Dell XPS 13 (2015) Reviewed:
After reading the numerous glowing reviews for the 2015 Dell XPS 13 coming out of GDC, I was basically tripping over myself to try one out. I was about due for a laptop update, and this thing seemed to be about as bleeding edge as I could get without breaking the bank, or being immediately outdated by the next “omg must have” tech. (DAMN YOU, USB TYPE C)
Well, the laptop showed up a few weeks ago, and I’ve been using it pretty much daily since that time. Let me tell you: this thing rocks.
I picked up the second-cheapest version, with the Intel Core i5 and 4GB of RAM. So I can’t speak to how the touchscreens or even-higher resolutions of the fancier models pan out, but for what I use this laptop for (web browsing, YouTube watching, some basic work applications, remote desktop), it is more than enough. Any worries I had about “only” having 4GB of RAM were pretty much wiped away by the presence of an SSD. I know this is old knowledge to most people, but in case anyone missed the boat: an SSD is the easiest way to feel like you’ve picked up your computer from some future time where everything works instantly. After installing all my programs and getting everything set up how I like it, this laptop still goes from completely off to the login screen in 6-7 seconds. That is not an exaggeration or any kind of marketing spin: a couple coworkers timed it with stopwatches. It’s unreal.
The screen on this thing is just delicious. As you’ve seen from pictures, it butts up all the way against the edge, with just a few millimeters of bezel around the top and sides. It seems like such a “…so?” feature, but seeing it in person looks really great. On my model, the screen is 1080p, but higher resolutions are available if you’ve got the cash. One possible down side I’ll note is that by default, the DPI is set to 150%, which most programs these days can handle, but I do have one work program who’s buttons fall off the edges of windows. So my options are: 1) change the DPI back to 100% and deal with the world’s tiniest writing or 2) memorize which of the two button edges I can see is “Submit” and which is “Cancel” in this program. I went for the tiny font.
The fan at its highest speed is kind of annoying, in a whiny “are you sure it’s supposed to sound like that?” kind of way. It seems to do it most when it’s been plugged into AC for a while (possibly a side effect of the battery getting hot?), or when playing games (of course). Most of the time, the XPS is whisper quiet, but I wanted to note this, as it sort of alarmed me when it first kicked into high gear.
I’ve read that this touchpad is comparable in quality to the MacBook Pro. I can’t speak to that, but as a recent convert from a “the buttons are separate, and actual buttons” trackpad to this thing… I like it, but it definitely takes some getting used to. I find myself occasionally right-clicking when I was trying to left-click, to the point where I’ve been adapting to the idea that literally only the bottom left corner is used for left-clicking. This isn’t always the case, but a few misinterpreted clicks are all it takes for you to start getting a little frustrated. Not the end of the world, and I’m willing to bet that more than a little of the problem is me being old and crotchety when it comes to button-less touchpads.
The battery life is killer. I’ve been working on this laptop for about two hours now, with multiple programs, browsers, tabs, etc. going at the same time, and the battery reports that it has about five hours left, (70%). That’s pretty solid.
The webcam placement is simultaneously super dumb, and also just about the only place they could put it. Having it at the bottom of the screen makes sense, since there is no other place around the screen for it, due to the tiny bezel size. But having it at the bottom has the unfortunate side effect of giving anyone that uses it a double chin. You definitely do not look your best on it.
The speakers are on the better side of average. Nothing much to add here, there was good volume on my Futurama marathon.
The 2015 Dell XPS 13 is simply a fantastic laptop. While my model didn’t have the touch screen, or the extra high resolution, it has performed quite well, and is a powerful device for right around $1000. You could certainly do a whole lot worse.