Why Dell’s XPS 15 Sets High Bar for 15-inch Laptops

PRODUCT REVIEW: A 15-inch laptop is a size best for those who need the bigger screen and more power; however, there are tradeoffs in cost, weight and battery life.

Dell XPS 15

Dell’s XPS line has gone through a lot of changes over the years from being the company’s premier gaming platform to what it is now a high-end bridge between consumer and business lines. It features a blend of attractive finishes with strong performance which comes at a premium price and grants a certain level of exclusivity. Dell’s latest, the new XPS 15, when fully configured has a high-end Intel CPU and NVIDIA GPU resulting in an impressive amount of desktop-level power in a portable package.

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I saw this back at the Consumer Electronics Show in January, and this month it became available to purchase.

15-inch Screen

Now anyone that buys a 15-inch or larger laptop computer is really looking for a portable desktop. These are station-to-station workers in that at 15 inches you really want this on a desk and are only going to use it on a plane in a pinch; even 13-inch products are tight in a typical coach seat.

But the 15.6-inch display, which is where the industry locked in on monitor size in the 1990s, provides good real estate to both look at a reference document and focus on what it is you are writing. But if you want something small and portable, or ever plan to use your PC as a tablet, the 15-inch class is arguably too large for you, and you should consider a different form factor.

This size is best for those who need the bigger screen and more power; however, there are tradeoffs in cost, weight and battery life.

OLED 4K

There is really nothing like OLED when it comes to impressive color. Much of this is because OLED blacks are really black, and this makes the colors really pop. 4K allows for sharper images and provides for smaller fonts,so you can get even more on that 15.6-inch screen. But this screen is expensive, and it pulls more power so if you value battery life or need a lower purchase price consider a configuration without this offering. OLED energy efficiency has improved over the years so that it now appears to take less than 10% of your battery life, but you still take a noticeable hit.

Wi-Fi 6

Wi-Fi 6 routers have been in market for a while, but Wi-Fi 6 devices are just starting to roll out. This is the first Wi-Fi 6 notebook I’ve seen in market, and it has improvements to both connectivity and bandwidth. As companies and individuals replace their aging Wi-Fi routers and access points, this will allow the XPS 15 to see a big jump in performance. For those wishing to see the advantages of this new Wi-Fi specification, this laptop is pretty much it right now.

Battery Life

Now most users should get between 6 and 8 hours of battery life, depending on their configuration and what they are doing with the laptop. This isn’t bad for a 15-inch product, and given most that pick 15-inch products are station to station--and thus have something to plug into--battery life has never been that critical to this size PC.

Carbon Fiber

It is amazing how long it has taken the PC OEMs to get what car nuts have known for decades, and that is that carbon fiber looks naturally cool. You don’t need to cover it up and, in fact, the devices tend to look better with the carbon fiber weave exposed. This is one of the first notebooks to both have carbon fiber in the shell and to expose it so you can see the weave. Now the finish is flat, and I’d typically prefer a gloss finish for carbon fiber, but this looks fine and, I expect, it will hold up better than the more typical carbon fiber finish on cars.

Wrapping Up: The Right PC for the Right Buyer

A 15-inch PC isn’t for everyone. It is for those who value performance and screen real estate highly, want more of a portable desktop computer and are willing to trade off battery life and price to get it. The new Dell XPS 15-inch sets the bar for what a 15-inch laptop should be with strong performance, attractive looks and an optional OLED display that is simply stunning to see.

The Dell XPS 15-inch PCs run from $900 to $1,800 retail. You can buy as much as half a terabyte (512 GB) storage and 16 GB RAM.

For the right user, this would easily be the best laptop he or she has ever owned.  

Rob Enderle is a principal at Enderle Group. He is an award-winning analyst and a longtime contributor to QuinStreet publications and Pund-IT.