Dell XPS 15 review 2017: Is Dell’s portable powerhouse still the perfect Windows 10 laptop?
Dell is renowned for its respectable XPS range, so much so we rate the range extremely highly on our best laptop page, and at this year’s CES, the Texas-based firm showed off the latest variations.
The Dell XPS 13 has a 13.3in screen, with the option of a full 4K display (3,840 x 2,160) instead of the QHD+ (3,200 x 1,800) screen on the previous model. Meanwhile, its new Dell XPS 15 is, as the name suggests, a 15in 2-in-1 powerhouse. Due to go on sale in Spring 2018, with a price starting at $1,299, it’s a worthwhile, if expensive device that might just be worth the wait.
Alternatively, if you’re looking for a Dell XPS 15 now, the 2017 is decent and still holds it own. Below you can read our full Dell XPS 15 2017 review, but be warned, there is a chance it will drop in price when the new model goes on sale so it might still be worth holding on for.
Original review continues below
Dell has hit a rich seam of form in recent years. Now, it’s taken the elegant carbon-fibre and metal design of the XPS 13 and again scaled it up to bring the company’s stylish 15in laptop, the Dell XPS 15, into 2017. Throw in the latest quad-core Kaby Lake processors, Nvidia’s gaming-class graphics and the option of some blazingly quick NVMe SSDs, and the Dell XPS 15 is ready and raring to do serious damage to credit cards across the globe.
Dell XPS 15 review: Design
If you’ve seen the XPS 13, then you know exactly what to expect here. Over the years, Dell has worked hard behind the scenes to refine the design of its XPS models, and the result is some of the finest Windows devices the world has ever seen.
Squared-off slabs of cool-to-the-touch metal sandwich a thin wedge of carbon fibre; long rubber feet poke through the underside; and the clean, crisp design is all straight-line geometry and subtle curves. Suffice to say, the XPS 15 is a handsome devil – I’d be tempted to say even more so than Apple’s current 15in MacBook Pro. There’s something about the visible weave of the carbon fibre and the fine sheen of the metal that make for a high-end yet understated appearance.
Tilt back the lid, and there are barely a few millimetres of bezel framing the Dell’s 15.6in display. This looks great (I’m a big fan of teeny, tiny bezels), but it also means the Dell XPS 15 is smaller than laptops with similarly sized displays
It’s a couple of millimetres thinner and narrower even than the equivalent MacBook Pro, and a more significant 12mm less deep; if you want a larger laptop with the smallest possible footprint, then the XPS 15 emphatically ticks that box. It’s not too heavy, either, at 2kg on its own, and 2.34kg with the charger in the bag.
What’s most impressive, though, is that Dell has made a beautiful-looking laptop without compromising on the essentials. The backlit keyboard provides just enough key travel and feedback to make for comfortable typing, with no cramped cursor keys or layout issues to sour the deal, and the touchscreen above feels superbly responsive, with a layer of Gorilla Glass 3 providing a smooth, silky feel for prods and gestures.
Even the buttonless touchpad, often a weak point for Windows devices, is good, and I found myself acclimatising to its solid clicks and range of multi-finger gestures with little in the way of annoyances and frustrations.
Dell XPS 15 review: Features and connectivity
As ever, though, it’s connectivity that finds itself sacrificed at the altar of slimline loveliness. Dell has equipped the XPS 15 with a pair of USB 3 ports, a USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C port (which also doubles as a 40Gbits/sec Thunderbolt 3 connection), an SD card reader, a 3.5mm headset jack, and an HDMI 1.4 port.
This roster of ports might be ample for a 13in Ultrabook, but it does seem a touch stingy here. I’d want at least another USB 3 port, maybe even a couple of USB Type-C ports for good measure. But, while Dell has also dumped Ethernet by the wayside, there is at least a glimmer of sense in its decision to employ a blazingly quick 3×3-stream Broadcom 802.11ac Wi-Fi adapter.
What this means is that, with the right router, you’ll be able to connect at link speeds of up to 1,300Mbits/sec, which is fast by any measure. In slightly less exciting news, Bluetooth 4.1 is also supported.
There’s not much else to get excited about. The presence of Dell’s one-touch battery meter is welcome – press a button, and five LEDs light up to indicate remaining capacity – but I’m not sure anyone will get excited about the 720p webcam. It’s alright, and for most people fairly irrelevant, but I do wish manufacturers would pony up for decent image sensors on high-end laptops.
Still, I guess I should take solace in the fact that the XPS 15 at least has a decent set of speakers hidden away inside. Crank them up and switch the Waves MaxxAudio Pro app to its Music setting (the default MaxxSense mode tends to distort a little too much for my taste), and the result is better audio quality with music, movie and game soundtracks than most laptops I’ve encountered.