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Dell XPS 15z review

Ardjuna Seghers

By

Reviewed:

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Dell XPS 15z
  • Dell XPS 15z
  • Dell XPS 15z
  • Dell XPS 15z
  • Dell XPS 15z
  • Dell XPS 15z
  • Dell XPS 15z
  • Dell XPS 15z
  • Dell XPS 15z
  • Dell XPS 15z
  • Dell XPS 15z
  • Dell XPS 15z
  • Dell XPS 15z
  • Dell XPS 15z
  • Dell XPS 15z
  • Dell XPS 15z
  • Dell XPS 15z
  • Dell XPS 15z
  • Dell XPS 15z
  • Dell XPS 15z
  • Dell XPS 15z
  • Dell XPS 15z

Summary

Our Score:

8

Pros

  • All-metal, semi-unibody chassis
  • Streamlined, less than 1in thick
  • Excellent build quality and great feel
  • Optional 1080p screen
  • Powerful, well-rounded specification

Cons

  • No Blu-ray drive
  • Noisy under load
  • Not user upgradeable
  • Non-replaceable battery

Key Features

  • Less than one inch thick
  • Unibody aluminium exterior
  • 15.4in, 1366 x 768 or 1920 x 1080 glossy screen
  • Core i5-i7 CPU, 4-8GB RAM, 500-750GB HDD, GeForce GT 525M
  • eSATA, USB 3.0, Bluetooth 3.0
  • Manufacturer: Dell
  • Review Price: £1,199.00

If you like ultra-slim, aluminium laptops and are looking for something with a little more screen real estate than your average ultraportable, Dell's new XPS 15z might well be the one for you. With highlights like a anodised aluminium outer unibody shell, magnesium palm rests, optional Full HD screen and Core i7 under the hood, this is one impressive candidate – yet it's still less than an inch thick!

Dell claims its latest baby is one of the thinnest laptops 15.4in laptops in the world, and with the exception of the 15in MacBook Pro, we don't know of one that's thinner – certainly not one sporting heavy-duty specifications and an all-metal chassis. Considering these factors, the 15z is quite light, at a mere 2.54kg.

It looks very stylish, as the company has kept its lines clean and simple, with no patterns a la the HP tm2 to distract the eye. As with the older Dell XPS 15, the base protrudes a little at the rear. Like the hinge (which looks somewhat like a piece of metal shower hose) it will probably divide opinions, but we like the effect.

For the inner keyboard surround and bezel, Dell has used gunmetal grey magnesium. It's a slightly softer and warmer metal than aluminium, which makes typing more pleasant. The two materials are separated by chrome trim which runs around the edge. Overall, with its white backlighting, minimalist aesthetics and subtle ports, this is one attractive laptop.

Dell XPS 15z 4

In line with the rugged, premium materials used and the milled outer chassis, build quality is superb. Nowhere was there any sign of poor design or construction, and as far as feel goes, you're certainly getting you money's worth, with faultless solidity throughout. It's also worth noting that the only part that suffers from fingerprints is the screen.

In general use the 15z stayed really quiet, though its fans make quite a racket when it's under heavy load. At its worst it's significantly noisier than, for example, Dell's XPS 15, but we guess that's the price of thinness in this case. Dell XPS 15z 1

Like its design, connectivity is another area where the 15z excels. For video we have both mini DisplayPort and HDMI 1.4, the latter of which will allow you to output 3D to a compatible external display. Here you'll also find a combined USB2/eSATA port, twin USB 3.0 ports, and an SDHC/XC card slot. Again somewhat reminiscent of Apple, there's also a button that activates a classy battery indicator, which shows how much charge is left using five white LEDs.

At the back we have a lone Gigabit Ethernet port, while wireless duties are handled by Bluetooth 3 and Wi-Fi N. The laptop's right side houses headphone and microphone jacks, and the attractive slot-loading DVD rewriter. Unfortunately, Dell also appears to follow Apple's lead in not offering a Blu-ray drive, which is even more confounding when you consider that the XPS 15z gives you a Full HD screen and discrete graphics. We just hope this will soon be an option on this model.

CptKirk

June 11, 2011, 6:06 am

I stopped reading after checking how thick the 15.4in MacBook Pro is. Turns out it is 2.41 cm --> 24.1mm which is thinner than this 'thinnest 15.4in laptop in the world' at 24.6mm.

Sort it out.

aeonturnip

June 12, 2011, 10:20 pm

@CptKirk
In fairness, Dell used to advertise this as the thinnest 15.4" laptop, but they've now changed their marketing to say "one of the thinnest". I suspect Ardjuna was going on the original press release.

Gk.pm

June 13, 2011, 3:48 pm

That's fine CptKirk, today's journalists can't really find out any facts. Not even on a site calling itself Trusted.

