Back to Article

  • solipsism - Wednesday, July 25, 2012 - link

    1) How is the experience with that large trackpad. So far I haven't seen or experienced any notebook following Apple's path here that has made it a great experience.

    2) Regarding the first page, I think the quality of the display is also very important. the MBP might be a TN panel but it's a damn good TN panel. Asus also has plenty of great panels in what tend to be cheap machines. Since I'm always looking at the display I couldn't choose this Dell even if the PPI is decent.
  • Spivonious - Wednesday, July 25, 2012 - link

    147dpi is "decent"? My, how times have changed. I remember when I bought my 125dpi CRT and it was top-of-the-line.

    Still, since most Windows apps aren't high-DPI aware, getting a high DPI screen on a laptop isn't as important as it is on a phone or tablet.

    Don't get me wrong, I do like the higher DPI screens that we're seeing now, but calling 147dpi "decent" really made me laugh.
  • solipsism - Wednesday, July 25, 2012 - link

    It's not a measure of percentage over a set time frame. It's simply a statement of what is deemed satisfactory.

    Note that at 141 PPI it's significantly more than the MBP at 110 PPI. Note that you only need to be 24" away from the display for it to be Retina quality for those with 20/20 vision.

    PS: Even though we now have 200 PPI displays with the new MBPs don't think that ten years from now that display will be crap if it's not 5, 10 or 20x the pixel density. Around 200 PPI will be hear for a very long time.
  • Serge SC - Thursday, September 13, 2012 - link

    I've had a 15.6" FHD screen for 3 years now.

    My eyes are in the 18/20 perhaps, even better, and still, I can't see the pixels while being around 50 cm away from my screen...

    Sure, the more the merrier, but at full HD on this size of panel, it is good enough that 90% of users can't see pixels from normal usage distance.
  • SodaAnt - Wednesday, July 25, 2012 - link

    Well, I've had a 1080P 15" laptop display for a while, and to be honest, as long as you are sitting in a normal position about two feet away from the screen, there is no way you can see the individual pixels. However, I do admit that they have a long way to go on making the screen look good though. Reply
  • Frallan - Wednesday, July 25, 2012 - link

    Hmm had they been able to squeeze a 660 in there it would have been an immediate buy for me but the 640 just doesn't cut it. It would be interestin to see some new development in heat management in lappys - the same theory and build is still being used as for 10 yrs. I think that it should be possible today to think of a new way of doing things. Reply
  • xype - Wednesday, July 25, 2012 - link

    Don’t worry, as soon as Apple decides to use any of the myriad of advanced cooling solutions, everyone will start doing it. It’s just, you know, too big a RISK to try it first. Better have another medicore model selling in small numbers than try and aim for Gold. Reply
  • ananduser - Wednesday, July 25, 2012 - link

    What was said about this model regarding thermals is also true about Apple's MBP. As soon as you start pushing the hardware it too gets extremely hot. Reply
  • xype - Wednesday, July 25, 2012 - link

    That’s why I said "as soon as Apple decides", meaning "they are not doing it, yet." Duh. Reply
  • Spoony - Wednesday, July 25, 2012 - link

    In the past, I would have agreed with you wholeheartedly. Previous MacBook Pros (and PowerBooks) were absolute space heaters. They sat at about 95C as soon as you started doing anything intensive with them. Lap toasters!

    The fan ramps used by Apple are also hugely conservative in favour of noise, which I do not feel is the right trade off. Frequently you'd see 103C before the fans had ramped up all the way.

    All this being said, I recently ran several stress tests to see if the differences Apple had made to the Retina MacBook Pro actually did anything. The results were extremely positive. A highly synthetic stress test on CPU/GPU yielded 82C highest temp (on the Nvidia card).

    I bought a rMBP, and have been very satisfied with the thermal performance. Coming from somebody who was highly critical of all previous Apple machines in this regard. You do have to encourage the fan to ramp properly sometimes, so it isn't perfect. Just a lot better.
  • ananduser - Wednesday, July 25, 2012 - link

    Well your stress tests are against Anand's own review and many other reviews that have noticed how under long stress tests the MBP gets extremely hot. You're a lucky one. Reply
  • dtolios - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    Apple did nothing "new" with the rMBP...the contrary, it got thinner and the thermal envelope of the notebook got "tighter"...
    It's just that it is using "cooler" components that intel and nvidia put together.

    The metal chassis can only insulate so much, and that is true for all manufacturers. Apple cannot beat physics (doh).

    Thus really high end GPUs were always out of the question for MBPs, (and all thin/light laptops) despite the amount of money you were willing to throw in for customizing.
  • CeriseCogburn - Sunday, July 29, 2012 - link

    Ha that is so funny to me - I can see that picky elite machead going for the totally silent room, doing the yoga meditation, some breathing exercises, then firing up the MBP to do some spiritual testing - getting that ear on down low next to it, to see if it can hold it's breath, too.

    That's why the macgineers had to do what they did do - it's the end user's magical idiot silent wet dream, and there are so many of those people... who cares if they burn their crotch off - that's a good thing.

    Yeah, it's really sad. Same type of insanity with gaming gpus as they have the sound cranked to the max and often are wearing noise cancelling expensive headgear for sound. I suppose the fan sound would ruin their delicate and selective critical listening enjoyment.
  • name99 - Saturday, July 28, 2012 - link

    The two are really not comparable. Read what Anand said:

    The takeaways are:
    - for many purposes attempting to stress the machine did NOT result in reduced performance
    - even when it did, the falloff was not that extreme (5% or so)
    - there was no mention of the system ever crashing due to thermal overload (and I've never heard of this in earlier Macbooks, eg my 2nd gen MBA very obviously throttles in hot weather, but it never crashes).

    One thing I wonder (Anand hinted at the same thing) is whether this is a consequence of using a 45W part rather than 35W --- Apple has more headroom and is using that AS headroom, not as compute capacity. If so, this would be analogous to the way they under-clock pretty much every iOS device relative to the CPU's rated specs. The exact reasoning is slightly different, but the overall point is the same in both cases --- to balance the tangible, measurable goal of maximum performance against the intangible, unmeasurable goal of delight, where delight is increased by things like longer battery life, consistent performance and, of course, no crashes. The editorial aside would, of course, be that you can't build products that delight if you are purely driven by checklists and measured numbers --- you have to be willing to make tradeoffs, like leaving some performance on the table for the sake of battery life, or stability, or temperature.

    [I'm not trying to be rah rah Apple here; I'm trying to point out the real differences between these two products, and the real factors that led to these differences.]
  • GotThumbs - Wednesday, July 25, 2012 - link

    Ok Fanboi. Just remember the fact that Apple is now a PC Assembler. When they first came out...they built their own systems. They were not as successful back then. Now they use Intel chips and other PC components available to any other PC Assembler.

    Now Apple is a PC Assembler and they are very good at designing fashionable/attractive shells, but don't con your self into thinking Apple is a true innovator. The are very much like the Chinese in the 80's (Sony Tv's, Walkman, etc.). Apple is very good at taking an existing idea...and putting its own spin on it. There are features they have that are not fire-wire...but as the reviewer stated....He doesn't use it and most of the users of today are probably in the same boat. How great is an option or its not used/needed?

