For professionals who are seeking a high-specification lightweight laptop to get things accomplished, the new Dell XPS 15 laptop may be just what the doctor ordered!
What are my first impressions?
My overall opinion of the laptop is a positive one, in fact, it’s been quite hard to find any fault with this particular model! My thoughts on the design, performance and pros & cons of ownership are outlined below.
When opening the laptop for the first time, the first thing that I noticed was the screen bezel, or rather the lack of one! The InfinityEdge display is virtually borderless, with a the bezel measuring in at a very modest 0.224 inches, which is 59% thinner than the MacBook Pro with Retina display.
The chassis is slim and feels extremely lightweight for a 15″ laptop. The laptop is very easy on the eye, with an attractive brushed aluminium appearance that is standard issue for many premium laptops nowadays, but good looking none the less.
Like the MacBook Pro, the XPS 15 chassis is cut from a single block of aluminium. Geek alert – the chassis is made with CNC (Computer Numeral Control) machining technology. This is I quote “a highly-automated manufacturing process that’s guided by human intervention at the beginning and end for improved precision and durability” Well that’s what it said on the internet so it must be true!
When you open the lid, you are greeted with a spacious modern keyboard and touchpad that’s embedded in a carbon fibre palm rest. This provided a very comfortable base to work from. It looks nice, and it keeps your sweaty palms nice and cool.
Overall, you wont be disappointed with the design unless you prefer something a little more larey with go faster stripes. I wouldn’t get away with that in my office 🙂
Designed to be portable.
At the time of writing, the XPS 15 9550 is officially the worlds smallest 15″ laptop, with a footprint that is closer to a 14″ laptop.
The laptop dimensions are just 0.66 inches (H) x 14.06 inches (W) x 9.27 inches (D) and it weighs in at a mere 4.4 pounds. The new XPS 15 is the perfect 15″ laptop for commuters like me that want to avoid slipping a disk when taking their laptop to work!
There’s no doubt that the borderless display contributes to this, as does the omission of the DVD/CD drive.
A cool customer?
The cooling system runs quietly at a low speed when handling heavy workloads and remains off during light duty use to conserve energy.
The air vents are modestly hidden on the bottom of the chassis near the screen hinge. This is fine, but tends to make ‘lap use’ uncomfortable when using the XPS 15 under heavy workloads.
What is the Display Like?
(Note – The XPS 15 9550 in this review has the UHD 4K display. However, it is also available with a 1920 x 1080 HD screen, which will be cheaper depending on the specification you choose).
If your not used to using a hi-resolution display on a laptop prepare to be blown away. The ultra-high definition 3840 x 2160 pixel 4K InfinityEdge touchscreen display is as good as it sounds and it is without doubt the best display I have used on a laptop to date.
I love the display on my retina MacBook, but this surpasses it. As a comparison, the Retina display on a MacBook has a 2880 x 1800 resolution.
Video content and high resolution photos are very impressive looking on a display of this caliber. Other programs such as productivity apps will vary according to the scaling support of Windows. In general, Windows adjusts the scaling right out of the box but, you will still find that some apps do not yet support 4K high resolution screen technology.
Geek alert – The InfinityEdge technology included on the high end model of the XPS 15 is finished with tough Corning Gorilla Glass NBT™. “NBT is the newest version of Gorilla Glass specially designed for thinner touchscreen laptops. The technology provides enhanced scratch resistance, improved strength, and better resistance against breakage which can occur with lower performance soda lime glass“.
The touchscreen offers a natural hands-on experience which helps you to maximize the functionality of Windows 10 functionality.
I found the touch screen to be sensitive and accurate when I used it, although I still naturally go to use the keyboard and touch pad. Maybe this is something that I will get out of the habit of over time!
Is the Dell XPS 15 4K UHD an Eco-Friendly option?
Like other companies, Dell has continued to contribute to green initiatives in its production of computing devices. The XPS 15 4K UHD is designed to be power efficient and is EnergyStar® certified to meet energy conservation standards.
