoft Precision-certified as well, meaning it supports all the multi-finger gestures you can use in Windows 10 as well as having an instant and reliable response.

Dell XPS 15 2

I wrote this review on the XPS 15 and found both the keyboard and trackpad a joy to use. It isn’t as responsive or as completely hooked into the operating system as the touchpads found on the latest MacBook Pros, but it’s about as good as Windows touchpads get.

Dell XPS 15 – Screen

If you’re interested in buying the new XPS 15, the big decision you’ll have to make is whether you go for the Full HD or 4K touch display. The 4K panel is a glossy IGZO IPS touchscreen. On paper it’s a sharper, more vibrant and colour-accurate panel that photo and video editors will prefer.

At the same time, the 4K panel is very glossy and it has a big impact on battery life, dropping stamina from an average of 10 hours to about 6 hours.

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The Full HD version (which is also £200 cheaper) is a non-touch matte screen. I must admit it doesn’t look quite as vibrant, but still looks great and is surprisingly colour-accurate. It covers 99% of the sRGB and 77% of the Adobe RGB colour gamut.

It gets bright, too, producing 369 nits according to my measurements, so it’s easy to use outdoors. It’s a personal preference, but for me the Full HD panel is the better option – and if you’re a gamer, it means you won’t need to reduce the resolution to get a smooth, playable frame rate.

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With all of that said, if you edit photos and videos professionally, the 4K model will be much more suited to your needs. I hope to get my hands on one so I can appraise its colour-accuracy claims.

Dell XPS 15 – Webcam and audio

My two biggest gripes with the XPS 15 are with the webcam and speaker quality. The webcam is still located on the bottom portion of the bezel, which means it’s looking up your nose all the time. If you use the webcam regularly for video conferencing or Skype video calls, you might want to give this one a miss (or buy an external camera). This comes up in every Dell InfinityEdge laptop review, but the firm has still failed to address it, which is frustrating.

The speakers are another area that could use a little love. They’re by no means bad – in fact they’re reasonably good for a laptop and have a small amount of bass and stereo separation – but they pale in comparison with those found on all the MacBook Pros. At this price, it’d be nice to have slightly better speakers.

toffeefoofoo

February 16, 2017, 4:16 pm

'Apple has gone its own way in terms of specifications and price'..

Not sure what you mean by this - the implication is that Apple is in a different (better) league than Dell with these flagship laptops.

The new XPS 15 is far superior to Macbook Pro in terms of specifications: £2099.00 will buy you the top of the line XPS 15 with i7 Kaby lake, 1 TB SSD, 32 GB RAM and 4K touch enabled screen . A maxed out but still inferior specced Macbook Pro based on i7 Skylake, with 1 TB SSD, only 16 GB RAM and questionable touch bar will cost you £3329.00. The graphics cards are comparable - reviews I can find give Dell's GeForce GTX 1050 the nod over Apple's Radeon Pro 460.

So, notwithstanding the OS debate, that 50% price hike for the Macbook Pro gives you inferior specs. And the albeit beautiful unibody aluminium.. but that is it. Durability and longevity opinions for the Dell's carbon fibre and aluminium construction however are extremely positive after 24 months constant use.

Apple has gone its own way in terms of price.. agreed. But it has been completely left behind in terms of specs here.

I thought the Apple fanboys left TrustedReviews years ago?!

Gavin

February 19, 2017, 9:30 am

I was looking to buy either the DELL XPS 13 or DELL XPS 15 to run Hyper-V and spin up a few VM's for study purposes. A quick google search has a few complaints about the 9550 models having un-fixable screen flicker when running Hyper-V

Does anyone have any experience with the new DELL XPS 9560 models and running Hyper-V? are there any issues? or can I safely buy one knowning I can spin up my homelab?

tipoo2

March 5, 2017, 5:25 pm

We're calling 4.4 pound laptops "a little heavy" these days o_O ?
That's as much as my 2015 rMBP 15 weighs, and heck, it's what the pre-retina 13 inchers weighed. Now in a quad core laptop with a 1050. My every day college laptop was 6 pounds and I carried that 20 minute walks between bus stops.

High Velocity

March 6, 2017, 12:30 am

You sir are making an excellent point. I myself as a fan of apple products has chosen the dell because of it's near apple level quality and far superior value. After looking at the options for both the xps and macbook 15, it was a no brainer for me to get the XPS. I feel that the gtx 1050 though is far more powerful than the radeon pro 460. Even the gtx 960m was neck and neck with the radeon.

Alfred Zanini

March 6, 2017, 4:10 pm

I do think that being in another league does not always mean a better league....
Specwise, you cant really compare a dual-core to a quad-core so im guessing that that is what the author meant

Robert Poole

March 10, 2017, 6:34 am

What specific problems have you and your friend encountered?

mateman

March 10, 2017, 9:58 am

I bought the previous version of the Dell XPS 15 9550 when it was first released having read similar reviews about it's amazing specs. I had read user reviews about the version before the 9550 being terrible, but it seemed as though Dell had fixed errors in the updated XPS 15 9550 so I splashed out and bought the top of the range version of it. Unfortunately they had not and a year + on, I am stuck with a laptop that just does not work properly. To be fair Dell did send out a technician to try and fix the laptop but once I got talking to him he simply told me that the laptop was just poorly built and pointed out numerous build faults. When I told Dell this, they cut off all communication and now their customer service is all but unreachable. If you have a look at reviews for the 9550 you might notice that the website reviews are high but user reviews highlight issues and rate the average user rating is very low. I see the same story being repeated here with the 9650, brilliant specs and great initial reviews by websites. It will be interesting to see what the user reviews bring up after some time. I hope Dell has stepped up its game and made a good product for the sake of anyone that might have bought this, but I would not recommend it given my experiences

Tim Hinton

March 19, 2017, 10:12 pm

I've had 2 9350's and got a 9550, its been nothing but problems. They've "repaired" it 10-12 times. Its had 4 screen and its still wrong (flashing, flickering) as well as one lid fell apart, hinges broke, next one broke touch screen, next one the screen fell out. Constant wifi issues, 2 mother boards, 2 chassis's, lots of blue screens...... customer service has been nothing but a nightmare

HawthorneRidge

March 23, 2017, 6:57 pm

I think you should just do all your Hyper-V stuff in the cloud, no?

Gavin

March 23, 2017, 7:32 pm

I don't always have access to the internet, but still need to spin up some VM's to test/troubleshoot problems. So I kinda need a lightweight portable laptop that can meet these requirements, so cloud is not an option unfortunately.

eric

March 24, 2017, 7:36 am

if you run the 4K model at 1080p, how does that affect performance and battery life?

High Velocity

May 3, 2017, 6:01 am

It would actually last a little bit longer. But remember your are still pushing 4k pixels, its just that they are interpolated to fit into 1080p. The plus benefit you do get is that you gpu is pushing a lighter load. You are much better disabling touchscreen for battery life.

technor

May 9, 2017, 1:43 pm

I just purchased the Dell XPS 4K 2017 version last week. I am playing games on it now and the performance is excellent and am able to run many of the 2015 games at full res. But I am worried about the heat, the laptop becomes extremely hot and the performance seems to slightly degrade. I guess its due to the internal throttling kicking in to manage the heat. But would you have any advise on how long I can continue playing? Is it ok to continue to play, or should I be concerned.

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