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The XPS 15 (Check on Amazon.com) offers the same appealing design with a mix of aluminum and carbon fiber that debuted with the XPS 13 but also features a large 15.6-inch screen and an optional dedicated Nvidia GeForce GTX 960M graphics card.
To understand the pros and cons of the various configurations (including the UHD touch screen) we have reviewed two of them: a convenient one with a Core-i7, a 1920×1080 pixel non-touch screen and Nvidia GeForce GTX 960M graphics, and one with the UHD touch display. The first one is especially suitable for productivity, the second is a dream device for graphic design and similar. The choice is up to you.
The XPS 15 borrows its high-level design from the XPS 13 and adapts it to a larger product, trying to contain its width and weight. Both in looks and feeling, the XPS 15 stands out when compared to any other 15-inch high-end laptop on the market, including the Mac Pro. The lid and the base’s lining are made of brushed aluminum, while the top of the base is made out of carbon fiber coated with a velvety finish to the touch.
The thickness increases slightly towards the cover hinges, providing enough space to accommodate three USB 3.0 connectors (one of which is a Type-C with Thunderbolt 3 support), an HDMI video output, an SD card reader and the audio jack.
Dell took advantage of the extra space inside the base to accommodate the optional Nvidia GTX 960M.
To understand the success of this product’s design, you just have to compare it with some of its top competitors, including the 15’’ MacBook Pro, the Asus ZenBook Pro UX501 and the Toshiba Satellite Radius P55. With dimensions of 35.7×23.54×1.67cm (14×9.2×0.65 inches) in the thickest part of the base and a weight of 1.99 kilos (4.38 pounds), the XPS 15 is thinner and lighter of them all.
Keyboard and touchpad
The XPS 15 has a large back lit keyboard but the travel distance is just 1.39mm (0.05in). However, it makes up with an actuation force of about 60grams (0.13lb). In the 10fastfingers.com test I typed 85 words per minute, which is higher than my typical average of 75 – 80 words per minute.
Another way Dell took advantage of the abundant size of the XPS 15 is the increase of the usable surface of the touchpad, which now measures 10.1×7.62cm (4x3in). The result is that there is plenty of room to get around; it is easy to navigate from one side of the screen to the other and the tactile response feels great. The clickable area to get left and right clicks is snappy and there are no problems with the multitouch gestures.
The only disadvantage of the XPS 15 is the same of the 13-inch model: the super-thin frame of the screen doesn’t allow for the webcam to be set at the top and in the middle of the frame, so it has to be placed on the bottom left. The result is that when you make a video call the camera points at the lower part of your chin, instead of your eyes.
Luckily the 720p webcam shoots decent photos even in bad light conditions.
The 15.6-inch UHD screen is a spectacle to watch, but is not flawless. The positive aspect is the sRGB coverage of 191,4 percent (131,9 percent of the Adobe RGB), which is one of the highest we’ve ever seen. In addition, a 3840×2160 pixel resolution makes it possible to watch 4K videos in their native resolution without the need for an external monitor.
However, even using the Premier Color software that comes preinstalled, it is difficult to achieve a neutral color balance. In other words, photos and videos have oversaturated colors that no matter the settings none has fixed the problem. For many this will not be a problem, but you cannot ignore the fact that a system like the XPS 15 UHD could also be an attractive device for photo and video editing professionals, and from what we’ve seen so far you can’t be certain of the colors that you see on the screen.
If you are looking for a laptop for general use or want to save money, you can opt for the 1080p non-touch screen version. In this case, the color gamut is more narrow (71,9%), but the brightness is better and that improves legibility, especially on white background pages.
In both versions the screen offers a good brightness: 285 nits for the UHD and 382,2 nits for the 1080p. Another common denominator is the very low margin of error: with the UHD screen we measured a Delta-E of 0.7, while with that 1080p one the value was 0.51 (with zero being the best).
Depending on the activity, the autonomy of the XPS 15 varies from quite good to excellent. With our Wi-Fi web-based test conducted with a screen brightness set at 100 nits, the UHD lasted for 6 hours and 35 minutes, while the 1080p 4 hours more.
The most pricey version of the XPS 15 we’ve tested was equipped with a 6th Gen Intel® Core i7/6700HQ Processor, alongside 16GB of RAM, an NVme 512GB SSD and a Nvidia GeForce GTX 960M. The other device was the same but for the 1080p non-touch screen.
With the Geekbench 3 benchmark, which measures the overall performance of the device, we reached 13,502 points. The only rival to do better was the Mac Book Pro (with the Intel® Core i7, 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD), which scored 14,423 points due to the higher speed of the data storage. The ASUS UX501 and the Toshiba P55 were both slagging behind, with a total of 11,888 and 6,053 points respectively.
Regarding storage speed we scored a file transfer rate of 254MBps with the UHD model, which is much less than the 636MBps of the MacBook Pro and a lot behind the 508MBps of the ASUS UX501. The Toshiba P55 arrived dead last with a transfer rate of 212MBps.
If you opt for the model with the integrated Nvidia GeForce GTX 960M GPU, with 2GB of video memory, you can quickly edit photos and videos, and you’ll also be able to play some games, albeit at a resolution of 1920×1080 pixel.
The XPS 15 scored 3,949 points in the 3D Mark Fire Strike test. A little better than the Asus UX501 which has the same GPU but stopped at 3,854 points. The P55, which has only integrated graphics, scored just 673 points.
We recorded 95 frames per second while playing World of Warcraft at max settings and 1920×1080 resolution (the MacBook Air reached 22FPS). Finally, when we tried playing Bioshock: Infinite the framerate was playable at 33 FPS at high settings, (the Asus reached 41 FPS).
The XPS 15 is being shipped with the Windows 10 operating system and an acceptable suite of third-party software. You can find McAfee LiveSafe and Candy Crush, along with productivity solutions like Dropbox and Microsoft Office – nothing too intrusive or too long to uninstall.
The XPS 15 (Check on Amazon.com) is a high-end 15-inch laptop that can be of great value to a large range of people. If you’re always on the move, you’ll appreciate the 10-hour battery life of the 1080p version and the solid and beautiful chassis. If you can pay more and you are willing to give up 4 hours of extra autonomy you can consider buying the UHD screen version.
If you don’t need Windows, a Mac Pro with a more precise color display can be an option to consider for graphics professionals. However, if what you want is the best 15-inch Windows notebook, the XPS 15 should be at the top of your wish list.