One year after Dell significantly redesigned the XPS 15 (starts at $1,273, $2,400.99 as tested), this exquisite desktop replacement laptop remains as excellent as ever. It's a no-brainer for those who prioritize thoughtful yet bold styling in a 15.6-inch notebook that's as compact as possible while still offering more powerful components than many competitors. The refreshed XPS 15 model 9510 reviewed here adds an optional OLED display, a new "Tiger Lake-H" Intel Core i7 processor, and Nvidia GeForce RTX 3000 series graphics, though it's otherwise unchanged from 2020's major overhaul.
With a laptop this good, there's plenty of reason to keep things mostly as they are, especially design-wise. Dell's premium XPS models have always looked better than your average Windows laptops, but now that they all feature the same styling cues, there are few machines more likely to catch your eye, in our opinion. The XPS 15 is the midsized member of the family, positioned between the 13.4-inch XPS 13 (available in either conventional or 2-in-1 convertible varieties) and the 17-inch XPS 17.Our Experts Have Tested 131 Products in the Laptops Category in the Past YearSince 1982, PCMag has tested and rated thousands of products to help you make better buying decisions. (See how we test.)(Photo: Molly Flores)
All three models feature razor-thin display bezels and sleek chassis that are mostly free of ports and exhaust outlets. They're available in either a muted Platinum Silver exterior finish with a black interior or an arrestingly bright Frost exterior with a white finish inside. The lid and chassis are made of aluminum, and the keyboard deck is a soft-touch carbon fiber. These materials give the XPS 15 a quality feel, though it's not the lightest laptop at 4.3 pounds. Darker laptops (especially the common Space Gray that Apple and many other makers use) arguably look more professional than lighter-colored ones, but after using the Frost XPS 15 for a few days, I tend to think it's the more elegant of the two options.
You can't go wrong with either color choice, though, and fortunately Dell makes most of the other configuration options available with both colors. The base configuration combines an 11th Generation, six-core Intel Core i5-11400H processor with 8GB of memory and a 256GB solid-state drive. Those are reasonable specs for the starting price, but our review unit is better configured. While it's significantly more expensive, it's probably the sweet spot for most buyers, with an eight-core, 2.3GHz (4.6GHz turbo) Core i7-11800H chip, 16GB of RAM, and a 512GB SSD.4.5Outstanding$1,587.59See Itat DellRead Our Dell XPS 13 OLED (9310) Review 4.0Excellent$1,599.99See Itat DellRead Our Dell XPS 17 (9710) Review 4.0Excellent$2,499.00See Itat AmazonRead Our Apple MacBook Pro 16-Inch Review 4.0Excellent$852.59See Itat DellRead Our Dell Inspiron 16 Plus (7610) Review 4.0Excellent$1,567.99See Itat DellRead Our Alienware m15 Ryzen Edition R5 Review 4.0Excellent$1,189.00See Itat Amazon Read Our Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 (15-Inch) Review
Our unit also adds a discrete GPU in the form of Nvidia's 4GB GeForce RTX 3050 Ti. On the face of it, a gaming-ready GPU coupled with an H-series Core i7 should amount to serious power, not available in many of the XPS 15's competitors such as the Microsoft Surface Laptop 4. In practice, however, the RTX 3050 Ti is somewhat limited by its 45-watt maximum power consumption and not your best Nvidia choice if you're primarily looking for high-refresh gaming at native resolution. There's no option for a more powerful GeForce RTX 3060 or RTX 3070 as there is with the larger XPS 17.(Photo: Molly Flores)
The graphics constraints can be ascribed to by one degree or another to the XPS 15's compact stature. Its chassis measures just 0.71 by 13.6 by 9.1 inches (HWD). The Alienware m15, the hardcore gaming equivalent to the XPS 15 in Dell's lineup, measures 0.8 by 14.2 by 10.9 inches (HWD) and weighs 4.65 pounds. The differences aren't great, but they're enough to accommodate a full-power (more than 45 watts) version of the much more capable GeForce RTX 3070.