    You need to put the Cool-Aid down.

    Listen, If you like using Apples products and they do what you need....I'm happy for you. Just don't try and make this a pissing game or who's dad can beat up whose.

    I'm really getting tired of the regurgitation of which is king.

    Now that Apple is a PC assembler...the reviewers point about the OS is the key. Either you prefer windows or Apples OS.....or any other number of Linux alternatives.

    All I'd like is for people to grow up and have a little respect for other peoples choices/decisions.

    If it your money...spend it how you wish...but don't act like a 5 year old and sing about your ice-cream or whos king of the hill. It just too school yardish.

    All the best and enjoy your computer.
  • solipsism - Wednesday, July 25, 2012 - link

    1) So in 1976 when they first started out they were less successful than they are now as the world' largest publicly traded company? No fucking way! /s

    2) The parts they use today are more specialized then any other time in Apple's history. Using an Intel processor doesn't change anything as the processors they used previously were also available to others. Just look at the Xbox 360 for proof.

    3) Also note that Apple builds their ARM SoCs based on reference designs. Same goes for a lot of other components that Apple doesn't directly own but has invested heavily in and therefore has been given exclusive rights for a set period of time. Their display tech for the iPhone, iPad and now MBP come to mind.
  • kevith - Wednesday, July 25, 2012 - link

    I´l just second your opinion of the pissing contest.

    And this isn´t even a Mac-review...
  • CeriseCogburn - Sunday, July 29, 2012 - link

    Oh come on, we've got to compare. I'm learning here. Let them express. Reply
  • xype - Wednesday, July 25, 2012 - link

    …and Apple was the first to figure it out, it seems.

    At least Dell made the keyboard area black and put the sleep light in the center, that counts for something, amirite?

    It’s kind of weird that Apple’s "think different" is becoming a "everyone be like Apple!". I love my MacBook Pro and iPad, but damn, it would feel nice to see an original design on the (big vendor) PC side now and then.

    Why do these companies think people will buy a copy of an Apple design/hardware, if they can get the original just as well? Customers like choice, yes, but choice does not mean 5 vendors making the same laptop all over again.

    No wonder the PC makers are struggling, they’re all lead by unimaginative MBA retards.
  • ananduser - Wednesday, July 25, 2012 - link

    Yes PC makers are indeed struggling, Apple being one of them. Apple's PC lineup is also not the pinnacle of mobile computing. Get a grip. Reply
  • xype - Wednesday, July 25, 2012 - link

    Never said it was the pinnacle. But feel free to educate me how above industry average growth is "struggling" or, alternatively, show me some data for the past 5 years that shows Apple’s sales dipping lower than those of their competitors.

    Unless, for some reason, Apple gets paid with magic dollars that increase their value after Apple receives them, their PC profits do not come about from "struggling".

    But hey, since you told me, I’m gonna get a real hard grip on my desk now while you look for data to support your claims. Wheee!
  • ananduser - Wednesday, July 25, 2012 - link

    Above average industry growth ? You should check Lenovo and Asus' numbers for above average growth, double digits. For the most recent quarter Apple stagnated. Reply
  • xype - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    Ugh. Yeah, most recent quarter. That totally negates the past, what, 5 years? Apple is doomed! o_O Reply
  • ananduser - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    I didn't say that. You seem to extract Apple out of the PC landscape like they were pushing PowerPC hardware. Not anymore. Ever since they switched to Intel their growth was steady but small. So no Apple does not have above average industry growth. Other PC OEMs do. Reply
  • CeriseCogburn - Sunday, July 29, 2012 - link

    Hey you got overconfident and he upped the ante and provided the heat that destroyed your smug appletude.
    The least you should have done is take it like an appleseed, but instead you smarted off and made up a sucky strawman.
    tsk tsk, Steve is disappointed. You're fired.
  • yyrkoon - Wednesday, July 25, 2012 - link

    Except, those "PC makers" who are "retards" actually contribute to the technology specifications. For hardware used in your precious Apple systems.

    x86-64 CPU's /chipsets, nVidia graphics cards, SATA, PCIe, Thunderbolt, , etc, etc.

    Matter of a fact. Apple did not even make the first laptop. Epson 1981, Microsoft 1982, Compaq 1988, IBM 1984, Radio Shack 1983 ( In collaboration with Microsoft ), and possibly NEC 1989 all had designs before Apple in 1989. Not to mention others dating back to 1979.

    So who is thinking "differently" again ? Do not even get me started on OSX.

    So, if not for the technology giants of the world. Apple would not even have existed. Like many others in the industry, they take the ideas from others, and improve on them. Improvement is also a subjective term in this situation.
  • xype - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    Who contributes to technology specifications? Dell? Asus? Acer? HP?

    Did Intel start targeting the ultra-low-power CPU specs because of all of these guys, who made the first "Ultrabook"?

    And how "special" do you have to be to think I was claiming Apple made the first laptop? Duh?

    Unibody aluminium enclosures, retina display, the ultrabook form factor, thunderbolt, etc are not popping up in Acers and Asuses and Dells first. I’m NOT claiming Apple is the end all be all (as some specialitos here seem to think), but they DO contribute their share to the ecosystem and claiming they don’t and that they are just "assembling" PC parts is reeking of butthurt, especially seeing how HP and now Dell seem completely unable to make "premium" laptops that don’t looks like MacBook knock-offs.

    Which is my original point: it’s annoying that they don’t, because people are not buying only Macs and it would be really nice to have some hardware that actually looked different. They just don’t give enough of a shit.
  • yyrkoon - Friday, July 27, 2012 - link

    The point was. Apple does currently makes a system that is based on PC ( x86 compatible ) parts. They do not come up with technology ideas. They buy decent / good parts and assemble them. Then they write a limited driver base into their operating system to support such hardware.

    Which in fact is a good idea, but very limited. General purpose computing, that is limited by software support. For software titles, and additional hardware. Then, it is also very proprietary in comparison to other alternatives. You're locked into their hardware, and software.

    The reason why OEM PC vendors "dont give a shit" is that such systems cost a lot, and PC system purchasers are cheap. If you were to compare lets say Dell to Apple. I think you would find that Dell probably sells many more systems *This* is an "Apple" to Apples comparison. Now, as for who actually makes more money . . . I have no idea. Nor do I care.

    As far as who actually contributes to PC technology. Try using google. I think you would very likely find Intel, AMD, IBM, supermicro, and Epson among them. Then, many others in the PC industry like Asus.
  • CeriseCogburn - Sunday, July 29, 2012 - link

    A black keyboard area is a scourge on us all.

    Used to be you could see all laptop keyboards in the dark without back lighting, until the pliable masses were all doggy trained into loving black on everything - now they're just invisible past dusk. Pavlov man - the training is actually amazing.

    Yeah, so strike one for the crap black keyboard and area, and I include the mindless drooling dogams in that strike as well.
    That's also why they all make maccy looking clones- because the idiot masses respond like clockwork.
  • yyrkoon - Wednesday, July 25, 2012 - link

    Jarred, how about setting processor affinity to 2 cores only ? Then retesting a game or two ? The results should be interesting.

