Dell XPS 15 Laptop: Bigger Really Is Better #DellXPS

The Dell XPS 13 has turned out to be such a fantastic travel laptop that I’d find myself wishing for a larger version, and the Dell XPS 15 does not disappoint. With its machined aluminum body, carbon fiber composite interior, and Gorilla Glass Infinity Edge touchscreen, the XPS 15″ manages to wedge a 15.6″ laptop into a 14″ body.

Everything I liked about the Dell XPS 13 is present in the XPS 15 and then some. The XPS 15 has a brilliant 4K Ultra HD (3840 x 2160) InfinityEdge touch display, and it has a blisteringly fast 6th Generation Intel Core i7 6700HQ Quad Core processor. Opening such a thin laptop and seeing such a large, gorgeous screen still gives me a bit of a thrill.

1-Dell XPS 15 Infinity Edge Screen.34

As I had mentioned in my first overview post about the XPS 15, at 14″ wide by 9.1″ deep by  0.79″ thick, this is the smallest 15″ laptop on the planet. The Dell XPS 15 is able to go head to head with the 15″ MacBook Pro Retina, and in many ways — including portability and screen resolution — it wins!

Screen and size comparison of the 15 MBP r to 15 Dell XPS

I like being able to flick my fingers across the screen to scroll while reading or to select items with a finger tap, and when I’ve had to use a non-touch screen computer for various reasons, I’ve had to catch myself and remember that not all laptops are created equal.

With so many ports built into its sides, the XPS 15 gives me the freedom to work how I want, without trying to figure out what I can or can’t do without. On the left side, you’ll find the power port, a USB 3.0 port, an HDMI port, a Thunderbolt 3 port, and a headphone jack. On the right side are the Kensington lock slot, a USB 3.0 port, and an SD card reader slot.

The specs for the Dell XPS 15 I was sent are as follows:

XPS 15 9550 with Windows 10 Home 64 bit
Memory: 16GB (2x8GB) 2133Mhz DDR4 Memory 16GB
Keyboard: Backlit Keyboard, US English ENGKB
Video Card: NVIDIA® GeForce® GTX 960M with 2GB GDDR5 DISC
Driver: Dell Wireless 1830 Driver (Windows 10) 1830
Hard Drive: 512GB PCIe Solid State Drive
Wireless: DW1830 3×3 802.11ac 2.4/5GHz + Bluetooth 4.1
Cable: PowerCord 2.5A 1M
Warranty: 1 Year Ltd Hardware
Primary Battery: Dell 84 WHr 6 Cell Lithium Ion Battery
Processor: 6th Generation Intel Core i7 6700HQ Quad Core (6M Cache, up to 3.5 GHz)
FGA Module: XPS151605_1623_P/XPS151701_1623/US/CA/BTO FG0125
Processor: Intel® Core™ i7 Label CI7SML
Display: 15.6″ 4K Ultra HD (3840 x 2160) InfinityEdge touch UHD
Security Software: McAfee LiveSafe 12 Month Subscription
Power Supply: 130W AC Adapter 130AC
Price: Approximately $2099.99

Because the XPS 15 is so portable, I have found myself traveling with it more than I might have expected — with the exception of my international trip to MWC when I decided that for the sake of working on the plane, I should stick with the Dell XPS 13.

The XPS 15 is very well-balanced; I am able to whip it out and work on my lap while sitting anywhere. This is a nice change from how I usually work, sitting upright at a table.

1-Dell XPS 15 on lap.42

I’ve come to really appreciate the large 4″ by 3″ glass trackpad; it’s extremely responsive, and it’s on par with the MacBook trackpads I’ve long preferred.

Gear Diary Unboxes the Dell XPS 15 Laptop-014

Having the keys set so far back on the keyboard took a little while to adjust to, but I’m comfortable with it now, and I can type as fast as ever comfortably (for a non-touch-typist, that’s saying a lot). I like the way the Dell’s soft-touch carbon fiber composite interior looks, but I have found it to be a bit of a hand grease magnet. I do compulsively wipe the black surfaces down throughout the day to keep them from looking shiny.

Gear Diary Unboxes the Dell XPS 15 Laptop-016

Perhaps the only complaint I have is the placement of the front-facing camera. With the bezels being so slim around the top and sides of the screen, the camera is on the lower left, and as any teenager who likes to take selfies can tell you, this is not a very flattering shot — it’s all boobs and weird chin angles. I don’t make many video calls, but I had one a couple of weeks ago, and I felt pretty self-conscious about the fact that there wasn’t a way to adjust the screen to a more flattering angle.

1-Using the Dell XPS 15 Video Camera.08

See what I mean?

Battery life on the XPS 15 has been decent. I don’t generally play games or watch movies on my laptop, but I do like to keep that huge screen on a higher brightness than someone trying to conserve battery life might appreciate; as a result, I am able to get about 5 hours 30 minutes use from it regularly. I can live with that. My computer does have the larger 84 WHr 6 Cell Lithium Ion Battery and the 500GB SSD, so if you have the smaller 56 WHr battery or the HDD, you’ll likely see even less battery life during typical use.

Using the Dell XPS 15 has been an absolute joy; it is fast, Fast, FAST. There is no lag when opening programs; video and photo editing is a breeze. If I were a gamer, I suspect that I would be more than pleased.

The Dell XPS 15 starts at $999.99 for a basic non-touch, i3 Intel processor, and a 500GB hard drive. It can also be as expensive as $2849 for the top of the line which features 32GB RAM, 1 TB SSD, an i7 Intel processor, and touchscreen. If you are looking for the finest 15″ available today, something in between the two extremes should suit you.

Disclosure: Dell has sent me this XPS 15 to use, review, and keep; I am under no obligation to provide them with a positive review, nor are they able to censor my impressions.

The Dell XPS 15 is available directly from the manufacturer and from other retailers.

Source: Manufacturer supplied review unit

What I Like: Thunderbolt Type-C port; Brilliant 4K screen; The thinnest and lightest 15″ laptop you can buy; Extremely speedy Intel i7 processor; Portable and a joy to use

What Needs Improvement: The carbon fiber composite keyboard area is a finger and hand grease magnet; the front-facing video camera doesn’t provide the most flattering angles; Battery life is not spectacular

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About the Author

Judie Lipsett Stanford
Judie is the co-owner and Editor-in-Chief of Gear Diary, which she founded in September 2006. She started in 1999 writing software reviews at the now-defunct; from mid-2000 through 2006, she wrote hardware reviews for and co-edited at The Gadgeteer. A recipient of the Sigma Kappa Colby Award for Technology, Judie is best known for her device-agnostic approach, deep-dive reviews, and enjoyment of exploring the latest tech, gadgets, and gear.