Dell XPS 15 (2017) First Impressions

Posted on February 28, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Hardware, Windows 10 with 22 Comments

Dell XPS 15 (2017) First Impressions

Dell basically invented the market for smaller laptops with edge-to-edge displays. And this year, it is expanding its range of XPS premium laptops with some exciting new designs.

As you may know, Brad is currently running around Florida with a new Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 laptop. But I’d been waiting on the XPS 15 refresh, which now includes an optional fingerprint reader. It arrived today.

The XPS 15 is particularly interesting to me because of my preference for larger screens. I’m also evaluating the Microsoft Surface Book with Performance Base—which has a smaller 13.5-inch display—as well 15-inch versions of the HP Spectre x360 and LG Gram. So there’s a good basis for comparison here.

Of these devices, the XPS 15 maps most closely to the Spectre x360, though of course the HP is a transforming 2-in-1 that could be used like a tablet in a pinch whereas the Dell is a more traditional laptop design. That said, I’d use both devices the same way for the most part: As a laptop. More on that in a bit, though.

This is the extent of the screen angle.

Side by the side with the Spectre x360 15, the Dell XPS 15 is a similar size, though it is about an inch shorter in one dimension, which is nice. On paper, the Dell weighs about the same as well—about 4.5 pounds for the review unit, compared to 4.4 for the HP—and both are on the heavy side.

The attractiveness of any design is subjective, of course. I’ll need a bit more experience to decide which direction I prefer, but the Dell has a few nice touches that are worth calling out.

For example, like the HP, this device is made of CNC machined aluminum, but the Dell uses plain gray on the outside and has a nicer, and tactile black carbon fiber deck which I like quite a bit. The parts you touch with your hands are softer, and the black is nice, and provides the right contrast for the backlit keyboard keys.

That keyboard is nothing special in early testing—not bad, not great—and nothing like the world-class Spectre x360 keyboard, which immediately struck me as superior. But I prefer the Dell’s smaller touchpad, and that it utilizes Microsoft’s precision touchpad technologies. I wish all laptop makers would do so.

The screen is magnificent, and it appears to be very similar to the one offered by HP. It is a 15.6-inch 4K/Ultra HD running at 3840 x 2160, with multi-touch capabilities and of course those sweet InfinityEdge bezels. It is bright, crisp, and clear.

Inside, the Dell offers a step up from a specs perspective, at least when comparing review units: This Dell is a beast of a laptop, with a powerful quad-core Intel Core i7-7700HQ processor, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 graphics, 16 GB of RAM, and a 512 GB PCIe SSD. By comparison, the HP offers a dual-core CPU and NVIDIA 940MX graphics.

The Dell basically matches the HP when it comes to expansion, with two full-sized USB 3.0 ports (one on each side), a single USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 port, a full-sized HDMI port for video out, and an SD card reader. (The HP has two USB-C/TB ports and just one USB 3 port.)

But the Dell utilizes a proprietary power connected instead of just using USB-C/TB, which is odd. And its power supply is just as big and heavy as the HP’s.

Dell provides a nice battery gauge indicator on one side, too: You can just press the button, even when the XPS is sleeping, to get a rough idea of how much juice is left.

Speaking of which, the battery life is allegedly epic, with the Full HD model (not what I have) delivering up to 19.5 hours (!) of life.

Dell still uses this awkward positioning for its XPS webcams.

Another nice touch is the Windows Hello-compatible fingerprint reader, which is a recent addition to the XPS lineup. And I prefer this method of signing in with a camera.

But what’s most impressive so far–and granted, it’s early days—is how quiet this machine is. I perform the same series of steps each time I onboard a new PC, and during application installs, I will typically hear the fans kick in quite a bit. But so far, the Dell has been very quiet. Notably so.

The review unit is expensive, a bit over $2000 as equipped. But the starting price is just $999, meaning that you should be able to find a nice compromise there. You can even configure this device with up to 32 GB of RAM, which most of Dell’s competitors do not match.

More soon: But this one looks like a solid contender.

 

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Comments (22)

22 responses to “Dell XPS 15 (2017) First Impressions”

  1. Avatar

    ibmthink

    Are you planning on testing the new X1 Carbon? Became available recently in the USA.

  2. Avatar

    digiguy

    19.5 hours of battery like for the full hd model is probably in power saving mode, with 0 brightness and no WIFI. More normal usage reviews talk about almost 10 hours (against almost 7 for the 4k model) which is great for a quad core i7

  3. Avatar

    Josh Durston

    I'm a little confused by the battery specs on Dell's website. Many of the models come with a 54whr battery while some come with a 87whr (4k). It seems odd to gimp the FHD models with a smaller battery. Even if I customize the build I can't change the battery option (or any option for that matter).

  4. Avatar

    Gavin Groom

    How on earth do you afford all these devices? Or do the companies lend them to you to test?

  5. Avatar

    brettscoast

    Nice write up Paul


    The specs on this system are indeed impressive. I use a late 2016 XPS13 which runs beautifully and quickly it is the ideal size for on the go portability. I know the webcam placement is clunky but there is probably no where else they can place this with the tiny bezel on these systems. The 4K resolution must be startling on the 15.6" models.

