The Dell XPS 15 is a seriously impressive laptop. Dell is calling it the smallest 15-inch laptop ever made and the reason is simple: the ‘InfinityEdge’ display – as seen on the XPS 13 and XPS 12 hybrid – has such a thin bezel that the total profile of the laptop is only a shade larger than the 15-inch 16:9 display itself.
That means it’s quite a bit ‘smaller’ than your standard 15-inch laptop but it still looks like a bit of a monster when you set it beside one of Dell’s incredible 13-inch Dell XPS 13 ultrabooks.
The entry level model is powered by an Intel Core i5-6300HQ, has Nvidia GeForce 960M graphics and comes with a full HD screen, 8GB memory and a 1TB HDD with Windows 10 installed on a 32GB SSD.
Every other model comes with a Core i7-6700HQ and the top couple of models, one of which we have here, have 4K touchscreen displays, 16/32GB memory and a 500GB/1TB SSD, while the GeForce 960M component is standard across all models.
That’s a hell of a lot of power for a home laptop particularly. It turns on and off lightning fast which is super convenient and never leaves you waiting for apps or program to load. But while this laptop is indeed blisteringly fast, by far the most impressive feature is the display.
InfinityEdge looks fantastic, but it’s the epicly bright, 4K colour accurate picture itself that’s the real stunner. If you’ve ever walked through the TV section in a Currys or John Lewis and found yourself blown away by an OLED TV compared to its LCD compatriots, the effect is similar here.
The screen on this laptop is not an OLED but in almost all conditions you could easily believe it was one. It’s simply gorgeous to look at, mesmerising even. Contrast ratio and absolute black levels aren't the best, but in normal applications it looks world class.
It’s also one of the best touchscreens we’ve ever used on a laptop – it might well be the best ever. It’s fast and responsive to touch and really justifies itself. We regularly found ourselves reaching out and using the touchscreen in ways we’ve in the past found it easier to jsut use the other standard inputs.
If you work with graphics you’ll love it, and you’ll find the Nvidia GeForce 960M and Intel Core i7 more than powerful enough to handle the toughest of tasks.
And if you’re hoping to game on this laptop, you can absolutely do so. But your best bet would probably be to go for the full HD option in order to hit playable framerates for demanding games - either that or plug into a secondary 1080p screen. You can buy this laptop with all of the power but 1080p non-touchscreen for £1,308 – and you’ll save some weight there as well, 1.78kg versus 2kg.
It’s worth pausing and mentioning that weight for a second. If you’re weighing up whether to get the Dell XPS 13 or the XPS 15, weight has to be a consideration. The XPS 15 is not far off double the weight of the non-touch version of the XPS 13 – 1.2kg versus 2kg. That combined with the substantial increase in size means that the 13 is ideal for carrying around with you, the 15 is not despite its relative smallness. You won’t want to have this in a bag on your back all day.
Keyboard and trackpad
The keyboard on the XPS 15 is exactly the same as on the XPS 13 which means it does look a bit lost in the middle of the larger carbon fibre-effect chassis. That being said, you probably wouldn’t want it to be any bigger because it’s super comfortable to type on and the keys feel responsive with just enough travel.
The trackpad, where some Dell’s have been a bit of a letdown in the past, is also excellent. That being said, the enemy of all laptop users are ‘accidental inputs’ where your hand or your arm touches the trackpad by accident. That’s still an issue here, particularly because it’s so large. Honestly if you’re using this laptop on a desk you should probably use a mouse and disable the pad, but that’s true of basically all laptops.
Ports and connections
Honestly this is one of the only areas where you might question some of Dell’s design decisions. There are only two USB 3.0 ports on this laptop. Where you’d normally expect the third one to be on the right hand side you instead have a battery meter. You press a button and it uses five mini-LED’s to let you know the state of the battery.
That's theoretically useful when the laptop is turned off, but seriously, given the number of times you’ll ever use it versus a third USB port it seems like an unnecessary and disappointing compromise.
You also get an SD card slot, a full size HDMI port and a Thunderbolt 3 port which supports PowerShare, 40Gbps data transfer in both directions, VGA, HDMI, Ethernet and USB-A – but you’ll need to buy the relevant cables or one of Dell’s Thunderbolt docks, none of which come with the laptop.
Dell claims battery life of up to 17 hours but in reality you’ll probably get substantially less than that. We managed to get about 5 hours out of it under normal conditions which is pretty good actually, especially given it has a 4K touchscreen and very powerful components. You’ll get more like 3 hours if you run with maximum screen brightness while performing demanding tasks with high CPU use.
This laptop looks the business, particularly when you open it up. The carbon fibre effect on the inside surface is the same as on the XPS 13 and looks brilliant. You could even say that the laptop would look better if the whole laptop was done out with that material instead of the slightly boring silver aluminium shell.
One explanation for why Dell did not do that could be that the carbon fibre surface is an absolute fingerprint magnet. I’ve heard and read people saying that about many smartphones and other laptops in the past. But I’ve never used a device that attracted, retained an displayed fingerprints like this one. It can look really quite grotty after some intense use and it’s definitely our least favourite aspect of the device, albeit just a cosmetic one.
The Dell XPS 15 is a fantastic laptop and a no-brainer purchase for anyone who wants a laptop that lives primarily on a desk at home or in the office. It’s cheaper and more highly specc’d than a MacBook Pro and makes far more sense to buy than something like a Microsoft Surface Pro 3.
The 4K screen is seriously gorgeous to look at while the colour accuracy makes it ideal for anyone working with graphics. We'd happily buy one of these for ourselves and that's about the highest praise we can give.
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