The XPS 15 is between 90 to 100% recyclable. The materials used in the XPS 15 construction do not include environmentally harmful materials such as lead, cadmium, phthalates, or mercury.
More than 90 percent of the parts are very recycle-friendly and the packaging consists of bamboo which is 100 percent recyclable. Additionally, the XPS 15 is free of BFR (Brominated Flame Retardant) and PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride) and is registered EPEAT (Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool) Gold, a global rating for greener electronics.
All-in-all, its a good choice for the environmentally concious user, including me!
What’s the Keyboard and Touch Pad Like?
The XPS 15 9550 has a full-sized keyboard which has a modern looking appearance. The keys are well-spaced and concaved for improved typing comfort with 1.3mm of travel.
The keys are finished with a non-slip coating for improved accuracy with a new modern style font design.
The keyboard also contains backlighting which provides for user-friendly typing in low lighting environments. I cant image using a laptop without backlit keys anymore!
The keyboard is surrounded by a silicone deck and offers a generous 4.1 x 3.1-inch glass touchpad with integrated buttons.
Overall, the keyboard provides a pleasant typing experience. However, some of the dedicated keys are absent with a few keys sized no larger than your little pinky.
The touchpad is quite responsive and adequately supports tapping, swiping and scrolling gestures. Only occasionally, you may experience inadvertent selection of icons and text when using the touchpad but overall, the touchpad is smooth sailing.
(NOTE – the touchpad and silicone deck tend to be fingerprint magnets which can easily be remedied with a soft cloth!)
XPS 15 9550 Port Connectivity in a nutshell.
The XPS 15 4K UHD provides a decent amount of connectivity options:
- USB: There are 2 USB 3.0 ports with PowerShare that support the latest peripheral devices and one USB 2.0 port. There is also one USB 3.1 Gen 2 port (10Gbps).
- SD Card Capability: On the right hand side of the device, you will find an SD card reader which supports three different formats including SD, SDHC, and SDXC.
- Audio: The XPS 15 is equipped with one 3.5mm headset jack for connecting a pair of high quality headphones. There are also two built-in MaxxAudio stereo speakers with four sound profiles that include Music, Movies, Gaming, and Voice.
- Video: The XPS 15 provides one VGA and one HDMI port.
- Thunderbolt 3: Thunderbolt 3 functionality is 40Gbps bi-directional and supports power-in and charging. You can also opt to add the Dell Thunderbolt Dock at an extra cost which provides support for up to two 4K displays and up to three full high definition displays, in addition to faster data transfer rates.
- Wireless Connectivity: The XPS 15 is equipped with the latest 802.11ac standard and can also function on all previous Wi-Fi standards (802.11b/g/n). When it is connected to an 802.11ac capable router, you can achieve a wireless connection of up to three times faster than the previous standard of 802.11n.
- Bluetooth 4.1: The built-in Bluetooth 4.1 technology provides easy synchronization with all Bluetooth compatible devices. You can also easily connect Bluetooth accessories and easily transfer media from your laptop to your cell phone via wireless connectivity.
On the side of the XPS 15 4K UHD, you will also find a Kensington Lock slot for added security.
What about system performance?
The Dell XPS 15 4K UHD runs on the Windows 10 operating system. You also get a free trial for Microsoft Office for 30-days.
The XPS 15 4K UHD is equipped with a powerful sixth generation Intel Core i7-6700HQ processor with Turbo Boost technology. The processor on this model runs at 3.5 MHz with 6M Cache.
Turbo Boost technology gives the processor that extra push when it is under heavy workloads and then automatically diverts back to energy efficiency mode when you are finished multitasking.
You also have 16GB of DDR4 Random Access Memory (RAM) to support heavy workloads and multitasking. The high bandwidth RAM allows you to have multiple apps and browser programs running simultaneously without experiencing delays or lag time.
