"The new Dell XPS 15 takes performance to a new level."
Excellent performance with Core i9
Beautiful, color-accurate OLED display
The placement of the webcam has been fixed
Comfortable port selection
Excellent keyboard and touchpad
Limited game performance
Editor's note: A new version of the XPS 15 has been announced and will be available from summer 2020.
People have to work on the go, but laptops aren't always well equipped for that. The most powerful options are often too bulky, while portable options do not have the brute force required for some tasks. It's a classic laptop compromise that shoppers still face.
The fourth generation of the Dell XPS 15 could finally make this compromise superfluous. The 2019 model can be equipped with the most advanced hardware you can imagine on a laptop. A 4K OLED screen, a Core i9 processor with eight cores and a discrete Nvidia GTX 1650 graphics chip. Is this the ultimate laptop for content creators?
take a closer look
The XPS 15 is modest. The aluminum lid and bottom appear frequently, and the soft plastic inside is a business-casual level of harmless. However, excellence is not about the materials a company uses. It's about how these materials present a pleasant experience for the person who uses them. The XPS 15 is seriously committed to building quality and is doing this well.
Still, it doesn't feel heavy or unwieldy. The XPS 15 definitely looks bigger than it feels. At 4.2 pounds, it's 0.2 pounds lighter than the MacBook Pro 15. You'll feel the size and weight in your pocket, but it's still pretty slim compared to large gaming laptops or workstation PCs. I had no problem putting it in the laptop bag of my mid-sized backpack.
The display bezel is still slim. The original XPS 15 was launched with insanely thin bezels, and Dell has managed to keep these bezels in place without compromising webcam placement. It is no longer a nasal camera, but is pressed into the tiny border above the screen.
The XPS 15 transfers the excellent keyboard and touchpad of its predecessor.
I can only complain about the stiff display hinge. Two hands are required to open and reluctant to develop. It's a shame that the variable torque hinge did not transition from the XPS 13 2019 to the XPS 15.
The XPS 15 also lacks its little brother's color options. A "rose gold" XPS 13 was introduced in 2018, and a "frost white" model came this year. Both offer a white, structured interior that I enjoyed as an alternative to the usual silver and black. More variety would be desirable.
Riley Young / Digital Trends
In contrast to the MacBook Pro, the XPS 15 has a large number of connections. It contains a USB-A port, HDMI, USB-C (Thunderbolt 3), a power plug and a headphone jack. On the right side there is more USB-A connector and of course an SD card slot. This feature will be loved by photographers and videographers and will be sorely missed on modern MacBooks.
Fast, smooth and familiar input
The XPS 15 transfers the excellent keyboard and touchpad of its predecessor. The interior with carbon fiber structure is comfortable and the palm rests do not heat up in contrast to the Razer Blade. Dell also beats Razer on keyboard layout. While the blade makes strange decisions about the arrow keys, the XPS 15 is conventional. The key feel is nothing special, but it easily outperforms a keyboard with little travel like the MacBook Pro 15 or XPS 15 2-in-1. Typing is fast, fluid, and familiar.
Riley Young / Digital Trends
The touchpad is also fantastic and offers a solid, nifty mechanism and precise tracking. I wouldn't mind if it were bigger, but there is a lot of space and Windows Precision enables numerous multi-touch gestures.
Windows Hello is supported via the fingerprint scanner, which is integrated in the power switch. It is reliable and conveniently located. I prefer scanners built into the touchpad, which is common among competitors.
OLED? More like "oh wow"
This year's XPS 15 upgrade focuses on OLED. While a 1080p LED screen remains standard, our test device brought something special. An OLED 4K panel. This is the same Samsung AMOLED screen that has been used for many OLED laptops, although Dell has clearly matched it for optimal color accuracy.
Dell's 4K are always beautiful, but this OLED screen takes it to a new level. Although shiny, its brilliance means that I rarely had to stare at my reflection. This is a problem with other OLED laptops like the Razer Blade.
As usual with OLED, the screen has a dazzling contrast. With infinitely deep black levels, everything looks amazing, from surfing the Internet to HDR video. It also makes a difference when creating content.
The display is a bit warmer than the MacBook Pro's screen, but in the end it's a screen you can trust with your changes. This is one of the most important considerations for a photographer or video editor on the go.
Riley Young / Digital Trends
I wish the speakers were up instead of down. There is space next to the keyboard, and this would help improve the laptop's mediocre audio. This is a place where the Razer Blade and MacBook Pro 15 can easily beat Dell's XPS 15.
A laptop that deserves its eight cores
I have always known that the eight-core Intel Core i9 chip is an impressive mobile part, but I did not realize that my previous experience with it had not reached its full potential. With the XPS 15 from Dell, the Core i9 can live its best life. With 32 GB of RAM and an excellent thermal profile, the processor exceeded my expectations.
