Dell XPS 15 Notebook User Review

*This device is a loaned review unit from Dell Malaysia*

When Dell Malaysia launched the Dell XPS 15 laptop last year, the specs already looked so impressive on paper that I knew this would be a power house. Even their Marketing materials says so. The stunning display, the powerful specs, everything looks awesome. They released a revised pricing a few months later and I got my hands on this beauty for review.

Dell XPS 15 Notebook
Dell XPS 15 Notebook

Here’s a quick specs overview of the Dell XPS 15 :-

  • 15.6″ LED Backlit Touch Display with Truelife and FHD resolution (1920 x 1080) / 15.6″ Ultrasharp 4K UltraHD LED Backlit Touch Display with Truelife and QHD+ resolution (3200 x 1800) (for Core i7 model)
  • up to 3.4 GHz 4th Gen Intel “Haswell” Core i5 OR i7 processors with Intel HD video card (or NVIDIA® GeForce® for Core i7 model)
  • 8 GB / 16 GB Dual Channel DDR3L 1600MHz memory
  • 500 GB SATA Hybrid Hard Drive (HDD) with 16 GB cache / 1TB SATA Hard Drive (HDD) + 32GB mSATA Solid State Drive (SSD)
  • Powered by Windows 8.1 OS (64 bit)
  • ~18mm thin, weighing from 2.01 kg
  • 61WHr 6-Cell Battery
  • Ports : USB 3.0 w/PowerShare (3), USB 2.0 with PowerShare (1), mini DisplayPort (1), HDMI (1), 3-in-1 media card reader supporting SD, SDIO, SDXC, headset jack (1), Noble lock
  • Connectivity : WiFi b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC

For more information, check out the Dell XPS 15 Malaysian product page at http://www.dell.com/my/p/xps-15-9530/pd?ref=PD_OC

After much delay, what with me moving houses and living out of boxes for awhile, I finally broke out the review unit of Dell XPS 15 and test it out.

 

Hardware : Design & Build Quality

To protect this masterpiece, Dell actually encased the laptop in 2 boxes. One black cardboard one, and another matte branded one.

Dell XPS 15 - Unboxing
Unboxing the Dell XPS 15

Inside the box, you’ll find the Dell laptop, standard 3 pin adapter charger, and user manuals. Simple, no fuss.

Dell XPS 15 - Top and bottom
Top and bottom of the Dell XPS 15

Dell XPS 15 - Specs & Logo

 

The lid of the laptop has a nice metal brushed aluminium finishing which I particularly like. It gives it a very premium look and feel so nice when you run your fingers over the embossed metal Dell logo in the middle. At the bottom you’ll find a honeycomb patterned design and vent along the back, with a metal plate with XPS and Windows 8 branding.

Dell XPS 15 - Ports
Generous ports and connectivity options

Yup, there are 4 USB ports here – 3 USB 3.0 and 1 USB 2.0 ports. Also the standard SD card reader, mini DisplayPort, HDMI and the works. There is, however, no Ethernet LAN port, eventhough the dimensions at 18 mm thin can support one. Nevertheless, WiFi b/g/n support is the norm these days. I have not used a physical LAN cable connection in years!

The configuration I got for this review model is the Core i5 with 1920 X 1080 resolution touch display. Instead of the Core i7 model with Ultra HD 4K 3200 X 1800 resolution display. I would’ve loved to be able to test the amazing 4K display on a laptop, but unfortunately, it’s not meant to be.

At 2.01 kg, this is not exactly the most portable of laptops. Perhaps I’m spoilt with all my ultrathin Ultrabooks that weigh almost nothing. Honestly, a feather over 2 kg is rather acceptable for a powerhouse like this Dell XPS 15. It feels solid, the 15.6″ screen machine looks premium and high end. Nicely done.

 

Screen : 15.6″ Full HD Display

Dell XPS 15 review

The biggest highlighted feature of the Dell XPS 15 is their stunning display. Ultrasharp 4K Ultra HD display, not something you see in your everyday laptop.

