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Dell XPS 15 review

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I’ve been meaning to buy a new computer for a couple of years now, and I’ve been holding off for a while because frankly there was nothing really out there for high end laptops that was worthwhile to replace my existing machine. Today with the recent release of Haswell chips, it seems manufacturers finally see fit to build higher end laptops, like the Dell XPS 15 that I ended up buying.

I use a single machine for all of my work (plus a Mac mini on the network for some dev related tasks that require a Mac) and while I realize I could get a significantly faster machine in an optimized desktop box I personally hate synching data/work between machines and maintaining multiple boxes and keeping them up to date. So I’m a single machine guy, mainly for the convenience and I’m not regretting that. As a result of that I tend to go for the highest end laptop I’m willing to pay for and that I’m willing to lug around.

My last machine was a late-2010 model XPS 15 and that machine served me well for over three years now – which is longer than most machines I’ve had. In the years since then there simply hasn’t been any technical reason to buy a new machine. But lately the old XPS 15 has been having a few odd fits with Windows 8.1 – video issues with the nVidia drivers crashing frequently, monitors not properly going into sleep mode, as well as the power management going haywire with the machine turning on randomly when on standby or starting up randomly in the middle of the night and then crashing, leaving the machine hung when I arrive in the morning.

So, I started looking around for new machines again, and it seems that finally PC laptop makers have decided to build some nice high end machines again. I recently bought a touch screen and I love the abililty to use touch (yes even in desktop mode), and it’s one of the other reasons I wanted a new machine – touch was not an option for a new machine. I toyed with the idea of getting a MacBook Pro but in the end the lack of touch and the lack of any expandability made me decide against it.

Up until recently finding a decent touch monitor machine in anything but an ultrabook was futile. Luckily though in the Haswell wave of releases, finally laptop makers are coming out with bigger high end machines that are finally tuned a bit better to Windows 8.

The new Dell XPS 15 (9530)

Having had a good and reliable run with Dell XPS machines over the years (this is my third one) this was my first stop to look and the specs of the new XPS 15 are impressive:

  • Core™ i7-4702HQ processor (4 cores, 8 threads)
  • 16gb of Ram
  • 15.6 inch 3200x1800 display
  • NVIDIA® GeForce® GT 750M 2GB GDDR5
  • 512gb SSD or 1tb HD
  • 3 USB ports, HDMI and Display Port, SD

and after looking at some of the competing machines, I found that this one was the one to get. I ordered the middle package with the slow 1tb hard drive and smaller battery, mainly because I already have a 512gb SSD that I can just swap in. The battery I wanted to change, but couldn’t – there appears to be very little to no customization from the stock configurations Dell sells, even calling in.

Ordering – Dell Customer Service is beyond terrible

I ordered my machine in early November. Right off the top I wanted to see if there were potentially some other configuration options available. I didn’t want to pay for the high end SSD since I already have a fast SSD drive that I could swap out. Heck I wanted them to ship me a machine with no HDD at all but that definitely was a no go. But even little things like changing a battery selection wasn’t allowed which sucks. Bad, but this has become standard these days I suppose – the days of tweaking and custom configurations seem to be over, although admittedly machines are much better tuned to my requirements these days. I ended up getting the mid-configuration with the 1tb 5400 rpm drive which I was planning on swapping out immediately.

So I placed my order with the rep I talked to on the phone. I gave them my credit card number, they called back to verify and what not – a tedious and insanely rigid process that took up the better part of half an hour AFTER we’d sealed the deal. Granted if you just place the order online, this goes much smoother, but for calling I ended up saving a bit of money (as seems to be common).

I thought that would be it, but then about a week and a half later I decided to check on my order on the Web site – and found that Dell had unceremoniously cancelled the order. No reason given the order status just changed to Cancelled. I had to call Dell and sit on hold for 20 minutes, after which I was told that a confirmation follow up was not responded to and that the order was cancelled. Sorry nothing we can do about – place again. Uh no…

It turns out that on the day I placed the order GMail had an outage so I couldn’t receive emails right as the order went through. I gave them an alternate email to send the confirmation to, with explicit instructions not to use that email address for anything else. So what do they do? They send the confirmation request email to that email address. Uh huh. Not only that but they also managed to mangle the phone number which they actually called me on originally to confirm the Credit Card authorization by voice. So no phone call either. Instead the entire order was just cancelled. Way to go…

When I called back it took another 30+ minutes to explain the problem and I had to go through 5 levels of call management to get the original price they quoted me as prices had actually gone up bit in the meantime. I was precariously close to just cancelling but after having looked around a bit more for alternatives the other options didn’t look that exciting to me. So I sucked it up and put the order through.

