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Dell XPS 15: Performance, Heat & Noise and Battery Life

By Mike Jennings


Our Score


Review Price £1,779.00

Dell XPS 15: Performance

Like the Precision M3800, the XPS 15 includes an Intel Core i7-4702HQ processor. It’s one of Intel’s most potent mobile parts: four Hyper-Threaded cores clocked to 2.2GHz, a Turbo Boost peak speed of 3.2GHz, and the latest Haswell architecture. It’s the same chip Dell used in the Precision M3800, and it’s a little faster than the 2GHz part inside the cheaper MacBook Pro.

It’s no surprise that the XPS 15 battered benchmarks. Its PCMark 7 result of 5,764 is a sliver behind the Precision but still one of the best scores we’ve seen, and the XPS’s GeekBench pace of 11,422 is also one of the best around – even if the MacBook’s result of 13,517 currently tops our table.

The Nvidia GT 750M uses the same GK107 core as the Quadro K1100M inside the Precision M3800, but here the GPU runs at 967MHz with 2GB of GDDR5 clocked to 2,000MHz. The Quadro ran its core at 716MHz, with RAM at 1,400MHz. The GT 750M is also used in one of Apple’s cheaper MacBook Pro configurations, with an Intel Iris Pro 5200 GPU available in the model we reviewed.

The extra clock speed gave the XPS 15 a slightly advantage over its workstation stablemate. The XPS scored 10,791 in 3DMark’s Cloud Gate benchmark, better than the Precision’s 8,005 score, and the XPS’s pace of 2,024 in the trickier Fire Strike test bested the 1,294 from the M3800.

Surprisingly, the XPS even beat the MacBook, even though the systems share a GPU. The XPS 15 stormed through Unigine Heaven’s basic benchmark to a score of 41.8 when run at 1,366 x 768, beating the 30.3 from the MacBook. We ran Heaven’s Extreme test at 1,920 x 1,080, where the XPS scored 14.9, and the MacBook only managed 9.7.

There’s a sting in the MacBook’s tale, though, in the form of the Intel Iris 5200 Pro integrated GPU included in Apple’s cheaper model. The new GPU has been clocked with scores of 11,338 in 3DMark’ Cloud Gate test, which is a little faster than the GT 750M in this system could manage.

It’s also worth noting that cheaper laptops pack in better graphics performance, although they lose out elsewhere. The chunky Asus G750JX includes an Nvidia GTX 770M core, which helped it score 3,133 in the Fire Strike benchmark and 53.6 in the Basic, 1,366 x 768 Unigine test, and it costs £1,399.

The high-end hardware is underpinned by a monster SSD. The 512GB capacity of the Samsung unit results in 460GB of usable space, and its sequential read and write speeds of 518MB/sec and 420MB/sec are excellent. There’s no hard disk, though, so users with large media collections or work files will soon take up all of this space. The MacBook has 256GB and 512GB SSD options, but both use the PCI-E interface and are faster than the Dell’s drive.

Dell XPS 15: Heat and Noise

The XPS 15 suffers from the same issue that afflicted the Precision M3800, with hugely powerful components crammed inside a slimline enclosure.

The fans spun up when we ran demanding benchmarks, and we couldn’t help but notice the high-pitched whine – it’ll be drowned out by music or headphones, but we found it irritating when working in silence. Hot air is pumped out of the base of this machine, which could cause an overheated lap.

Stress-tests revealed that the 17mm-thick body of the XPS 15 is at its limit. The processor’s idle temperature of 52°C isn’t a great start, but running each thread at 100% saw the chip rocket to 97°C. That’s only three degrees short of the processor’s thermal limit, and we’re glad the few applications make use of every CPU thread in this way.

Dell XPS 15: Battery Life

Dell has fitted the XPS 15 with the same six-cell unit as the Precision M3800, so we didn’t have great expectations about this machine’s longevity.

The Dell lasted for 4hrs 32mins in our Powermark test, which is a mere 24mins longer than the M3800 could manage. It’s a reasonable result for a high-end machine but, as before, nothing can touch the MacBook. Thanks to its hefty battery and OS X’s fantastic efficiency, Apple’s hardware lasted for a mighty ten hours.

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February 17, 2014, 4:04 pm

no numpad, no buy.


February 17, 2014, 9:24 pm

"The GT 750M is also used in one of Apple’s cheaper MacBook Pro configurations" -- surely you mean "one of the more expensive configurations" ? The Iris 5200 is the entry level...


February 17, 2014, 9:25 pm

are you an accountant or why do you need the numpad so badly? :) there's nothing wrong with being an accountant but then maybe this is not the laptop for you to begin with...


February 17, 2014, 9:29 pm

shame about the battery life, but all in all, a great laptop, and finally something from Dell that I want.
I would have loved to see more about how the various Windows apps scale on that gorgeous screen. From what I read some of them play nice, respecting the DPI settings you set in Windows, while others look impossibly small, borderline unusable


February 17, 2014, 10:00 pm

Engineer. I do lots of CAD, finite element analysis and coding. (requires decent graphics and processing power). A numpad is a huge bonus when you have rows of numbers to type in. (and yes I know you can buy a USB numpad, but I prefer one on the keyboard to begin with.)


February 17, 2014, 10:32 pm

Okay that makes sense. I'm an engineer myself (software engineer) but I do mostly Java/Scala coding which doesn't really require a numpad. In fact for me NOT having a numpad is better because the main part of the keyboard is centered with respect to the laptop itself which makes typing more... natural.

One last thing, if you do CAD you would probably be better served by the Precision M3800 (because of the Quadro graphics card), though that model doesn't come with a numpad as far as I know


February 18, 2014, 1:46 pm

Any hint for a Windows alternative for those "hard-nosed creatives who demand better gamut coverage and colour quality for precision colour work" ?


February 18, 2014, 1:51 pm

Can't guarantee it, but what do you actually need? Are we talking 100% Adobe RGB?


February 18, 2014, 2:24 pm

Lightweight laptop with good processing power, SSD storage, dedicated GPU and a display good enough to do photo post-processing work without having to go through it again on my workstation. 93% sRGB coverage just isn't good enough. I don't think there is such a thing as a laptop with 100% AdobeRGB coverage, but what I'm looking for seems just as rare.


February 18, 2014, 3:01 pm

Your right on most counts. 93% sRGB is very good for a laptop, but as you say not good enough for many uses.

Brian O'Neill

February 18, 2014, 4:21 pm

I have a dell xps 12. Generally dell have improved a lot in recent years. The HD screen is weird, I have perfect eyesight but even I needed to set app scaling to the maximum to make it usable. Most apps do obey the windows scaling, the only issue I have so far is with viber desktop.

Taj Nahal

April 4, 2014, 4:11 pm

I actually recently bought the XPS 15, and I just wanted people to know that there is a high-pitched hissing/scratching sound that comes up from the processor chip. This has actually been shown to be on all the XPS 15 and Dell has basically refused to acknowledge this problem. For a more detailed account, please feel free to refer to this forum on the Dell website:


Jim Dawkins

May 27, 2014, 7:44 am

Unless you play games Id rather get a good latitiude without the heat issues.

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