Dell XPS 15 review

8 Dec 2010

Not quite as classy as its predecessors, but the newly affordable XPS is a bona-fide entertainer

Price when reviewed: 
684(£684 inc VAT)
Buy it now for 
5

Since the release of the Adamo XPS at the tail-end of last year, Dell's XPS brand has lain dormant. But it's finally resurrected the brand for the release of its latest 15.6in and 17in models, and the first to arrive in the PC Pro Labs is the 15.6in XPS 15.

It cuts a striking dash, although initially for all the wrong reasons. Our review unit arrived with an unpleasantly kitsch Product (RED) motif scrawled across its lid; think surrealist meets 1960s wallpaper and you're halfway there. Thankfully, there are another 148 designs to choose from - for a £34.50 premium.

Whichever lid takes your fancy, the rest of the XPS 15 remains demurely finished in lashings of silver and grey and that, coupled with its smoothly rounded edges and stylish curves, makes for a great-looking laptop. The chassis feels surprisingly stout for such a modestly priced model.

The only concern is that the lid feels slightly insubstantial. Apply pressure to the garish design and the plastic fouls the panel underneath, resulting in a visible rippling effect onscreen. And at 39mm thick and a weighty 2.86kg, it isn't particularly portable either.

Dell XPS 15

Inside, there are no such worries. Processor options start with Intel's Core i3 and rise through the ranks, while Nvidia Optimus graphics switching technology partners Intel HD Graphics with a Nvidia GeForce GT 420M chip or, in the priciest Core i7 model, a GT 435M.

Our review unit struck the middle ground with a 2.53GHz Intel Core i5-460M, 4GB of DDR3 memory and Nvidia's GeForce GT 420M, a combination that helped it to a good score of 1.61 in our application benchmarks. And in our gaming tests it wasn't until we reached our mid-level test (run at 1,600 x 900 pixels and Medium detail in Crysis) that the average frame rate slowed to 24fps. This leaves the XPS 15 trailing dedicated gaming notebooks, but in front of most others. It's more than nippy enough for casual gaming.

Meanwhile, the graphics-switching technology helps the XPS 15 sweep past its rivals in the battery life stakes. With 5hrs 46mins in our light-use test, falling to 1hr 16mins when pushed hard, the XPS 15 leaves most desktop replacement laptops for dust. You might not want to carry it around very often, but it's nice to have the option to balance it on your knee without having a mains lead trailing from the rear.

Details

Price ex VAT £582
Price inc VAT £684
Overall rating 5
Features & Design 5
Value for Money 5
Performance 5

Warranty

Warranty 1yr collect and return

Physical specifications

Dimensions 381 x 266 x 39mm (WDH)
Weight 2.860kg
Travelling weight 3.3kg

Processor and memory

Processor Intel Core i5-460M
Motherboard chipset Intel HM57
RAM capacity 4.00GB
Memory type DDR3
SODIMM sockets free 0
SODIMM sockets total 2

Screen and video

Screen size 15.6in
Resolution screen horizontal 1,366
Resolution screen vertical 768
Resolution 1366 x 768
Graphics chipset Intel HD graphics/Nvidia GeForce GT 420M
Graphics card RAM 1.00GB
VGA (D-SUB) outputs 0
HDMI outputs 1
S-Video outputs 0
DVI-I outputs 0
DVI-D outputs 0
DisplayPort outputs 1

Drives

Capacity 500GB
Hard disk usable capacity 466GB
Spindle speed 7,200RPM
Internal disk interface SATA/300
Hard disk Seagate ST9500420AS
Optical disc technology DVD writer
Optical drive Optiarc AD-7700H
Battery capacity 4,900mAh
Replacement battery price inc VAT £0

Networking

Wired adapter speed 1,000Mbits/sec
802.11a support no
802.11b support yes
802.11g support yes
802.11 draft-n support yes
Integrated 3G adapter no
Bluetooth support yes

Other Features

Wireless hardware on/off switch no
Wireless key-combination switch yes
Modem no
ExpressCard34 slots 0
ExpressCard54 slots 0
PC Card slots 0
USB ports (downstream) 1
FireWire ports 0
eSATA ports 1
PS/2 mouse port no
9-pin serial ports 0
Parallel ports 0
Optical S/PDIF audio output ports 1
Electrical S/PDIF audio ports 0
3.5mm audio jacks 3
SD card reader yes
Memory Stick reader yes
MMC (multimedia card) reader yes
Smart Media reader no
Compact Flash reader no
xD-card reader no
Pointing device type Touchpad
Audio chipset Realtek HD Audio
Speaker location Either side of keyboard
Hardware volume control? no
Integrated microphone? yes
Integrated webcam? yes
Camera megapixel rating 2.0mp
TPM no
Fingerprint reader no
Smartcard reader no
Carry case no

Battery and performance tests

Battery life, light use 5hr 46min
Battery life, heavy use 1hr 16min
Overall application benchmark score 1.61
Office application benchmark score 1.35
2D graphics application benchmark score 1.74
Encoding application benchmark score 1.53
Multitasking application benchmark score 1.82
3D performance (crysis) low settings 60fps
3D performance setting Low

Operating system and software

Operating system Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
OS family Windows 7
Recovery method Recovery disc
Software supplied N/A

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