Design

There’s certainly some issues when competitors outright copy another’s design, but luckily for Dell they have one of the most appealing laptops already in the XPS 13. The XPS 15, other than the larger size, is extremely similar to its source of inspiration, and that’s a good thing. Moving to the Infinity Edge display brings the same strengths and weaknesses along with it, but the one thing you’d have a hard time knocking is the look of this laptop.

Dell uses CNC aluminum on the top and bottom of the laptop, which gives it that great cool feeling of metal when you are holding it in your hand. But open up the XPS 15, and you get to look at a soft touch carbon fibre weave which surrounds the keyboard deck. This soft touch material makes for a positive typing experience, and by going to black on the keyboard, Dell gets to avoid the contrast issues that happen on other machines with lighter colored keys. Although the laptop looks like a bit of a sandwich when its closed, I think the color scheme works very well and gives the XPS lineup a premium look.

The bottom of the laptop is as well thought out as the XPS 13. There’s a large vent for cooling, and the rubber feet are almost the entire width of the machine. There’s no issue with sliding around on a table top when you are using the XPS 15 thanks to these feet, and that’s not always something I can say about other laptops. It also gives you a nice stable platform in your lap. Another great XPS touch is that all of the FCC information, serial numbers, and other markings, are collectively put under an XPS badge on the bottom of the device to keep the look as clean as possible.

The left side of the laptop has the power connector, USB 3.0 Type-A port, HDMI, a USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C port which supports Thunderbolt 3 and power as well, and a headset jack. The right side has another USB 3.0 port, SD card slot, and a push button battery gauge. With the inclusion of USB 3.1 Gen 2 and Thunderbolt support there is a pretty big amount of bandwidth for any accessory, but as that market matures the USB Type-A connectors are likely going to see more use. It would have been nice to see a third USB port on the side but that’s a minor issue. Dell does sell a USB-C adapter which gives HDMI, VGA, Ethernet, and USB 3.0 all in one nice compact package which works well.

Once opened, the Infinity Edge display captures your eye, and the minimal bezel looks as good, or even better, than the smaller XPS 13. The webcam is still in a poor location though, tucked under the display and pointing up, which doesn’t flatter anyone. Considering the large bezel at the bottom of the display, I’d be fine with the screen shifting down slightly so the webcam could be fit above the screen, but I’m not a big user of a webcam so it’s not a big issue for me. If you do utilize a webcam a lot, this is not ideal and an external one might be better. I’d also like to see Windows Hello support in a premium machine such as this. Microsoft was able to fit it into the Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book with minimal bezels, so it can be done.

Taking a look at the keyboard, it’s very possible this is the exact same keyboard as on the XPS 13. It has the same white backlighting with high, low, and off settings, and the same layout as well. Dell didn’t try to squeeze a number pad into this 15.6-inch machine, and that’s a good thing since it would be very compromised with the smaller chassis this fits into. Key travel is 1.3 mm, which is adequate, and on the XPS 13 it was likely all that could be done thanks to the very thin body, but on the thicker XPS 15 I would have liked some more depth. The actuation force is also pretty light. The keyboard is ok but it’s not the best I’ve used, especially on a larger device.

Dell has gone with a Synaptics trackpad, and it is both very large and very smooth. Dell uses the Microsoft Precision Touchpad standard for their software, and although it lacks the outright customization of some of the other packages, in my time with the XPS 15 I found the touchpad to be excellent. The large size is very welcome, and it’s very precise while at the same time being very smooth. Two-finger scrolling works very well. There are not many options for three and four finger gestures with the Precision Touchpad, with three-finger tap opening Cortana, and four-finger tap opening Action Center. There are no other choices other than to swap those or disable it.

The overall design of the XPS 15 is as ground-breaking as the XPS 13 before it. By shrinking the bezels, Dell is able to fit a 15.6-inch device into a much smaller chassis, which makes it much more portable. The laptop itself is only 17 mm (0.66”) thick at its widest point (not including the feet) and weight with the 56 Wh battery is 1.78 kg (3.9 lbs) which is very light for a 15.6-inch machine. If you step up to the 84 Wh battery, that bumps the weight to 2 kg (4.4 lbs) which is still pretty respectable.

Introduction System Performance
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  • milli - Friday, March 04, 2016 - link

    I'm having huge stability problems with this laptop. The problem is Optimus.
    The only way I've gotten it to be stable, is to use the Dell provided drivers and disable Optimus.

