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Dell XPS 15 9570 (2018) review: A beast under the bonnet

Near-unrivalled performance - but minor aesthetic tweaks fail to address its flaws

Price
£1,624
  • Powerful hardware; Breathtaking display; Improved aesthetics; Affordable price
  • Middling battery life; Awkwardly-positioned webcam; Overly-rigid lid

Dell's habit for designing and executing high-end, premium machines is now well established, with its late-2018 15.6in XPS fitting right in.

The manufacturer's other models from last year's lineup left astonishing impressions when reviewed, and Dell's XPS 15 certainly fits the mould of the premium XPS 13 and XPS 15 2-in-1.

Other manufacturers, such as Huawei and Asus have gone toe-to-toe with Dell, in the form of the Huawei MateBook X Pro or the Asus Zenbook 3 Deluxe, alongside, of course, the stunning 2018 MacBook Pro. But within this high-end premium market, Dell's 15.6in powerhouse has consistently shown why it's an appealing product for business users.

However, this XPS 15 is far from an original machine, rather it's a small step up from its previous iteration, the 9560. Users who have already purchased a last-gen XPS 15 must also ask themselves if these incremental updates are worth upgrading for? With a knack for producing some of the best enterprise hardware out there, Dell is again aiming to exceed expectations with the latest edition of its 15-inch heavyweight.

Dell XPS 15: Design

Although the XPS 15 9570 largely resembles its 2017 counterpart, there are enough tweaks in its design to give it the feel of a different animal.

The aluminium chassis has undergone a minor colour change, lighter in tone, rendering it just as classy as last year's model. An updated Dell logo is more refined too. The letters are sleeker, and less impactful, giving the branding a more subtle feel.

Its dimensions are unchanged from last year's model, with an impressively slim width and depth of 357 x 235mm, comfortably beating the vast majority of devices fitted with a 15.6in display.

The LG Gram is among the few laptops that can boast sleeker dimensions, but at 17.7mm, it's thicker than the XPS 15's 17mm at its thickest point. The Gram weighs almost half as much, however, at 1.09kg versus 2kg. Apple's 15.6in MacBook Pro, meanwhile, weighs just 200g less, and its chassis is roughly the same size; measuring 349mm by 241mm, with a 15.5mm thickness.

A deeper power button, a repositioned camera (which has moved from the bottom-left to the bottom-centre), and more fluid hinges make up the full complement of changes. Camera position and lid stiffness, incidentally, were among our biggest bugbears with the previous XPS 15, and unfortunately, these design changes fail to address either.

A victim of Dell's InfinityEdge display design, the camera's positioning beneath the manufacturer's logo renders video chatting much clumsier than it needs to be. This is especially true if you need to type during a video call; you'll end up with giant fingers occupying half the frame, which makes for an extremely off-putting sight. Although there is every indication that the 2019 XPS 15 may reposition this at the top of the display as with the 2019 XPS 13. An overly-rigid lid, meanwhile, still demands both hands (and some force) to pry open.

Dell XPS 15: Display

One of the most impressive features of the Dell XPS 15 is its huge 15.6-inch touchscreen. It's available in both 1080p and 4K UHD varieties, depending on your budget and the quality you require, but even the lower-end 1080p iteration won't leave you disappointed. It looks amazing and is extremely responsive - something that can be a little hit and miss on a laptop touchscreen, especially one this large. This quality and responsiveness makes the Dell XPS 15 a perfect companion for those working in the graphic design, photography or film industries, reproducing detail to the highest degree.

The way the InfinityEdge design is implemented onto the laptop just adds to this beauty, with the narrow bezel making the large screen look even more expansive. Overlaid on top of the entire screen area is a piece of glossy Corning Gorilla Glass, providing a luxurios contrast to the soft carbon fibre palm rest.

Although Dell's previous non-touchscreen versions of the XPS 15 integrated a non-reflective coating over the display, this has been scrapped in the 2018 models. So although what you do get are a beautiful finish and bolder colours, you may find the reflections in bright conditions a little frustrating if you're used to a non-reflective coating.

Talking of colours, the Dell XPS 15 achieves an extremely respectable 95.5% coverage of the sRGB colour gamut. This is below the 100% that Dell claims it can hit, but with a contrast ratio of 1638:1 and a 428cd/m2, the display does look truly vibrant in pretty much all conditions. It's certainly superior to most devices, barring a handful of exceptions such as Microsoft's 2017 Surface Pro, which boasts a 437cd/m2 brightness and 97.5% sRGB coverage.

Dell XPS 15: Keyboard and touchpad

Dell's solid 81-key backlit keyboard is also the same as on last year's machine, and a pleasure to use. The chiclet-style keys are well-sized and well-spaced, while keystrokes are fairly deep and induce a strong sense of feedback.

