Dell XPS 15 (9500) Evaluation: The Greatest 15-inch Laptop computer

Dell XPS 15 (9500) review: the best 15-inch laptop you can buy

"The elegant design and impressive performance of the Dell XPS 15 make it an excellent choice for creative people."

  • Efficient design

  • An additional Thunderbolt 3 port

  • World class display

  • Excellent performance

Dell hit 15 gold with the XPS. It was the perfect alternative to the MacBook Pro 15-inch, a laptop with problems ranging from thermal throttling to unreliable keyboards.

But now that Apple has the 16-inch MacBook Pro, the ball is back on Dell's pitch. The new XPS 15 is the answer. With improvements to almost every aspect of the design, this is the biggest revision of the XPS 15 since its debut.

Is this the ultimate premium laptop for creative people?

design

Known and yet fresh. That's how Dell describes the new XPS 15, and I have to agree.

The look of the Dell XPS 15 has not changed in almost five years. It took a long time to redesign, especially with all the advances the XPS 13 has received over the years.

Almost every aspect of the XPS 15 has been updated in some way. The only design elements that have remained intact are the black carbon fiber fabric used in the palm rests and the aluminum on the lid. The use of aluminum and carbon fiber makes the XPS 15 look like an XPS product, but this is where familiarity ends.

The first thing you'll notice is the display. The XPS 15 now has an aspect ratio of 16:10 for a slightly larger screen. I really like this choice. It made a difference with the XPS 13, and with the larger XPS 15 it made an even bigger difference.

More screen and less wasted space are always good.

The screen measures 15.6 inches and offers a resolution of 3,840 x 2,400. That's more pixels than a conventional 4K screen and a higher pixel density than the 16-inch MacBook Pro. Angry.

Of course, a bigger screen generally means a bigger laptop. Not here. Despite the larger display, the dimensions of the new laptop roughly correspond to those of the previous model. It still weighs only 4 pounds (or 4.5 for the version with the larger battery) and is 0.71 inches thick. More screen and less wasted space are always good.

This emphasis on efficiency also applies to other areas. The keyboard has a wider, more comfortable layout with larger keycaps and a lot of travel. The touchpad is significantly larger and now corresponds to the size of the MacBook Pro 16 inches. However, you don't need to worry about it being too big – the palm rejection is as good as it gets.

My device had a problem with the touchpad. When pressed, it moves slightly as if it were working, but does not register a click. I learned that I have to push harder for it to work as expected. It's annoying with an otherwise excellent tracking experience.

There's no question that some design elements of the laptop were inspired by the MacBook Pro 16-inch, but it doesn't feel like a copycat. The look is XPS through and through.

The port selection was reduced this time, and the HDMI and USB-A ports were replaced by many USB-C ports. Two of them are Thunderbolt 3 ports and one is a standard USB-C 3.1 port. Fortunately, Dell has kept the SD card slot, which is a great blessing for creatives. Undoubtedly, some of them will miss their old peripheral ports like a wired mouse, but more future-proof, more powerful ports like Thunderbolt 3 are never a bad thing.

Display and speakers

Dell boasted of its new speakers, which are now located directly on the keyboard deck. The placement offers a much more satisfying audio experience than in previous years, and more bass can be heard here than I've ever heard on an XPS product.

However, this doesn't mean that it competes with the MacBook Pro 16-inch. It still fades in terms of clear bass and full mids. The speakers of the XPS 15 are even thinner than the 13-inch MacBook Pro.

If you are a video or photo editor, you will love this screen.

The display and speakers have been redesigned for the better. The larger panel that Dell chose is as good as they come. Although it is an LED (not OLED), 100% was achieved in both sRGB and Adobe RGB color spaces. It also has one of the most color-accurate screens I've ever seen – even the MacBook Pro 16.

Although I miss the deep black and high peak brightness of the OLED screen (which is no longer on sale), this is still one of the best laptop displays I've ever tested. If you are a video or photo editor or even a graphic designer you will love this screen.

Of course, you do not get this high-resolution screen in the basic model. It's an $ 294 upgrade to make the 1,920 x 1,200 jump – but it's a must for creatives.

Battery life

Thanks to this insanely high-resolution screen, the battery life is impaired. Dell has put a large 86-watt-hour battery into this model, but the 4K + XPS 15 still only lasts about 6 hours with a light workload. Don't expect to spend all day outside of a store.

The 1080p version of the XPS 15 has been a record for battery life in the past, but this 4K model sucks batteries away like no one cares.

It is particularly noticeable when you do hard work. I tested this with the Basemark benchmark, which puts a heavy load on the CPU, and it only took less than 3.5 hours. This is not uncommon for a 15-inch 4K laptop, but it is something you should be aware of.