In the end it almost 4 weeks to get the computer shipped to me. Yechhh…

First Impressions

After I got the machine I unpacked it and just fired it up as is just to get a feel for it. When I get a new machine I tend to reinstall everything from scratch so unboxing and firing up is just to kick the tires.

The machine has a sleek all aluminum case – it feels really sturdy. The screen is solidly attached which is important for the touchability – touching the screen has no give and so the touch experience feels solid. Even though the XPS is super slim, it’s not light – this is still a workstation style machine and the weights reflects that, but it is noticable lighter than the old XPS. Dell puts this machine at 4.5 pounds and it feels like it. Power supply is smaller and lighter than my old one so overall travel weight for me should be down by at least a couple of pounds I’d guess. This XPS uses a new power plug so it’s not compatible with older dell adapters.

Right out of the gate, even with the slow hard drive, the new XPS feels really fast. As I mentioned I have the older SandyBridge quad-core XPS 15, which is no slouch, but this machine just feels a lot faster. I ran a few simple benchmarks (Geekbench and NovaBench) and the benchmark numbers actually bore that out – CPU performance was roughly 30% faster than the Sandybridge machine with slow drive performance nearly on par with the SSD in the old machine.

What? Not sure how they’re doing that, but apparently Dell is using a 30gb internal M-SATA to act as a cache for the slow 5400rpm 1tb drive. At least with the drive brand new it managed to keep up with the SSD in the old machine. I suspect the benchmarks managed to hit the cache mostly so this probably wouldn’t bear out in the long run, but still was impressive. Didn’t really care though, as I wasn’t going to keep the big drive in there instead replacing with the SSD.

If you plan to replace the drive keep in mind that this machine has actually two drives: An 30gb m-sata drive and the primary hard disk. By default Dell uses that 30gb as a hidden partition presumably for caching and storing of system stuff. If you replace the drive like I did, you can use that 30 gb drive – I use it to house my Windows Paging Swap file which helps performance overall. It’s also possible to replace the m-Sata drive which effectively allows for two hard disks of any size if you want to spend the cash.

Swapping drives was easy – except for the Toque T5 screw driver required. Replacing the M-SATA drive is a little trickier as it’s buried under the battery, but still easy according to the manual.

The Screen – Beautiful, but maybe too much?

And of course there’s the screen. 3200x1800 whopping pixels  better than Retina display. By default Dell ships the machine with font scaling at 150% which makes the screen for the most part feels like a 1080p display, but with the extra pixel density everything is extra sharp. Experimenting with the screen and dropping it into native resolution of 3200x1800 is quite a trip – everything shrinks down to some ridiculously small size. Running raw 3200x1800 with 100% font-sizing is silly sized – but you get an amazing amount of screen real estate. Like running 2 full size instances of Visual Studio side by side :-)


But then nobody in their right mind would want to read anything that small for an extended period of time, so font-bumping is the only option.  I played around with settings a bit and with 130% on font size I get a pretty small display that is still usable for me, with a crap load of screen real estate, but I’m not sure I can actually work with that for extended periods of time, so I tend to be at 150%.

Once you start bumping the font-sizes up to a level you can read I bet you’re right back to the a similar size as 1080p with roughly the same screen real-estate. Not much gained there in the end. That leaves sharpness – there’s no doubt the screen is ultra sharp at full on resolution. But even for text, when I compare that to my old 1080p 15” laptop, the difference isn’t exactly mind-blowing even on the old machine the pixel density was at the limit at what I can comfortably read on screen. The biggest benefit for the ultra-hires display then really is graphics and images that are provided in big sizes.

The screen is very reflective which seems to be the case with any touch screen these days, so glare in areas where there is a bright background can be a problem.

Multi-Monitor on Windows 8.1

On it’s own the display is beautiful and workable with the font boosting features, but on my desk I run two desktop monitors out of the laptop. The XPS 15 – like my old one – has HDMI and DisplayPort outputs which I use to drive two 1080p displays. This all works great with three displays in 1080p resolution, but with the ultra-high DPI display of the new XPS doesn’t really work all that well.

