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Dell XPS 15 – Performance and battery life

By Michael Passingham

Updated:

Awards

  • Recommended by TR

Summary

Our Score:

8

Dell XPS 15 – Performance

My review unit came equipped with an Intel Core i5-6300HQ processor paired with 8GB of DDR4 memory. It’s a quad-core chip running at a base clock speed of 2.3GHz, boosting up to 3.2GHz when thermal conditions allow.

This isn’t the most powerful processor available with the XPS 15, but it’s a decent choice if your workload isn’t going to involve a huge amount of high-end media rendering.

The Dell XPS 15 scored well in our various synthetic benchmarks, achieving 3,187 in the Geekbench single-core benchmark, which measures a PC’s performance in short tasks that don't require a huge amount of computing power.

In the multi-core test, its slightly slower clock speed and lack of Hyper-Threading meant it fell some way short of the similarly priced Asus N552VW, which features a Core i7-6600HQ. The Dell scored 9,703 while the Asus managed 13,168. Dell XPS 15 9

I’d expect the Core i7 version of the Dell XPS 15 to score significantly closer to the Asus, although with its thinner chassis and tighter cooling demands I don’t imagine it would beat it.

In the graphics department, the Dell is equipped with a custom Nvidia GeForce GTX 960M GPU, paired with 2GB of memory. In a larger laptop, this would be a force to be reckoned with. Here, however, it’s ever-so-slightly hamstrung. The Asus N552VW, which runs the same base chip, albeit with a different (and larger) cooler, scored consistently 10% to 25% better in the 3DMark Sky Diver and Cloud Gate benchmarks.

Playing XCOM 2, the numbers were similar. I recorded an average frame rate of between 24 and 27fps on the recommended High settings. Dropping to Medium settings yielded a decent improvement up to nearer 40fps. This isn't a dedicated gaming machine, but the presence of a decent graphics card means gaming is possible, as is 3D rendering and modelling.

Related: Best gaming laptop to buy in 2016

Dell XPS 15 – Camera and Microphone

Dell’s HD webcam is excellent. While it’s oddly placed, giving your video-chat partners a rather unflattering view of yourself, the quality of the video is great. The camera isn’t fooled by backlighting or low light, and therefore images suffer from minimum noise.

The microphones are good, if not great. They cancel office chatter and air conditioning well, but this does result in a slightly muffled overall sound. I'd recommend hooking up an external microphone if you’re going to be doing lots of chatting online.

Dell XPS 15 – Battery Life

Battery life is another area where the XPS 15 is slightly less competitive, but this can once again be put down to its svelte build. Dell reckons that the 56Wh battery will last for five hours. That claim appears to be accurate: working on documents and emails, I hit five hours before having to plug the system back into the mains.

Streaming from Netflix at half brightness, it consumed around 23% of its battery per hour. It’s a decent result when you consider this is a high-power laptop, and will easily make it through the brief periods you’re working on it away from your desk. It won’t match the likes of the 15-inch MacBook Pro, however, which squeezes a couple more hours of life from its cells.Dell XPS 15 1

Should I buy the Dell XPS 15?

Perhaps not this particular model, with its sluggish 5,400rpm hard disk. Instead, you should opt for one of the £1,149 machines, which comes equipped with a PCI Express-based SSD, or at the very least a model that also has a 32GB SSD cache. In return, system response, loading times and the general feel of Windows 10 will be far more sprightly.

You should also note that in terms of bang-for-buck, this machine isn't the best value laptop out there. Dell’s own Inspiron 15 is far cheaper with a similar specification, but it's heavier and a less desirable machine as a result. If build quality and portability are your primary concerns, though, the XPS 15 is a fantastic buy.

Verdict

It’s not cheap, but the XPS 15 looks great, feels fantastic and performs like a champion. Dell has produced the ultimate Windows 10 laptop. Apple should look over its shoulder.

Overall Score

8

dpanch_89

February 17, 2014, 4:04 pm

no numpad, no buy.

fast_call

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...

fast_call

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...

fast_call

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

dpanch_89

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.)

fast_call

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

Ithyn

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" ?

andyvan

February 18, 2014, 1:51 pm

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

Ithyn

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.

andyvan

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:

http://en.community.dell.com/s...

Jim Dawkins

May 27, 2014, 7:44 am

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

Lidingo1

March 25, 2016, 11:48 am

4G?

John

March 26, 2016, 6:50 am

Amazing laptop but really spoiled by the motion blur issue. Even if you're watching a football match and the camera pans suddenly, you get a loss of focus and blurring. Dell need to source a better panel pretty quickly otherwise they're going to ruin sales/reputation of what would otherwise be the best laptop out there.

Marcus Philpott

April 27, 2016, 4:25 pm

Never ever buy a dell. Their customer service is non existent, and their tech service is awful. Today is exactly 4 months since my XPS13 broke. Dell have done nothing about it. Truly unbelievably bad customer service and non existant technical service. Dell, you make me sick!!! Try googling 'never buy dell'. They are widely hated!

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