The high end performance is also backed by a whopping 1TB (terabyte) of hard drive storage via an SSD (Solid State Drive). I appreciate having a solid state drive to speed up the laptop boot-up time, but I have to be honest and say that the 1TB storage capacity is lost on me because most of my work is saved in the cloud.
3rd party tests.
In a recent Cinebench R15 test, the XPS 15 4K resulted in a high score indicating it is suitable for workloads that are processor intensive. This test is designed to occupy all processor aspects while using the Central Processing Unit as opposed to the Graphics Processing Unit.
A recent Geekbench 3 test showed a score of 11,815 which resulted in a score of more than 2400 points higher than the average of 9200 for this type of test. The Geekbench 3 test measures the overall performance of a PC’s processing capability.
The same test indicated the XPS 15 was capable of duplicating about 5GB of video and photos data in just over 30 seconds. The 512GB SSD was tested in this scenario which means the 1TB SSD will provide significantly higher performance.
The XPS 15 4K UHD is equipped with a NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M graphics card. The graphics capability is supported by 2GB of GDDR5 dedicated video memory. Because it is dedicated, you will experience extreme sharp and fast video performance.
What’s the Webcam Like?
As you’d expect, the XPS 15 4K UHD is equipped with a built-in high definition webcam. The 720p camera is standard issue and fine for holding video conference calls. However, I wouldn’t recommend capturing your most precious memories with it (although to be fair you probably wouldn’t use it for that purpose anyway).
The webcam features widescreen technology. Most of the imaging is bright however, there is still a degree of visual noise and reduced sharpness when using it for video chats.
XPS 15 9550 4K UHD Battery Life.
The high end model of the Dell XPS 15 is equipped with a 6-cell 91 Whr (watt per hour) lithium-ion battery.
A test conducted by Laptop Magazine showed an average battery life of just under seven hours under heavy workloads and multitasking, and I would concur with this from my time with the laptop.
Additionally, all devices equipped with Windows 10 include the Battery Saver feature which helps you to configure the settings to automatically save power under certain conditions. This helps you to get more done over a longer period of time.
Dell also offers an optional device called the Power Companion which allows you to carry additional power in your bag. The Power Companion is designed to power Dell laptops and up to two other USB devices, tablets, or smartphones. It is also designed with portability in mind, is lightweight, and easily fits into your bag to allow you to charge you devices while on the go with its in-bag charging capability.
The Dell Power Companion is compact and features an 18,000 mAh 6 cell battery. This will provide you with plenty of power on the go plus, it can be charged using your AC adapter for the XPS 15. The convenient LED light keeps you on top of exactly how much power is left in the device.
What are the Pros and Cons?
the XPS 15 UHD is quite an expenseve laptop, but you get a lot of bells and whistles for your investment. Pros and cons include:
- The smallest 15″ laptop currently available. Ideal for the daily commute.
- Impressive high resolution 4K display surpasses the MacBook Pro Retina display.
- An attractive, yet sturdy laptop.
- Impressive technical performance, although this comes at a cost.
- Comfortable backlit keyboard is a joy.
- Expensive price point.
- Could use a fingerprint scanner for added security.
- Heat distribution design could be better.
Should you buy one?
The Dell XPS 15 4K UHD is currently one of the finest 15″ laptops on the market. It packs functionality, performance, and appearance into one package. But, is it worth the price? That depends up on your requirements – if you’re a graphic designer for example that’s going to make the most of the high specification and the 4K display then it’s worth every penny, but if your just looking for a portable 15″ laptop then then you may wish to consider the cheaper, lower spec XPS 15 9550 model that comes with a standard (bit still good quality) HD display.
Final verdict. Excellent.
If you want a highly portable device with all of the bells and whistles and you are willing to pay for the higher price point, then the XPS 15 4K may be the device for you. Overall, it is a handsome device that is built with precision and durability. It also has plenty of features and performance to warrant the higher price tag. Either way, I believe that this is a fantastic laptop which will offers portability, connectivity, and performance.
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