The problem is that you can’t easily scale the display for each monitor individually and the settings that you can apply don’t apply to everything – only font-sizing which requires that the applications running support it. Some of Windows itself doesn’t scale up with the ‘larger sizes’. But after a bunch of tweaking I managed to get the 3200x1800 display to run in medium size settings:


which boosts the font-size enough to be reasonably close to 1080p sizing for windows that plays reasonably nice when dragging things across monitors. But even so the icons on the bottom of the screen (as you can see in the picture above) remain that small to be mere dots. Some applications too (like Adobe products) don’t respect the Windows font sizing overrides so you get pretty much unusable menus. Also when trying to take this screenshot with SnagIt it blacked out all screens but one and zoomed the captured image to gigantic dimensions for capture. Clearly the above is just a hack that needs a better solution.

This isn’t Dell’s fault of course, or the High Res display’s fault, but is a Windows issue that could benefit from some serious improvements.

It also makes me wonder how useful an extreme hi-DPI display really is. For laptop screen 15” usage 1080p is plenty sharp actually – for running in native resolution and still be able to use the machine that’s the limit of how small I want my content. Using High-DPI modes makes things sharper yes, but for 15 inch and smaller displays that’s hardly a huge issue. Until we get higher res displays I feel like ultra high res is just a gimmick at least above a certain point.

Ultimately though – a better solution is needed to deal with multiple resolutions for multiple displays. This experience is terrible. As bad as it sounds, I’ve actually resigned myself to switching the 3200x1800 display to 1080p – because in my multi-monitor setup I actually rarely use the laptop screen. It’s my referral screen where I keep things that I need to look up later usually so it’s more of a holding area. But I prefer actually working on the larger displays. No amount of high-DPI will change that. A larger display is just more appealing plus a heck a lot less strain on the eyes.

I didn’t buy this computer for the high dpi display, and frankly if there would have been an option for lower dpi I probably would have picked that instead. I think it’s good we’re seeing higher resolution displays show up – it’s been so long since higher than 1080p resolutions were even offered. But it’ll take a while for standard sizes to emerge and new monitors at these resolutions to be affordable. I’m not sure if there are any really good solutions to multi-monitor setups with widely different DPI settings.

Intel Graphics Graphics Performance surprise

The machine comes both with Intel HD 4600 graphics and an nVidia card.  I noticed when running the benchmarks is that the machine by default runs the Intel HD 4600 graphics card. In fact looking at the nVidia monitor I didn’t see the machine ever really kick on the nVidia card. When running the benchmarks I noticed the benchmarks defaulting to the HD 4600 card and it’s not exactly trivial to tell the system to use the nVidia card. Surprisingly though the performance of that card is significantly better than even my old nVidia card in the older XPS. Seems to me for anything but high end graphics and gaming the HD 4600 video card is sufficient. Even powering that 3200x1800 display seems be no problem for the Intel card. Yeah, for games it won’t be enough, but then I don’t actually play games on my machine, so that’s not a concern. For pushing text around a screen the card is plenty fine.

Keyboard and MousePad

One thing that can be a deal breaker for me is a bad keyboard or bad keyboard layout. Buying a machine online is always a bit sketchy in that you can’t try out the keyboard and mouse. Thankfully though the XPS keyboard works nicely.


The keys are standard size and feel really nice to type on. There’s not a ton of travel but it’s still comfortable. The only thing I don’t like much is are the extended navigation keys (PgUp/PgDown/Home/End) which require a function key to access. Ctrl-shift-fn-Home is not a fun way to select all text. It’s not ideal, but I can get used to that I suppose.

The keyboard is backlit as you can see which is nice, and the Fx key at the top default to their function key equivalent rather than requiring fn combinations.

The mousepad is pretty good for me although a few people have mentioned that it’s next to unusable. I tend to turn down the mousepad sensitivity quite a bit to avoid accidental clicks  while typing and making the mouse pointer super fast to get around the page. I found that this is a requirement if you’re running in super hi-res mode as there’s so much real estate to traverse to get from corner to corner on the screen. I had next to no problems with palm rest clicks while typing which is pretty good given that I tend to have a real hard time with most touch pads. The sensitivity of the pad is not great at least with the Palm rest guard enabled, but it’s decent and totally workable. It’s worthwhile to take some time with the Synaptics driver to configure the mouse driver and set up the supported gestures so that they work for you. With touch gestures are much less important.

Touch Screen

I’ve had an external 27” Acer Touch screen for a while and love the ability to use touch with Windows 8.1. Yes I use touch a lot for browsing and also for clicking and zooming in various applications mostly on the desktop. Having a touch monitor is very nice even if you use the desktop, and especially for Web browsing. The XPS touch screen is wonderful – much more responsive than the Acer monitor is – presumably because the interface is directly wired in instead of the USB connection for the Acer.