I mention the graphics issue to temper your expectations if you think the XPS 15 can double as a serious gaming rig, but in fact it can handle pretty much any other scenario you throw at it. You can even configure it with a screaming Core i9-11900H, 64GB of RAM, and a mind-boggling 8TB of solid-state storage. Doing so is wildly expensive and overkill for pretty much every application, but it's nevertheless cool to see massive memory and storage options recently limited to mobile workstations rather than mainstream consumer laptops.(Photo: Molly Flores)
Besides the latest CPUs, GPUs, memory, and storage, the XPS 15's other cutting-edge improvement for 2021 is the optional OLED screen. OLED technology isn't new, and you can read all about OLED laptops in our detailed guide, but having used multiple XPS notebooks with different screen options I can unequivocally state that the OLED XPS 15 is my favorite. With a resolution of 3,456 by 2,160 pixels (Dell calls it 3.5K), the 16:10-aspect-ratio display is definitely the sweet spot between the full HD (1,920-by-1,200) screen of the base model and the maxed-out 4K (3,840-by-2,400) IPS panel.
(Photo: Molly Flores)
In our testing, the XPS 15's OLED screen managed to display the entire or nearly the entire range of the sRGB, Adobe RGB, and DCI-P3 color gamuts. It also registered close to its rated 400 nits of brightness. Yes, that's 100 nits dimmer than the full HD or 4K options, but that's offset by the more dazzling colors and darker blacks of OLED technology; black pixels in an OLED screen are literally turned off and dark colors don't need as much illumination to look their best.To be fair, there are two minor drawbacks to the display. First, using the touch screen results in a bit more bounce than is ideal, thanks to a fair amount of give in the hinge. (Both the OLED and 4K screen options are glossy touch panels.) But the rest of the chassis is rock-solid, from the sturdy keyboard and finely tuned touchpad to the nearly invisible seams between the keyboard deck and bottom cover. Incidentally, the bottom is removable by loosening six easily accessible hex screws, opening up the possibility of DIY component upgrades if you know what you're doing.(Photo: Molly Flores)
The other screen oddity is that if you want to calibrate the color or otherwise adjust display settings, which is important for OLED panels, Dell confusingly offers no fewer than three similarly named preinstalled utilities—Dell Cinema Guide, Dell CinemaColor, and Dell Premier Color. The latter two are for adjusting screen settings. The first actually has nothing to do with the screen, and in fact doesn't do anything—it's a leftover from a partnership with Reelgood.com that ended earlier this year. A single, clearly identifiable screen settings app would be more straightforward, and XPS 15-specific options integrated into Windows Settings would be even better.
Last year's significant XPS 15 redesign saw a big reduction in the number and variety of input/output ports, although this isn't necessarily bad if you have limited peripheral needs and appreciate the sleeker edges made possible by fewer interfaces. Other than an SD card slot and a headphone jack, the only physical connections are three USB-C ports: The two on the left are Thunderbolt 4 ports, with a USB 3.2 Type-C connector alone on the right. All offer DisplayPort monitor support and can be used to charge the laptop. Dell provides USB-C-to-USB-A and USB-C-to-HDMI adapters in the box, a nice touch.(Photo: Molly Flores)
Wireless connectivity includes Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) with 2x2 MIMO support, plus Bluetooth 5.1. Altogether, the connectivity situation is what we'd expect from a compact but premium 15-inch laptop.
Besides fewer ports, the chassis redesign also brought better audio quality, thanks to two upward-facing speakers that flank the keyboard, pushing sound to your ears more efficiently than previous models' bottom-mounted speakers. The XPS 15 continues to deliver excellent audio, though not quite as good as that of the 16-inch Apple MacBook Pro, a key competitor that boasts a dedicated woofer for better bass response.(Photo: Molly Flores)
Our XPS 15 unit offered both popular Windows Hello sign-in options, a face recognition webcam and a fingerprint reader integrated with the power button. I found the webcam worked best in bright light conditions and preferred the fingerprint reader for more reliable logins without having to type my password. If you're using the camera for video calls, note that it sports the usual lackluster 720p resolution, which translates to slightly noisy video quality.
