Dell XPS 15

HWM (Singapore) - - Contents - by Joy Hou

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At first glance, Dell’s re­cently re­freshed XPS 15 bears quite a re­sem­blance to Ap­ple’s 15-inch Mac­Book Pro with Retina Dis­play (MBP), right down to its aes­thet­ics and specs. How­ever, the up­dated XPS 15 in­cludes a 15.6-inch QHD+ (3,200 x 1,800 pix­els) touch­screen dis­play, In­tel Haswell Core i7-4702HQ pro­ces­sor and NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M graph­ics. Its pre­de­ces­sor, launched in 2011, only came with a lowly 1,366 x 768 pix­els dis­play, a Core i5-class pro­ces­sor, and an NVIDIA GeForce GT 420M GPU.

What’s sur­pris­ing (or rather dis­ap­point­ing) is that Dell didn’t up­grade the stor­age to match. Our unit came with a pretty stan­dard 1TB 5,400RPM HDD with a 32GB SSD cache. This is just a mi­nor in­cre­ment over the 640GB 5,400RPM HDD found in the old XPS 15.

un­like the MBP that’s com­pletely flat, the XPS 15 is slightly ta­pered all around the cor­ners, mea­sur­ing just 18mm at its thick­est point, but be­cause of it’s car­bon fiber base, it weighs only 2.01kg, out­do­ing the MBP by 100g. In fact, the en­tire pack­age is quite light for its class, but could have been even lighter if it was con­fig­ured with an SSD. Over­all, the XPS 15 looks metic­u­lously built, from its pol­ished ex­te­rior to its sturdy chas­sis en­veloped in alu­minum and car­bon fiber.

In­ter­est­ingly, there’s a handy lit­tle bat­tery life in­di­ca­tor on the left side of the lap­top, plus it also comes with NFC ca­pa­bil­i­ties, which means you can eas­ily con­nect NFC-COM­PLI­ANT de­vices (printer, cam­era, smart­phones, etc.) and share con­tent.

In­side, a soft-touch sil­i­cone palm rest helps

CON­CLU­SION This XPS 15 is a big im­prove­ment over its pre­vi­ous model, with an amaz­ing dis­play to boot. Too badd about that HD though.

with pro­longed pe­ri­ods of use. This as­pect is more fa­vor­able than the all­metal MBP that can be cold ini­tially, but heats up quickly dur­ing use. We can’t guar­an­tee that the matte black palm rest on the Dell XPS 15 pro­tects against oil stains and smudges though.

The chi­clet-style back­lit key­board seems strangely mod­est in its 15-inch frame, leav­ing a lot of un­used space at the sides, which Dell could have bet­ter uti­lized to house a num­ber pad. Back­light­ing is present, but the XPS 15 only lets you tog­gle be­tween two lev­els of bright­ness.

The keys are soft and easy to strike, so you may end up with more ty­po­graph­i­cal er­rors as the key­board reg­is­ters any key that your fin­gers may have un­in­ten­tion­ally skimmed while trav­el­ing back and forth. Nev­er­the­less, af­ter you get ac­cus­tomed to the en­tire key­board is­land, you’ll find typ­ing a breeze.

The track­pad feels vel­vety and pol­ished, with a glassy tex­ture coated in a sheer matte fin­ish that’s con­sis­tent with the XPS 15’s in­te­rior. Al­though its sur­face is not as smooth as MBP’s, the XPS 15’s track­pad is marginally big­ger, and Win­dows 8 ges­tures worked well us­ing it.

The high­light of the new XPS 15 how­ever is its beau­ti­ful QHD+ dis­play. Be­sides the stag­ger­ing res­o­lu­tion, it also de­liv­ers an im­pres­sive 400-nit bright­ness rat­ing, has touch ca­pa­bil­i­ties and a wide 160-de­gree view­ing an­gle, which makes it a joy to share around.

It de­liv­ers crisp vi­su­als with vivid col­ors, and ra­zor­sharp text. Sur­pris­ingly, even un­der in­tense sun­light, there’s not much glare de­spite its gleam­ing sur­face. How­ever, its re­flec­tiv­ity is quite an is­sue when view­ing less vi­brant con­tent. We also found its touch­screen func­tion­al­ity to be rel­a­tively ac­cu­rate and re­spon­sive, and nav­i­ga­tion gen­er­ally fluid. Al­though the note­book has a wide bezel de­sign, the XPS 15’s edge-to-edge Corn­ing Go­rilla Glass NBT dis­play en­sures ad­e­quate pro­tec­tion against ac­ci­den­tal scratches.

Au­dio is given a boost with Waves MaxxAu­dio Pro en­gi­neer­ing. You have speak­ers sit­u­ated in front of the base, fac­ing for­ward so au­dio is pro­jected am­ply and is un­hin­dered by the lid. Again, the XPS 15 com­pares fa­vor­ably against the MBP, which has speak­ers parked along the sides of the key­board, so lis­ten­ing ex­pe­ri­ence is com­pro­mised when the lid is not fully up. Un­der­stand­ably, the XPS 15 lacks in bass (as with most note­books), but it does atone for that with its loud au­dio.

As a multimedia note­book, graph­i­cal per­for­mance of the up­dated XPS 15 with its Core i7 pro­ces­sor and GeForce 750M GPU matches a sim­i­larly-specced MBP. It scored 10180 in 3DMark 2013’s Cloud Gate bench­mark, just slightly un­der our MBP’s score of 10365. How­ever, it scored con­sis­tently lower than the MBP in all PC Mark 8 tasks, dragged down by its aver­age me­chan­i­cal HDD. The 32GB MSATA cache helped a lit­tle, but is ob­vi­ously no stand-in for the proper SSD on our MBP.

It would seem that the XPS 15 was let down by its HDD, but hav­ing said that, do note that our equally specced MBP with a 512GB SDD is priced at $3,588. The XPS 15 can be had for $2,699. Still steep com­pared with most multimedia note­books to­day, but Dell re­ally did do an in­cred­i­ble job wwith the rest of the ma­chine, es­pe­cially the screen.

With built-in NVIDIA Sur­round tech­nol­ogy, gamers can de­tect their en­emy’s move­ment quicker and re­act be­fore they do in FPS games.

All in all, the key­board still serves its main pur­pose, but we thought the am­ple un­used space could have been bet­ter uti­lized.

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