PC

XPS 15 gives MacBook a run for its money

The Dell XPS 15 (Model 9550) Touch 15-inch notebook computer (left), codenamed Berlinetta XPS.
The Dell XPS 15 (Model 9550) Touch 15-inch notebook computer (left), codenamed Berlinetta XPS.PHOTO: DELL

The Dell laptop has a newer processor, faster graphics chip and a better display

The Dell XPS 15 presents a compelling case over the Apple MacBook Pro as a premium consumer laptop for creative and professional users who require a capable computer for photo and video editing.

Both are sleek 15-inch notebooks that weigh around 2kg, with discrete graphics chips that run software, such as Adobe Creative Suite, without a hitch.

However, the XPS 15 has a newer Intel Skylake processor. Its GeForce GTX 960M graphics is also faster than the MacBook Pro's optional AMD graphics.

The worst culprit is the space bar. It is almost unusable because it does not respond unless you hit the middle of the bar. There appear to be dead zones at the sides that resulted in many typos.

An online check showed that I was not the only user with this complaint, which can be rectified by sending the laptop back to Dell.

More importantly, it has a better display. The XPS 15's InfinityEdge 4K display (3,840 x 2,160 pixels) outclasses the MacBook's 2,880 x 1,800-pixel screen in terms of resolution, and by being touch-capable.

First seen on the XPS 13, the InfinityEdge display also has an ultra-slim bezel that measures just 5.7mm thick and lets Dell build a more compact chassis.

  • TECH SPECS

  • PRICE: $2,899

  • PROCESSOR: Intel Core i7-6700HQ (2.6GHz)

  • GRAPHICS: Nvidia GeForce GTX 960M 2GB GDDR5

  • RAM: 16GB

  • SCREEN SIZE: 15.6 inches, 3,840 x 2,160 pixels

  • CONNECTIVITY: 2 x USB 3.0, Thunderbolt port, SD card reader, headphone and microphone combo jack

  • BATTERY: 84 watt-hour

  • RATING

  • FEATURES: 4/5

  • DESIGN: 4/5

  • PERFORMANCE: 4/5

  • VALUE FOR MONEY: 3/5

  • BATTERY LIFE: 3/5

  • OVERALL: 4/5

Colours look rich, vivid and very accurate. The display also supports 100 per cent coverage of the Adobe RGB colour space demanded by photography professionals.

Dell has also installed its excellent Premier Colour utility on the laptop. The software has a number of preset display profiles that you can switch for Web browsing, watching movies or editing photos.

However, the XPS' thin bezel has a downside. It forces Dell to shift the front camera to the bottom bezel, a position that likely shows your nostrils to the party on the other side.

However, this minor flaw is eclipsed by the XPS' keyboard, which was a constant source of frustration for me during the review.

The keys appear smaller than the ones on my own 12-inch laptop. There is little key travel and the XPS does not have a number pad, unlike some 15-inch models. But the worst culprit is the space bar. It is almost unusable because it does not respond unless you hit the middle of the bar. There appear to be dead zones at the sides that resulted in many typos.

An online check showed that I was not the only user with this complaint, which can be rectified by sending the laptop back to Dell.

Thankfully, the touchpad is excellent, with a smooth, almost frictionless surface. It is a precision touchpad that supports Windows 10 gestures, such as a three-fingered tap to trigger the Cortana personal assistant.

If not for its unreliable keyboard, the XPS 15 would have made a decent gaming laptop. Although its GTX 960M graphics is considered mid-tier, it is good enough to run games at modest settings and at a lower-than- native screen resolution.

For instance, I was able to play Bioshock Infinite at a smooth 53 frames per second at the maximum graphics setting after I lowered the native screen resolution to 1,920 x 1,080 pixels.

Despite a large 84 watt-hour battery, the XPS 15 lasted around 41/2 hours in our video-loop battery test. The display is probably the power guzzler because it is very bright and has an ultra-high screen resolution.

• Verdict: A premium laptop with a standout display. The finicky keyboard, however, was disappointing.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 09, 2016, with the headline 'XPS 15 gives MacBook a run for its money'. Print Edition | Subscribe