    I'm thinking that game performance should get a boost, and CPU temps should drop some.
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, July 25, 2012 - link

    I'll look into this when working on the "final" review -- e.g. when the next A05 BIOS is officially released. For gaming in general, I don't think it will matter too much, as most don't tax all four cores. Still, stranger things have happened. Reply
  • yyrkoon - Wednesday, July 25, 2012 - link

    Well the reason why I say this Jarred. Is because of how I understand these CPU's throttle. If they do operate the way understand it. These should be able to clock higher with only two cores being used fully. Then a lot of games only really need 1-2 cores. But not all.

    I myself have tried this on a game that I know is CPU dependent. It did not increase performance for the game, but it does help with heat. Well, performance wise, it did help because I was able to overclock the processor. Then remain inside the same heat envelope.

    However, my system is based on an AMD A6-3400.
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    So I did a quick test just now. Setting Batman: AC affinity to cores 0-3 (or cores 0 and 2) resulted in throttling within the first 60 seconds or so of running the Batman benchmark. So I turned to ThrottleStop again and decided to go for broke and set the multiplier for "Turbo" (maximum) and disabled CPU PROC HOT. I reached a temperatures of 100C on the first two cores after running the benchmark three times, and while the laptop didn't crash I wouldn't be comfortable running those temps.

    Next, I dropped the ThrottleStop multiplier to 26X and retested. Cores one and two still hit 98C after a few loops, and performance wasn't any better or worse (89-90 FPS for our "Value" 768p Medium settings). Then I tried ThrottleStop with the multiplier set to 23X but without any affinity setting. Performance went up slightly (91-92 FPS), and all four CPU cores topped out at around 91C, so overall performance was slightly up and temps were slightly down by just restricting the multiplier more rather than using CPU affinity.

    Obviously, results for affinity will vary depending on game. Some games will benefit from additional cores (albeit slightly) and others really don't use more than two. If you're really hoping to control temperatures, though, setting a 23X multiplier as well as affinity should be a bit better than just TS alone.
  • yyrkoon - Friday, July 27, 2012 - link

    Jarred, thanks for taking the time to look into it.

    It is a shame that what I was thinking did not pan out. It was a shot in the dark to begin with. Based on personal experiences of my own. So I think what that confirms in my mind anyhow is that Dell needs to work on a much better cooling design for this series of laptops. Maybe just putting in a higher RPM fan will work too. Like I think you had suggested.

    Personally, I would not care if the case design were a bit thicker to allow for better cooling. Nor would I care if the laptop were a bit heavier too. But as I stated in another post, I am most likely not the norm in my laptop usage.
  • alfling - Wednesday, July 25, 2012 - link

    1) Please don't start here another "Apple fanboys vs Apple haters" battle like in most other reviews :)

    2) To the reviewer: many people experienced significant drops in download speed (upload keeps constant) when being out of line of sight from the router, while with other laptops (also older ones) keeps being good. Could you please try to walk away from the router and check for us?

    3) To the reviewer (again): I heard some people complaining that in white or very light screens (like Google homepage) they can clearly see the pixel grid of the display, but nothing official has come from Dell yet. Could you please tell us if you experience the same issue?

    Thank you in advance!
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, July 25, 2012 - link

    WiFi connection speed over longer distances is a bit of a craps shoot, but I did read somewhere that Dell is working on tuning the WiFi performance as well. There are so many variables at play (just the type of router and the testing environment introduce all sorts of factors) that without doing a massive amount of work I couldn't say if the XPS 15 wireless is underperforming or not. I'll try to look into this a bit more for the final (next BIOS) review.

    Regarding the LCD, I don't see the grid when looking at static content, but as I noted in the review, moving windows around really shows some "fuzziness" on high contrast edges. I see similar behavior on most TN panels, and it's caused by the 6-bit to 8-bit dithering/interpolation AFAIK. Trying to capture this in a picture or video would unfortunately require a better camera/lens than I have. Anyway, the LCD is better than a lot of displays, but the ASUS N56VM/VZ 1080p panel is better IMO, and so is the old XPS L501x LCD (which had better colors and gamut as well). Will most people notice? Nope, but enthusiasts and screen connoisseurs might. The "dithering effect" doesn't bother me, but the bluish cast of the LCD is definitely noticeable.
  • alfling - Wednesday, July 25, 2012 - link

    Thank you very much for your prompt reply Reply
  • rnmisrahi - Wednesday, November 14, 2012 - link

    Indeed, there are many problems with the wireless card. Unless you're very near your router, the speed slows down to 2 mbps, while other older machines give me 30 mbps downstream, of course.
    Look at this Youtube:
  • dragosmp - Wednesday, July 25, 2012 - link

    So what's the point of a quad core Core i7 and a discrete GPU if the chassis can't cool them? So you do have 4 cores than can potentially go to 2.8GHz, but if you try to actually use them they'll get throttled to 1.2GHz; or at 1.8GHz if this is as much as the chassis can take, and by the way thanks Jarred for doing this bit of investigative journalism. Unless they accelerate the fan further and/or modify the cooling/chassis, with all the BIOS engineers in the world they won't be able to pull more than ~1.8GHz.

    At this point I'm wondering, isn't the i7 a check box feature? From an engineering standpoint if the overall dissipation power of the chassis is xW you can take advantage of the thermal capacity and go over the xW for a certain period of time without passing the temperature threshold. Dell took this further: put a slim chassis with probably half the thermal capacitance of the old XPS 15, made it slimmer thus reduced the dissipation power and kept the same TDP CPU (which is itself surpassed while Turbo-ing). I wonder what if a 25W DC Core i5 would be faster than the 35W i7 in most apps, even heavy threaded apps, simply due to it keeping higher clocks per core.

    As a engineer I see no point in this, but if I were a seller I sure wouldn't want to be the only one that doesn't support the fastest CPU as pointless as that may be.
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, July 25, 2012 - link

    I think the issue isn't the quad-core CPU so much as the total amount of power the cooling system needs to dissipate. If the GT 640M GDDR5 can use 40-45W of power (which seems about right) and the CPU uses up to 35W, then the cooling needs to be able to handle at least 75-80W of heat in order to avoid problems. Given what we're seeing with throttling, it looks like the cooling is probably only able to handle 60-65W, so something has to give.

