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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