The FCC as even just given this phenomenon a name, it's the "hamsterization" of media. So - as long as they don't tar their advertisers - it's all perfectly fine.

http://arstechnica.com/web/news/2011/06/has-the-internet-hamsterized-journalism.ars

TechVegan

June 13, 2011, 9:19 pm

@CptKirk:
Well-spotted and sorry about the error, but that was really reason enough to stop reading?

@aeonturnip:
I wasn't going bythe press release, actually, I confirmed this info with Dell representatives at the show, where I was still told it was "the thinnest of its size in the world". I have requested more information regarding this apparent error...

@Gk.pm:
Yes, thanks, Gk.pm. I should of course have spent hours checking the dimensions of every single other 15.4in laptop out there rather than trust what I took to be confirmed facts and attempt to bring you this preview as soon as possible.

As for your equally helpful comment of not tarring advertisers, we would not have pointed out the sub-par keyboard were that the case.

TechVegan

June 13, 2011, 9:54 pm

@All:
I've just confirmed with a Dell official what led to this misunderstanding. The XPS 15z is posited as "the thinnest *PC* laptop in the world" (a distinction that wasn't mentioned by the reps I spoke to at the event).

While technically Macs should be considered Personal Computers (PCs) too, in general usage people tend to use "PC vs. Mac" to differentiate between Apple machines and those from other manufacturers, so in that regard Dell could be said to be correct. In summary then, it's the "thinnest Windows PC 15.4in laptop" you can get.

I've amended the article to reflect this, and do apologise for the initial faulty info.

Gk.pm

June 14, 2011, 2:24 am

@Ardjuna

Sorry but it's not that hard, there's not that many companies making thin laptops, maybe 3 at most, and you could start with the one this tries to emulate. It would have taken you 5 minutes to confirm such bold claim - which seems to be a major selling point in the article.

By the way the error is still there in several places:

"TrustedReviews says...
The thinnest 15.4in laptop in the world is a real looker, housed in a beautiful aluminium unibody exterior and magnesium alloy keyboard surround. "

So the article has not been amended. I guess the easiest solution would be to just change the intro to "TrustedPressReleases says..." ?

Sorry if I seem to pick especially on you, it's just that the whole media seems to get worse and worse by the day. "Facts" these days seem to come direct from companies' PR, if not random tweets by fly-by-night "insiders".

I do make sure to write to everyone I come across, in what may be a deluded attempt to fix what I perceive as a problem.

TechVegan

June 14, 2011, 2:18 pm

@Gk.pm:
There are more than you would think. Still, if this had been a full review rather than a hands-on preview I would have checked what the exact thickness difference with any potential or actual rivals was.

No, the article was fully amended (including 'TrustedReviews says') before I made my comment, but unfortunately there's a cache which only gets refreshed at set periods (which can be up to several hours). As to "TrustedPressReleases" - it's a hands-on review, I didn't even have the press release to hand when writing it up...

I do understand what you mean, and I do always attempt to check my facts even when not writing a full review (as with the http://www.trustedreviews.com/lenovo-thinkpad-x1_Laptop_review X1 preview where Lenovo underplayed the fact that it tapered to quite a thick rear). But while we appreciate critical feedback, there is no need to do it in quite so disparaging a manner.

Thanks for reading and commenting all the same.

Gk.pm

June 14, 2011, 8:16 pm

@Arjuna Thanks for replying Arjuna and clearing up the cache delay issue.

I'm very glad to know you do look more closely into your main articles.

Apologies for the disparaging-ness of my comments, it's just that TR has been regularly afflicted by mistakes in past reviews (often worse than this thickness issue) so my tolerance level for TR as a whole was already a bit low.

Truth be told I don't remember noticing any other problems in your articles, so should have taken that into account.

TechVegan

June 15, 2011, 4:39 pm

@Gk.pm:
No worries, thanks for your reply to my reply :)
I do understand your frustration with cases of mindless press-release rehash, as it's something I personally abhor too (at least when it's disguised as a preview).

I appreciate your comment, and I'm glad to hear you haven't encountered inaccuracies in my other articles/reviews. I'll endeavour to make this a once-off.

Nav Garayal

July 1, 2011, 3:11 pm

Dear TR, I am really confused by the consistency of your reviews. Several references are made to the Macbook Pro 15 during your review. I have checked the Macbook Pro review and you gave the machine 8 for value even though the price as reviewed was nearing £1900. The Dell machine is given a lower value score even though it is £700 cheaper. You also criticise the Dell machine for not having a bluray drive but you do not criticise the Macbook.

TechVegan

July 1, 2011, 4:00 pm

Nav Garayal:
Thanks for the feedback, and I agree with your points - as I mention in the final paragraphs of my review, the XPS 15z is far better value than the MacBook Pro. In fact, to further emphasize this point, its value score is brought up to an eight.

However, regarding the scoring difference, when it came out the MacBook Pro had no real rivals, hence why it scored so highly. That would obviously be different now.