    As far as the quad-core being useless, keep in mind that I never saw any throttling when running just CPU-intensive workloads. It's only the combination of CPU and GPU both being loaded where we run into issues. Games do that, and professional CAD/CAM type programs would do it as well, but a lot of other tasks aren't really going to be a problem I don't think. Even video editing probably doesn't put enough of a strain on the GPU to trigger throttling -- though I'll have to look into that later.
  • tipoo - Wednesday, July 25, 2012 - link

    It just seems strange that they would ship a laptop which throttles in just minutes, this isn't even a super small ultrabook, it's a standard sized laptop. Maybe there's a problem with the physical seating of the heatsink? Or a BIOS issue maybe? Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, July 25, 2012 - link

    They're working on the BIOS. I wondered about the problem being specific to my unit as well, but there are a lot of users reporting similar issues right now so that doesn't seem to be the case. Reply
  • dragosmp - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    Thanks for the reply. I missed the point of it throttling only when using both CPU and GPU.It makes sense that they'd size the cooling for a "typical" TDP and not for the 100%TDP. This is usual practice when sizing cooling systems for high end products, by the same rationale you'd get a huge ugly stuff if one were to size the cooling radiators for a Ferrari for the airflow @20MPH New York traffic without the ECU reducing power. It is form over function and I would prefer to have the cake and eat it too, but this perfectly acceptable in my opinion. I probably misread that one can't use the CPU by itself without throttling, that would be unacceptable. Reply
  • alfling - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    lol you can't play 10 minutes without throttlestop...acceptable? whith that price?? Reply
  • CeriseCogburn - Sunday, July 29, 2012 - link

    The point is "fanboys". Thus it will be marketed and sold. Reply
  • nerd1 - Wednesday, July 25, 2012 - link

    I've been a fan of anand site but I think it's getting bit ridiculous.

    I don't think this laptop will have lot worse thermal compared to MBP or rMBP - Why I cannot see any 'torture' test on MBPs, like bootcamp + CPU benchmark + GPU benchmark? Many of my friends have MBP and I know they are toasty enough, and some reviewer reported throttling issue with rMBP with such a test.

    And please compare apple to apples. How much apple charge for RAM or HDD upgrade? (It is plain stupid they are still using 5400rpm drive I think) How much does it cost to get SSD+HDD setup or blueray drive for macbooks? How much does it cost to upgrade macbook screen to 1680*1050? How easy is it to get discount coupons for them?

    In practice, you can get a good windows laptop (like the new xps 15) at around $1200 (with easy-to-acquire coupons) and you have to pay full retail price of around $2000 for similarly spec'ed macbook pro 15. I do own a MBA (Which I think is still price-competitive) but all the MBP lines are just plain ripoff.
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, July 25, 2012 - link

    Give me a break. I am one of the least pro-Apple people around, as I really dislike OS X -- just ask Anand. I do a price comparison on the front page showing how they stack up and conclude that in many areas Dell has the lead. What about throttling on Apple laptops? Well, sadly I'm not the one doing MBP reviews so I can't run those tests. What I can tell you is that Vivek repeatedly ran HL2:EP2 on the latest MBP15 to see if there was any drop in frame rates:

    If I made a chart like that for the current A04 BIOS on the XPS 15, there would be a cliff after the first run, dropping from 160FPS to around 80FPS. But hopefully Dell can address that with the next BIOS. Will MBP15 throttle under a stress test workload? I'm almost sure it will, but perhaps not as badly as the XPS 15 right now. What about the Retina MBP? Well, that's a different beast with two fans and apparently significantly improved cooling, and early results suggest it doesn't have any issues with throttling.

    Apple makes some very compelling laptops, but ultimately the only reason I would ever consider one is if I were willing to run OS X. I'm not, and thus laptops like the XPS 15 are very much something I want to succeed. A bit more fine tuning and hopefully Dell will get there, as the throttling is the biggest issue I have right now. (The only other major complaint I have is the good but not great LCD.)
  • nerd1 - Wednesday, July 25, 2012 - link

    I just wanted to point out macbook are way more expensive in practice.

    And I don't think HL2:EP2 is a good benchmark for throttling - I'm pretty sure even internal graphics are sufficient to run them flawlessly these days. One german site used bootcamp and prime95 and they succeeded to make rMBP throttle at 1.2Ghz.
  • headbox - Wednesday, July 25, 2012 - link

    How about doing a RESELL price comparison?! You whine about Apple MBP cost, but in 2 years you can sell it for around 80% of what you paid for it, and tons of people will bid/call you about it. Sell a two-year-old Dell... that phone won't be ringing much, and you'll be lucky to get 50% of what you paid for it. I had the first gen unibody MBP- got it for $1800 and sold it 2.5 years later for $1500 within a couple hours of posting it on craigslist. Try to do that with a "cheaper" PC. Reply
  • alfling - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    Someone who buys a 2-year-old used laptop for 80% of its original price (whatever laptop it is) is just a total idiot, no doubts about this. I guess it's full of idiot apple customers out there Reply
  • CeriseCogburn - Sunday, July 29, 2012 - link

    Looks like the truth is less than half on not so old macs
  • BillatDell - Wednesday, July 25, 2012 - link

    Very fair review, all things considered, Jarred. Thank you very much. I am the Dell employee you linked to out on Notebook Review Forums.

    I am wondering if skin temps matter to you and the Anandtech audience. I'd be curious to see a skin temp comparison under similar loads between the XPS and any competitive system, particularly the rMBP and MBP. It may not have any impact on anyone's buying decision if they don't see the numbers, but it may or may not matter to others if there turns out to be a wide disparity. Hard to tell if the cost/benefit analysis of our having a hard set skin temp spec across the board for all platforms stands to reason, given pretty much universal approval of how the MBP performs and the obvious lack of popularity with our current thermal/throttling scheme.

    Anyone else have any thoughts on skin temps, or is it a non-factor? I'm interested to hear and get some thoughts out here on the record.

    Great community. Great site. Thanks for all you do.
  • yyrkoon - Wednesday, July 25, 2012 - link

    If I understand what you mean by "skin-temps" Bill. No for me personally it does not matter. The laptops I use currently serve as desktop replacements. As we are completely off-grid using solar, wind, and sometimes generators.

    However, I would admit. That we are not the norm for most users.

    My own personal concerns are getting what I paid for but, stability first. Just for example. I like to play a lot of games, but have many computer related hobbies. So gaming performance for me tends to be my own benchmark. Of course I also have a price range I tend to stick within.

    Unfortunately for me, and Dell. The XPS series is generally out of my own price range. However that could change. With that said, I have been keeping an eye on your companies products. Specifically the XPS mobile line.
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, July 25, 2012 - link

    Hi Bill, glad to have you on here. Skin (surface) temperatures are something I used to report, but them my thermometer broke and we added a couple more laptop reviewers and I figured I would just forget it and use internal temperatures. What I'd REALLY love to get is one of those digital thermal imaging cameras, but sadly they're a bit too much for me to convince Anand to buy a couple.

    As for what I think of skin temps, there's a balance that needs to be maintained, and certain areas can get hotter without bothering the user as much. If we're looking at a desktop replacement, it's not too big a concern, but for the more portable systems I definitely feel it's important. Ideally, I want the palm rest, keyboard, and the bottom "thigh" areas to be cooler, while the rear of the laptop (e.g. where the vent is on the XPS 15) can be hotter. 35C or less is generally what I'd like, but I live in WA so temperatures aren't as hot as, say, AZ or CA. If I were living in a hotter climate, I'd probably want even cooler running laptops.

