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.
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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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.