Dell XPS 15 (2011) review

29 Mar 2011

By adding Sandy Bridge to an already fine laptop, Dell has created an entertainment tour-de-force

Price when reviewed 
929
5

Revisiting past glories is a path often fraught with peril, but Dell’s resurrection of its once-legendary XPS range is one of the success stories. Fusing power, panache and a fantastic pair of speakers, the XPS 15 gained a Recommended award in late 2010 without even breaking a sweat. Now, with added Intel Sandy Bridge processors, it’s even better.

Our model came equipped with the mid-range 2.3GHz Core i5-2410M, and it flew through our Real World Benchmarks to an overall score of 0.66. That’s more than quick enough for most people, and it’s worth noting that’s the slowest processor Dell offers for the XPS 15. It’s possible to configure it with anything up to the 2.3GHz quad-core i7-2820QM, which commands a £490 premium.

Dell XPS 15 (2011) - front

Whichever CPU takes your fancy, it comes paired with Nvidia’s mid-range GeForce GT 540M graphics chipset. That might sound a little underwhelming given the XPS 15’s luxurious aspirations, but it’s no slouch: it wasn’t until we pushed our Crysis benchmark up to High settings at the screen’s Full HD resolution that the action slowed to a sluggish 15fps. If you’re dead set on playing Crysis at this detail level, you’ll have to drop the resolution; at 1,280 x 720 and High settings the Dell averaged 27fps.

With Nvidia’s Optimus technology dynamically switching between the Nvidia and integrated Intel HD graphics chipsets, and a huge battery propping up its rear, the XPS 15 boasts a lot of stamina for such a powerful laptop. In our light-use battery test, it lasted for 7hrs 25mins. That huge battery also helped in our heavy-use test: with brightness set to the screen’s maximum, the XPS 15 kept going flat-out for 1hr 59mins.

There are some downsides to having a protruding battery – for one thing, the XPS 15’s thick chassis weighs a hefty 3.04kg even without the 650g power supply – but it also has some rather welcome side effects. The Scrabble-tile keyboard was already excellent, but with the battery now leaning it slightly towards the typing position, it’s even more comfortable.

Details

Price ex VAT £774
Price inc VAT £929
Overall rating 5
Features & Design 5
Value for Money 5
Performance 5

Warranty

Warranty 1 yr return to base

Physical specifications

Dimensions 381 x 266 x 39mm (WDH)
Weight 3.040kg
Travelling weight 3.7kg

Processor and memory

Processor Intel Core i5-2410M
Motherboard chipset Intel HM67 Express
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 1,920
Resolution screen vertical 1,080
Resolution 1920 x 1080
Graphics chipset Nvidia GeForce GT 540M
Graphics card RAM 2.00GB
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 Blu-ray writer
Optical drive HL-DT-ST DVDRWBD CT30N
Battery capacity 7,650mAh
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 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 7hr 25min
Battery life, heavy use 1hr 59min
3D performance (crysis) low settings 85fps
3D performance setting Low
Overall Real World Benchmark score 0.66
Responsiveness score 0.75
Media score 0.70
Multitasking score 0.53

Operating system and software

Operating system Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
OS family Windows 7
Recovery method Recovery partition
Software supplied Cyberlink PowerDVD 9.6