Dell XPS 15 9500 review: Dell's premium 15-inch laptop continues to impress

The Dell XPS 15 9500 is a serious Windows 10 competitor to the MacBook Pro

T3 Platinum Award
Dell XPS 15 9500
(Image credit: Dell)
T3 Verdict

The Dell XPS 15 9500 has a huge amount of pluses and hardly any minuses of note at all – if you want a Windows 10 laptop at this size that can do a bit of everything and do it well, then this is a laptop that you can't help but put somewhere near the top of your shortlist.

Reasons to buy
  • +

    Stunning screen

  • +

    Premium build quality

  • +

    Plenty of power

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    Low-res webcam

  • -

    Can get pricey

  • -

    Average GPU

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The Dell XPS 15 9500 is the 15-inch XPS laptop refresh for 2020, and because of its heritage and its predecessors it's immediately a best laptop contender: the XPS series has been a huge success for Dell, and the laptops from this sleek line are constantly impressing us.

If you need a bit more screen space than the Dell XPS 13 can offer you, then the Dell XPS 15 might well be the answer: the screen has been improved yet again, while as you would expect the internals have been refreshed to keep the laptop competitive in 2020 and 2021.

Whether you're after the best student laptops or the best laptops for work, the Dell XPS 15 9500 is versatile enough to be worthy of consideration by just about anybody – and it'll even do a bit of gaming as well, thanks to the discrete graphics supplied by Nvidia.

Dell XPS 15 9500 review: screen and design

Dell XPS 15 9500

(Image credit: Future)

The Dell XPS 15 9500 really is a gorgeous-looking laptop from every angle – the XPS line has been wowing users and winning awards for years now, and Dell very much knows what it's doing with the look and finish. This is a premium-level laptop in every area, from the soft and tactile typing experience to the carbon fibre finish around the nicely backlit keyboard. It's a computer that's stylish but subtle, professional and polished, and it feels really solid in use too.

Obviously with a 15.6-inch display this isn't going to be the most portable laptop in the world, and it's not the thinnest nor the lightest model at this size – but it's hard to quibble considering the craftsmanship on offer and the quality of the components packed inside. This particular model sticks to the traditional laptop form factor as well, with no option to fold the screen over into a tent or tablet-style configuration.

The screen is another standout feature of the Dell XPS 15 9500. With super-thin bezels all the way around (the top one hiding a titchy webcam), a resolution of 1920 x 1200 or 3840 x 2400 pixels, and 132 percent of the sRGB colour gamut covered, it shines: it's crisp, it's bright, and it makes use of the 16:10 aspect ratio that we much prefer for getting work done (it also looks fantastic when watching videos, after the working day is done). You can buy this laptop with or without a touchscreen, depending on what you need and how much money you want to spend.

Ports-wise you're well covered, with two Thunderbolt 3 ports, one USB-C port, an SD card reader and a 3.5 mm microphone/headphones combination jack. Everything is tastefully positioned and put together, including the stereo speakers either side of the keyboard (with another two underneath the chassis), the spacious trackpad, and the handy fingerprint sensor built into the power button. The lid has a silver finish with a reflective Dell logo, which adds another touch of class.

Dell XPS 15 9500 review: performance and features

Dell XPS 15 9500

(Image credit: Dell)

You can kit out the Dell XPS 15 9500 with a variety of internal specs, all the way up to a 10th-gen Intel Core i9-10885H processor, 64GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD drive at the time of writing on the Dell UK site. Our review model came with the 10th-gen Intel Core i7-10750H processor, 32GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD drive, but whichever model you pick, this is a laptop that's able to get through some serious workloads. There are very few compromises in terms of power.

GPU grunt is provided by an optional Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 Ti with 4GB of VRAM that you can have fitted: now that's not going to run the best games at the best settings – especially not at 4K – but it does mean that the best games are playable while you're on the go. For working with a little gaming on the side, it's ideal. In our testing the fans did occasionally kick in even for lightweight tasks like some web browsing, but they're not overbearing in terms of noise unless you're really pushing the laptop.

There's always a balance to be struck between performance and portability, and Dell has done well to get the components it has into a laptop that's so thin, light and quiet – gamers and serious professionals will want more, but they'll have to put up with chunkier and louder laptops in return. From working on images to sitting back and watching YouTube, we found the Dell XPS 15 9500 a delight to use with barely a hint of lag, and it's also worth mentioning the excellent speakers – they produce audio that's surprisingly crisp and rich, even at louder volumes.

In terms of battery life, the Dell XPS 15 9500 will last you a day away from the office and then some, provided your quite careful with settings like display brightness. Our two-hour video streaming test – during which we put the screen on maximum brightness, by the way – saw the battery dip from 100 percent to 71 percent, suggesting around 6-7 hours of constant playback time. If battery life is important to you, consider downgrading from the 4K display option (the screen that our review model came with), as a lower resolution screen won't suck up quite so much battery power quite so fast.

Dell XPS 15 9500 review: price and verdict

Dell XPS 15 9500

(Image credit: Future)

The Dell XPS 15 9500 is competitively priced for what it is: a premium-level Windows 10 laptop with top-tier specs. Check the widgets on this page for the latest deals online, but if you really max out the configuration you can pay close to £3,000/$2,500 for this laptop; if you don't need all of the high-end specs and the 4K screen then you can knock that down by as much as a half. The Dell XPS 15 9500 can adapt to your budget.

We were really impressed with the 2020 XPS 15 during our time with it, but then we expected to be considering the previous models in the range. The display is a stunner, the laptop is really well built and a pleasure to use, and it coped with everything that we threw at it without breaking sweat. This will be in everyone's best laptop list right now and for some time to come as well (probably until the next version refresh).

Of course no laptop can be the best laptop for everyone, because we're all doing different tasks with our computers – some people will prefer to get by on something a lot cheaper than this, while dedicated gamers will be happy to pay more and get a graphics card that can do ray tracing and all the other cutting-edge tricks that are on offer nowadays. But for a lot of users, the Dell XPS 15 9500 really does hit a sweet spot.

Look and feel might not seem like big priorities when it comes to laptop buying – do you really need your laptop to look pretty? – but it really is the experience of using this latest XPS 15 that sets it apart from the rest. Whether you're watching movies, typing out essays, working on image or video editing jobs, or dabbling in a bit of gaming, it really is a joy to open up and interact with, and we're happy to recommend it. It even reaches, dare we say it, MacBook levels of polish.

David Nield

Dave has over 20 years' experience in the tech journalism industry, covering hardware and software across mobile, computing, smart home, home entertainment, wearables, gaming and the web – you can find his writing online, in print, and even in the occasional scientific paper, across major tech titles like T3, TechRadar, Gizmodo and Wired. Outside of work, he enjoys long walks in the countryside, skiing down mountains, watching football matches (as long as his team is winning) and keeping up with the latest movies.