However, the jump is not so clear in synthetic benchmarks. In Geekbench 4, the XPS 15 was closely connected to the MacBook Pro 15, which uses the same Core i9-9980HK processor. However, the 4% lead in single-core performance is significantly expanded in real tests.
The first performance test I tried was handbrake video coding. I transcoded a 420MB 4K file to x265 and watched the XPS 15 do the job 15% faster than the MacBook Pro. In fact, it set a benchmark record (aside from the Alienware Area-51M, which weighs 8.5 pounds and uses a desktop processor).
Still, I wasn't happy. I wanted to know how the XPS 15 handles real video editing. As it turns out, the XPS 15 really shines here. I made a two-minute 4K video clip in Premiere Pro and went to work with the help of the Digital Trends video team.
The clip was exported to ProRes 422 in an astonishing 4 minutes and 55 seconds. The same export took 10.5 minutes on the MacBook Pro and 9.5 minutes on the Razer Blade. The MacBook would undoubtedly perform better in Final Cut, but given the ever-present premiere, I think this is a fair comparison. The XPS 15 is the king of video editing.
The Core i9 OLED model was also equipped with a fast storage solution: the Toshiba XG6. The reading speed was high at 1,450 MB / s on average. At 456 MB / s, the write speed was not as high as that of some competitors, but I didn't notice that in everyday use. The SSD and RAM can be replaced or updated.
Play? Sure, I think
The Dell XPS 15 is not a gaming laptop. This is an important statement that may need to be repeated. It has a decent discrete GPU in Nvidia's GTX 1650 and is certainly an upgrade over last year's GTX 1050 Ti. However, it is not fast enough to satisfy demanding players.
Let's start with 3DMark. The XPS 15 is a solid upgrade over the GTX 1050 Ti, which in our comparison is represented by the HP Specter x360 15. It doesn't come close to the Razer Blade. This laptop's Nvidia RTX 2070 is 37% faster in Time Spy, a lead that only grows with real games.
I tested the XPS 15 in four games: Fortnite, Civilization VI, Battlefield V and Assassins Creed Odyssey. These games play well at medium settings and 1080p. You won't see 60 FPS in every game, but lighter tariffs like Fortnite cruises even with epic settings. However, it can't keep up with a gaming laptop like the Razer Blade.
The XPS 15 performed best in Civilization VI, where it was 45% faster than the HP Specter x360 15 and 32% slower than the Razer Blade. With 53 FPS at Ultra (in 1080p), Civilization VI felt smooth.
You shouldn't expect to play with the screen's native 4K resolution. OLED lets all games show up a bit more, but you need a more powerful GPU to run 4K games.
The thermal profile of the Dell XPS 15 favors quiet operation and cool surface temperatures. The XPS 15 remains cool regardless of its performance, even if this is at the expense of performance.
Good battery life for a 4K laptop
Earlier XPS 15 models did well in our battery tests, especially the 1080p LED model. When I reviewed it last year, it took over 14.5 hours for local video playback. The new 4K OLED model doesn't last that long, but still achieves respectable results.
The XPS 15 lasted about 7.5 hours when surfing the internet lightly and about an hour longer with local video playback. That's an hour worse than the HP Specter x360 15, which also uses a 4K screen. There is also something behind the MacBook Pro 15.
If you're editing videos or running a heavy duty application, you'll see closer to two hours simulated by our Basemark benchmark.
All in all, it doesn't keep an entire working day away from the wall, but it does deliver strong results given the high resolution screen and the fast Core i9 processor. Do you want maximum endurance? Look for the mid-range model with a 1080p screen. The entry-level model may perform well due to its less demanding hardware, but be warned. It also has a smaller battery.
The new Dell XPS 15 with Core i9 processor is the best video editing laptop I've ever tested. It's not even close. The combination of a beautiful OLED screen and eight cores of computing power makes it a pleasure for content creators. Many laptops claim to focus on creators, but remain behind. Dell kept its promise.
Is there a better alternative?
Only a few laptops have the mobile Core i9 from Intel. Apple's Macbook Pro 16 is the most popular. The recently launched MacBook Pro 16 has a slightly larger display and a great keyboard. We need to test it further to decide if it can beat the Dell.
Another option is the ZenBook Pro Duo, a unique laptop with two screens that also contains the powerful Core i9 chip. We haven't tested it yet, but it's almost an inch and nearly five pounds thick, making it less portable than the XPS 15.
The Razer Blade is obviously better for gamers. However, the Core i9 is not offered, which means that it lags behind the fastest competitors in terms of processor performance.
How long it will take?
The XPS 15 is a durable, future-proof laptop. It is incredibly powerful with its updated components and the RAM and SSD can even be replaced. This laptop is likely to last five years or more.
Should you buy it
Yes. If you're looking for a 15-inch laptop, you won't find a better option than the XPS 15. The cheaper configurations offer a balance between value and performance. However, when you create content, this OLED Core i9 model is the charged computer you've been waiting for.