You get the option of either an Intel Core i5-7300HQ or i7-7700HQ – there’s also a Core i3 version available in the US. They’re all the latest quad-core 7th-gen Kaby Lake chips. You also get 8, 16 or 32GB of DDR4 memory running at 2,400MHz and every model (bar the i3 in the States) comes with the new desktop-class Nvidia GTX 1050 graphics card with 4GB of GDDR5 memory.
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As for storage, I’d avoid the entry-level model that uses a traditional hard drive and SSD combo (Trusted docked last year’s model half a star for its slow hard disk), and go for any of the other models that have much faster 256GB, 512GB or 1TB PCIe SSDs.
Processing performance is, as you’d expect, extremely competitive. It beat the Razer Blade, MacBook Pro and Gigabyte Aero 14 in the GeekBench 4 single- and multi-threaded benchmarks with scores of 4,327 and 13,259 respectively. This isn’t surprising, since all three of those review models were running older-spec i7-6700HQ processors at the time of review. Still, this is an exceptionally capable video- and photo-editing machine.
It can game, too. In Rise of the Tomb Raider at 1080p and with the High settings preset, the new XPS 15 scored an average of 43fps in the built-in benchmark. That’s a solid, playable frame rate from quite a demanding game at 1080p, but I’d still lower a couple of settings to boost the frame rate up to 50 or 60fps.
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In Fallout 4, again with High settings at 1080p, the XPS achieved a very impressive 55fps average, maintaining a smooth frame rate even in hectic firefights.
Finally in the GTA 5 benchmark, the XPS 15 averaged 101fps at Full HD and High settings. But looking at benchmarks isn’t any fun, so I loaded up GTA Online and at the same settings, including having FXAA turned on, I was getting a smooth 60-70fps consistently.
While the GTX 1050 in the XPS 15 may not compete with dedicated gaming notebooks sporting the significantly more powerful 6GB GTX 1060 – such as the Razer Blade and Gigabyte Aero 14 – I was still very impressed by the gaming performance on the XPS 15.
Compared to last year’s model sporting a 960M, the GTX 1050 is on average 35% faster in most benchmarks – a decent step up. Combined with the new Kaby Lake chips which are around 10% faster, you’re looking at a decent upgrade, especially if you’re running demanding programs or games.
One issue I do have with the XPS 15, though, is fan noise. For the most part it’s dead silent, even when browsing the web or watching videos, but when you’re playing games the fan starts whirring away and becomes quite loud – to the point where you’ll probably want to plug in a pair of headphones.
The upside of this is that it remains impressively cool – even when I was running benchmarks, the laptop never heated beyond 44 degrees externally. Inside, the CPU maxed out at 70 degrees, which is well within safe limits.
The new XPS 15 comes with either a 56Wh or 97Wh battery, depending on the spec you go for. On my review model packing the larger battery, a 1-hour Netflix movie at 50% brightness and with the power-saving mode on only dropped the battery by 14%. You can expect to get around 7 hours of video playback on the XPS 15, which is very good.
In our very easy Powermark benchmark run, it managed over 11 hours, which is a testament to that large battery.
Naturally if you’re playing games or doing some serious video editing you should have it plugged in to get the best performance. With general use including web browsing, watching YouTube videos and catching up with office work, I found I’d get an impressive 9 hours of life, which is around 2 hours more than I got with last year’s model.
Opting for the 4K version will have a big impact on the battery, as the screen is pushing four times as many pixels. Last year's 4K model I tested ran out of juice after 4-5 hours, so I would expect the higher-end model to last for a solid six hours.
The Dell XPS 15 is well worth buying, although the spec I’m testing here is what I’d consider the sweet spot for value and performance – you can add the 4K screen for £200 more.
Compared to the Gigabyte Aero 14, which costs £100 more for a beefier specification, the choice is clear if you want a gaming machine. However, if you want a brilliant all-rounder, with great build quality, long battery life and variety of configuration options, the Dell XPS 15 is the Windows laptop for you.
It’s barely in the same class as the 15-inch MacBook Pro any more. Apple has gone its own way in terms of specifications and price, but for most people the Dell XPS 15 is better value. Only the pleasures of MacOS might tempt me away.
No other laptop right now comes close to offering the all-round experience of the XPS 15. It’s expensive and has a few minor flaws, but it’s absolutely worth the money.
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