Dell XPS 15 2-in-1
FAST AND ROBUST, THERE ARE FEW COMPROMISES IN EITHER LAPTOP OR TABLET CONFIGURATION
Though there are many great new laptops entering the market, it’s refreshing to see something a bit different. Dell’s powerful new XPS 15 2-in-1 laptop-cum-tablet is just that thanks to some interesting features.
It looks very slick with its black, milled aluminium chassis and carbon fibre composite palm rest. The materials naturally add an impressive degree of stiffness while keeping the overall weight down. Indeed, despite its solid appearance, it weighs only two kilograms.
The screen is very thin and surrounded by a 5mm bezel. While this looks good, the downside is that the HD webcam is based at the bottom of the screen and so transmits an unflattering jowl-oriented profile to people you’re talking to. Still, it’s uniformly lit, impressively bright, has vibrant colours and excellent viewing angles. The Ultra HD resolution of 3,840 x 2,160 provides a very crisp resolution and all types of content look sharp and impressive. It also uses Corning’s Gorilla Glass (version 4) which is more-usually found on the latest smartphones. The reason why, is that this laptop is actually a fully-fledged 2-in1 tablet. That it took us some time to work this out, shows how far these machines have come: they are frequently weird mutant creations with unusual hinges but you could cheerfully use this as a laptop forever without realising that it’s also a tablet.
The hinge enables the screen to fold all the way round to the back without leaving an annoying, flappy gap. In this configuration, it feels like a large-screened, solid tablet. It comes with a stylus that magnetically connects to the left-hand side. We found it very responsive and the narrow bezel makes its presence felt. It also reduces the impact of the low-slung webcam.
The keyboard is well laid-out and with mostly full-sized keys (except for the arrow keys). They are very-low travel in order to provide a nearly-flat surface when used as the base in tablet mode, but impressively, they are still very accurate and comfortable to type on. All in all, it’s both a very-usable laptop and a very-usable tablet.
The speakers are impressive despite the device’s size: it had some punch for both bass-rich and treble rich audio.
But what of performance? The insides are very interesting. Dell eschews the latest 8th-generation Intel hexa-core mobile CPUs to use the latest-generation, Intel-AMD, hybrid CPU-GPU combo. In reality, this Frankenstein processor combo uses a last-generation Intel Kaby Lake CPU (with current generation optimisations) which is bolted onto AMD’s last-generation Polaris GPU technology (with elements of the latest Vega GPU technologies). If this sounds alarm bells that scream, ‘first-generation, interim technology’ it’s worth noting that the resulting creation is still farmore tightly interwoven than an Intel-based system with discreet Nvidia graphics. But the proof is in the pudding...
In tandem with 16GB RAM and a whopping 1TB NVMe hard drive, the 3.1GHz system scored 4,779 in PCMark 10. That’s slightly less than the lower-clocked Coffee Lake hexacore rivals we see elsewhere but the higher clock-speed will benefit some apps.
The integrated Vega graphics are generally comparable to Nvidia’s 1050 Ti. It scored just 2,467 in 3DMark’s Fire Strike Extreme but this will still be enough to play the likes of Fortnight and Overwatch.
Connectivity is interesting in that all ports are USB-C – two of them support Thunderbolt 3 (plus related video connections). We’d like to have seen one USB-A connector for legacy peripherals, but a dongle is bundled.
It played our Full HD movie and ran PCMark’s battery test for almost five hours each (though it ran the latter 40 per cent slower compared to when plugged in.
If you’re in the market for robust, portable laptop that’s also a large, impressive tablet, the XPS 15 makes a great choice. At $4,299, the tablet features and UHD touchscreen cost significantly more than rival, more-powerful, gaming-focused allrounder laptops, but the technology on offer makes for an interesting alternative.
3.1GHz Intel Core i7-8705G CPU • 16GB DDR4-2666 SDRAM • Radeon RX Vega M GL • 1TB M.2 SSD • 15.6in 3,840 x 2,160 touch screen display • HD webcam • 2 x Thunderbolt 3/USB 3.1 Type-C • 2 x USB 3.1 Type-C • microSD slot • 3.5mm audio jack • 2.0KG • 1yr onsite warranty $4,299 • www.dell.com.au