    Anyway, as you can probably glean from the review, I'd say you need stability as well as the ability to hit the rated performance on all parts. For the CPU, that means CPU clocks of 2.1GHz or higher regardless of workload should be possible pretty much indefinitely--and certainly if you're in a 75F or cooler environment. If the heatsink/fan can't keep the CPU and GPU at acceptable temperatures under load, then the hardware has been over-specced for the cooling. (We saw this exact same issue on Acer's TimelineX 3830TG, incidentally. Thin and light with reasonably fast hardware, but with gaming workloads the CPU would drop to 1.2GHz.)

    My one thought that I keep coming back to on the XPS 15 is that it simply needs a higher RPM fan. Maybe the BIOS can kick the fan speed up one more level, but right now it just doesn't seem capable of cooling effectively at the current maximum RPM. A more drastic change would involve looking at the exhaust and trying to make that "breath" easier, as right now the bottom of the LCD/hinge seems to restrict airflow. Would either of these items be enough to fix the throttling problem? I don't know, but I am very surprised that this wasn't caught and addressed before retail units were shipping to the public.

    Here's hoping we'll get a reasonable firmware fix in the near future!
  • Voldenuit - Wednesday, July 25, 2012 - link

    OK, off the bat, I want to apologize for sounding like a broken record.

    But I was vocally unhappy with the Acer sporting a TN panel at $1400, and I'm even more unhappy with the Dell doing the same thing at $1700. What makes manufacturers think they could (or should) get away with foisting this sort of crap on people?

    Next time I should just skip to the LCD page before reading any further. :/
  • Grok42 - Wednesday, July 25, 2012 - link

    I agree. My preference of OS in order is Linux, Windows, BeOS, OS X. I also hate laptops as they are typically slower, hotter and cost more than a desktop. That said, as of today my next computer will probably be a rMBP because of the screen. My profession is computers and ~$1000 is nothing compared to what I will gain with a better tool with which to do my work. The PC industry better wake up and start offering multiple 4k displays or they are going to be wiped out. Reply
  • Doomtomb - Wednesday, July 25, 2012 - link

    I like Dell and I want to see them succeed in the consumer/enterprise PC market. However, this review of the new 2012 Dell XPS 15 reminds me of the same niggles I had with my Studio XPS 16 purchased in early 2010. The one area that my Studio XPS 16 will always dominate is display (RGB-LED 1080p) displays colors perfectly unlike the XPS 15. Both of these computers are very premium products with price tags to match. The problems with the Studio XPS 16 were build quality (lousy hinges, seems between aluminum parts), heavy, battery life, and heat. It tries to push the boundaries between size, style, build quality, and performance but you can't have it all. It ended up being too big and heavy and just not quite as powerful as my friend's Alienwares. The battery life was also sub-par for class. I'd just rather recommend getting a thin and light, a gaming desktop replacement, or a MacBook with Retina Display. Reply
  • antef - Wednesday, July 25, 2012 - link

    After the ridiculous overheating and throttling (to the point of an unusable machine) I've experienced with my Dell Precision, and reading this article with similar concerns, I can't imagine I'll be trusting a Dell for any high-performance workloads anytime soon. Reply
  • Death666Angel - Wednesday, July 25, 2012 - link

    I was going to comment on how the MBP 15" gets mentioned in nearly every paragraph without being in the charts. Then I thought: "Well, they do have the Bench for those things." So I went there trying to compare this with the MBP 15" 2012. But you don't have the Dell there (yet) and you have no Apple 15" of any sort in there. How come? :-) Reply
  • tipoo - Wednesday, July 25, 2012 - link

    Indeed, I'd like some macs on there Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, July 25, 2012 - link

    Email Anand or Vivek and tell them to get some Windows Boot Camp numbers! I'd do it myself if I had a Mac, but I'm not willing to buy one just to test Windows. (Note: Vivek *ought* to be doing Windows testing already, so hopefully we'll get numbers sooner rather than later.) Reply
  • ananduser - Friday, July 27, 2012 - link

    I think Windows exclusive users should review Windows, like you. We don't want a site like the Verge where dedicated long time Apple fans(aka Verge staff) review Windows in a whimsical fashion. Reply
  • RDO CA - Wednesday, July 25, 2012 - link

    Your showing a 16x9 aspect for the Apple Reply
  • TheTechSmith - Wednesday, July 25, 2012 - link

    I feel "burned" to use Jarred's words by throttling caused by overheating with my 2008 M1330 :( It's performance has become so bad that after watching YouTube videos for half an hour or so it becomes so slow that I switch to my iPhone. It doesn't help that this computer has the defective Nvidia 8400M GS chip which just adds more heat to the mix and causes it to throttle faster. I've been reading about newer Dell XPS laptops in the user reviews and it's common to see someone complaining of throttling due to overheating. I just don't think Dell has the engineering ability to make a powerful computer compact... The one I have now is probably my last Dell for personal use. To be fair to Dell, my work computer is a Precision M4600, and it is huge but has never let me down. For personal use my next one is probably going to a Retina MacBook Pro. Reply
  • seapeople - Monday, July 30, 2012 - link

    Agreed, Dell needs to work on improved cooling/thermals. While playing SCII at 1080p/high settings on my Dell 17" XPS L702x I get good framerates (~45-50 fps), but then after I installed HWMonitor I found that CPU temperatures frequently hit 97C after ~1 hour of playing. After seeing this I now run the game at 99% CPU (which disables turboboost), which still gives me ~40 fps, but temperatures now max out about 79C.

    If I hadn't installed HWMonitor and noticed these ridiculous temperatures, I'd probably have a dead motherboard in a year, or worse yet just slightly out of warranty.
  • Sunburn74 - Wednesday, July 25, 2012 - link

    Stop mucking about you guys and give the people what they want! A definitive review on the Asus Zenbook Prime Reply
  • tahoward - Wednesday, July 25, 2012 - link

    Quality chassis material and conservative/good look - Check
    Good hardware platform - Check
    Adequate platform cooling - Negatory

    I really wanted to see this laptop succeed but saw the ship sinking fast after people on notebookreview's forums started reporting on their received units' throttling and "Faraday cage" wifi issues. Reading your stress bench results with throttlestop put the final nail in the coffin; otherwise, I would have returned my mid 2012 cmbp and save a good chunk of change purchasing Dell's l521x.

    Guess getting all three of those check boxes checked comes at a premium. One that several people are willing to pay if fulfilled.
  • pman6 - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    form over function.

    throttling is unacceptable.

    i wonder if it can manage not to overheat if the fan is turned to the max.
  • blackrook - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    Are there any plans for a review of the Envy 15? A friend of mine purchased one for ~$1100 recently, and the hardware and aesthetics make it seem as if it would be an interesting alternative, especially with the IPS Radiance screen option.

    Is HP holding out like they did with the Envy 14 a couple years ago? ;)
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    Pretty much. I had hoped we'd get some of the new HP products for review, but so far hat hasn't happened. We'll keep asking, though. Reply
  • air_ii - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    Given current fan / throttling profiles, wouldn't it be interesting to see gaming performance of a throttled i7/GF vs nominal (or perhaps turboed?) IGP performance? Perhaps the GF is completely pointless under circumstances? Reply
  • TC2 - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    The best for the Best :) It's an excellent machine! Reply
  • TheTechSmith - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    "And on a related note, I should mention that I’ve seen at least some minor throttling with several other “thin but fast” laptops, so Dell’s not alone here; we’ll be making a concerted effort to check for throttling on all future laptop reviews."