  6. Avatar

    Scott_McInnis

    You can charge over the Thunderbolt 3/USB-C port instead of the barrel connector.  As there is only one TB3 port, it's nice to have the legacy option when using with other peripherals, hopefully they add dual in the future. Dell also sells a dock, the Dell Thunderbolt™ Dock TB16 -240W can provide Latitude, XPS, or Precision Workstation notebooks with a Thunderbolt™ 3 port up to 130W of power. It's a nice option if you use at a desk frequently.

  7. Avatar

    Lewk

    Wow, it looks like they used a box-cutter to hollow out a hole for the fingerprint reader like it was an afterthought.

  8. Avatar

    Nic

    32GB of RAM max makes this an interesting play. So many machines top out at 16GB (including the HP Spectre). When you need to run a bunch of virtual machines the more memory the better.

  9. Avatar

    cybrtitan

    I do believe that the prior generation of xps allowed you to charge with the proprietary connector or usb-c so you should look into if the new one does too paul

  10. Avatar

    Jaxidian

    Paul, you mentioned it comes with a more Traditional Dell power adapter. I assume it can *also* be charged with a 65W USB Type-C charger giving you options of both the traditional port as well as newer TB3/PD hub devices?

    • Avatar

      adityanag

      In reply to Jaxidian:


      It can - I have a Dell XPS 15 9550 (the Skylake version), and the Dell Thunderbolt Dock charges it up. It's quite nice to have one cable that runs to my dock, and then everything else (monitor, keyboard, mouse, ethernet) plugs into the dock.


      The Dell dock provides 130 watts of power to the laptop. Not sure if non-Dell USB-C models will do this. I think the laptop will limit them to 65 watts.


      Disclaimer - I'm a Dell employee, but I come from EMC and am not connected with the laptop division. I just use the machine.

    • Avatar

      compunut

      In reply to Jaxidian:  I wouldn't count on it.  The HP Envy 13 (late 2016) can't, despite many articles implying that it would.  I would wait for absolute confirmation.  I have been very disappointed in my the Envy that I bought for this and other reasons.  I really wanted to use a universal USB C dock.


      • Avatar

        Shmuelie

        In reply to compunut:


        From Dell's page on the XPS 15 9560:

        Thunderbolt™ 3 multi-use port allows you to charge your laptop, connect to multiple devices (including support for up to two 4K displays) and enjoy data transfers up to 40Gbps, which is 8x faster than USB 3.0. Also includes two USB 3.0 ports.


        Featuring a single-cable connection for power, Ethernet, audio and video. Add the optional Dell Thunderbolt™ Dock for faster data transfers and support for up to three Full HD displays or two 4k displays.


        That sounds like a yes on USB-C charging to me...

  11. Avatar

    Narg

    I still prefer a true power connector over the USB solutions.  As USB-C becomes more mainstream, that may change but for now the coaxial plugs are just far more stronger than any USB connection would ever be.  The power plug often gets the most use out of a device, and by that is more likely the part that fails.  And on a fragile USB connector, I see that failure even more.  If a USB plug fails, that could be very detrimental to the use of a machine.  Unless you could power the device from one of multiple USB-C plugs, something I've not yet seen.

  12. Avatar

    gvan

    I want a blue one! I'm starting to look for a new laptop now and I'm leaning towards the x360 as it is available in a much nicer color scheme but still not the BLUE color I want. I blame Mercedes Benz as they started this bland mania for making everything in any color you want as long as its silver...

    • Avatar

      Polycrastinator

      In reply to gvan:

      Dell used to have a program where there was art you could get printed on the lid. My wife had one, and I thought it was really compelling (because of the number of choices), and it's still a shame they discontinued that IMO.

      http://gizmodo.com/5234948/120-new-designs-for-dells-laptop-art-studio

  13. Avatar

    munchieswolf

    I just bought the XPS 15 and the Spectre x360 15 to decide on a new laptop. Keeping the Dell.


    Screen seems brighter and crisper on the XPS. The Spectre's hinge gives me cause for concern long term. Even out of the box, if you give the base a slight shake, the screen will come falling down under its own weight. Scary, to me, to think what it might be like two or three years down the road.


    XPS also has quad-core processors and a superior GPU. Seems to run faster and quieter in day-to-day tasks.


    I do prefer the Spectre's keyboard, but typing on the XPS is almost as good. Two four-lane USB-C/TB ports would have been nice on the Dell, but it's not a dealbreaker for me.


    Trackpad is nicer on the XPS.


    Also, the Spectre was plagued by an auto-adaptive brightness setting that caused the machine to freeze up from time to time. Couldn't turn it off in the power scheme settings because HP mucked with things. Just a friendly reminder that whatever laptop you choose, always go for the cleaner Signature Editions.

  14. Avatar

    rameshthanikodi

    doesn't the 15-inch model come with a GTX 1050 (ti?) ? Seems like a significant advantage for Dell over the competition that doesn't offer GTX graphics.

  15. Avatar

    Polycrastinator

    It's funny, I really like those XPS keyboards. I guess that just comes down to personal preference. That's a lot of laptops, Paul, what's your review process for these? Use one exclusively for a week then move on to the next one, or are you flitting between them all?

  16. Avatar

    shantals

    SHOP : Dell.com/CampPendleton

    or email [email protected]

    Dell Military Ambassador

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