In these uncertain times, it’s tougher than usual to justify spending up to a completely loaded Dell XPS 15 costs. But boy, the screen is gorgeous, and the energy under it’ll crunch through whatever you throw at it-video encoding, software compiling, or gaming.
It is, in a nutshell, a powerhouse machine. It is the Microsoft Windows 10 exact carbon copy of the 15-inch MacBook Pro, and therefore, if you like to miss the future drama surrounding Apple’s chip migration, and just want a big, powerful notebook computer today, the Dell XPS 15 delivers.
Like its smaller sibling, the Dell XPS 13 (9/10, WIRED Recommends), the 2020 refresh for the 15-inch XPS shrinks the screen bezels to provide you with even more property. The effect is gorgeous, at least for the 4K Ultra HD touchscreen in my own test machine. Colors are great, and it could actually get too bright. I rarely pushed it beyond 80 percent, and I never really had any trouble seeing the screen even in bright sunlight.
As I mentioned in the overview of the 13-inch XPS, in some recoverable format this larger-sized screen sounds negligible, however in everyday use it’s really nice to have, specially when editing photos, videos, or doing offers.
Dell has a selection of spec configurations available. There’s the bottom model, which gets you a more recent 10th-generation Intel Core i5 processor, 8 gigabytes of RAM, and integrated graphics. This model is $1,300, nonetheless it lacks the 4K display and includes a relatively paltry 256-gigabyte hard disk drive.
In the event that you bump the processor to an Intel Core i7, put in a discrete video card (Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 Ti), the 3,840 x 2,400 pixel (4K) touchscreen, and 16 gigabytes of RAM, you will be charged you $2,200. That’s on par, both on specs and price, with Apple’s 16-inch MacBook.
The model I tested was even fancier. It costs $2,350 and includes 16 gigabytes of RAM and a 512-gigabyte hard disk drive. Like on the MacBook Pro, there is also a choice to go with an Intel i9 processor, which puts the purchase price up to $2,800, nonetheless it carries a larger 1-terabyte hard disk drive and the 32 gigabytes of RAM. If you are a developer compiling software, or are buying a mobile video editing station, you will want to stick to the mid- to higher-end configurations.
This latest model includes a new trackpad, which is, frankly, giant. Nonetheless it comes in helpful for moving quickly around the huge screen.
Battery life on the XPS 15 is so-so. It isn’t as good as small XPS 13. I got around 9 hours from it most days, however when I looped an HD video onto it to check how long it lasted, it barely were able to hit the 8-hour mark. That’s certainly enough to edit video at the restaurant for a couple hours, but if you are doing anything processor-intensive with this thing, you are going to want the energy cord handy-especially after you have owned it for a couple years. It is also probably worth noting that the energy cord is larger and heavier than everything you get with the XPS 13.
As on small model, there are three small USB-C ports, some of that may deliver power. Both USB ports on the left side also support Thunderbolt 3 for an external monitor. Additionally, there is an Sdcard reader and (thankfully) a headphone jack. Dell also contains a helpful little dongle with larger USB-A ports and a USB-C-to-HDMI cable.
Dell packs all this right into a slim aluminum chassis with carbon-fiber palm rests and a Gorilla Glass screen. The effect is surprisingly small for a 15-inch laptop. Because of those thin bezels, the complete package is merely 13.5 inches by 9 inches.
What’s Never to Like?
As much as I love the 15-inch screen and optional Nvidia graphics, there are a few trade-offs with the XPS 15 when compared to XPS 13. The largest issue in my own view may be the added weight: The XPS 15 feels heavy (it weighs 4-4.5 pounds, according to your configuration). Where in fact the 13-inch model feels trim and lightweight in a bag, the XPS 15 feels as though a lead brick on my shoulders. Not the largest lead brick, actually; it’s not unbearable at all. But if you prize portability, go with the XPS 13.
My other problem with the XPS 15 is that it usually is loud, or at least what passes for loud in laptops nowadays. All that power has thermal discharge in the end, and you must get that heat out somehow, this means the XPS 15 spins up its fan fairly regularly-and it isn’t especially quiet. This is most pronounced when I was exporting large 4K videos.
Ready to Go
If you are a developer, you want your $3,000 notebook computer to do everything. Even though Apple moves to its ARM-based chips, your software will most likely still need to operate on X86 chips aswell. Apple’s intend to emulate the entire X86 stack on ARM sounds tough. I wish them luck with that, but I wouldn’t desire to be the guinea pig spending $3,000 to see if it really works. Particularly when the XPS 15 has already been here and will not be jumping chip ships anytime soon.
The XPS 15 are designed for whatever you throw at it, and even throughout a pandemic, that’s sometimes worth paying for-if you can still afford it.