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Dell XPS 15 (9500) Review: A Premium Windows Experience at the Expense of High Price

Dell XPS 15 (9500) Review: A Premium Windows Experience at the Expense of High Price

The Dell XPS 15 9500 continues the company's tradition of offering a premium design with excellent performance for everyday and creative professionals in the go.

Dell’s XPS notebook lineup has often been considered one of the better options if you are looking to splurge on a premium Windows 10 laptop. Over the years, the XPS 13 in particular caught the attention for its modern designs, the slim build and well, carbon fibre. Carbon fibre looks good on pretty much anything. In a way, the Dell XPS machines provided a competent alternative to someone who didn't want to buy the Apple MacBook Pro 13, for instance. Yet, the Dell XPS line did compete against some pretty solid rivals too, including the HP Spectre x360 line. The XPS 13 has been my favourite machine almost every year. However, the company has finally brought some new changes to the larger XPS 15, which is finally gaining my interest. That being said, it will cost you a lot of money. The new XPS 15 prices start at Rs 1,86,073.

You see, the new XPS 15 was carrying the same design for years. Not that it's a bad thing, but unlike its smaller sibling, it has pretty much looked the same. This year, Dell has gone for a universal approach, and the new XPS 15 9500 now looks a lot like the 13-inch version. It is slimmer thanks to the omission of USB Type-A ports, and the display now extends all the way down making it way more immersive. It is more modern.

SLEEK AND UNDERSTATED

Who wouldn't mind a large screen laptop in a smaller footprint? The Dell XPS 15 notebook still continues to be a 15-inch laptop with a 14-inch footprint featuring an aluminum chassis, with a carbon fiber finish on the keyboard deck. The bottom chassis is said to be made from a single block of CNC machined aluminum. It just screams of premium-ness and Dell has given a lot of attention to the smallest of details. The one thing that I did however notice is that it is more on the heavy side, despite having a sleek design. I believe there are two reasons for it, first is all of that metal on the lid and bottom chassis, the second being the use of a larger battery rated at 86Whr.

Moving to the display, the lid opens nicely with just one hand and you are greeted with this large chunk of Gorilla Glass. Tucked underneath is a bright and colour rich 4K Ultra HD+ (3840 x 2400) resolution panel with 500-nits of peak brightness. According to Dell it is 40 times brighter and blacks are up to 10 times darker which I can totally vouch for. It is also a VESA certified DisplayHDR 400 display with over 16 million colors, 100% Adobe RGB and 94% DCI-P3 color gamut, and a 1650:1 contrast ratio. Most of these are for the high-end 4K panel which is what I tested and honestly, it is the best display panel I’ve seen on any notebook. The display looks immersive and I was impressed by how good HDR content looked on the panel. I am no creative professional, but I am pretty positive that if you are one, then you are going to love it. Now you do lose out a few features if you opt for the Full-HD+ version, but it still looks gorgeous.

OLED NO MORE?

What Dell doesn’t tell you is that it no longer offers a 4K OLED panel option which was available on the last-gen model. That’s because this year Dell has cut down on the bottom bezel. By doing so the display now offers a 16:10 aspect ratio and a 92.9% screen to body ratio. While that sounds good, standard OLED panels are only available in 16:9 ratio hence the move to a standard IPS panel. Also, despite the super-slim bezels, Dell has managed to add an infrared camera with Windows Hello recognition, which in my opinion is the best way to unlock your notebook.

QUALITY SPEAKERS FOR YOUR EARS

Flanking on either side of the keyboard are the stereo speakers and they are just absolutely worth listening to. They fall just short of the speakers on the MacBook, which is obviously the gold standard, but honestly I haven’t heard anything this good on a Windows laptop. There is a nice thump of bass, vocals are crisp and they are loud enough to fill up an entire bedroom. This has been made possible by using a quad-speaker design with two 2.5W woofers and two 1.5W tweeters producing 8W of total peak output. These speakers have been tuned by Waves MaxxAudio Pro and Waves Nx 3D audio.

POWERHORSE FOR CREATIVE PROFESSIONALS

Dell has loaded the new XPS with the latest 10th-gen Intel Core i7-10750H processor which is a six-core 5GHz chip, enough to match most desktop PCs. Notably, this is the only processor option you get whether you go for the 1080p non-touch variant or the 4K touch version. There is 16GB of DDR4-2933MHz RAM or 32GB for the high-end variant with either 512GB or 1TB M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD. For graphics, there is an Nvidia’s GeForce 1650 with 4GB memory.

I was pretty impressed with the machine’s ability to handle most of my daily workflow with ease which includes 10-15 Chrome tabs, a bit of Photoshop and some media consumption including YouTube videos and music on Spotify. Also, the included graphics processor is more than enough for some casual gaming and I would like to stress on the word ‘casual’ as this is strictly not a gaming machine. The GPU makes more sense when you are editing videos which helps the CPU to reduce rendering times.

By making the XPS 15 slimmer, Dell has sacrificed on the ports. You get a total of three USB-C ports all of which support power delivery and display out. Two of these also offer support for Thunderbolt 3.0. There is also a headphone jack combo and a SD card slot, which makes sense if you are a creative professional. Dell also ships a USB-C to USB-A and HDMI v2.0 adapter in the box. There is Killer Wi-Fi 6 AX1650 (2x2) and Bluetooth 5.1 for wireless connectivity as well. Apart from face recognition, there is a fingerprint scanner as well which is oddly a black key on the top right corner. For some reason Dell didn’t even bother to put a power or a fingerprint scanner logo on the key.

The keyboard looks very XPS with a black finish and low-profile keys. Surprisingly the key travel is pretty good and I actually had a good time typing on it. The only thing that bugged me a little was the fact that the layout felt very centered, and I think I have a habit of tipping slightly to the left of my keyboard. But that’s just me. Also, there is a humongous trackpad, almost as big as the one on the MacBook Pro 16. It felt way too big to me but I am sure creative professionals and people who love using gestures are going to love this one.

AVERAGE BATTERY LIFE

As for battery life, Dell claims that one can get up to 8 hours and 27 minutes of Netflix streaming on the UHD+ panel with its 86Whr battery. I was able to get about 7 hours of battery life while video streaming and close to 6.5 hours with a mix of my daily work. If you pull down the resolution to 1080p or in this case 1200p, you could squeeze in at least a couple of more hours. Overall the battery is just about average and yes, you will need to charge this at the end of the day.

FINAL THOUGHTS

The new XPS 15 starts at Rs 1,86,073 and the one I reviewed costs Rs 2,14,048. That is a lot of money and honestly this is the most expensive XPS model we’ve seen in years. This puts it in direct competition with the MacBook Pro 16. And Apple offers you an Intel Core i9 option besides the six-core Core i7 processor.

This brings me to my second concern. I think it would have made sense if Dell introduced the Core i5 variant in India as well. I mean, I don’t mind running on a quad-core with a 1080p display if I could save some money. That way, they could have competed in a wider spectrum, but right now offering a single processor option, in just two variants is kind of putting the XPS 15 in a slightly uncomfortable place. Dell also has the larger XPS 17 in its arsenal which comes with a Core i9 option and could definitely make the MacBook Pro 16 run for its money. But, as of now, Dell hasn’t confirmed if or when they will bring it to India.

In my opinion, if someone needs a powerful portable workhorse, they might as well just invest in a slim gaming notebook or go for the Apple MacBook. Those choices make sense. Yet, somehow, nothing comes close if you need a pure premium feel for your Windows 10 usage experience.