Even with touch available, I use very few Metro apps, but I do use some media consumption apps like Netflix where you have to wade through a large amount of content and where the Metro full/split screen interface actually works very well. Most other Metro apps though I just can’t get behind on my desktop. Full screen or even snap screened application just feel awkward on a desktop machine even when I do have touch available. I have no desire to use applications like that, unless I’m in full on consumption mode where I just pick and view. The use case for Metro is simply not right for anything but tablet style applications. Even using things like Evernote or Skype on Metro is painful mainly because even these apps feel very unnatural there. If I could run Metro applications in a window on the desktop then I think I would actually use more of these apps. It’s simply painful to manage Metro apps using the swipe/snap interface on a desktop. I totally see how this makes sense for tablets but for desktop it’s just cumbersome and inefficient.

Still touch is worthwhile and I find myself using it quite a bit.


One thing that’s really disappointing on this machine is the sound of the speakers. The old XPS 15 had incredible sound – in fact it had better sound than the mid-range desktop speakers I have. Sound on the new XPS is tinny and lacks all the richness that the old one had. This is not really surprising though given that the chassis of this machine is so thin – there’s nowhere to put even remotely decent speakers let alone the subwoofer that the old one had.

I use this machine for Digital Audio Recording of my music too, but of course I run that through a FocusRite Scarlett for DAW operation – and if I really need decent sound I can run the audio out to this an my studio monitors. Still it would be nice to have better sound built-in – I guess crappy sound is the price you pay for ultra-thin hardware.


To this point I had simply used the Dell configured installation. One nice thing I have to say is that the machine didn’t have a lot of crap ware on it to begin with. If it wouldn’t have been for the SSD drive I needed to install I might have actually left the original machine configured as is with the stock Dell install.

Instead I installed the SSD drive. First problem I ran into is that the XPS use Torque screws (T5 size which is TINY). I didn’t have one that small so I had to run to the hardware store only to find they didn’t have one that size either. I ended up ordering a full set of drivers (because I needed that anyway) on @DamienEdwards suggestion after borrowing the T5 driver from a friend.

The drive in the XPS 15 is an ultra-slim drive, and my existing SSD isn’t. Regardless the SSD did manage to fit into the case.

Another issue I ran into was that the machine doesn’t come with any separate software installation disks. Everything is on the recovery disk partition on the drive. I figured fine I’ll just grab the drivers from the Dell site and go from there. Dell also claims to have a download of the pre-installed software package, but I was unable to ever get there – the site just locks up on the scanning your hardware part and never gets to the download page.

I had a few more embarrassing issues. I wanted to install Windows 8.1 Pro. Dell ships standard, but I wanted to install 8.1 Pro from MSDN. It turns out that this is a lot more difficult than you might think! MSDN doesn’t have a specific Pro download. It has standard download and it has a ‘dual mode’ download. I first tried to install the plain Windows 8.1 download thinking that it would allow me to choose which version to install (like Win 8 and 7) or to pick based on the key I provide. But there was no key request during installation on either of those.

The only way I was able to get this to work was to use the ‘online’ install by using a non-pro install and then create distributable media. Others pointed out on Twitter that I should have been able to upgrade standard to pro with a key, but when I tried that with my MSDN PRO key(s) I was told that this upgrade couldn’t be done without reinstalling.

I finally managed to get the online installer to prompt me for a new windows key at which point I could input my pro key and reinstall from scratch. All in all I ended up installing Windows 3 times before I got this right. Grrr…

Dell Drivers

Once Windows installed I manually installed the Dell drivers. Unfortunately I apparently did not install the drivers in the right order. I missed one of the important chipset drivers all of which should be installed first, before installing some of the other drivers like Sound and the CardReader. As a result the card reader didn’t work at first, and the machine’s fan was continuously running and sounding like jet plane taking off. Sound was terrible as the sound enhancement software which definitely makes a difference wasn’t loading. After some sleuthing and some random re-installation of drivers I found that once all the chipset drivers were installed a re-install of various other drivers solved all the problems. Now thankfully everything is working as it should and the machine is running very quiet.

What really pisses me off though is that Dell has a factory installation download area where supposedly you can download all the software installed on your machine. This would have been handy for this install, but even after various tries in several different browsers I was unable to get passed the scanning your machine dialog on the Dell site. This is beyond lame – just let me get to the damn downloads for this machine.

Dell does have a dedicated download area on the Dell FTP site for this machine too, but the factory software install isn’t there. The direct driver download link is here:


Phew… this was more painful than usual.

