When you first set your eyes on Dell’s gorgeous InfinityEdge bezels, it’s tricky not to be immediately taken aback. Sure, it’s been a Dell staple for some time now, but I’m still unreservedly impressed (and pleased) every time I see it make an appearance again on a newer model. Everything else pales in comparison, and the same rings true for Dell’s latest XPS 15, but is it still the de facto Windows laptop in 2017?
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Dell XPS 15 review (2017): Tl;dr
While its smaller brother, the XPS 13, saw a welcome processor upgrade late last year, it’s now the XPS 15’s turn for a 2017 performance bump. The XPS 15’s looks remain largely unchanged, but its all aboutthe goings-on under the hood that should pique your interest. This’ll be a much better performer than last year’s offering, and a worthier purchase – mark my words.
Dell XPS 15 review (2017): Price and competition
Dell’s XPS 15 isn’t cheap, but that’s for good reason. This isn’t your run-of-the mill throwaway Windows laptop, rather: a performance beast that’s well worth that steep investment. Nothing else looks as well-suited for the years to come you see, and starting at a lofty £1,349, it better impress.
For comparison sake, you can pick up an entry-level MacBook Pro for £100 less (£1,249), and an XPS 13 will save you £200 (£1,149). On the other end: Microsoft’s similarly specced Surface Laptop will fetch you just shy of £2,149. Configuration speaking, Dell’s XS 15 is incredibly well-priced, despite its extravagant price tag.
Dell XPS 15 review (2017): Design
This year’s XPS 15 doesn’t deviate from the looks of its predecessor, instead sticking with the same smooth carbon fibre and aluminium combo of its 13.3in equivalent – albeit stretched out a bit to support that dominating 15.6in display. It might not be as petite, or as commuter-friendly, as the XPS 13, but it’s well worth a look-in for those added inches of screen real estate.
There’s not a jot of difference between this year’s and the last, but the XPS 15 remains a beautiful laptop in 2017. Its gun-metal body still tapers towards the front edge, measuring just 11mm at its thinnest, and weighs 2Kg – that’s roughly the same as the recent MacBook Pro.
And like last year’s, the XPS 15 still has that solitary Thunderbolt 3-powered USB Type-C port on its left side, sitting next to one USB 3 port, HDMI 2.0 and a 3.5mm headset jack. The other USB 3 port can be spotted on the right, accompanied by an SD card slot.
Dell XPS 15 review (2017): Performance and battery Life
The biggest change, like its smaller sibling, lies in that Kaby Lake upgrade inside. This new XPS 15 is equipped with a seventh-gen quad-core Intel Core i7-7700HQ processor clocked at 2.8GHz. And – unsurprisingly – it’s quite the performer.
The XPS 15 is no slouch: scoring a total of 127 in our rigorous 4K benchmarking tests, up from 111 this time last year. It’s clear that multitasking is much improved on this year’s model, too: made in part thanks to that generous 16GB of RAM. This’ll be significantly faster than Apple’s MacBook Pro equivalents.
It’s also joint second in our laptop hierarchy, sharing the silver medal with Gigabyte’s Aero 15, and is just a single point away from matching the superiority of Scan’s custom 3XS Carbon G-Sync.
It’s even reasonably well-suited for the odd bout of light gaming too, with Dirt: Showdown running on Ultra settings at Full HD resolution at a stable 60fps. The culprit? There’s a 4GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 inside. Even newer, more GPU-heavy titles such as Metro: Last Light reached a stable 30fps on the more demanding settings.
Battery life too, which is typically a major detriment on these sorts of machines, was excellent. I was beginning to suspect a power efficiency issue with Kaby Lake after recent reviews started a worrying trend, but that’s not the case with the XPS 15, with it lasting 10hrs and 25mins sans wall socket.
Dell XPS 15 review (2017): Display
It might not be the expensive 4K display model I have in front of me, but this Full HD panel is a sight to behold nonetheless. As always, its skinny “Infinity Edge” bezel works wonders, and this 15.6in screen looks even better than the other before it.
The XPS 15’s Full HD display covers 91.2% of the sRGB colour gamut, producing some wonderfully punchy colours, and the 1,612:1 contrast ratio makes for a detail-rich display from the darkest, to the brightest pixel. Even its max brightness is on point, and at 365cd/m2 the XPS 15 is perfectly suited for summertime reading.
Should the need arise, there’s also a touchscreen configuration doing the rounds for the not-so-affordable asking price of £1,799. While I haven’t had the opportunity to prod it, I imagine, like with most, it’ll help soften your workload.
Dell XPS 15 review (2017): Keyboard and touchpad
Lift the lid, and you’ll spot the same issue I had with the XPS 15’s predecessor, however. Its keyboard doesn’t take full advantage of all the space given to it, in fact, this is exactly the same keyboard as the XPS 13. While the XPS 13 was all neat and compact, its bigger brother isn’t so stylish, and seems like nothing but empty space. Dell should have opted for a larger set of keys.
Regardless, its keys aren’t as cramped as they look, even if you do have to reach out a little further to touch them. As with the XPS 13, you’re treated to a perfect amount of feedback with every satisfying keystroke, and each press has the right amount of tactile movement to make writing lengthy reviews more bearable.
Its large touchpad on the other hand, makes perfect use of the extra space. It’s noticeably deeper than its smaller counterpart, which helps with those multi-touch finger flourishes. And, it’s a touchpad that works just as you’d expect, I even used it while working in Photoshop without cursing. It is a little clingy with your fingerprints, mind.
Dell XPS 15 review (2017): Verdict
Dell’s XPS 15 is still an award-winning laptop. It might not have the instant visual impact of the diminutive XPS 13, but it’s crammed full with unrivalled horsepower in that 15.6in chassis. The XPS 15 is the perfect marriage of raw performance and lavish looks, but it doesn’t come cheap.
You see, it starts at an eye-watering £1,349. In hindsight, you can pick up an entry-level 13in MacBook Pro for £100 less, and should you opt for its smaller 13.3in equivalent, you’ll save yourself £200. After the top-end model with a 4K touch display, Intel Core i7, 32GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD? That’ll set you back a mortgage-inducing £2,199.
And that’s the sticking point, and one where the XPS 15 starts to fall a little flat; it’s a splendid performer, yes but one that’s out of reach from most payslips. If money is no object (lucky you), Dell’s XPS 15 remains the best Windows laptop ever made, but just get an XPS 13 if you’re a little more strapped for cash. You may be losing out on an extra 2.3in of screen real estate, but it’ll soften the blow to your wallet.