Dell XPS 15 (2018) Review

Dell XPS 15 (2018)

Incredible power packed inside a refined and sleek machine-and all for a very affordable price

ABOVE The wafer- thin bezels and 17mm thickness give the XPS 15 a sleek, classy look

SCORE 5/5

If you’re feeling a sense of dejà vu, don’t worry: it isn’t you. We reviewed the 2-in-1 version of the XPS 15 two months ago, and now Dell has released an update to its non-convertible brother. This one is all about performance, with Intel’s new six-core Core i7-875oH processor housed inside – giving us a Windows rival to the new 15m Apple MacBook Pro.

And it really is powerful. This CPU has six Hyper-Threaded cores running at abase clock of 2.2GHz, and when stressed can boost to a staggering 4.1GHz per core. Our review sample also has 16GB of 2,666MHz DDR4 RAM and a 512GB M.2 PCIe SSD inside. As if that wasn’t enough, there’s a Nvidia Max-Q design GTX 1050 Ti, which has 4GB of dedicated GDDR5 memory. That Max-Q design isn’t just for show: it’s Nvidia’s certificate for laptops that are thin, silent and have a full-blown Nvidia graphics card inside.

Upping the ante

To put it to the test, I threw synthetic benchmarks at the laptop – and it performed even better than I expected. In the PC Pro media benchmarks, it managed a remarkable score of 178. That pips the 15m MacBook Pro by five points, and is almost twice as fast as most laptops based on Intel’s Core i7-855oU chips. In the multi-platform Geekbench 4 benchmark, the XPS 15 hits 4,952 in single-core and 21,485 in multi-core tests. That’s absolutely incredible for a device that’s only 17mm thick.

BATTERY: video playback, 7hrs 14mins

The graphics chip is no slouch either. In GFXBench Manhattan 3, the GTX 1050 Ti netted the top 6o fps mark in the onscreen tests, while its offscreen performance (which runs at 1o8op) hit a staggering 295 fps.

I also put the laptop through its paces in Dirt: Showdown. At Full HD it managed an average of 104fps, and ramping up the resolution to 4K – as I could, because our review sample included a 4K touchscreen – still returned 68fps. Upping the ante, I used Metro: Last Light Redux to stress its GPU. Here, cracks started to appear, with 4K at medium settings hitting an average of 33 fps, while on High graphics settings the figure drops down to 25fps.

Then there’s the 512GB M.2 PCIe SSD. In the AS SSD Benchmark, the XPS 15 achieved a read speed of 2,292MB/sec and write speed of 1,oo9MB/sec – results that are more than twice as fast as a typical SSD.

This CPU has six cores running at a base clock of 2.2GHz, and when stressed can boost to a staggering 4.1 GHz per core

Designer flourish

When it comes to design, we know exactly what to expect when it comes to a Dell XPS laptop. The 2018 XPS 15 is no different from its predecessors – a CNC-machined aluminium lid, black carbon-fibre composite palm rest and crazily narrow bezels around the display give it a high-class look. It’s also a sleek laptop, with a tapered design that starts at 11mm at the front.

This helps to disguise its 2kg weight, which is respectable for a laptop containing this much power. For example, the Razer Blade 15 includes the same Intel processor and GTX 1070 graphics,

ABOVE The power button doubles up as a fingerprint reader – a useful time-saver

and weighs 2.1kg. I still found it easy to lug around, though, and it’s surprising what a difference the Razer Blade’s extra 1.3mm of thickness makes in terms of perception. Note that if you buy the Full HD version of the XPS 15, Dell includes a smaller battery and the weight consequently drops to 1.8kg.

Dell packs in the ports, with a Type-A USB 3.1 port on the right-hand edge along with an SD card reader, which both sit under a convenient five-LED battery indicator. Here, you can check the laptop’s battery level by clicking the small physical button on the right-hand edge.

The left edge offers another Type-A USB 3.1 port, a 3.5mm headphone/mic jack combo, a full-sized HDMI 2 port, and a Thunderbolt 3 USB-C port. As we cover in this month’s Labs (see p92), this versatile port is proving ever more popular: connect a docking station and you have a neat way to deliver power, connect a couple of displays and hook up external drives.