If it hadn't been for its average keyboard and noisiness under load, the XPS 15z would definitely have won a recommended award. These, along with battery life, are still aspects where Apple's product is superior.

ThaDon

July 2, 2011, 12:35 am

AND the small but DEAL-BREAKING matter of Apple's 15" Macbook Pros having QUAD-CORE i7s where the Dell tops out with last generation DUAL-CORE i7s..

tut tut tut lol - this computer is not quite yet in the same league as the mac methinks...

ThaDon

July 2, 2011, 12:38 am

and what about the Mac's Quad-core i7 vs the Dell's Dual?

Castalan

July 2, 2011, 11:28 am

It makes me smile every time ... TR does a piece comparing something to a Mac, and the whole world jumps down their throat...

A new twist to this one though is TR rated it less highly .... and still they get a kicking

Guys - it's just a laptop....

Ardjuna - for what it's worth I liked the review and thought it was a nicely presented case, well written detailing both the good and the bad of the machine

MikeJK

July 2, 2011, 2:00 pm

Whilst i agree that sometimes these reviews can be misleading/inaccurate etc, and not just this site, you have to remember that you pay nothing for this!
If you bought this review as a subscription then fair enough complain, otherwise stop nit-picking.

Den

July 2, 2011, 8:49 pm

@ TheDon

You may want to check your facts. The Dell comes with the latest generations of Intel CPU's (Unless Apple filters your internet content for you).

Here are the CPU's available:

2nd Generation Intel® Core™ i5-2410M 2.3GHz, 4Threads, 3MB cache)

2nd Generation Intel® Core™ i5-2410M 2.3GHz, 4Threads, 3MB cache)

2nd Generation Intel® Core™ i7-2620M 2.7GHz, 4Threads, 4MB cache)

aeonturnip

July 3, 2011, 10:23 pm

@Den

You might want to check YOUR facts before correcting someone else's. It does come with the latest generation of Intel CPU (which TheDon didn't question...) but the CPUs are indeed only dual core - remember that each core can support two threads via Hyperthreading. The quad core i7 in the MacBook Pro can consequently support 8 threads.

Pbryanw

July 3, 2011, 11:49 pm

I think the disparity in scores can be explained by the different authors too, and ultimately parts of a review are down to personal opinion. I see the last Macbook Pro review was done by Hugo (who no longer writes for this site it seems). I think if Ardjuna had reviewed it, it might have scored differently (even considering its lack of rivals when released).

Anyway I'm not quibbling, as I find Ardjuna's reviews to be consistently interesting to read and accurate (and some of the best on this site).

TechVegan

July 4, 2011, 2:37 pm

@ThaDon:
Hardly DEAL-BREAKING. A valid point, but for most people and most tasks, a dual-core Core i7 is more than sufficient. And just look at the price difference!

@Castalan:
Thanks, glad you liked the review!

@Pbryanw:
Wow, thanks for your kind comment - made my day :)
I'll do my best to continue bringing our readers detailed and balanced reviews.

Keithe6e

July 4, 2011, 9:59 pm

Oops, the classic mistake.. A Thread is NOT a CORE.

Keithe6e

July 8, 2011, 3:06 pm

>> but for most people and most tasks

For most people even an Atom CPU does the job. But when going the high end CPU's, the difference between a Quad & a Dual is highly relevant.

ChickPea

July 8, 2011, 10:14 pm

I had a previous version of the XPS - and this one has the same problem: with all the acres of space around the keyboard, why do Dell not fit a full 104-key unit, with numeric pad? For about 500 quid less than this, I have an HP with a full keyboard, 17" screen, core i7, 8GB RAM, 640GB drive, blu-ray, and Win7 Ultimate. It's not quite as pretty, but it's a far better spec machine. The Dell wins only on screen res and nice mag finish.

ChickPea

July 8, 2011, 10:17 pm

@aeonturnip:

My core i7 machine shows 8 threads in task manager; it's a quad-core 64-bit. And no, it's not a macBook, it's an HP Pavilion.

ChickPea

July 8, 2011, 10:18 pm

@Ardjuna:

I reckon it's not the thinnest PC laptop. My Nokia 3G is thinner.

BlankMcFrank

August 24, 2011, 8:52 am

As as pround owner of both the 15z and the Macbook, I'll give you the quick and dirty synopsis.. If this makes any difference, I work in Marketing for a large IT services company, and I am more than technical.

As nice as ithe 15z is (if you're going to obviously compare to a Mac) it doesn't come close. The screen is nice and feels like it's the most expensive item of the product. When you're typing on the keyboard it feels like you're going to put your fingers through the machine - it feels cheap compared to the sturdiness of the Mac.

It DOES NOT run Win7 like the Mac runs OSX (I nuked mine, put on Ultimate 64, and started from fresh a fresh install.

Mac wins hands down, on design, build and (of course) should do for the extra expense...

That's all it comes down to. How much do you want to invest..

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