Dell XPS 15 2-in-1
Dell has doubled down on its successful XPS laptop line-up this year, using CES 2018 to launch not only a revamped version of the everpopular XPS 13, but also a brand-new XPS 15 2-in-1.
There’s a lot more to the new convertible than just a larger screen size though. It also boasts an impressively slim profile, a new ‘Mag-Lev’ keyboard design, and is one of the first laptops to market boasting the new Intel Core processor with integrated Radeon graphics.
As with just about everything announced at CES, we don’t have a firm release date and pricing details, but
Dell has announced some details of the US launch at least. The XPS 15 2-in-1 will go in sale in the US in April, with prices starting from $1,299 (around £935), though we don’t know yet just how much it will cost to buy a top spec model. At the time of writing there was no news on when it will be released in the UK yet.
The first thing you notice about the XPS 15 2-in-1 is that it’s impressively light and slim for its size. Dell claims it’s the smallest and thinnest 15.6in 2-in-1 around, and while we haven’t personally measured them all to check, we can believe it (not least because there aren’t all that many 2-in-1s at this size, but there you go).
Still, make no mistake, this is not an ultraportable machine. It’s light for its size, but still weighs a good chunk more than its smaller XPS 13 2-in-1 sibling, and this isn’t the sort of device you’d want to carry around with you everywhere you go.
Part of the reduced form factor is down to the bezel-less InfinityEdge touchscreen display, which leaves as little wasted space as possible (except a chunk at the bottom), but the biggest changes are to the main chassis, where Dell has saved space thanks to a combination of the Intel-AMD chip, and a new ‘Mag-Lev’ keyboard design. The mechanism uses opposing magnets underneath the keys, rather than switches or membranes, with the intention of making the keys feel deeper than their 0.7mm travel suggests.
It’s a design destined to prove divisive, feeling not too dissimilar to Apple’s butterfly keyboard. It’s far from the worst keyboard around, but it’s not the
best either – it suffers from a direct comparison to the keys on the new XPS 13, which offers one of the better keyboards around, leaving us wondering if the fractional reduction in weight and depth really justifies the Mag-Lev mechanism.
Finally, ports – as you’d expect with a slimmed down design, this is USB Type-C only, but you get four of them (including two with Thunderbolt 3 support), along with a headphone jack and microSD card slot.
The model we tested boasted a silver aluminium casing with a black carbon fibre interior, and Dell hasn’t announced plans for any other colour options. Still, the one available finish looks slick and modern, and will feel familiar to anyone who’s used any recent XPS laptop.
If the Mag-Lev keyboard is one half of the XPS 15 2-in1’s compact body, the other is the brand-new Intel Core Kaby Lake chip with a built-in Radeon Vega GPU.
The chip – the first partnership between Intel and AMD in decades – promises the sort of performance you’d normally expect from a discrete graphics card without having to take up all that space. That means thinner, lighter laptops that still have the necessary power for gaming or, more likely in the case, demanding creative work. The chips are just 1.7mm thin and also include 4GB of HBM2 RAM and power optimizations – though Dell hasn’t announced any estimates for the XPS 15 2-in-1’s battery life. Configuration options include a Core i5 or i7, 8GB or 16GB RAM, 128GB to 1TB SSD storage, and the option of either a 1080p or 4K display. The model we tested included the 4K option, which seemed crisp and bright, with a great range of colour reproduction.
There’s also support for Dell’s Active Pen stylus (sold separately) cementing that this is a device that has professional creatives in mind, who might benefit most from the combination of processing power, convertible form factor and relatively portable design.
We’re not convinced by the Mag-Lev keyboard, and haven’t yet been able to fully test the new Intel-AMD chip, but the XPS 15 2-in-1 promises a lot of power in a sleek design. A big-screen convertible still feels like an undeniably niche product, but for the right user, Dell’s design could be hard to beat.