The Dell XPS 15 combines jaw-dropping resolution and vibrant color in a large 15.6” touch display that makes it perfect for editing photos and graphic design. Some of the key features of the XPS 15 include:

  • An IGZO panel in stunning QHD+ (3200 x 1800) that has 5x the resolution of standard HD
  • An edge-to-edge Corning Gorilla Glass NBT display which is up to 10 times more scratch resistant than soda lime glass
  • Performance features to help you be productive and entertained – wherever you go
Dell XPS 15 Screenshot
Still stunning display, even the 1980 X 1080 config model

Unfortunately for me, I don’t get the 4K display unit to review. But that doesn’t mean the display is bad. It still packs an impressive 1980 X 1080 FHD touchscreen display. The edge-to-edge Gorilla Glass display is still there. Their proprietary display rendering technology is still present.

Dell XPS 15 - Touchscreen display
Touchscreen display

While many might not appreciate it, I personally like touchscreen displays on my laptops. I got so used to it since the release of them with Windows 8 laptops, I can’t believe how I lived without it before.

Just the ability to scroll long webpages with your finger, organise your icons and tiles on Windows 8 Start menu or desktop mode, swiping for charms and shortcut, gestures to swap between windows instead of Alt+Tab, I love it.

Dell XPS 15 - Photo editing
Photo editing is easy, without lag

While I’m writing this review using the Dell XPS 15 itself, I also edited the pictures using the machine. In slightly under-powered machines, I see a lag when I switch between windows while photo editing. Or see a lag within the photo editing app (I use Photoscape) when I’m doing batch edits. In my review using the XPS 15, I don’t see that happening. Rendering for batch edit was quick, even with the Core i5 processor. I’m impressed.

Dell XPS 15 - Display images
Stunning display even browsing images on Flickr

Even browsing through images on Flickr shows the colours were nice and crisp. I also watched a few YouTube videos on HD and fullscreen. All good. The 1980 X 1080 Full HD display delivered stunning colours and vibrancy.

 

Trackpad

Dell XPS 15 - Keyboard & Trackpad
Full size keyboard and large matte trackpad

For a 15″ laptop, you would expect the keyboard and trackpad to be equally big in size. The XPS 15 packs a full size keyboard (more on that in a bit) along with a fairly large trackpad as well. The trackpad was sensitive enough for my review, and it also support multi-touch which means 2 finger scrolling and gestures.

Swiping in from the right of the trackpad, which brings up the Windows Charms shortcut should be a fairly easy test. In my review, it works at the first try only half the time. The other times, I have to keep swiping and swiping until it registers, or I give up and just swipe the touchscreen instead.

Two finger scrolling for reading long webpages is the other normal use I have for multi-touch trackpad. While it works OK, I wish the XPS 15 trackpad was a little more sensitive to my 2 finger actions. Unless my fingers were perfectly aligned, 2 finger scroll doesn’t always deliver. Overall, good, but not great.

 

Backlit Keyboard

Dell XPS 15 - Backlit chiclet keyboard
Backlit chiclet island keyboard

The XPS 15 packs a full size, chiclet, island keyboard, complete with back lighting. Backlit keyboards are great when you ocassionally sit and work in a dark room, like me. The ability to still see your keybaord and type comfortably in the dark is important, right?

Sorry you can’t really see the backlit keyboard that clearly in the image above. In a dark room, it’s a lot more visible.

Nevertheless, the keyboard has nice travel and just the right amount of spring to its island keys. Typing was a breeze and honestly, quite nice as I write this review. The sound, the keypress and the spacing of the keys are all perfect. Makes me feel good about typing this long-ass review post. 🙂

 

Software & Performance

The XPS 15 is powered by Windows 8.1 Single Language OS.

Dell XPS 15 - Configuration

Other than the usual Windows Update when you start the laptop for the first time, you can also personalise your settings and appearance. Or like me, who’s already got all my settings synced to my Microsoft account, all I need to do is sign in to this review laptop with my Microsoft account, give it a couple of minutes and all my settings are restored to this new machine.