Software Install

The rest of course was just software installation which is always a tedious process. I’m a week and a half in and still I find a few programs or a few files that I have on my backups that I need to restore or programs that I need to reinstall.

This time though I automated some of the process by using Chocolatey to install a bunch of stuff automatically. If you haven’t used Chocolatey as a software developer you’re missing out. It’s an easy way to install a large number of development tools and utilities with a simple commandline. It works based on NuGet and shares the simplicity of NuGet.

Chocolately can be bootstrapped using Powershell and then can be used to install most common tools and utilities. Meaning you can automate the process very easily by simply creating a batch file. Once Chocolatey is installed you can install any package simply with something like:

> cinst WestwindWebMonitor

Simply cinst <packagename> and you’re on your way. You can then automate installation very easily by simply dumping a bunch of cinst statements into a batch file.

Here’s my install from scratch batch file:

REM on one line
@powershell -NoProfile -ExecutionPolicy unrestricted -Command "iex
((new-object net.webclient).DownloadString('https://chocolatey.org/install.ps1'))"
&& SET PATH=%PATH%;%systemdrive%\chocolatey\bin

REM Apps call cinst GoogleChrome call cinst Firefox

call cinst imgburn
call cinst notepadplusplus.install

call cinst vlc call cinst filezilla call cinst skype call cinst paint.net call cinst dropbox call cinst curl call cinst teamviewer call cinst evernote call cinst iTunes call cinst speccy call cinst picasa call cinst Recuva call cinst WindowsLiveWriter call cinst tweetdeck

call cinst WestwindWebMonitor REM DevTools call cinst git.install call cinst tortoisegit call cinst fiddler2 call cinst webpi call cinst poshgit call cinst linqpad4 call cinst beyondcompare call cinst SourceTree call cinst Ghostscript


REM install after VS.NET is installed

call cinst resharper

call cinst reflector

which gets me a long way towards a configured machine. Not only is all this stuff installed, but by creating this batch file I’m keeping a ‘record’ of what I actually need later. Take a look at my list and look up those items that you don’t know what they might be in the Chocolatey catalog. And you might just want to browse the Chocolatey catalog to see if there are things that you need that I don’t.

What’s left then is commercial installations. My main ones are Visual Studio, FoxPro, Expression, Office, QuickBooks… it’s really surprising how little commercial software I actually still use today – so much has migrated to the Web these days that there’s preciously little left on the computer.

Stickering – I’m a slacker

Look at this – isn’t that just a sad state of affairs?


Clearly, I’ve got work to do…

Summary on the Dell

It’s been two weeks with the new Dell XPS 15 and overall I’m happy with the new machine. It still feels like a blazing fast machine especially now with the SSD drive in it and I’m finally at a place where I think everything I need is actually installed and I can just use my machine without constantly thinking I’m missing something.

The machine works very well and I haven’t had any odd issues or failures. The machine runs cool and the fan rarely fires up, even when running in full power mode. I’m still tweaking with the monitor configuration, going back and forth between running in High-DPI mode when I have the machine off the desk, but falling back to 1080p when connected with the other two monitors. The good news about that is that non-native 1080p resolution is pretty good and for none-near field viewing it’s just fine as a side monitor as I use it.

As with my last two XPS’s the hardware feels solid. I know a lot of people who complain about Dell hardware, but I’ve always had good luck with the mid to high end Dell hardware. I think it’s probably the cheapo stuff that breaks and for that I can only say you get what you pay for (I have similar issues with a cheap Lenovo I use for travel).

The main down votes are for the Dell infrastructure. The Dell Web site is a royal pain to navigate. Driver downloads are a pain with their cryptic driver file names and shitty download manager that doesn’t work. I still have not been able to retrieve the ‘factory installed software’ because a freakin’ plug-in tries to scan and fails scanning my hardware. If I’m downloading factory software WTF do I need to have my system scanned? The whole Dell site including the Sales site is one big clusterfuck of bad navigation.

Add to that the terrible, terrible customer service during my order process along with the initial ‘screw you’ attitude and I’m not feeling very confident that I’d get even decent service should something go wrong with this machine. Hopefully it won’t come to that though. In the past I’ve had good luck with Dells and I’m hoping my luck will hold out.

So great machine, terrible service is what sums all this up.