Some may have expected the XPS 15 to feature the same new MagLev keyboard fitted into the XPS 15 2-in-1 but it doesn't - which is a welcome omission as far as we're concerned. The 2-in-1's keyboard uses magnets fitted beneath the keys to reduce the perceived travel distance and feedback, but it's perhaps not so appealing for typists who prefer firmer, more forceful keystrokes.

A flaw now commonplace across all XPS devices, and present in the 2018 XPS 15, is the shape its arrow keys take, as they are crammed into the same space as the page up and page down keys; quite unnatural relative to the way you would position your hands on the device. Dell's choice to share this space between two sets of keys is in-keeping with the aesthetic, but users may initially find it jarring. It also meant, irritatingly, that we were more prone to pushing the wrong key more often than not.

The trackpad, meanwhile, is refreshingly large and smooth thanks to its glass finish, and additional functions like pinch-to-zoom and pushing anywhere to left-click, work flawlessly.

Dell XPS 15: Specs and performance

This machine is an absolute powerhouse, built with a 2.2GHz Intel Core i7-8750H processor with six cores in the configuration we reviewed, although it's also available to purchase with a quad-core i5-8300H processor, and a hexa-core i9-8950HK.

Although it can support up to 32GB of memory, the 16GB of DDR4 RAM fitted into our review model was more than sufficient for office-based tasks. For reference, the device hardly broke a sweat supporting more than 20 Chrome tabs, several productivity apps and Spotify open while streaming a 4K video at 60fps in the background.

The XPS is hands down one of the most powerful laptops we've handled, scoring a blistering 178 in our performance benchmarks. Not only is this among the highest we've recorded on a notebook, but it also edges the 15in MacBook Pro's score of 173 (in a configuration, incidentally, featuring the i9-8950HK processor).

Moreover, the device maintains high-performance levels across both single-threaded and multi-threaded tasks - and proves a significant upgrade on last year's model which scored 127 in our benchmarks.

Its 97Whr battery, however, is on the disappointing side, lasting 7hrs 14mins in our video test. This is a decent amount shy of the MacBook Pro's 8hrs 1min lifespan, and approximately three hours shorter than the 2017 XPS 15's 10hrs 27 mins. It's worth pointing that neither of those models were using a 4K display, however, which are notorious for gobbling up battery life. You'll likely get a fair amount more mileage out of the 1080p version, battery-wise.

The battery also charges at a snail's pace when connected to an external monitor via USB-C, due to the low wattage of the power being supplied to the machine, and on one occasion, performance became very sluggish when connected to an external screen.

Dell XPS 15: Ports and features

A strong collection of ports bolsters the machine's credentials as a must-have for high-end business users.

Despite a slender frame, the XPS 15 offers two USB 3.1 ports (one on either side of the chassis), USB-C, HDMI 2.0, Thunderbolt 3, and an SD card slot, not to mention the 3.5mm jack.

Security features, meanwhile, include a power button conveniently doubling as a fingerprint reader - and a Noble lock slot for that added layer of protection. No reliability issues were detected with the fingerprint reader, and the redesigned power button is deep and rigid, enough that it's impossible to accidentally push whilst signing in.

A small button nestled between the Noble lock slot and USB 3.1 port on the right-hand side of the chassis, meanwhile, activates a set of five LED lights to indicate battery life - each bulb corresponding with 20%. This is quite handy for checking battery levels when the machine is switched off, and the lid is shut.

Dell XPS 15: Verdict

Despite a handful of flaws that have been glossed over with a series of otherwise positive design tweaks, and an average battery life, the Dell XPS 15 has proven itself an incredibly powerful machine that exceeds the standards of its Windows rivals - in terms of both design, and performance. 

Its only serious competition comes by way of the 15in MacBook Pro, which it certainly matches up to. The differences between these two heavyweights are small enough that it might even come down to whether you'd prefer using MacOS or Windows. But, all things considered, the XPS 15 represents great bang-for-buck, with its fully-specced i9 configuration available at less than half the cost of the 15in i9 MacBook Pro, priced at 5,174 exc VAT.

Exuding just as much style as 2017's model - and buckets more power - Dell's premium notebook is a must-have investment for business users seeking a high-end 15.6in notebook that can offer performance, portability, and functionality - while looking damn good too.

Processor

2.2GHz Intel Core i7-8750H

RAM

16GB DDR4

Dimensions

357 x 235 x 11-17mm

Weight

2kg

Screen size

15.6in

Screen resolution

3849 x 2160

Graphics adaptor

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 Ti

Total storage

512 SSD

Operating system

Windows 10 Home

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