Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 review (2018): a thin, powerful hybrid with genuine gaming chops

Dell's XPS 15 2-in-1 just gatecrashed the premium hybrid party

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T3 Verdict

The Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 is one of the most complete hybrids ever made, scoring big across the board and leaving no obvious weak point for rivals - and critics - to launch a major counter attack. A premium all-rounder 2-in-1 that should appeal to creative tech enthusiasts looking to both work and play hard.

Reasons to buy

  • +

    AMD Radeon RX Vega M chip has guts

  • +

    Strong benchmark scores across the board

  • +

    Luxe aluminium design with 360-degree hinges

  • +

    Stunning, nearly bezel-less, Infinity Edge display

  • +

    Innovative maglev keyboard

Reasons to avoid

  • -

    Under full load it runs hot and loud

  • -

    Top spec is rather expensive

Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 specifications

CPU: 3.1GHz Intel Core i7-8705G Processor (quad-core, 8MB cache, up to 4.1 GHz)

GPU: Radeon RX Vega M GL graphics, Intel HD Graphics 630

RAM: 16GB DDR4 (2,400MHz)

Screen: 15.6-inch, 4K Ultra HD (3840 x 2160) InfinityEdge anti-reflective touch display

Storage: 512GB SSD

Ports: 2 x Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C), 2 x USB-C 3.1, microSD card reader, headset jack

Camera: 720p Widescreen HD webcam 

Dimensions: 35.4 x 23.5 x 0.9-0.6cm (13.9 x 9.2 x 0.36-0.63 inches)

Weight: 2kg (4.36 pounds)

OS: Windows 10

From the moment I first saw the new Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 back at CES 2018  I knew it was going to be impressive device.

So it was with great excitement that I received the hot new hybrid for review a few weeks back and started putting it through its paces.

And, in news that will no-doubt please tech enthusiasts who also demand strong creative and gaming functionality, the Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 has not disappointed me, managing to deliver across the board and very firmly lodging a claim to be amongst the very best hybrid laptops on the market today.

What follows is my review of the new hybrid system, parsed down into key scoring areas like design, hardware, and performance, as well a series of benchmarks that add a little more in terms of filling in the complete picture.

I've also supplied pricing and availability information, too, from a variety of major vendors of the new 2-in-1 XPS 15.

Before we get to the the review proper, though, you should check out the Dell XPS 15 2-in-1's hype-filled launch trailer, which briefly gives a summation of its notable hardware and features.

Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 review: price and availability

The Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 is available now, starting at £1,699 for the base configuration, and stretching up to £2,498.39 for the max-specced model.

All Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 configurations can be viewed on Dell's official online store.

Currys PC World also has two models of the Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 in stock, the entry level Full HD screen-packing, Intel Core i5-toting model, as well as a 4K screen, Intel Core i7-stacked model, too.

Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 review: design and build quality

Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 review 2018

The carbon fibre keyboard surround is shut up and take my money swish.

Take the Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 out of its box and the first thing you notice is its anodised aluminium lid and base, with the former embedded with the Dell logo. This is cool to the touch and radiates an air of quality, with the system's screen (more on this soon) opening and continuing to rotate through 360 degrees thanks to a brace of equally premium aluminium hinges.

Lid opened you are then greeted with the carbon fibre keyboard surround seen previously on the XPS 15, as well as the system's brand new maglev keyboard (more on that below) and glass-covered trackpad.

Above the keyboard sits the system's InfinityEdge display, which boasts not only a very effective anti-reflective coating (nicely killing glossy glare nicely) but also a near-bezel-less frame, which really gives the panel presence when turned on. Located in the bottom-centre of the screen can be found the XPS 15 2-in-1's 720p Widescreen HD webcam as well as the Dell logo.

Round the back of the system you are greeted with nothing other than a scooped air vent, while on the sides of the system you find its selection of ports, which include two Thunderbolt 3 ports as well as brace of USB-C 3.1 connections. A microSD card reader and headset jack complete the port package.

Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 review: hardware and screen

Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 review 2018

The XPS 15 2-in-1 transitions into Windows 10 tablet mode super fast. Perfect for the reading T3.com with a cuppa.

In terms of hardware and screen the Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 hits hard.

A quad-core 8th generation Intel Core i7-8705G CPU is partnered with a Radeon RX Vega M GL graphics card (integrated Intel HD Graphics 630, too), as well as 16GB of 2,400MHz DDR4 RAM and a spacious 512GB SSD.

Now, it is important to note that this is not the base hardware spec, but actually a north of two grand model that is near flagship level. That said, the base model still ships with the same GPU and merely knocks the CPU down to an 8th gen Core i5  and 8GB of DDR4 RAM, so you're not talking about insane capability differences.

This powerful core hardware is then bolted, in this case, to Dell's absolutely lush  15.6-inch, 4K Ultra HD (3840 x 2160) InfinityEdge anti-reflective touch display. And, simply put, this thing is an absolute beaut and joy to use.

From watching movies to editing photos, and playing games to browsing the internet in tablet mode on the sofa (which is super easy and fluid to do thanks to the system's aforementioned 360-degree aluminium hinges), the vibrancy, colour depth and touch accuracy of this panel really wowed me, while the near non-existent bezels made those on my old Dell Alienware M11X R3 laptop's screen appear absolutely ginormous in comparison.

I have to tip my hat to Dell for managing to innovate within such a well-worn hardware area. Chapéu Dell, chapéu.

In fact, I think I would genuinely find it hard to go back to a system now that had even bezels of a modest proportion, so here's hoping other manufacturers follow suit and start consistently knocking out hybrids with minimal bezels.