Posted in Windows  

The Voices of Reason


Nick Portelli
December 19, 2013

# re: Dell XPS 15 review

I got this laptop too, except the high end version. Only because I figured like all slim laptops there would be no way to upgrade. I did buy this laptop for the display. My old laptop is a Dell Latitude e6500 with 1920x1200 display. There was no way I was going backwards in resolution. I also wanted 16gb ram. I would have bought the Toshibia Kirabook or even Samsung if they had options of more than 8gb ram. I'm happy with the laptop. I had an issue with the Nvidia driver not loading and was playing a game on the Intel chip. (Damn Humble Bundle) It performed well.

Only thing I wish it had is a docking port. Not that I have multiple monitors, but docks seem nicer than having to plug in power, display, etc.

December 24, 2013

# re: Dell XPS 15 review

great review. thanks...

Michael Sullivan
December 31, 2013

# re: Dell XPS 15 review

Rick, I linked to this review from the new XPS 15 wiki. In addition, I stole your photo of your keyboard (http://xps-15.wikia.com/wiki/Keyboard_Issues) but I plan to replace that with a photo of my own some time in the next month or so.

Please advise if you want either the link or the photo taken down.


Michael Sullivan (Cincinnatux)

Rick Strahl
December 31, 2013

# re: Dell XPS 15 review

Fine with me...

January 07, 2014

# re: Dell XPS 15 review

For the multi-monitor issue, have you tried third-party software like DisplayFusion?

iMedia Designs
February 10, 2014

# re: Dell XPS 15 review

Great review. thanks !

Joan Pons
April 07, 2014

# re: Dell XPS 15 review

Hi Rick, really nice post!
regarding beyondcompare, have you tried http://winmerge.org ?
hope that helps!

Rick Strahl
April 07, 2014

# re: Dell XPS 15 review

@joan - sure used winmerge. BeyondCompare is just a way better UI IMHO. Well worth the $50 for the Pro edition.

April 12, 2014

# re: Dell XPS 15 review

Great Review. But you didn't elaborate on the battery. Can you tell me how long the 61 Whr 6 cell battery lasts?
Heard the 91 Whr battery is bigger and therefore takes up the 2.5" sata disk space, is that true?

Btw you should've tried a UEFI USB Flash of Windows 8.1 to reinstall the OS: The Option 1.


Rick Strahl
April 13, 2014

# re: Dell XPS 15 review

@Danzo - not sure if the 91whr battery takes up more space - I think the chassis and layout is completely fix for this machine, since they won't let you customize anything. But you'd have to check.

I've been getting about 5 hours out of the 61whr battery doing dev work, in balanced mode which is pretty good. My last laptop managed 3.5hours at most. I gave up trying to have lots of battery time any more as I'm either wired at home or in transit while travelling - I don't use my computer on planes any more - there's simplt not enough room on a plane anymore to be productive :-) So to me the battery life is not that important - less weight is a nice thing too :-)

FWIW, I did install of USB eventually - it was just finding the right version to install Pro from to match the MSDN key that was a bitch.

It's now been almost a half a year and the machine has been a joy to use. The only thing I don't like is the extended (Home/End) key layout that requires the FN key to work. That's a pain to get used to. Other than that it's been nothing but WIN.

May 07, 2014

# re: Dell XPS 15 review

Hi Rick, great review! Can you confirm if running this laptop in 1920x1080 is just as sharp as a laptop which natively runs at 1920x1080? The screen is a deal breaker for me as I will be using it a lot with VMware workstation so I need all the power but know I will struggle running VMs at full resolution and am expecting to drop down to 1920x1080 or maybe lower.
I believe there is a i5 version of this laptop which runs natively at 1920x1080, I would love to know if the i7 qhd laptop looks just as sharp when in this resolution.

Many thanks

Rick Strahl
May 08, 2014

# re: Dell XPS 15 review

@Greg - It's pretty sharp but not quite as sharp as my old machine, but it's definitely not distracting. I actually run mine at 2048x1152 which is as sharp as my old one.. This resolution is the borderline I can do with aging eyes :-)

May 16, 2014

# re: Dell XPS 15 review

i wanted to ask did u experience the famous coil whine issue many people are reporting in notebookreview forums and the dead pixels on screen?people have showed that almost every dell xps 15 9530 has the coil whine.some have lesss and some have more....most noticeable when the charger is plugged in and the battery is chargerd to 100 percent and the screen brightness is 50 percent...the whine comes near the charger socket of laptop...also when scrolling web pages up and down....when we unplug the charger the coil whine goes away.....its a amjor issue u must have read that....i m wworried is it on alll the systems???hows ur experience?

