Dell XPS 15 (9500) First Impressions

Posted on September 4, 2020 by Paul Thurrott in Hardware, Mobile, Windows 10 with 19 Comments

I was blown away by the Dell XPS 13 (9300), which I described as the apex of laptop design, functionality, and usability. But as you may know, I prefer larger laptops for personal use, and I was excited to see that Dell has completely redesigned its XPS 15 for the first time in several years, matching the fresh look and feel of its smaller sibling. So it should come as no surprise that I’m even more excited to review this laptop now.

And it’s immediately obvious that the Force runs strong in this family: From all outward appearances, the XPS 15 is indeed an upsized version of the XPS 13, with the same super-small bezels, fantastic keyboard, modern port selection, and stunning artic white and silver color option.

No, it’s not small by any means: As I’ve observed in the past, while 13.3-inch displays can be used in 12- and even 11-inch form factors, this kind of approach doesn’t seem to work as well with 15-inch displays for some reason. But at 4 pounds, it’s still considerably lighter than the 4.6 pound HP Envy 15, and though it’s a bit thinner—.71 inches vs. .73 at its tallest—it manages to seem a lot thinner, somehow.

Of course, with a PC this size, the first thing you’ll notice is the InfinityEdge touch display. And it’s a stunner at 15.6-inches, a 16:10 aspect ratio, incredibly small bezels on all four sides, and, on the review model, a color-accurate 4K UHD+ VESA-certified DisplayHDR 400 panel with Dell’s Eyesafe technology, which brings blue light blocking to the hardware level. Gorgeous.

The configuration that Dell provided is likewise impressive: We see a 10th-generation octa-core Intel Core i7-10875H processor, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 Ti graphics with 4 GB of dedicated GDDR6 RAM, 16 GB of RAM, 512 GB of PCIe-based SSD storage. As you might imagine, there’s a wide range of processor, RAM, and storage options, but the range of Core processors are all H-series (for “high performance”) options; the more typical and pedestrian U-series isn’t even an option. RAM runs from 8 GB to 64 GB, while storage options range from 256 GB to 2 TB, and there are Full HD+ displays options too. This thing is a beast. And as with the new XPS 13, Dell promises a new thermal design to keep heat and fan noise in check.

A lot of what I loved about that new XPS 13 carries forward to the XPS 15, and not just the overall design but the excellent keyboard, touchpad (in this case a very large pane of glass), and the cool power button-based fingerprint reader.

Less exciting, perhaps, is the selection of expansion ports: Where HP went with a nice selection of legacy and newer ports on the Envy 15, Dell has outfitted the XPS 15 with 2 Thunderbolt 3/USB-C ports with power delivery and DisplayPort capabilities, one USB-C 3.1 port (also with power delivery and DisplayPort), and one full-sized SD card reader, plus a combo mic/headphone jack and a lock slot.


Dell at least includes a dongle with one USB-A and one HDMI port.

Battery life is up to 25 hours claimed for real-world use, but that’s with the Full HD+ display and the larger of the two battery options; Dell lets you configure the XPS 15 with a 56 or 86 watt-hour battery at purchase time and it’s non-changeable or upgradeable after the fact. My configuration is rated for a still-impressive 13 hours and 46 minutes.

The connectivity options will be familiar to anyone with an XPS 13: There’s Killer Wi-Fi 6 AX1650 (2×2), which is built on an Intel chipset, and Bluetooth 5.1.

I suddenly have several laptops to test, but I can already tell that this one will be a delight. I can’t wait to spend more time with it.

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Comments (19)

19 responses to “Dell XPS 15 (9500) First Impressions”

  1. jwpear

    Paul, I'm really interested to know if Dell has refined the automatic dimming of the display in this model (and XPS in general). I tried an XPS 13 several years ago and felt the hardware level dimming was just too aggressive. It was annoying and I could never seem to get it set at a comfortable level. It was actually too dim for my preferences. At the time, it wasn't something that could be disabled, surprisingly.

    Would also love to know how the keyboard and trackpad compare to Surface Books. Is the quality and performance on par?

    The last thing, which I don't think any reviewer can really answer, is how well does the battery age? Is Dell putting premium batteries in the XPS line? Can we expect it to still hold a reasonable amount of its original capacity at 3 years? I had good luck with an XPS 15z I bought in 2012. Tinkered with an Inspiron 7000 a few years ago and its battery capacity was pitiful after a year. Thankfully, it was at least serviceable.

    • christophercollins

      In reply to jwpear:

      I remember when you couldn't turn off the dimming. It made me return an XPS 13 too.

