- Excellent connectivity
- Highly Configurable
- Full HD LED-Backlit screen option
- Keyboard feels cheap
Review Price £648.99
Dell XPS 15
We were quite impressed with Dell's 17.3in refresh of its high-end consumer XPS line, the logically-named Dell XPS 17. Now it's time to check out its little brother, the 15.6in XPS 15. Sporting an identical design, specifications take a step back – but then so does the price, and as ever with Dell, this XPS is quite customisable. In addition to its rather fetching design, it also retains the extensive connectivity and 2.1 JBL speaker system that impressed with its larger sibling. With all this goodness presented in a more portable package, is this the ideal 'everyman' laptop?
Our sample (L501X) retains the same 2.5GHz Intel Core i5 460M CPU as the XPS 17 we tested. Naturally this is a bit underpowered compared to the all-conquering might of Intel's new Sandy Bridge processors, as found in the MSI GT680. But it's important to remember that for the vast majority of users, it still offers more than enough power to last the laptop's lifetime.
It's supported by the usual 4GB of DDR3 memory (upgradeable to 8GB), a generous and fast 7,200rpm, 500GB hard drive and switchable graphics (for saving battery or boosting performance depending on what you're doing) courtesy of Nvidia's Optimus technology. Here we have a GeForce GT420M rather than the slightly faster 435M found on the XPS 17, and unfortunately this is one of the few options you can't upgrade independently. Instead you must opt for a base model XPS 15 that features a Core i7 CPU and 640GB HDD, which will set you back £779.
On the other hand, even the cheapest XPS 15 offers a significant potential advantage over the larger 17 range. Remember that beautiful, Full HD, RGB-LED backlit display on the Dell Studio XPS 16? It offered significantly better colours, backlighting consistency, contrast and viewing angles than the average laptop screen, and now that option is back on the XPS 15, allowing you to upgrade the standard, 1,366 x 768, 15.6in display for £170. It's a bit odd that the smaller XPS model allows you to have a higher screen resolution when the 17in model doesn't, but we're certainly not complaining about having the option.
For optical duties there's a DVD-Rewriter, though you can change this to a Blu-ray drive for a somewhat hefty £90. On the wireless front, Wi-Fi N is included by default but Bluetooth is an expensive £30 upgrade. On the other hand, mobile broadband is a much more reasonable £50 upgrade. The 2 megapixel webcam will do 720p at 30fps.
Design-wise we have no complaints regarding the XPS 15. Like its bigger sibling before it, it impresses with an anodised aluminium lid and brushed black metal keyboard surround. Though the latter does occasionally show up fingerprints and palm marks, it's not to the same extent as glossy plastic and is far easier to maintain.
Combined with a streamlined, minimalist aesthetic and subtle white backlighting touches, the XPS 15 is a very attractive choice. It's certainly bulkier than Dell's previous Studio line, but it also feels far more solid, and overall build quality is very good. If you're not overly fond of the 'plain' aluminium lid, you can also spruce things up with Dell Design Studio, which lets you apply any one of 149 different 'art' finishes and patterns to the lid for £69.
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