Compared to the MacBook Pro 16-inch and other 4K laptops, the battery life of the XPS 15 is even.

performance

The performance of the XPS 15 has always been the most important feature. In contrast to laptops like the Surface Laptop 3 15 or the LG Gram 15, the XPS 15 is not just a larger screen. It is more power. It has a 45 watt processor with up to eight cores and 16 threads. It also has an option for a discrete graphics card and plenty of memory.

My test device came with the Intel Core i7-10875H, the Nvidia GTX 1660 Ti, 16 GB RAM and a 512 GB SSD. This, of course, is one of the high-end configurations that costs $ 2,200. That's expensive, yes – although it's $ 500 cheaper than a similarly configured 16-inch MacBook Pro.

The system measures quite well. In Cinebench R20 it stomps on the MacBook Pro 16-inch and the XPS 15 from last year. However, the gap in Geekbench 5 is even bigger. However, this lead does not hold up in real performance. It's 5% slower than the MacBook Pro in handbrake video encoding and 15% behind last year's XPS 15.

Video exports to Adobe Premiere Pro are a good challenge for both discrete graphics and a powerful processor. Rendering a 2-minute 4K clip to ProRes 422 took 8 minutes and 42 seconds. Compare that to the 9 minutes and 27 seconds it took for the Razer Blade, which has a six-core processor and a powerful Nvidia RTX 2070 for graphics.

It's a solid performance, though it's not earth-shattering. The XPS 15 that I tested last year did that in under 5 minutes thanks to the Core i9-9880HK. It was a faster, fully unlocked processor, and the 32 GB of RAM that was included in my test device didn't hurt either. The latest version of this unlocked 10th generation chip has not yet been shipped in the XPS 15, although Dell says it will come.

While the XPS 15 is a powerful laptop, it is also a fantastic 15-inch laptop in general.

The Microsoft Surface Book 3 was another laptop that surpasses this XPS 15 in terms of video editing. Although there is only one quad-core processor, its powerful graphics dominate the Premiere rendering.

The XPS 15 costs from $ 1,300 for the base model, which gives you only a quad-core processor, integrated graphics and 8 GB of RAM. This model doesn't work nearly as well as the model I've tested, but should be more than sufficient for buyers who don't have a specific, demanding application in mind. While the XPS 15 is a powerful laptop, it is also a fantastic 15-inch laptop overall. The basic model is well suited for users who are looking for a first-class laptop for everyday use.

Gaming performance

The XPS 15 has never been a gaming laptop, and that hasn't changed. The system continues to prioritize processor performance, making the GPU not glow like a gaming laptop.

However, upgrading from the Nvidia GTX 1650 to the 1650 Ti offers a significant improvement in game performance that I was happy to see. It was 105 to 20% faster than the previous model and can play most games with at least 60 frames per second (FPS). In Battlefield V, I had to reduce the settings to medium to get there, but in Fortnite and Civilization VI, you can easily play at maximum settings and still get 60 FPS.

This is an important number because the screen is locked at a refresh rate of 60 Hz. Anything over 60 FPS is not seen.

The only game that proved unplayable at maximum settings was Assassin's Creed Odyssey. At Ultra High it only reached 26 FPS and at High (the middle setting of the game) 47 FPS.

There are many more powerful gaming laptops out there. Laptops with more graphics options like the Surface Book 3 or Dell G5 SE are also better gaming experiences. But for those who want to use the XPS 15 for a few games on the side, it's just the thing.

Our opinion

The Dell XPS 15 is the best 15-inch notebook you can buy. The design is beautiful, the screen is out of this world and the performance is impressive. The eight-core Intel Core i7 model I've tested isn't the most powerful version of this laptop, but with the Core i9 on the way, the XPS 15 will likely be one of the most powerful video editing laptops you can buy. However, it is not cheap. To get a model that is similar to the model I tested, easily spend over $ 2,000 on the combination of a premium case, a color-accurate 4K display, and powerful fixtures.

Are there alternatives?

If you want an even more powerful XPS laptop, wait for the Dell XPS 17. Not only does it have a larger screen, it also has a powerful Nvidia RTX 2060 graphics card for even better performance.

The MacBook Pro 16-inch is a good alternative, although it's a little more expensive.

How long it will take?

The Dell XPS 15 should last for at least four or five years. From the components inside to the durability of the chassis, everything is first class. However, the guarantee has nothing special. It's still just a one-year standard hardware warranty, although Dell offers premium care packages like extended support up to four years or accident damage service.

Should you buy it

Yes. It's the best 15-inch laptop you can buy and an excellent choice for creatives who need a lot of power under the hood.

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