    Yes! I think this is a great idea. I've believed for years that laptops like the one that you just reviewed have been slapped together without proper thermal design (lack of the required mechanical knowledge, reluctance to put in the required money/time?) in order to sell it on specs, and the end result is terrible, and I don't think there is enough awareness on this issue. I posted a little earlier on my XPS M1330 which is a 4 year old computer with the same issue. If reviews start testing for this specifically and compare laptops quantitatively against other laptops (temperature and average frame-rate of select games over time?), then perhaps companies that are poor in this area will hire the required mechanical engineers and dedicate the proper money and time to do it right.
  • SovereignGFC - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    On page 7, it was noted the laptop shut down under load after ThrottleStop was used to force it to run at a specified speed rather than the BIOS-controlled throttled speed.

    According to Intel (, this CPU is rated for a TJunction (maximum core temperature) of 105C. The CPU only hit 100C during these tests, so that implies to me that CPU temperature, while VERY high, was within spec and should not have triggered a shut-down.

    If the GPU hit its limit, that's a different story.

    However, as an owner of an XPS1640, well-known for behaving similarly, I have to ask whether the A/C adapter Dell shipped is adequate for such a powerful machine. The A/C adapter was sized based on the machine being throttled, not unlocked the way ThrottleStop will permit it to run. I can offer at least one anecdote (many more can be found on NotebookReview's forums) about A/C adapter vs. thermals. This throttling was present in the Latitude E6X00 series of professional notebooks, one of which is owned by a friend. After showing him how he wasn't getting the performance he paid for, he un-throttled his CPU and ran Prime95 to test its thermals.

    The machine shut down in a few minutes and the A/C adapter was too hot to touch for a while afterward.

    Many XPS1640 owners reported that calling Dell, mentioning "throttling" and asking for a 130w A/C adapter allowed their machines to run properly under "full load." Even though components would be subjected to high heat (I've seen 103C on my Core 2 Duo, 88C on the GPU) they would also receive enough energy to operate as designed, rather than stressing or even destroying the A/C adapter in the process.
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    I can't test this right now, but the thought that we might be exceeding the power limit did cross my mind. I don't think that's the case, however, as there are various triggers that can cause a system to shut down. I'm guessing Dell defined a maximum temperature of some other component, or that something on the motherboard is overheating. I'll look into power draw when I return home next week. Reply
  • SovereignGFC - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link


    What annoys me the most is that we get these half-crippled machines that emphasize form over function. I don't care if it looks like a brick--it's a gaming machine and gaming machines need to dissipate huge amounts of heat. - That's a massive discussion about heat/power throttle on the 16XX series. - People are already talking about the L521X negatively, "it throttles so badly under a realistic gaming load that I'm returning it."

    That said, I don't see any "load" (power) related throttling mentioned.
  • CeriseCogburn - Sunday, July 29, 2012 - link

    Yes, good points.
    Doesn't matter if this site's is under performing from the lack of adequate ps as that is what end users will be receiving, except in the sense it would be nice to know. It certainly wouldn't surprise me if it was. I doubt they're going to purchase a 130W universal adapter to find out.

    Great points, I agree with you, the insane emphasis on looks bothers me as well - it's even worse in discrete video cards, as you won't be staring at them as you game - with a laptop I can excuse quite a bit of it - as you will be looking at it a lot.
  • SovereignGFC - Monday, July 30, 2012 - link

    If enough people complain (like the XPS 16), Dell will give out 130w adapters like candy, even though by themselves they did not solve the problem with the XPS 16. Only completely cutting the BIOS out of the CPU equation and replacing it with ThrottleStop let my laptop run like it was supposed to.

    If tests on sites like Anand say "This laptop needs MO' POWAH!" then Dell will probably jump at a cheap "fix." I'm not saying we know for sure a larger adapter is required (that's what the tests will be for) but experience suggests power may be a factor.
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, August 09, 2012 - link

    Just to update (and spoil the surprise): I plugged the XPS 15 into a 135W Dell adapter; throttling still occurs just as quickly as before, so it's not a power adapter problem. Reply
  • JNo - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    I think the Acer M3 looks might tempting value when looking at the graphs. It's got about 90% of the power for about 50% of the price. Sure it's not all about specs and Acer's build quality and looks are nowhere near that of the Dell but I can't ignore that price differential.

    So what are you really missing out with the Acer? Two things spring to mind: 1) no SSD - easy; buy your own and clone the HDD and you're still alot cheaper than the Dell with your own preferred brand and size of SSD. 2) The rubbish 1366x786 TN panel on the Acer. This is much trickier I prefer lower resolutions for games anyway but 1650x800 or 1080p would be much better for work. Only question is, can you buy and fit a better panel yourself cheaply if you're willing and able?
  • yyrkoon - Friday, July 27, 2012 - link

    "I think the Acer M3 looks might tempting value when looking at the graphs. It's got about 90% of the power for about 50% of the price"

    I think it would behoove you to do a bit of research on Acer products. By reading through user reviews from where ever you can find them. Most likely you will find many, many negative reviews. After that try talking to a few people you know personally who have owned Acer laptops.

    Also if driver support is important for you. In the past Acer has been terrible in this department. Even if a well known part is included, you might find that upgrading your drivers might turn out to be a huge hassle, or even impossible.

    If you're looking for a good deal though Dell, and many other companies have good deals a couple times a year. Usually found on deal sites like You have to pay attention for a while, and be fast though . . .
  • JNo - Saturday, July 28, 2012 - link

    I got an Acer for my dad and it's doing just fine after 3 years and he takes it out to do research on once or twice a week. I know a lot of people joke about them and that Thinkpads and Macs are better built but plenty of people say that they're actually ok with their Acers (it would behoove you to read a bit wider too I think).

    People on anandtech and other tech sites are usually enthusiasts who often spend money on better kit but I can't afford to spend $100s on better build when Acer quality is 'good enough'. Either way it'll have to be upgraded in 5 years anyway. Mercedez and BMW have better build than Fords or Vauxhalls but I can't afford them either.
  • yyrkoon - Saturday, July 28, 2012 - link

    Point being. You can pick up some incredibly great deals by not impulse buying. Without having to sacrifice too much.

    Just right now there is an HP with a core i5 processor (2.4Ghz ) 6 gb RAM, an AMD 7670, with a 750GB HDD for under $600 ($575) Which I am almost willing to bet will outperform the reviewed laptop as it sits.

    You're right though. Personally I can not afford to buy just any old laptop either. For many reasons. Cost is only one small aspect. Also, I can not afford to spend x amount of money only to have the darned thing break, and have it replaced, or spend money set aside for other things on shipping. To get the system repaired.

    With all that said. I too have found several Acer systems tempting. Then I remember what I have written in the paragraph above. Which is I do not have time / money to spend screwing around with something that should already be working as intended. My values here are obviously going to be different than yours. As I have certain things I will put up with, and some which I will not.