Rick Strahl
May 23, 2014

# re: Dell XPS 15 review

@salman - I don't have any issues with coil whine (AFAIK). The machine is pretty quiet unless it gets really stressed (never happens except when I do video processing or stress testing web sites locally). But as you point out I think it depends on the actual build of the individual machine. As to noise level 90% of the time the machine is completely silent as CPU levels barely reach into the 10% range. Fans are off most of the time as well. Compared to my previous XPS 15 this one is way more quiet.

krystan honour
July 07, 2014

# re: Dell XPS 15 review

I saw this review and it cermented my decision to buy. I echo your sentiments about keyboard and after I'd read the reviews about the Lenovo X1 2nd gen I couldn't in all conscience buy the lenovo purely because of the keyboard.

however the xps15 looked like a great bit of kit and its being delivered tomorrow. Thanks for the great review and the driver pages.

November 28, 2014

# re: Dell XPS 15 review

Super review, although i would use the native resolution @100% font magnification.

Jeffrey Cumpsty
January 06, 2015

# re: Dell XPS 15 review

I recently purchased BOTH the MacBook Pro and the Dell XPS15

MacBook Pro 2.8Ghz, 16GB, 1TB SSD vs Dell XPS15 2.3Ghz, 16GB, 512GB SSD.

The Mac wipes the floor with the Dell in every aspect. The keyboard is ultra solid, never misses a key, the trackpad is smooth, the screen usually ok at scaling icons and text.

Exporting a VM from Virtualbox took 30 minutes on the Mac. I cancelled it after an hour on the Dell.

I WANTED to like the Dell; keeping the Mac means I need to dev in a VM always...but I am keeping the MAC.

CC Pony
January 25, 2015

# re: Dell XPS 15 review

Rick - your statement "...I’m not feeling very confident that I’d get even decent service should something go wrong with this machine" was quite prophetic, at least for me.

I've been purchasing Dell products for myself, my family and my business for many years. I've purchased dozens and dozens of laptops, desktops and servers directly from Dell and from other sources, including E-Bay.

I purchased my Dell XPS 15 9530 from E-Bay. Big mistake. When it came time to access my next-business-day support, I was told that the warrantee on the machine was voided because the laptop was reported as "stolen". Apparently, the E-bay seller somehow swindled Dell for a second laptop having reported the one that I bought as "stolen".

Not only is my warrantee voided, but Dell will not service the machine. It's one year old and has a broken touchpad.

To say that Dell's Customer Service has been unresponsive and possessing of a "screw you" attitude is a world-class understatement. My years of loyalty have been rewarded with contempt and obfuscation. I even offered to pay for the necessary repairs and was rebuffed.

Perhaps I shouldn't buy a NEW machine from E-bay, but is it so uncommon to do so? Dell offers no warnings against doing such anywhere on their website and there is no mention of this type of voiding in their written warrantee.

So I'm pretty pissed off and my goal for the near future is to deter at least twenty people from purchasing their next computer from Dell. Their terrible Customer Service is well known and well documented (check Google). You may very well be their next victim.

Rick Strahl
January 26, 2015

# re: Dell XPS 15 review

Well I don't know. If you buy a machine of eBay I think it's definitely buyer beware. Granted they probably should cut you some slack given that you have a long history of buying stuff from Dell, but regardless if you want a warranty buy from Dell direct or from an authorized reseller. Ebay is an anything goes place which is why you often get a good (to be true?) deal.

July 19, 2015

# re: Dell XPS 15 review

I have pretty much the same machine as you ordered.

I’m working on it for some months now and I have some mixed feelings. Basically the machine is great.

When working remote I’m keeping my resolution at 2880. But because of the high resolution of the screen, it doesn’t get blurry. Windows doesn’t scale good and I’m hoping this will be better when Windows 10 is arrived.

At the office I have connected a Dell UP3214Q (31,5” and 3840x2160). And it gave some trouble. It can’t be connected easily. You need to combine two screens to one. You see this because sometime one part of the screen is slower than the other part. And it hits the limit of the graphic card. Netflix full screen is a bit slow.
Also the XPS can’t handle two screens (combine to a 3840x3160) and the laptop screen. But you need to open the laptop to start hem. What turns the XPS screen on. Force windows to increase the font-size to 150%. And you need to logoff to restore this to 100%

But the most part I’m frustrated about. He doesn’t wake-up well. Turning the machine on results often in a total freeze of the machine. No, I don’t have any hardware attached to it and it happens when I’m on the road or at the office. I know it must be some drivers issue..but I must always keep in mind that I must hard reset my laptop at the next start up. Not very productive.

