As an owner of the Dell XPS 15 9560, I naturally grew envious as the release of the new XPS 15 drew near. I’ve owned last year’s model for nine months now, and I can confidently say it’s one of the best tech purchases I’ve made in a while. The XPS 15 has stood up to the rigorous tasks I’ve thrown at it, including writing articles on the CES show floor and enjoying long gaming sessions with Starcraft 2 on medium settings.
Despite my glowing impressions, there is plenty of room for Dell to improve upon the laptop. Its aging design is in desperate need of an overhaul, and, while its battery life is solid, I find myself hauling around an external battery when I travel. Then there’s the webcam location, which is still comically bad.
Here are my impressions of the new XPS 15, and whether the improvements made to the 2018 model warrant a purchase.
What I Like…
The XPS 15’s InfinityEdge feature isn’t new to this year’s model, but I’m happy to see its return. The narrow bezels around the new XPS 15 draws your eyes toward its 15-inch display, providing a captivating viewing experience that you don’t find on other machines.
The entrancing effect works only because of the excellent quality of the XPS 15’s display. It is bright, colorful and detailed. The display on the 1080p model is capable of reproducing an impressive 115 percent of the sRGB color gamut. It also gets bright enough to see outdoors, with a peak luminance of 371 nits. The 4K display is even more gorgeous, with an extremely colorful 164.2 sRGB rating and a maximum display brightness of 446.6 nits.
Performance: More power, better graphics
The new XPS 15 comes equipped with an 8th Gen CPU and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti GPU. The latest processor offers a healthy jump in performance compared with last year’s model. The new XPS 15 scored a 19,777 in the Geekbench 4 overall performance test, whereas the 2017 model scored a significantly lower 13,911.
That means, in theory, that the new XPS 15 can load more demanding programs, and should experience fewer slowdowns when pushed to its limits. We didn’t have any problems loading up 20 Google Chrome tabs and running Twitch streams on them during our testing. That said, unless you’re running CPU-intensive programs, like video editors or CAD software, you probably won’t notice a huge jump in performance.
You will, however, see a wider performance gap when playing the latest PC games. When we compared the GTX 1050 found in last year’s XPS 15 with the GTX 1050 Ti, the 1050 Ti produced higher frame rates across the board. For example, it played Rise of the Tomb Raider at 47 frames per second, while the GTX 1050 ran it at only 38 fps. In our testing, the XPS 15 rendered Battlefield 1 on high graphics settings at between 50 fps and 60 fps.
Battery life: All day, and then some
The biggest gripe I have with my last-gen 1080p XPS 15 is its battery life. By no means is it poor, but when I made the difficult decision to choose the XPS 15 over the XPS 13, I knew I’d lose several hours on a charge.
Apart from an improved webcam placement, the only change that would make me swoon over the new XPS 15 would be a significant endurance boost.
And, boy, did it get one.
The laptop lasted an outstanding 11 hours and 53 minutes in our Laptop Mag Battery Test, which involves continuous web surfing over Wi-Fi at 150 nits. That’s a significant boost from last year’s 1080p XPS 15, which is giving me around 6 hours of battery life — a respectable, albeit unremarkable, result.
Even after I pair my last-gen laptop with a 18,000mAh portable battery, the new XPS 15 will outlast it by several hours. That’s a significant benefit for anyone who uses their laptop away from an outlet, like students who take notes in class or professionals on business trips.
What I Don’t Like….
Design: Been there, done that
The XPS 15’s industrial design is sleek and functional, and, best of all, it gives you the impression that you spent your hard-earned money on a premium product. That said, only a few tweaks have been made to the design since 2013, and things are starting to feel stale. I was anxious to see the new XPS 15 follow the lead of its smaller sibling and get a refreshed design.
Unfortunately, it didn’t. From a design standpoint, the new XPS 15 does nothing to move the needle forward. The new model has the same chassis as the old one. It weighs the same, it has the same dimensions, and it comes in the same silver-and-black finish. The only difference is that some of the ports have been updated with the latest standards, such as the USB 3.1 port (from USB 3.0), an HDMI 2.0 (from HDMI 1.0) and a Thunderbolt 3 port with four PCI Express lanes (up from two).
I would have liked to see Dell make the same changes it did to this year’s XPS 13, which is thinner and lighter than the 2017 model, and is offered in a new white-and-gold color scheme.
Webcam: Still very awkward
The conservative approach Dell took to the XPS 15’s design doesn’t annoy me nearly as much as its failure to address the webcam location. To accommodate its tiny bezels, Dell dropped the webcam — or, more appropriately, the “nosecam” — below the display. With the new XPS 15, the company tried solving this issue by centering the webcam — but the attempt was in vain.
It doesn’t matter how crisp, colorful or bright the 720p lens is, its awkward angle ensures the images it takes are, at best, unflattering.
So, even if I did upgrade to the new XPS 15, the Logitech C920 I purchased for its predecessor would still get more use than I’d like. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great external camera; I’d just prefer not to haul it around everywhere I go.
Should You Buy the XPS 15?
In short: yes. The XPS 15 is an excellent all-around laptop with a premium design, a gorgeous display, an impressive CPU performance and long-lasting battery life. It will even satiate casual gamers with its beefed up GTX 1050 Ti GPU.
As always, there are a few areas that could be improved. For example, the XPS 15’s webcam still looks up your nose, and its design, while premium and practical, has gotten long in the tooth.
So, should I, or anybody else who owns the 2017 XPS 15, purchase the new model? Probably not. While the new edition is better in almost every way, its small improvements don’t warrant an upgrade. For everyone else, the XPS 15 ticks (almost) all the boxes, and is one of the best premium laptops on the market. Better yet, with a starting price of $999, the new XPS 15 costs about as much as its predecessor, and much less than one of its biggest competitors, the 15-inch MacBook Pro.
Credit: Laptop Mag