    Some cal that "peace of mind" Which is why Mercedes, and BMW exists.
  • CeriseCogburn - Sunday, July 29, 2012 - link

    Except that piece of mind often breaks down on the high end laptops as well.
    Lots of lemons there, too.

    A better way to go about it is not get the latest thing until enough test bunnies have done so and beaten it approrpiately to have a good answer on what doesn't work and what breaks.

    I have to agree with the other fellow, I've seen a lot of Acer laptops that do well (perfect nothing breaks)over a very long haul, even many Vista models. Their downside is bloatware, and sometimes the re-installation of the webcam on a flat Win install - which can be a real pain - but that also occurs on Asus and other high end laptops.

    So the bottom line is, bragging rights.
  • yyrkoon - Tuesday, July 31, 2012 - link

    Well, I own an Asus, and it cost me $400. Plays games all at acceptable speeds. and all that.

    Own a Toshiba too, which also cost me $400 brand new. Doesn't play a lot of recent titles well, but it has served it's purpose. It is also 5 years old, looks and operates as if brand new.

    Neither of these gave me issues when it came time to upgrade, or retrograde. Period, Both companies have drivers for just about every reasonable solution out there. And then some.

    Also, that Acer M3 as reviewed by this site, sells for $1800 . . . SO yeah screw that. I can pick up and Asus with much better hardware, and software support for half the cost.
  • CeriseCogburn - Sunday, July 29, 2012 - link

    You see concerning this metal encased mac clone, they will put up with nearly anything and live with it.

    Instead one could get a thicker off brand or branded beast and have zero throttling issues and a much prettier screen, but you know, when they are going for the drooling braggart's right to squirt that they have an aluminum shell, anything goes.
  • Zak - Saturday, July 28, 2012 - link

    That's a really good looking laptop. What happened? Did Dell finally hired someone with sense of aesthetics??? But yeah, that trackpad is likely to be a problem for many. Reply
  • CeriseCogburn - Sunday, July 29, 2012 - link

    Looks like a plain jane piece of crap to me - and I can clearly see the mac clone rounded corners.
    It's all in the heads of the wannabe in crowd - sad, really sad.
  • robco - Tuesday, July 31, 2012 - link

    I use a MBP and I'm a little disappointed to see Dell reaching for a near four-year old design, but not being able to nail the thermals. My machine gets warm, but hasn't ever overheated. But the biggest concern is that customization is limited - even more than Apple. When I click on the configs in the Dell site, I can customize the software, but that's about it.

    As for Apple not being innovative, you can say that about every other company in business today. They all stand on the shoulders of those who came before them. But as this demonstrates, how components are assembled and in what sort of enclosure does matter, especially in a laptop. Milling most of the structure out of a single piece of Al is pretty impressive. The fact that Apple can make laptops with fast CPUs and dedicated graphics that still manage to be under 1" thin and less than 6lbs is pretty good.

    But one of the biggest criticisms of Apple has been the lack of options. It seems that Dell is moving toward selling fewer hardware configuration to keep costs down. Too bad, used to be one of their selling points.
  • yyrkoon - Wednesday, August 01, 2012 - link

    No one can say that Apple does not assemble good parts into their MBP laptops. That is, if they expect to be taken seriously. Yes, their cases are superb too.

    However, for people like me, that is not where the problem lies with Apple. In short, proprietary hardware, using proprietary software. At too much cost.

    IF Apple sold their hardware, and Operating system separately / standalone. Personally I would have far fewer issues with them as a company. Also, I do not like their business model for their other mobile products

    Honestly, I have about as much problem with Apple as I do with Microsoft. Maybe slightly more. Thing is, with Windows. IF it stops working for me. I can switch to Linux, BSD, or whatever other Operating system I care to use. All my own choice. On top of all that, i get to choose my own hardware as well.

    So yeah, for me and people like me. "It simply *does not* work". Of course, we actually know how to use a computer too . . .
  • robco - Thursday, August 02, 2012 - link

    You had some decent, respectable opinions, until that dig in the last line. Plenty of people who know how to use computers use Macs - especially the laptops. There are lots of people who fire up Terminal and use the CLI. Lots of *nix software works on OS X - because it is BSD. I know plenty of engineers sporting MacBooks. The stereotype of only computer novices using Macs is a tired one.

    As for proprietary hardware, that's the case with most laptops. They're not like desktops where you can assemble one from standardized, interchangeable components. Sure the CPUs, drives and RAM may be, but not the motherboard, cooling system, case, GPU, battery, etc. You can't mix and match the parts you like about different Dell, HP and Lenovo laptops and make a Frankenstein box like you can with a desktop. Laptops are sold more or less as complete packages. You can get DIY kits in different sizes, but you're just installing the CPU, drives and RAM. There's a lot less choice.
  • Luke2.0 - Saturday, August 04, 2012 - link

    Hi, Jarred. Good first look. Well done.

    But I miss the audio / speaker test (You did it for the N56 Preview). You see, Dell was leveraging on their JBL speakers back then. And it helped their 2010 XPS15 to earn AT's gold medal.
    How about the current offering?
    I would love it be mentioned again, especially when you are going to update and finalize the review. Even if the testing would be somewhat reviewer-subjective, still I'm gonna appreciate your effort.

    Thank you.
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, August 09, 2012 - link

    The speakers are good, better than the 15z, but not as good as the original XPS 15 (L501x/L502x). I think that's because the last XPS 15 had a dedicated subwoofer, where this version does not. That's too bad. So basically, the earlier XPS 15 had a (much) better 1080p display, better audio quality, but worse build quality and aesthetics (though some of that is certainly subjective). Of course, with the proper power adapter, the original XPS 15 didn't have any issues with throttling that I experienced. Reply
  • alfling - Wednesday, August 08, 2012 - link

    BIOS A06 is out! Could you please give it a try and tell us how it is in gaming? Thank you!
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, August 09, 2012 - link

    Interesting... where did you get that link from? Dell sent me a couple beta versions of A05 that didn't fix the throttling issues (actually, they throttled the GPU instead of the CPU, which was even worse for gaming). I haven't heard anything from them for the past 10 days or so, though, so I'm not sure what the current status is. I'm guessing that A06 is another beta, but I'll give it a shot and report back shortly.... Reply
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, August 09, 2012 - link

    Okay, I only tested with DiRT 3, because that's been very good at showing the throttling. It looks like the A06 (beta?) you linked is better than the A05 betas I've played with, but I can see exactly what Dell is trying to do and I don't like it. With the CPU and GPU loaded (i.e. playing a game), the CPU is no longer throttling. At all. So throughout 10 minutes of running DiRT 3 tests, the CPU always had at least one (usually two or three or all four) CPU cores running at 2.8GHz (2795.5-2795.9 MHz to be precise). The problem is the CPU is thus still generating a decent amount of heat, and in order to compensate Dell is throttling GPU clocks.