Oh and..sometimes he is verrryyy sloowwww. This is often when he’s back out of sleep when I did work in Visual Studio. I guess is has something to do with debugging mode…and it looks to be a driver issue also.

Sum: great laptop with bad drivers and could use a docking

Rick Strahl
July 19, 2015

# re: Dell XPS 15 review

@Fabian - I think Windows 10 will make the multi-monitor stuff easier. I'm running it here and being able to control each monitors scaling settings individually makes it much easier.

FWIW, I run 2 monitors and the laptop screen in my office setup using both the HDMI and DVI outs for the two monitors. Never had a problem with that. The laptop screen makes for the third screen. It just works.

I haven't seen the sleep problems you describe nor the slow performance. But - if you do run into this sometimes an occasional reboot will fix any odd issues I've had. Most of the problems I've run into had to do with the video drivers and video driver updates so I'm weary of those. I have the nVidia update panel up and set to manual to avoid frequent updates once I have a working driver.

September 10, 2015

# re: Dell XPS 15 review

Rick, are you still happy with your XPS?? I am up in the air between a Mac Book Pro and XPS. I have an older XPS and want to continue with Windows...



Rick Strahl
September 10, 2015

# re: Dell XPS 15 review

@Kevin - I have both the XPS and the MacBook Pro. If you plan on using Windows, stick with the XPS. The Mac is a nice and very fast machine but not worth the premium for a pure Windows machine (then again the XPS's aren't a lot cheaper these days - they started at $2,100, yikes - FWIW, I'm selling my XPS with a brand new 1TB SSD if you're interested).

The XPS is a great machine all around. Fast, great screen, just works. The only thing that I don't like about it is the terrible, terrible touch pad. The thing is nearly unusable unless you set the sensitivity to ultra-sensitive which in turn makes it error prone for typing. Battery life also isn't very good but that doesn't matter much to me as I mainly use it at home. Other than that it's a kick ass machine.

I have a love hate relationship with the MacBook Pro. On the one hand the hardware is super nice - especially the touch pad and keyboard. I do miss the touch screen. I'm running Bootcamp, and then also use the same bootcamp partition on the Mac with Parallels. Bootcamp is fast - the MBP is slightly faster than the XPS, but I do have the top of the line MBP and it's one gen later than the XPS. There are a few issues with Windows not waking up, and of course there are the funky keyboard translation issues. Running in Parallels especially can be tricky due to the Mac special keys interfering and doing funky stuff. I bought this beast mainly because I do mobile dev and for iOS development I need to have a Mac and Cordova development in general is actually much easier on the Mac. It took me a long while to get the Mac/Windows combo dialed so that it's workable but now that it's working well I'm pretty happy with it. The MBP is a completely sealed machine - you can't replace anything without voiding the warranty.

If I was purely running Windows I definitely would go with the XPS. And if you need a Mac occasionally and for an iOS build server only get a Mac mini. Much more economical.

September 10, 2015

# re: Dell XPS 15 review


Thanks for confirming what I thought. I am .Net/SharePoint developer, so I will need to run VMs for SharePoint. Currently, I do not develop any iOS apps. I own an IMac and I could do it on that machine if necessary... I am not a touch pad fan, I need a mouse so that sounds like a no brainer for me. Just curious how much for the XPS...I live on Oahu so shipping should be cheap!! I meet you a few years back in Vegas at one of the DevConnections...



Rick Strahl
September 10, 2015

# re: Dell XPS 15 review

@Kevin - ping via email re: XPS. I'm still on the mainland so shipping is still ~$30. Probably'd be the same from Maui though. :-)

August 16, 2017

# re: Dell XPS 15 review

I have the high end version of the laptop. A costumer has it as well, exactly the same one as I have (two weeks newer). Both machines refused to turn on within the past two months. Despite all efforts to get things to work (the whole flea power issue many Dell laptops suffer from) nothing worked. This laptop has never even left my desk, and as always been taken care of properly.

This is the third time a Dell XPS laptop failed me, and the third time Dell offered no other solution other than me throwing cash at them. At this price-point I would expect a little bit more value for money. I travel around with a seven year old Samsung laptop which I even dropped down the stairs. It looks like crap, but works perfectly fine. That laptop cost me a fraction of what I paid for my Dell XPS. Needless to say, I am slightly done with Dell computers. And let's not even start talking about their customer service. The only service I found to be worse is that of Apple, which is equally over-priced.

I'll stick to my el-cheapo $1100 Samsung laptop until either I or it dies.

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