    I'm not the only one with this problem:
    https://www.reddit.com/r/Dell/comments/41erin/blue...

    This laptop badly needs a BIOS update to fix this issue.
    Reply
  • smilingcrow - Friday, March 04, 2016 - link

    I give leeway for photos as I know it's not easy photographing electronics at home if you have no experience but these would look bad even on eBay. Don’t recall feeling that way about any other photo shoot on any IT web review so this is a stand out.
    Is it too much to expect Anandtech to issue guidelines and tips for newbie photographers? I don’t think so. Amateur hour.
    Reply
  • theduckofdeath - Saturday, March 05, 2016 - link

    Hehe, that was my thoughts, too. "Dell sticks to their proven design ideas from the XPS 13" (paraphrased). Too bad we'll never know what that is. Reply
  • close - Monday, March 07, 2016 - link

    Were you just piggy backing on a BIOS/performance related comment with a remark about photography just to get attention? I would say you give no leeway for photos which is why probably you've run out of people who's vacation photos you can criticize and ended up here :).

    On a related note, I wonder if the battery performance is strictly related to the choice of LCD panel. And since we're on the battery topic, I'm really impressed with the WiFi speed. It's starting to look like we're closer to moving away from wired connections completely.
    Reply
  • milkod2001 - Monday, March 07, 2016 - link

    I presume guys who write articles here are paid by amount of words/articles written and not by hours spent with camera and Photoshop.

    By looking at mostly poor quality of images it does not look like PURCH has given each writer a few grand for camera, lenses, accessories and guys probably just use their own crappy stuff.

    Since Anand and others have left it looks like there is still big afford to write good quality articles. But other stuff coming with it goes down to hill and there is a very little improvements if any.

    Just to name a few: the endless and never responded request for EDIT button for comments, some amateurish never fixed website 'features' like galleries -you click on some images, it will bring user to new tab(unnecessary) , click on some image, it will display large image and nothing else, no X or back button etc.
    Reply
  • dsumanik - Sunday, March 06, 2016 - link

    5 years ago anandtech would have tested and caught a bios issue like that, now the readers are more informed lol Reply
  • close - Monday, March 07, 2016 - link

    You have 3 available CPUs, 2 GPU configurations, 2 LCD panels, and different software configuration possibilities but you instantly assume that all laptops exhibit the exact same issues and they will be visible on a demo unit in the days or weeks it's available for testing.

    The link to the discussion about this issue includes a handful of comments and if you had the common sense to read them you would have seen that plenty of them suggest that it was fixed by using the Nvidia driver provided by Dell. Since this is a review, not a troubleshooting article I suggest you should not confuse it with a manufacturer support page.

    And people could tell the difference 5 years ago.
    Reply
  • milli - Monday, March 07, 2016 - link

    No Close, all models exhibit BIOS problems. Optimus is just the latest. Before BIOS 19, there were a bunch of other issues.

    http://bit.ly/21gI00Z
    http://bit.ly/1QZFIO8

    After spending close to $3000 on a laptop, I'm very disappointed in Dell as they can't get even something like Optimus running stable.
    Reply
  • close - Monday, March 07, 2016 - link

    What I was saying was directed to the person claiming Anandtech should have reported this in the product review when clearly it doesn't affect every laptop and also I'm quite sure reviewers only have a narrow time slot to play with the device before it goes on to the next reviewer.

    And I maintain my suggestion for him since he appears to think such issues should be reported in a product review: the manufacturer's support site is the place to go if you're wondering how a product behaves in the long run.
    Anandtech is the place to read reviews about a product, standardized tests run on every piece of hardware and some numbers that you can't find on the leaflet.

    A review isn't made to showcase beautiful photos like some people seem to think (that's the job of the product marketing team) nor to listing a long line of potential issues compiled from support sites and other forums.

    So I understand *you* were just cautioning potential buyers reading this review, the comment from "dsumanik" (just above) is plain ignorant to put it delicately.
    Reply
  • dsumanik - Monday, March 07, 2016 - link

    I stand by my original statement, the readers around here are now more informed than the editorial/review staff. No amount of excuse making will change this. In the past Anand (the person) worked with manufacturers on a regular basis to identify and correct issues like the one pointed out with this machine. We will never hear of a resolution to this problem on this website, unless it is in the comment section. And yes, if you are in the business of reviewing products, it IS your responsibility to investigate the issue...a simple check on the forums and a warning paragraph would have sufficed, you'd think the reviewers would haver a checklist to follow by now lol. Reply

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