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Dell XPS 15 (2011) review

Verdict

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

Review Date: 29 Mar 2011

Reviewed By: Sasha Muller

Price when reviewed: £774 (£929 inc VAT)

Overall Rating
5 stars out of 6

Features & Design
5 stars out of 6

Value for Money
5 stars out of 6

Performance
5 stars out of 6

PCPRO Recommended

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.

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User comments

Not exactly aesthetically pleasing

I've got he original XPS M1530 and it's a much nicer machine than these new Dells. It's one thing Apple do well - design

By EddyOS_2K9 on 30 Mar 2011

Not that I'm an Apple fan, far from it, it's just that they know how to make something look good as well as perform

By EddyOS_2K9 on 30 Mar 2011

Hooray at last a proper screen

At last a non-Apple laptop with enough pixels to use it for work!

Please give them more credit for this. The Packard Bell had a netbook screen and an i7 but got a similar score.

By tirons1 on 30 Mar 2011

Is it sold by Dell though?

Looking at the Dell website not sure if they are selling it in the UK yet though... or maybe I did not look well enough

By raritzu on 30 Mar 2011

Dell website

Sorry, perhaps I need to make the E-Value code a bit more prominent. It can be bought here:

http://configure.euro.dell.com/dellstore/config.as
px?c=uk&l=en&cs=ukdhs1&kc=&oc=N00X5M59

Regards

By DavidBayon on 30 Mar 2011

Well, looks like the last one... nowhere near as many options available to UK buyers as there are to the USA ones, plus the option prices, in some cases, don't even equate to $ to £.

By Ex_Sailor on 30 Mar 2011

@DavidBayon

my bad, missed the link at the end of the article. Cheers...

By raritzu on 30 Mar 2011

Some minor annoyances though

I have the previous non-Sandy Bridge version with an i5 and the 1366x768 display.
Apart from lack of screen real estate which has me longing the full HD screen I am very pleased with it and I echo David's comment about the JBL speakers being the best I have heard in a laptop by far. I don't even have an issue with the lid - what do you do with your PCs David?
However there are couple of minor flaws..
1. The Hard disk activity light is ridiculously positioned so you can't see it with the lid open. There is also a battery indicator here, but at least this is duplicated on the display panel just above the keyboard.
2. The Optimius display technology does not support duplicated screens via the HDMI connection. Various forums indicate it can do this via Mini Display Port but I don't have an adaptor to try it.
3. No numeric keypad (not even embedded in the qwerty keyboard) makes if difficult to use Alt and numeric keys for special characters (eg. Alt+0176 is degree symbol).

By Hamster on 30 Mar 2011

and....

I have not yet got the eSATA port to work with my external eSATA/USB 2.5" HDD enclosure.
Not sure if this Dell, Windows7 or external HDD case issue though.

By Hamster on 30 Mar 2011

@Ex_Sailor

Wow the range extra options available in the US is stunning. I can configure a Latitude 5520 with a 1080p panel for $700 in the states. This £41 option requires me to spend just shy of £1000 not including VAT in the UK.

By tirons1 on 31 Mar 2011

Got it down to £860 with careful option selection, but it is still close to double the US price. Why?

By tirons1 on 31 Mar 2011

Such a waste

1) Those Dell dummies paired the GT540M with GDDR3 memory, so this laptop is no better than last years GT420M or GT435M.
2) DELL STILL MAKES YOU PAY £30 EXTRA FOR BLUETOOTH. WTH??
3)Check Sainsbury's Medion gaming laptop. You'll find a little surprise in the GPU.

By Natasha26 on 31 Mar 2011

Such a waste

1) Those Dell dummies paired the GT540M with GDDR3 memory, so this laptop is no better than last years GT420M or GT435M.
2) DELL STILL MAKES YOU PAY £30 EXTRA FOR BLUETOOTH. WTH??
3)Check Sainsbury's Medion gaming laptop. You'll find a little surprise in the GPU.

By Natasha26 on 31 Mar 2011

Previous incarnation

I bought the previous build-up in December 2010. Intel i5-460M, 15.6in 1366x768 display, 1 GB GT 420M graphics, 4 GIG DDR3 memory for £ 679. I find it very good-looking, a pleasure to use and great value for money. Only let down is display: 768 pixels vertically is not enough and poor viewing angles. Looks like they have addressed this with new version, but dearer.

By frapro on 31 Mar 2011

Screen res? Pah!

This isn't high res. I still use a 3 year old D830 which is 15" and 1920x1200. Took a bit of getting used to but I wouldn't want anything less now.

By 959ARN on 31 Mar 2011

Website

This seems a good configuration for the price but Dell's website is as wobbly as the lid on the laptop. I could only find this using the e-value code. I may be missing something but trying to find it from the front of their website is impossible. For the 15" XPS you either get i5 1st gen or i7 2nd gen. For a slightly higher price(£1,050 incl VAT) you get the i7 2nd gen base model (2 GHz) + 6GB RAM + 640GB HDD but no TV tuner. I've had trouble before trying to match review models on their website. In reply to Natasha26 its true that the Medion looks good. So does the Schenker XMG P501

By Harri37 on 5 Apr 2011

Battery Clarification please

Can you clarify which battery was supplied with the review laptop, as your review appears to suggest the 9-cell was supplied, but the battery supplied via the review's link is a 6-cell. This is based on the following remark in the review "a huge battery propping up its rear". I believe only the 9-cell causes the laptop to be 'propped up'.