Dell positions the power button at the top right-hand side of the keyboard, where it doubles up as a fingerprint reader. This makes it ultra-convenient to unlock the laptop. Curiously, though, Dell has opted to ditch the infrared camera setup of the 2-in-i XPS 15, where it’s used as a Windows Hello sign-in option. As usual, the remaining webcam sits awkwardly under the display’s bottom edge. That’s both understandable and forgivable, though, given the lack of bezel space.

RECOMMENDED

LEFT The XPS is no featherweight at 2kg, but it’s still surprisingly easy to lug around

A display with edge

The XPS 15 has a 15.6m “InfinityEdge” screen. This isn’t just marketing bumf. With an edge-to-edge Corning Gorilla Glass 4 display, it looks glorious. Dell offers a choice of a 4K (3,840 x 2,160) touchscreen or a Full HD (1,920 x 1,080) non-touch IPS display. Our sample included a 4K screen, which I found to be predictively responsive; note it supports ten-point touch too.

The screen proved capable of covering 95.5% of the sRGB colour gamut, and with a contrast ratio of 1,638:1 it’s little wonder that colours popped off the screen whether viewing films or photos. Don’t expect top-end colour accuracy, though: I measured an average Delta E of 3.21 and a maximum of 10.75. Still, to the naked eye, it looks incredible. My only real complaint – and this comes from my background as an avid gamer – is that the display is limited to 60Hz. The 144Hz Full HD Razer Blade 15 will provide a more fluid experience.

If you’re more concerned with battery life, you should consider whether you need a 4K display. Here, the laptop achieved a respectable 7hrs 14mins in our video rundown test, which is seven minutes more than the Razer Blade. However, the XPS 15 2-in-1 we tested with a Full HD display achieved 8hrs 29mins. I’d expect the Full HD XPS 15 to offer a similar life.

While the XPS 15’s keyboard doesn’t have the RGB backlights of the Razer, it’s a fine unit. There’s no number pad, which means there’s plenty of space for keys to breathe, while the keys are perfect for fast typists – they provide a solid, “clicky” feedback. The touchpad sits in the middle, and while the buttons are integral there are clear left and right indicators along the bottom edge of the pad. Better still, you can left-click anywhere on the pad – a nice touch for power users.

Buy now

Just when I thought the XPS range couldn’t get better, it did. Fast year’s XPS 15 was an excellent laptop, and this year’s XPS 15 2-in-i was even better – but the new “regular” XPS 15 takes it up a notch. And Dell offers something for every budget. Which is half the price of a 15m MacBook Pro, you could buy the base Dell XPS 15 – this includes a Full HD screen, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD, GTX 1050 graphics and a quad-core Core 15-8300H processor.

Or you can go the opposite way and spend on the Intel Core i9-895oHK variant, which comes with a 2TB PCIe SSD and 32GB of RAM. I’m not sure I’d spend that much on a laptop with a GeForce GTX 1050 Ti chip – gamers would be better off with the Razer Blade 15, which with a GTX 1070 and 144Hz Full HD screen.

But the attraction of the XPS 15 isn’t just its ridiculously fast speed for the price, but the entire package. Everywhere I looked and tested, I struggled to find a fault. Sure, it could do with more flattering webcam placement, and slightly better battery life, but that’s it. It’s no surprise then, that the 2018 Dell XPS 15 (code 9570) garners a five-star rating and Recommended award. As far as I’m concerned, it’s the best laptop money can buy. CHRISTOPHER MINASIANS

SPECIFICATIONS

Six-core 2.2GHz Core i7-8750H processor –  4GB Nvidia Max-Q GeForce GTX1050 Ti graphics – 16GB RAM – 15.6in IPS touchscreen display, 3,840 x 2,160 resolution 512GB M.2 PCIe SSD 2×2 802.11ac Wi-Fi Bluetooth 4.2 – Thunderbolt 3 USB-C – 2 x Type-A USB 3.1 – HDMI 2 SD card reader –  97Wh battery (56Whr for Full HD versions) – Windows 10 Home – 357x235x11-17mm (WDH) – 2kg (1.8kg for Full HD versions) – 1 yr limited warranty

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