      The biggest complaint I've seen on this model is that they had a few go out with bad trackpads (worked, but loose feeling), that is supposed to be corrected.

      This machine is very appealing to me. I happen to have an iPhone and Dell has the app that allows me to send and receive iMessages via the laptop. That is the only reason I used MBP's right now (using a 2015, ready for upgrade).

      Excited for the full review.

    • Richardsona39

      In reply to jwpear:

      Yeah that auto-dimming/contrast drove me nuts on a previous XPS 13 (~3yrs old - no longer have it...). Would love to hear if this one is better (or can be disabled, even better). This is also the first review unit I've seen in the white, so eager to hear how the wrist area feels. Guessing it's similar to the 13, so not quite as soft and smooth as the carbon fiber.

  2. mattijzz

    I just sent my XPS 15 back because of wobbly trackpad issue. Well known and still not resolved. Dell could not say if a new one would be better and offered me 10 percent discount. No thank you.

  3. JH_Radio

    I have zero devices with USB C other then my Samsung Galaxy S10+. For me having devices with USB-A ports is a requirement.

    I'm not saying the PC shouldn't have a USB C port or two but at least have one if not two USB A ports.

  4. SenorGravy

    Stopped reading when I read it only has a few USB-C ports. That was the primary reason I sold my Macbook Pro (still giggle when I see the word "Pro". There is NOTHING Pro about the MacBook Pro). I hate it when companies ape Apple's ideas. But I loathe it when companies ape Apple's terrible ideas. There is absolutely NO REASON why Dell can't include a modern array of ports. We are roughly 6 years into this meek USB-C revolution and it still sucks.

    Shame on you Dell. You crippled a beautiful device.

  5. 02nz

    Nice laptop, but those Comet Lake H-series chips are going to run pretty hot and not that much faster than 15W U-series Ryzen 4000, which will generally be found on much cheaper, lighter, and cooler-running laptops, and with better battery life (assuming comparable battery capacity). Even Intel's just-announced 11th-gen Tiger Lake chips (with lower TDPs) will probably give this a run for its money in performance, but with much better thermals and battery life.

    • dimoirites

      In reply to 02nz:

      If Ryzen chipsets don't have Thunderbolt 3 or 4 then that's a full-stop, never-gonna-buy-it dealbreaker. I hope that AMD will seriously pursue including Thunderbolt on more of their platforms including desktop so that they can be a viable option.

  6. ids

    Intrested how you get on. I ordered one (i7, 32GB RAM, 1TB SSD etc) that came with a) WebCam dead b) wobbly/misalligned trackpad c) fan kept on going to high speed (on idle) due to heat. They wanted to repair a £2500 brand new laptop during covid. After much hassle I got Dell to accept it back for a refund.

    The screen is amazing (once I had disabled the auto brightness) and its a great machine however I also found the edge of the front very sharp.

    I'm now back to the previous gen XPS15 9760 that I have had for 3.5 years..... Keep looking. Surface Laptop 4 (11th gen ?) could be winner or try a XPS17 ?

    Not sure.

  7. ken_loewen

    This looks like an amazing machine. Do you think, Paul, with the advent of WVD and Cloud PC as a Service, that the performance of the endpoint is going to quickly become much less relevant when you can, perhaps, turn the dial on your monthly Microsoft 365 cost and immediately have a Cloud Beast of a PC for a couple more bucks? This ought to terrify Acer, Asus, HP, Lenovo, and Dell. Intel's likely the only winner as they're selling more of the premium processors to MS for their Azure data centers and selling less premium to us for our endpoint.

    • Paul Thurrott

      WVD will suffer from the fact that too many have terrible or spotty connectivity for at least a while. But yeah, over time, we'll definitely move the mainstream to simpler, less expensive devices/PCs.
    • wright_is

      In reply to ken_loewen:

      I get 0.02mpbs at work on my phone, so the cloud is next to useless for me.

      At home, I have all the data on my PC (and backed up in several places), I don't need it on other devices. I think there is little actual need for the average user to "go into the cloud". For the average home user, cloud is currently more about constant revenue generation for the provider than providing something the user actually needs.

  8. brettscoast

    wow looking forward to your review of this gorgeous looking laptop

  9. bluvg

    That's no moon. It's a touchpad.

    16:10, near-bezel-less display, up to 64 GB RAM: man, Dell, you nailed it. I'd take USB-A over SD (guessing size limitations played a role), but this laptop looks like a best-in-class.

  10. JH_Radio

    You know, I know most readers of this site would probably use the higher end stuff, but it'd be nice if a company sent you something that a more normal minded consumer might buy, such as Core I5 and 8GB ram.

  11. tyft

    Is this ever going to be reviewed?