In addition, the mAh is not practical value to publish, as this figure is only of any use for comparisons between batteries that operate at the same (nominal) voltage, which most don't. The Whr would be preferable, for two reasons, 1) to make comparisons easier between manufactures and 2) to make identification (therefore checks when purchasing) easier, e.g. Dell lists their batteries by Whr, not mAh as you have listed it as.

By symonay on 18 Apr 2011

Some quick maths...

It would seem this review was indeed conducted using a 9 cell as opposed to the supplied 6 cell (via the published link), so be mindful when making your purchase based on the figures quoted in this article. As a guide (and I'll probably get shot down for this) take a third of the times quoted, i.e. 4h 57m and 1h 19m respectively. I used an assumed common Dell nominal battery voltage of 11.764v.

By symonay on 18 Apr 2011

Battery queries

Firstly, the XPS 15 should come with the same 9-cell battery we reviewed it with. According to my contact at Dell, they had to resort to supplying 6-cell batteries due to supply issues stemming from the current situation in Japan. The 9-cell batteries will be available again from the 21st April.

As for the Whr vs mAh issue, well, we're considering whether to change it with the upcoming redesign of the magazine.

Sasha Muller
Laptops Editor, PC Pro

By SashaMuller on 19 Apr 2011

Many thanks Sasha.

Shame about that date, 21st April, the day the quoted price i.e £929 expires (£94 off) and a day after a further 10% discount expires. I was so close to taking out my wallet.

By symonay on 19 Apr 2011

Website still dodgy, battery still 6 cell

Still no sign of this laptop via the menu on Dell's website, and via the E-value code it's still showing a 6 cell battery.

This laptop can be bought from various importers from the states for £750 all in - Dell need to get their pricing and their website sorted out.

By aeonturnip on 27 Apr 2011

Incorrect eValue Code

Dell website returnes - An incorrect eValue Code was entered.

By SimplyGrey on 9 May 2011

Not on website

I've looked all over the Dell website and can't find anything that has the same spec as this.

By jimi_bond on 10 May 2011

Dell don't want to sell laptops?

Eventually built as near as possible to the reviewed laptop on Monday night on the Dell website. Put it in my basket and clicked pay. It took me through to Verified by Visa, where I confirmed payment - nothing! Followed the instructions and went back to Verified by Visa and re-verified - nothing. Tried again last night with same result. Now have four earmarks for £969.58 on Verified by Visa in favour of Dell but nothing from Dell. Can only conclude that Dell don't want to sell laptops, so I will look elsewhere.

By SimplyGrey on 11 May 2011

Dell don't want to sell laptops?

Eventually built as near as possible to the reviewed laptop on Monday night on the Dell website. Put it in my basket and clicked pay. It took me through to Verified by Visa, where I confirmed payment - nothing! Followed the instructions and went back to Verified by Visa and re-verified - nothing. Tried again last night with same result. Now have four earmarks for £969.58 on Verified by Visa in favour of Dell but nothing from Dell. Can only conclude that Dell don't want to sell laptops, so I will look elsewhere.

By SimplyGrey on 11 May 2011

I bit the bullet

Despite my reservations about the battery detailed above, I made a purchase and while I'm satisfied overall I am very disappointed in the battery life of the 6-cell battery. With every conceivable power saving measure I barely manage 3 hours of very light use. I'm also not fond of this expensive mirror, sorry I mean glossy screen, that I've invested in. I just don't understand what the 'deal' is with them, give me a matt screen any day, just don't make me buy a Mac and then pay £150 premium just for the privilege.

By symonay on 22 May 2011

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.




http://www.elecachat.fr/dell-xps-15.html

By pcpone on 22 May 2012

Wireless Warning DELL XPS 15's Sept 2013

Strongly suggest anyone considering one of these to check the web for "wireless issues"
Sending back second XPS 15 today for refund. Both had following issue..
Wireless only worked in close proximity (same room) as router. At any distance connection intermittent/non existent (actual distance 25' direct through 1 windows) . Dell eventually blamed router as it was 2 years old, they said new technology wireless in XPS15 would only work with latest, up to 1 year old wireless routers with latest firmware (Dell tech supervisor quote) Other people have had display replaced (antenna is in display) Router works fine, at distance with other pc's (using dongle)an old Acer laptop and iPhone's, I also installed a separate WAP still same issue with the XPS15. Dell said there WAS an issue with previous batch of XPS 15's but mine were from current (new batch!)
Buyer Beware!

By PACPAC on 10 Sep 2013

Wireless Warning DELL XPS 15's Sept 2013

Strongly suggest anyone considering one of these to check the web for "wireless issues"
Sending back second XPS 15 today for refund. Both had following issue..
Wireless only worked in close proximity (same room) as router. At any distance connection intermittent/non existent (actual distance 25' direct through 1 windows) . Dell eventually blamed router as it was 2 years old, they said new technology wireless in XPS15 would only work with latest, up to 1 year old wireless routers with latest firmware (Dell tech supervisor quote) Other people have had display replaced (antenna is in display) Router works fine, at distance with other pc's (using dongle)an old Acer laptop and iPhone's, I also installed a separate WAP still same issue with the XPS15. Dell said there WAS an issue with previous batch of XPS 15's but mine were from current (new batch!)
Buyer Beware!

By PACPAC on 10 Sep 2013

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