With the exception of high-frame-rate, high-res gaming, the computing experience offered by the latest XPS 15 is a joy. Besides writing this review on it, I installed multiple apps, opened upwards of 25 browser tabs in multiple windows, and tried many other scenarios. The laptop performed flawlessly in every situation, and was almost silent as well—the cooling fan rarely spooled up to an audible level, and there was no hint of the faint but annoying coil whine or noise from other components that can sometimes plague powerful laptops.
In addition to being subjectively delightful, the XPS 15 also benchmarks well against competitors like the Surface Laptop 4 and Razer Blade 15 Advanced Edition, as well as in-house alternatives like Dell's XPS 17 and the slightly cheaper but still potent Inspiron 16 Plus. Here are the basic specs of the laptops in our performance comparison.
In comprehensive benchmarks like the main PCMark 10 test, the XPS 15 landed exactly where we expect it to, significantly ahead of the Microsoft laptop and in line with its stablemates and the Razer. The Blade 15 pulled ahead in PCMark 10's storage subtest, although the XPS 15's solid-state drive was still satisfyingly speedy. (See more about how we test laptops.)
In more intense content creation benchmarks such as rendering 3D images with Maxon Cinebench, editing images with Adobe Photoshop, and using HandBrake to transcode video, the XPS 15 also posted solid results. In fact, the system led the pack in the Geekbench CPU test. The Surface Laptop 4 uses a 15-watt AMD Ryzen processor, while the Core i7 in the XPS 15 can go as high as 45 watts.
When it came to our graphics tests or gaming simulations, the XPS 15 struggled a bit, as mentioned earlier. In GFXBench's demanding Aztec Ruins and Car Chase tests, the Razer Blade left the other laptops in the dust. It would have likely done the same in the similar 3DMark tests, but a software glitch prevented the Razer from completing the Time Spy subtest. The variation here is a key reminder that not all GeForce RTX 3000 laptops are created equal.
In practice, the graphics results mean you'll be disappointed if you expect the XPS 15 OLED to play demanding AAA games at max quality settings and 3.5K resolution. Dial the presets and resolution back, however, and you'll probably have an enjoyable gaming experience. We're in the process of testing actual games on the XPS 15 to give you an idea of the frame rates you can expect at various detail and resolution settings, and will update this review when we're done.
The XPS 15 offers excellent battery life, lasting for more than 11 hours in our video rundown test. That's not class-leading, but it's pretty close. Our test, which involves playing a locally stored 720p video file at 50% screen brightness and 100% volume with Wi-Fi turned off, is relatively forgiving; I never saw more than 10 hours of real-world work, but I consistently had enough battery power for a full day of word processing, occasional videoconferencing, and other office tasks.
The latest Dell XPS 15 is a spectacular laptop, wrapping up all of the performance you'd want for everyday workflows and even intensive content creation into a svelte, head-turning chassis with a gorgeous OLED display. A well-configured version like our review unit isn't cheap, but neither does it seem egregiously overpriced. It's nice to have the options of Core i9 horsepower and colossal memory and storage as well, if you know you can take advantage of them.(Photo: Molly Flores)
So who is the XPS 15 for? Anyone who needs more computing power and screen real estate than the average ultraportable (such as the smaller XPS 13) can provide, but who doesn't need the absolute fastest GPU or the supersized display of the XPS 17. That means hardcore gamers should probably look elsewhere, but everyone else in the market for a good-looking, capable workhorse should look to the XPS 15.4.5Editors' ChoiceSee It$1,299.99 at DellBase Configuration Price $1,273.00View More
Now available with an OLED screen, an 8TB SSD, and Intel "Tiger Lake-H" processing, the Dell XPS 15 is our top pick among premium desktop-replacement laptops.
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