The Dell XPS 15 2018 has shown up to put would be usurpers to its dominion over ‘prosumer’ laptops in their place. This new model is far more powerful than past Dell XPS 15 laptops, and even features longer battery life.
The Dell XPS 15 2018 does look a lot like the 2017 model. And, that does mean that the awkward camera placement and poor audio performance have been inherited by the new Dell XPS 15.
But, when it comes to value, the Dell XPS 15 sits comfortably at the top of the pile, especially with 4K media work, which earns it the Great Value award on top of a higher score. Here’s how, despite another flawed webcam placement, the Dell XPS 15 is still one of the best Ultrabooks around.
Price and availability
As configured to the right, you’ll pay a cool $2,099 (£1,869, AU$2,999) for the 2018 Dell XPS 15 with all of the power that a mainstream user needs. You can take the configuration even higher, with an Intel Core i9 processor, 32GB of memory and a 2TB SSD for a whopping $3,299 (£2,939, AU$4.499).
You don’t have to pay much for the Dell XPS 15. Starting at just $999 at the time of writing, you’ll get an Intel Core i5 CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 1TB HDD behind a 1080p display. The initial price changes a bit for the UK, with a 256GB SSD and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 for £1,319. In Australia, you get the same setup as the UK, but with a different GPU for AU$1,899.
This puts the Dell XPS 15 somewhere between the luxury of the MacBook Pro and the value that Windows 10 laptops are known for. It’s an affordable Ultrabook that has a fingerprint sensor in its power button for biometric login via Windows Hello.
While the 15-inch MacBook Pro delivers a similar spec to what you see here, it does so at $2,399 (£2,349, AU$3,499) to start. This gets you the exact same processor, AMD Radeon Pro 555X graphics with 4GB of VRAM, 16GB of slower RAM and half the SSD storage space. This is all behind a display that, while a Retina panel, isn’t as sharp as the XPS 15 4K option. To match the Dell XPS 15 on all fronts, including storage, the MacBook Pro calls for $2,599 (£2,529, AU$3,819).
The Asus ZenBook Pro 15 hits the same audience as both the MacBook Pro and the Dell XPS 15, and does so for far less cash, starting out at $1,799 (£1,370, AU$2,500). This price nets you a 4K touch screen on top of a secondary touchscreen in the touchpad plus 512GB of SSD storage and 16GB of RAM with the same CPU and GPU as the Dell XPS 15.
Year over year, not much at all about the XPS 15 design identity has changed. The product still comes wrapped in an aluminum unibody shell with a carbon fiber keyboard deck, connected by a single, sturdy hinge.
The Dell XPS 15’s premium laptop design stands apart partially through the ports that the greater dimensions allow for while other trudge on into that USB-C dongle life. The Dell XPS 15 features a full size SD card slot, HDMI and USB 3.1 where the MacBook Pro only has four Thunderbolt 3 ports.
That said, the design doesn’t leave room for a number pad on its keyboard, but neither do either of the XPS 15’s listed competitors. Otherwise, the keyboard is expectedly punchy and well-spaced – just like we’ve observed on the award-winning Dell XPS 13. However, the travel is a little more shallow than we’d like on a 15-inch laptop.
The touchpad feels just fine, with its matte glass tracking surface, and produces a satisfying click when pressed. Navigating the Windows 10 interface on the XPS 15 is easy between the accurate touchpad and responsive touchscreen.
Display and audio
And, what a touchscreen it is. Our review unit came in the optional 4K UHD (3,840 x 2,160) resolution, which makes colors and textures in films and photos simply pop. Of course, this also means that the XPS 15 is more than ready to power editing of 4K media content.
While the MacBook Pro and Asus laptop can certainly power the same kind of work (and play) via a connected 4K display, the XPS 15 can handle it wherever and whenever – no additional screen needed. Better yet, the display meets 100% of the Adobe RGB color gamut.
Unfortunately, the ‘chin-cam’ returns with the Dell XPS 15: the webcam is positioned beneath the screen to make way for its mega-thin left, right and top bezels. The resolution is june fine, but the placement is just no good, and could be a deal-breaker for some.
The speakers are equally placed in a poor position considering a laptop of this size: on the base toward the lip, facing downward. They’re also awfully small given the laptop’s dimensions, though they’re surprisingly powerful. The end product may be audio lacking in depth compared to your TV or headphones, but at least it’s loud.
You should come into a Dell XPS 15 purchase, honestly no matter the model, and rightly expect powerful performance. Naturally, the XPS 15 for 2018 doesn’t disappoint, putting up numbers arguably worthy of its price tag for less than the MacBook Pro and on par with competing 15-inch Windows laptops.
As you can see by the benchmarks, you can expect reliable, strong performance out of the XPS 15 in both general and intense tasks, from gaming to video rendering and everything in between. The Intel Core i7 processor inside this laptop even gives the Core i9 chip within the MacBook Pro we’ve reviewed a run for its money.
The XPS 15 is designed to deliver a complete experience, and it largely succeeds there with power enough for all sorts of tasks in a package that’s pleasant to look at and handle.
Just don’t expect to play the latest and best PC games on the Dell XPS 15, especially not at 4K. At most, you’ll be able to play at 1080p resolution and middling settings to produce a smooth, playable experience.
The Dell XPS 15 is your 4K media editing powerhouse – not your 4K gaming laptop. For that … wait for Nvidia RTX to make it onto laptops.
While it’s not quite at the level of the MacBook Pro 2018, the Dell XPS 15 battery is considerably better than the 2017 XPS 15. In both the PCMark 8 battery test and our own video run-down test, this laptop improved by nearly an hour of lasting time.
At just 4 hours and 11 minutes of general use, the XPS 15 won’t last you all day, and Dell itself promises up to 21 and a half hours. We applaud Dell for this increased performance, but we’re going to need to see even better numbers next year – if the manufacturer wants the Dell XPS 15 to remain relevant when it comes to battery life.
If you want a long-lasting 15-inch laptop, then the latest MacBook Pro is your answer with nearly 10 hours of life in it. However, you’ll be missing out on core features that Dell brings to the table for less.
Software and features
Despite the high price of this machine, Dell still manages to bundle the XPS 15 with software packages that likely subsidize the cost of producing it. Namely, the Dell XPS 15 2018 includes McAfee anti-virus software as well as Adobe Photoshop Elements.
Dell has also included its very own software, too, namely with a firmware updater tool for drivers and other downloads that Dell releases before they make it to Windows Update. But this package also includes Dell Mobile Connect, which allows for control of your Android phone or iPhone while either is connected to the laptop. It’s not likely to blow your mind, but it is a convenient alternative to not having any such features on your laptop.
Finally, the fingerprint sensor on this laptop is worth calling out, especially for its highly stealthy application on the power button. The sensor is easily set up and works without issue. We’re also glad that Dell hadn’t focused on the webcam for biometric login.
The Dell XPS 15 for 2018 improves upon the previous model in every way – at least on the inside. This version is not only more powerful, but it’s longer lasting than before. For most laptop buyers, this would be enough for them to hear or see before buying.
However, not only do we hold Dell to a higher standard, but there are some flaws about the system that need to be addressed, namely the webcam placement and audio performance. Neither are deal breakers, but they do keep this laptop from a better score.
For those working in media creation or another related industry, the Dell XPS 15 proves to be an excellent value for not only what it includes, but what it can endure, compared to its competition. Just be sure you’re OK with its minor flaws before pressing that ‘buy’ button.