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Dell XPS 15 (2019) review: The near-perfect Windows laptop

India Today logo India Today 18-01-2020 Amritanshu Mukherjee
a laptop sits on top of a grass covered field

A few years ago, if you had asked which is the best premium lightweight laptop you can buy, we would have pointed at that year's Apple MacBook Pro model. However, in the last couple of years, the Windows universe has improved by leaps and bounds. Windows 10 has itself gotten more polish than ever and laptops makers have upped their game when it comes to the hardware. Dell has been a forerunner in the premium segment with its XPS series and it juts showcased the updated lineup for 2020 at the CES 2020.

However, the new models with their beautifully crafted builds and tiny bezel displays will take a few months to make it to our sores. Until then, Dell has on offer its 2019 refresh for the XPS series if you want to buy a new laptop now. The XPS 13 models are good for those looking for a compact new laptop but the XPS 15 is where the best of everything comes alive. The XPS 15 gets more firepower and a selection of beautiful displays to choose from. If you are a content creator, it can't get any better than the XPS 15 on paper.

Is it really as good as it sounds? To find out, I picked up the top-notch model of the Dell XPS 15, complete with 4K OLED display. Yes, the one that costs Rs 2.2 lakhs.

Design: Who says laptops are undesirable

Dell's XPS series laptops always try to stay true to an industrial design that's easy on the eyes and light in the hands. The 2019 refresh doesn't change from that massively and retains most of the elements that make an XPS an XPS laptop. You still get the same thin profile that creates an illusion of two silver plates floating at a gap from each other on the desk. The XPS 15 has a metal lid with a silver matte finish and Dells logo in the center. The matte finish makes the laptop look classy and on an office desk, it helps the laptop blend in well with the surroundings. The lid thankfully keeps smudges at bay.

The blackened sides help hide the bulk of the XPS 15 as well as undesirable exposed ports. Talking fo ports, you get a decent choice of connectivity options. There's a Thunderbolt 3 with DisplayPort, two USB 3.1 Gen 1 ports, an HDMI 2.0 port, SD card reader (SD, SDHC, SDXC) and a 3.5mm combo jack. There's a proprietary charging port as well.

Open the lid and you get this nicely finished dark-themed interior. The deck has this nice looking carbon-fibre finish and for whom it matters, it is actual carbon fiber to offer strength while maintaining the lightweight. While it looks great and has a soft-touch finish, it attracts smudges unlike anything and hence, you have to keep a cloth to keep wiping it. The keyboard keys are matte plastic while the touchpad has a smooth texture that's easy on the fingers. The display has an all-glass finish with narrow bezels on the outer sides.

Oh, the power button has a fingerprint sensor embedded in it to make unlocking your laptop easier. The best part is that works quite well. Old XPS users will be happy to know that the webcam goes back to the top bezel and now uses a macro camera.

Performance: The best Windows laptops can get for now

Dell's XPS series is known for offering supreme performance across all its models and the new XPS 15 any different. The version that I had picked up had all the top-notch specifications and the part that left an ever-lasting impression was the display.

The XPS 15 can be equipped with up to an OLED display measuring 15.6-inches and supporting a 4K resolution. This is a panel from Samsung that supports extremely accurate colour profiles although you can opt for another 4K OLED panel with touch. This OLED panel is beautiful to look at and with the extremely punchy colours as well as high contrasts, my eyes were spoilt for the XPS 15's display. Not many laptops screens can render black in total black. Maybe it's time brands should start offering OLED panels as options on all premium laptop models. The viewing angles are wide while the brightness levels are sufficient for outdoor viewing. The reflective surface does create a hindrance though at times. The narrow bezels make for an immersive viewing experience but with the 2020 XPS models sporting a narrower bottom bezel, this one looks slightly old now.

The XPS 15 is meant for content creators and Dell has ensured that the computing performance doesn't suffer despite carrying the slim profile. On my unit, I had a 9th Gen Intel Core i9-9990K processor clocked at 2.4GHz that's coupled with 32GB DDR4 RAM and 1TB PCIe SSD storage. To help with video and photo editing, Dell has thrown in an Nvidia GTX 1650 graphics card for good measure.

With specifications like this on offer, any laptop is bound to be fast. Stuff like web browsing with multiple tabs of Google Chrome loading and downloading files simultaneously as well as watching YouTube videos at the same time is an easy breeze for the XPS 15. Since my profession limits me to writing for now, I compiled more than a dozen of big feature stories and the keyboard helped massively with the task. The XPS 15 doesn't have the best keyboard in a laptop but it does the job well. The keys could use more feedback in my opinion. The trackpad is a breeze to use, with extremely precision tracking.

I don't do video editing but I love gaming and hence, contrary to what Dell engineers had in mind, I played a couple of my games and the XPS 15 held on quite well. The GTX 1650 is good enough to deliver smooth frame rates of around 40-50 fps in high settings on F1 2019 while Forza Horizon 4 had to be dropped down to medium in order to go above 40 fps. These games look stunning on the OLED display, especially with the rich colours.

However, the XPS 15 has a slim chassis and while putting it through its paces, it starts to heat up noticeably. Even while working on word documents, the laptops warms up noticeably and it can get a bit discomforting on the lap.

The audio performance is good for a laptop of its class but Dell could surely work on improving the quality of the speakers. These speakers are good enough for watching YouTube videos at most.

Where the XPS 15 impresses again is the battery life. Those who know the basics of a laptop may scoff on expecting a good battery life in a laptop that has a 4K OLED display, a Core i9 processor and a dedicated high-performance GPU. Well, scoff at your pleasure as the XPS 15 surprisingly managed to stretch up to 7 hours on a single charge with regular office work routine, i.e. web browsing while simultaneously working on word documents. If you are doing some photo editing, the battery life may drop. Given the specifications, the XPS 15 offers an impressive battery life.

Conclusion

If you are willing to invest Rs 2.2 lakhs in a laptop, you expect to have little to no compromises on most fronts, whether it be the display, battery life or performance. The XPS 15 manages to keep the compromises to a bare minimum like its predecessors and encourages the user to use it more as a tool. The 4K OLED display is easily the best laptop display my eyes have feasted on while the performance is superlative. The dedicated Nvidia GPU is powerful enough to help with rigorous video and photo editing while the long battery encourages you to go without the cord for the day. The design might be a bit understated but for those mean business, the XPS has just the right amount of flair and appeal to make you smug while flaunt it on the table.

On the whole, if you want a Windows laptop that has it all and does everything, the Dell XPS 15 is your pick.

Now, if you are convinced, I will get back to ogling on that stunning OLED display.

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