As mentioned above, the other major hardware addition this time round is the XPS 15 2-in-1's brand new maglev keyboard. This is a keyboard that uses rare-earth magnets beneath its keys, rather than membrane switches, to mimic the feel of a traditional physical key response but with only a tiny travel of 0.7mm.

The result of its inclusion is enhancement to the laptops thinness and lightness, which is definitely very portable at just 2kg and dimensions of 35.4 x 23.5 x 0.9-0.6cm, but also a slightly unique typing experience, with slightly stricter key presses required and a faster reset time needed to be gotten used to from my experience. The super low profile of the board though I felt complementary to the excellent always glass-coasted Microsoft Precision touchpad.

Within an hour or two of use I found myself typing on the keyboard like normal, and really I have to tip my hat to Dell for managing to innovate within such a well-worn hardware area, and in such a cool way, too. Chapéu Dell, chapéu.

Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 review: gaming and performance

Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 review 2018

The XPS 15 2-in-1's AMD Radeon RX Vega M graphics chip delivers Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050-beating gaming performance.

GeekBench 4 benchmark scores

[CPU test]

Single-Core: 4,139

Multi-Core: 12,604

[Compute test]

OpenCL Score: 66,688

Unsurprisingly that 8th generation Intel CPU delivers. And it delivers both in terms of everyday usage - with the XPS 15 2-in-1 booting up like lightning, transitioning between laptop and tablet mode rapidly, and running our test suite of apps without issue  - as well as on paper, handing in a very potent set of benchmark scores.

As can be seen in the adjacent boxout, the Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 racked up an impressive single-core score of 4,139 and multi-core score of 12,604 in GeekBench 4's CPU test, before following that up with a smoking hot OpenCL Score of 66,688 in its Compute test, too. The numbers do not lie – the XPS 15 2-in-1 is a hybrid processing powerhouse.

And, in what was music to our ears here at T3, the XPS 15 2-in-1 carried that strong UI and app performance over into gaming, too. 

As regular readers of T3 will know, we are huge PC gamers here and definitely appreciate a system that can push some slick frames and effects. As such, we were very, very interested to see how AMD's Radeon RX Vega M graphics chip handled our benchmarks.

3DMark Advanced Edition benchmark scores

Time Spy: 2,231

Fire Strike: 6,288

Sky Diver: 17,792

The results were good. In 3DMark Advanced Edition the XPS 15 2-in-1 returned scores of 2,231 in the DirectX 12 Time Spy benchmark, as well as 6,288 and 17,792 in Fire Strike and Sky Diver respectively. 

Now, while that falls quite a long way short of the king of T3's best gaming laptop buying guide right now, the Asus ROG Zephyrus, which scores a whopping 5,576 in Time Spy, 13,929 in Fire Strike, and 30,844 in Sky Diver, it does look good when compared against many other gaming laptops, outperforming for example the Asus ROG Strix ZX753VD-GC266T, which itself packs a Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 GPU.

And that performance, without doubt, extends out of benchmarks into real-world gaming scenarios. I booted up one of our test games on the XPS 15 2-in-1, Rise of the Tomb Raider, and ran its in-game benchmark. The results, as can be seen by the nearby boxout, were very impressive.

Rise of the Tomb Raider benchmark

[High settings / DirectX 12 enabled / 1920 x 1080]

Mountain Peak: 51.76 FPS

Syria: 42.53 FPS

Geothermal Valley: 42.21 FPS

Overall score: 45.67 FPS

I enjoyed some buttery smooth tomb raiding, bloke killing, and jaguar-running-from.

The game returned an overall benchmark frame rate of 45.67 at 1920 x 1080 resolution with all settings set to high, which is well over our minimum standard for smooth gameplay, 30fps.

I then loaded up the game proper and enjoyed some buttery smooth tomb raiding, bloke killing, and jaguar-running-from. The game looked and ran great.

The only down points I would raise here in terms of the XPS 15 2-in-1's gaming performance is that the system runs hot and loud when pushing some serious pixels. Air streams out of the aforementioned rear vent with a noticeable hiss, and the area under and around parts of the keyboard - notably the W,A,S,D key zone - got really quite toasty after 20 minutes or so of raiding tombs.

Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 review: verdict

Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 review 2018

A quality pairing if ever I saw one…

There is no doubting the quality on display in the Dell XPS 15 2-in-1. The hybrid laptop and slate, in its max-specced configuration, is truly a system that will not leave tech enthusiasts and power users wanting.

Yes, the XPS 15 2-in-1 can be beaten by specialist systems that focus more on one or two specific areas rather than going for all of them at once, such as some equally expensive gaming laptops that outscore it in our gaming benchmarks, for example. However, if you need a system that can also deliver to a high level on the productivity and creative fronts, not just gaming, then this laptop should be right up there in your considerations.

Far from a being a jack of all trades, the Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 approaches being a master of all trades.

It isn't perfect, with nothing to write home about battery life (the system's battery life can't compete with the HP Envy X2, for example) and a tendency to run loud and hot when the CPU and GPU are under a heavy load (such as when gaming), but these are admittedly minor points overall.

Overall, then, this thin and attractive 2-in-1 is very impressive and competes right at the top end of the hybrid 2-in-1 market. You get the premium build quality long-associated with Dell systems, but you also get Nvidia GTX 1050-beating AMD Radeon RX Vega M graphics capabilities, a genuinely innovative maglev keyboard, and one of the most lush screens on the market today.

Which leads to the conclusion that, maybe Surface Book 2 aside, the Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 is arguably the foremost hybrid on the market today. 

Far from a being simply a jack of all trades, the Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 instead approaches being a master of all trades.