Dell XPS 15 Review - Restore MS account settings
Signin to my Microsoft account to restore all settings and personalisation
Dell XPS 15 - Windows 8 "Snap"
Windows 8 “Snap” feature for multi-window

The other thing I also love about Windows 8 is the “Snap” feature, which allows me to have split screen of multiple apps / programs in one screen. Excellent for multi-tasking. Browsing while Twitter updates in one side of the screen? Perfect!

Dell XPS 15 - HDD Partition
HDD partition?

I noticed my Hard Drive (HDD) was partitioned into 2. One for the OS and one marked “ESP”. I don’t know if this is standard for all XPS 15 machines, or it’s just specific to my review unit. Nonetheless, it’s not a big deal. But as you can see, I got the 1 TB storage model, with 2X 500 GB hard drive partitions. Handy for when you need big storage for all your files, pictures, videos etc.

I mostly store my files in the cloud and sync it across devices. Which means I barely use the storage provided, but it’s handy to know I have more than enough space when needed.

 

Battery Life

The Dell XPS 15 comes with a 61WHr 6-Cell Battery. This is a fairly good sized battery, although Dell’s literature did state that the XPS 15 also comes with good battery performance monitor and optimization.

Today’s been a relatively heavy usage of the XPS 15 for me. As I was editing pictures for this review, writing this review, checking and replying some emails, did a couple of long Skype calls and browsed some websites, I came out rather unimpressed with the battery performance, to be honest.

Dell XPS 15 - Battery
Battery died very quickly today

Maybe it was the heavy processor usage in photo editing and Skype calls, but I only managed 4 hours of battery life with heavy usage.

Now, this is by no means poor performance. Most laptops today last about the same amount of time, less if you’re using heavy softwares. But with the hype from the Dell XPS 15 Marketing materials, I was hoping for 5-6 hours of battery life, at least.

Of course, I could’ve adjusted the screen brightness, manage the Power Saver mode and settings, I would’ve gotten a longer battery performance with the machine.

 

Pricing & Availability

XPS 15 Notebook

The Dell XPS 15 is available since Q4 2014 from RM 4,999 for the Core i5, 500GB HDD, Full HD configuration model, to the higher end RM 6,399 for the Core i7, 1TB HDD + 32GB SSD, Ultra 4k configuration model.

More information on specs, configuration and pricing can be found on the Dell Malaysia website here.

 

Conclusion

Dell XPS 15
Dell XPS 15 Reviewed

This is by no means an exhaustive review, but rather a personal user review of the Dell XPS 15 by an average, everyday user.

In the time I have used the XPS 15, I liked the machine a lot. I can’t deny that this is a powerful laptop indeed. It’s 15.6″ display is gorgeous, for photos, videos, or even just browsing. Even with the Core i5 config model I got, I was thoroughly impressed with the processor and its performance. It performed as good as an i7 model in most cases.

 

What I Like

  • Stunning display with 1980 X 1080 Full HD touchscreen – or opt for the Ultra 4K display at 3200 X 1800
  • Powerful machine with Core i5 or Core i7 processor
  • Excellent backlit keyboard

What I Dislike

  • Mediocre battery life
  • Not exactly thin and light, although it’s a 15.6″ laptop
  • Expensive laptop from RM 4,999 onwards

 

If you’re one who’s looking for a good laptop that can handle your photo or video editing needs, powerful enough to handle multi-tasking without breaking a sweat or crazy high specs, check this Dell XPS 15 out.

At a hefty price tag of RM 4,999 and up, this might sway some potential buyers to other models or even a Macbook Air, though, if you’re into multimedia and photo editing capabilities. But if you’d rather spend on a good Windows laptop with good performance, this XPS 15 could be the perfect fit for your needs and budget.

 

For more information, check out the Dell XPS 15 Malaysian product page at http://www.dell.com/my/p/xps-15-9530/pd?ref=PD_OC and *LIKE* Dell Malaysia Facebook Page at https://www.facebook.com/DellMalaysia

 

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