Dell XPS 15 Touch
Fantastic performance. Best of breed touchscreen, with next-to-no bezel. Great touchpad. Ready to take us into our USB-C future.
Prone to crashes; At press time, the unit is frozen in the middle of restoring to factory settings and is unable to complete the operation. Fairly awful keyboard. Expensive.
While the XPS 15 Touch has the now-standard ten-point touchscreen, it’s first and foremost a straight-up laptop that eschews tablet frivolities in favor of raw power and solid usability.
With a sixth generation, 2.6GHz Core i7 CPU, 16GB of RAM, 512GB solid state drive, and graphics from the latest Nvidia GeForce GTX 960M, the machine is as state of the art as things get. But the display surely is the centerpiece, a 15.6-inch LCD with 3840 x 2160-pixel resolution. It’s one of the best on the market, with dazzling brightness and clarity. Dell it the Infinity Edge display, owing to the tiny border between the screen and case. Just a couple millimeters thick, Dell says this innovation lets it wedge a 15.6-inch laptop into “a form closer to a 14-inch laptop.”
That may be technically true, but this is still a big computer. The XPS 15 starts at less than 4 pounds, but my review unit was a full 4.5 pounds, right in line with other 15-inchers available today. The device certainly feels hefty—particularly in an era of 2- to 3-pound competitors—and at 23mm thick, it actually has a bit more girth than many of its competitors.
None of that matters much, as the XPS 15 is amply portable yet designed with performance foremost in mind. On this front, it delivers, turning in stellar performance numbers on a wide battery of tests, from general applications to high-end graphics benchmarks and gaming runs. If there’s one weakness here, it’s likely the SSD, which is on the slow side for a machine that otherwise pushes its tech to the limit. At a bit under 4 hours of full-screen video playback, battery life is about average for this class of machines.
Design is sparse, with a simple aluminum shell and a black carbon-fiber interior. The chicklet keyboard is not my favorite, with pretty mushy action, but the surprisingly large and accurate touchpad goes a long way toward making up for that. It’s got two USB 3.0 ports, an SD card slot, a standard HDMI port, and one newfangled USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 port. Given that the utility of that last one is still somewhat limited, Dell offers an adapter that plugs into the port, expanding it to give you an additional USB 3.0, Ethernet, HDMI, and VGA port in a Zippo-sized package. This add-on runs $79, but Dell says it often is bundled at retail.
If the XPS 15 has a failing, it’s a tendency toward instability. In several days of testing, I encountered crash after crash during routine benchmarks and other tests, as well as several hangups during reboots resolved only by using the decidedly blunt hold-down-the-power-button trick. A brand new system should not crash to this degree, though one is interminably hopeful that this is simply a question of growing pains that will be resolved over the course of Microsoft and Dell-driven updates.
High-end power remains widely available in the 15-inch laptop form factor, so pricing is likely to be another significant factor for purchasers considering the category. Starting at $1,600 for the touchscreen version (the model I tested costs $2,100), the XPS 15 Touch isn’t stratospherically priced, but it is on the high end compared to touchscreen machines in the same ballpark like the Lenovo Y50 or Toshiba Satellite Radius P55W-C, the latter of which even has the same display resolution. Is it worth a few hundred more bucks for a cutting-edge display and ready-for-tomorrow features like USB-C? Discuss amongst yourselves.