Dell XPS15 9500 Review – MacBook qualities for a Windows PC?
Finally, a Windows laptop with MacBook-style attributes. But does it really compare? PAT PILCHER thinks so.
Ever since the first shiny MacBook launched, Windows PC makers have seen it as the design to emulate. This includes Dell with the new XPS15 9500. While their XPS range of notebook PCs have been hugely popular, the big question is whether Windows has finally got a MacBook equivalent on its hands.
Competing with Apple aside, the XPS15 9500 is a versatile wee beastie. It packs more grunt than a piggery and can even do a bit of gaming, thanks to discrete Nvidia graphics.
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Performance is one thing, but if you’re aiming for the Windows equivalent of the MacBook, then design really matters. In this regard, the XPS 15 scores well. Put simply, it is a gorgeous-looking piece of hardware. From top to bottom, it reeks of a premium-level design. Be it the soft and comfy backlit keyboard through to its eye-catching carbon fibre and alloy finish, it’s a stylish and polished laptop that feels really solid.
One of the first things I noticed when powering it up was its screen, which does a great job of showing off the XPS15 to full effect. Thanks to thin bezels, the screen seems larger than its 15-inch corner-to-corner size. It sports a resolution of 3840 x 2400 pixels and is as bright as it is vivid. Like Microsoft’s Surface Book, it uses a 16:10 aspect ratio. For cranking out documents, it works well and is fine for a sly bit of Netflix or gaming (more on this later).
On the connectivity front, the XPS 15 has you well covered. There are two Thunderbolt 3 ports, a USB-C port, SD card reader and microphone/headphone combo socket. I would have liked to have seen an Ethernet port too, but alas. Dell also chose to integrate a fingerprint sensor into the power button, which handily means you can turn the XPS15 on and sign in with a single move.
The review unit came with an Intel Comet Lake i7-10750H CPU along with 16GB of DDR4 RAM. Depending on your budget, it can be had with a 10th gen i9, 64GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD.
Intel’s 10th gen silicon deserves special mention. Not only does it clock in at a blazing 5.3GHZ, but its 8 cores gain hyperthreading too, which for content creation apps, makes a noticeable difference. It’s also equipped with ‘Turbo Boost Max Technology 3.0’. Catchy branding aside, it works out which two cores are the fastest and runs them at higher frequencies without any voltage increases. It’ll also prioritise those cores for lightly threaded workloads such as gaming.
Thanks to the addition of Comet Lake silicon, the XPS15 could chew through workloads and come back asking for more. Adding to all things performance-related is the addition of an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 Ti. While it won’t run demanding games at their highest settings, it did make for smooth gaming on the go.
All told, the XPS15 strikes a good balance between performance and portability. Not only is it thin, light and quiet, but it also runs like a cut cat, not showing a single hint of sluggishness during the time I spent with it. It kept up with everything I threw at it from Photoshop to games and productivity apps while barely breaking a sweat.
Another pleasant surprise was its speakers. While most laptop speakers’ output is reminiscent of mice dancing on a revving chainsaw when cranked up, the XPS15’s speakers produced surprisingly rich and clear audio that didn’t distort at louder volumes.
Great design, solid performance and a decent spec, however, all count for nought if the battery life sucks balls. Thankfully, the addition of 10th gen Intel silicon saw its battery lasting a full day away from a wall socket after a mix of streaming video, productivity apps and some light gaming. Your mileage is likely to vary. However, the review unit had a UHD display which was more demanding of battery resources than a lower resolution screen.
The XPS15 is positioned as a high-end Windows 10 laptop sporting premium specs. This is reflected in its $4698.99 sticker price, which is comparable to a similarly specced MacBook Pro. You do get a lot for your money, and if Windows 10 is your jam, the XPS15 is one of the best 15-inch laptop options currently available.
It ticks a lot of boxes. The display is stunning, its design and build are excellent, while its spec makes it a pleasure to use. Sure, it costs, but you are getting a MacBook level of design, speed, and slickness with Windows. Based on this, the XPS15 9500 is the 15-inch Windows laptop to beat, and that’s why it earns our coveted 10 out of 10 badge.