    Looking at the GPU, after about 2.5 minutes (and over half of that time is spent launching DiRT 3), the "GPU Geometry Clock" drops from 708.8 (Boost Clock) to 669.8 MHz (still boosting but not as much), and then about 10 seconds later it drops to 615 MHz (now slightly lower than "stock"), and after a few more seconds it drops way down to 405MHz. There are even times where the GPU clock drops down to 270 MHz -- so basically running at less than half the expected GT 640M clock speed. At the same time, the GPU Memory Clock starts at 1000.4 MHz (4GHz effective) and stays there for the first 2.75 minutes, and then the clock starts to fluctuate between 1000MHz and 400MHz.

    Ultimately, you get a much better gaming experience with the CPU running at a steady 1.8GHz with the GPU at maximum clocks than dropping GPU clocks while leaving the CPU at max -- so from that perspective, the A04 BIOS is still better, especially if you're willing to play with ThrottleStop.

    Temperatures incidentally are higher than I saw with A04 -- I'm seeing a maximum of 92C on the CPU (but the throttling causes the temps to drop quite quickly after that to around 85C). and the GPU tops out at around 81C. And this is all just in 10 minutes of testing. But then, I'm using the built-in DiRT 3 benchmark, so let me try actually playing the game to see if that's any different....
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, August 09, 2012 - link

    So, as expected the issues carry over into the actual gameplay, and in fact the GPU throttling is even worse than I at first suspected -- not that it occurs more frequently, but that it really messes up the experience. I'm still seeing steady 2.8GHz CPU clocks with the GPU usually at 405MHz after the first couple of minutes, but the GPU memory going back and forth between 1000MHz and 400MHz causes very noticeable fluctuations in frame rates. One second everything will be going smoothly, and the next you feel the lag and the slower frame rates, and then it kicks back to higher speed.... It might not be as bad in some other games, but in DiRT 3 it makes it very hard to drive a consistent line, with the game actually slowing down and speeding up. Ugh.

    I also tried the A06 BIOS with ThrottleStop, and while it took longer for the GPU to throttle, it did after a few minutes. Then it stayed at 405MHz most of the time (with one 10 second drop to 270MHz), and the VRAM was more commonly at 1000MHz, but the 400MHz VRAM clocks do show up periodically and really mess with the gaming experience.

    So in short, A06 is still beta in my book, and I prefer A04 with the CPU throttling rather than A06 with GPU throttling.

    On a different note, when I flash the BIOS there's clearly one higher fan speed that kicks in that I'm not seeing in normal use. At this point, Dell should be looking at CPU clocks in gaming workloads closer to 2.1GHz and they should be running the maximum fan speed once the CPU core hits 80C. I'd be okay if they limited the CPU clock to 2.4 GHz any time the GPU clock was higher than 270MHz, personally -- it's not ideal, but it's far better than what's currently happening.
  • Flunk - Sunday, August 12, 2012 - link

    Hi Jarred, I have one of these and your experiences above mirror what I'm seeing. I've had 2 different L521x units in my house and they both perform identically (first one had a bad screen).

    Even if you set the CPU speed to 99% in power options to prevent boosting on A06 (which is up on their standard page now) it still downclocks the GPU in much the same way.

    Frankly it is quite infuriating that Dell would sell such and obviously flawed product in the first place. There is no reason to have a dedicated graphics chip if you can't use it.

    At this point I'm hoping that they get back to me and tell me they're going to replace the thermal solution because it doesn't seem like they can figure out how to do this with a BIOs update.

    Thanks for bringing this up in your review, the more pressure Dell has on them to fix this the better.
  • alfling - Tuesday, August 14, 2012 - link

    Did you experience any drops in battery life with A06 BIOS? I ask because of this post in notebookreview:
  • alfling - Tuesday, August 14, 2012 - link

    Thank you very much! I got the link in Notebookreview forum from an XPS 15 owner (not sure how he got it, but he shared it) Reply
  • doubledeej - Monday, August 13, 2012 - link

    I've bought Dells almost exclusively for 15 years and for the first time they don't offer a machine that meets my needs.

    I'm a developer, so I type an awful lot. And Dell, along with most other laptop manufacturers, seems to think that nobody actually does any editing on their computers any longer. The omission of dedicated Home, End, Page Up and Page Down keys kills productivity. Yes, I know there is a Fn+ keyboard combo to get to these... but it really hurts the brain when you have to start thinking about holding Control, Shift, and Fn before pressing the left arrow to highlight a document from the current location to the beginning... four keys for any operation is too many.

    It saddens me that computer vendors don't think of their power users when designing machines. Who else are going to be their biggest cheerleaders?
  • alfling - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    still no review of Dell Inspiron 15R SE? Reply
  • alfling - Friday, August 24, 2012 - link

    Dear Jarred Walton, can you please retest gaming with A06 BIOS? Reply
  • ogrfnkl - Saturday, August 25, 2012 - link

    Well, the A06 BIOS update is out as of 8/8/2012, and according to the description on the Dell website, it does address some thermal issues. Specifically, it says: "Set the temps control Tc at 80 degree C for GPS on Sbios. Based on EC X43 version and cut in thermal table V08." Whatever the heck that's supposed to mean! :<

    It would be great to know whether or not, and to what extent, this update fixes the thermal and throttling issues described in the review. I hope Jarred can re-run the gaming tests and post the new results soon...

  • ogrfnkl - Saturday, August 25, 2012 - link

    Sorry, sorry, I hadn't checked the previous messages -- the new testing has already been done. Thanks, Jarred! Reply
  • tipoo - Sunday, August 26, 2012 - link Reply
  • ogrfnkl - Sunday, August 26, 2012 - link

    First of all, the thread you've pointed to is from BEFORE the 8/8/2012 A06 update, which is the fix "Dell-Bill_B" is talking about. Second, here is a post by "Dell-Bill_B" from a little further on in the thread ( which I think pretty much gives us the final answer on this whole thermal/throttling topic:

    "If you require a system that will run the CPU and GPU at 100% load concurrently for more than a few seconds, you bought the wrong system."

    Doesn't get any clearer than that, does it? This pretty much nails it for me; I'm starting to look elsewhere for my next system... My question is, why would anyone NOT expect their computer to run at its top speed for a lot more than a few seconds? If it can't, that top speed is completely useless, isn't it? I'd much rather go for an L502x, whose top speed is a few % slower than the L521X's, but it actually CAN and does sustain it indefinitely. Not to mention the absolutely, mindblowingly gorgeous screen on that system.
  • stcloude - Sunday, October 14, 2012 - link

    Dell is on revision A11 of the BIOS. Has this revision resolved the throttling issue at all? I am really disappointed that it has the throttling and wifi issues. I need a new laptop, and wanted something with the build quality of the MacBook Pro, and really thought this was it. I am so tempted to go with Mac, but unfortunately my job requires that I have a PC. Reply
  • Tobi KKKK - Thursday, November 22, 2012 - link

    I am also interested in the throttling behaviour under load.

    Meanwhile, Dell has published A12 of the BIOS.

    - Has this revision reduced or at least resolved the throttling issue?
    - Do you recognize a progress from A06 to A12?
    - Do you think Dell is able to solve the htermal issues via BIOS?

    Could you please give it a try and tell us your assessment? Thank you very much!

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now