If you have wanted a fine Windows PC experience, the Dell XPS range of laptops has been the easiest recommendation since an eternity. Whether you pick up a 13-inch or 15-inch variant, the XPS laptops do not compromise on performance and form factor -a rarity in the world of Windows laptops. The XPS 15, which is the bigger version, got an upgrade earlier this year with the latest Intel processors and I was eager to try it out.
I eventually got my hands on the high-end version, courtesy of Dell. The XPS 15 9500 came to my desk as my main workstation for just over two weeks, equipped with the Intel Core i7-10750H CPU and a luxurious 4K display. This particular variant costs Rs 2,18,495, which restricts this laptop for the well-heeled roaming around in business suits. Or, for the fancy content creators in glorious studios.
While I don’t belong to either of these classes, I set it up as my main work laptop and after two weeks, I am having shard time parting with the XPS 15 9500.
Build & design
The XPS is one of the very few Windows laptops that compares to Apple’s MacBook lineup when it comes to sleekness and desirability. The XPS 15 is a bug 15-inch laptop and yet, it is so slim that it starts bothering the MacBook Pro with its looks. Well, it isn’t exactly wafer-thin as the design cleverly masks the bulk with its chrome-lined flat edges. The underside curves to house the internal components, imparting a sort of a floating effect. The presence of just three USB-C ports, a 3.5mm headphone jack, and an SD card slot helps the XPS with its lean-&-trim design.
Similar to previous XPS models, the XPS 15 has a metallic lid and chassis made of aluminum. The lid with its matte silver finish is good at hiding dust as well as smudges, which makes life easier in a dusty country like ours. Open the lid and you will be greeted with a stunning carbon-fiber deck that’s coated with a soft-touch finish. Every morning as I sat down during these monotonous WFH sessions, the carbon fiber finish cheered me up a little.
What cheered me up, even more, was the display. The XPS 15 9500 in 2020 comes with a 15.6-inch 4K display with an HDR 400 rating, 100 percent Adobe RGB spectrum, and 94 percent DCI-P3 color gamut. The aspect ratio is set at 16:10 and there’s touchscreen input. The bezels are unbelievably slim, especially at the bottom and all the other sides. There’s support for auto-brightness functionality and you get a rather average webcam positioned on the top.
I loved working on this display and I loved playing on it even more. The colors literally pop-out and make the usually dull Windows 10 interface seem lively. The 4K resolution looks greatly sharp but I guess it is overkill. Whether I was catching up on my binge sessions of The Office, or watching the Apple events, the XPS 15’s display made everything look gorgeous. The touch response was good and I found it helpful during increased workloads. If you are a content creator and you cannot compromise with colors, the Dell XPS 15 with the 4K display is the laptop you should choose.
Complimenting the display is a pair of speakers that are placed on either side of the keyboard. These are good speakers – great if you compare it to what most other laptops have to offer. Not only is the volume loud, but the audio also sounds rich with distinguishable bass, strong mids, and decent highs. Whether playing games or watching movies, I did not found myself reaching for headphones or wireless speakers.
Helping with the workflow was the massive and responsive trackpad as well as the comfortable QWERTY keyboard. The large size of the trackpad makes scrolling through windows easier. The keyboard itself is comfortable to type long documents but I have seen better keyboards with more feedback and key travel on Lenovo’s similarly-priced ThinkPad laptops. For most generic use cases, the keyboard will do just fine.
The port selection is limited on the XPS 15 9500. There are three USB-C ports and these are the only ways to connect other devices or storage media. I found a USB-C dongle that extends a USB-A and an HDMI port for users (helpful for people who use a mouse). What’s helpful though is the ability to charge the battery via any of these three USB-C ports.
For biometric verification, the XPS 15 comes with a capacitive fingerprint scanner on the power button. It unlocks fast, although I found myself relying on the more reliable IR face scanner system. I open the lid, the laptop scans my face, and I am on the desktop in less than 5 seconds.
Powering the Dell XPS 15 9500 is a 10th Gen Intel Core i7-10750H CPU that’s paired to 32GB DDR4 RAM as well as a 1TB M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD storage. This variant came with the NVIDIA GTX 1650 Ti graphics card with 4GB of VRAM. The laptop runs on Windows 10 Home out of the box.
In my daily usage, the XPS 15 9500 had no trouble dealing with the office workloads. Basic PC stuff such as writing documents, dealing with eight Google Chrome tabs simultaneously, streaming music in the background, as well as transferring big files from thumb drives did not bother this laptop at all during my time with it. This was despite the resolution set to 4K for all the tasks.
If you are into benchmarks, here are some scores to keep your nerdy part happy. The XPS 15 9500 scores 4,870 on PCMark while on CineBench R15, it managed a score of 1,589. In 3DMark’s Skydiver test, the XPS nabbed a score of 20,390 while the FireStrike test only got the laptop a score of 8,890.
Since the scores were good enough, I tried some gaming on the XPS 15 9500 and the results were mixed. Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, which is a current title, could only amass 30 fps at maximum on an average with medium to low graphics at 720p resolution. F1 2020 could do its best of 40 fps on an average in medium graphics. I also noticed the palm rest areas heat up quite a lot but HWInfo showed a constant temperature of 95 degrees Celsius under extreme gaming loads. The experience is far from good but then, the XPS 15 isn’t a gaming laptop. The NVIDIA GTX 1650Ti is an older card and I wish Dell used a more capable RTX series card to offer better graphical performance.
I used Photoshop 7.0 on this laptop and while editing 4K photos, the laptop did not struggle. Sadly, I don’t edit videos and hence, I cannot tell you if you should consider this for video editing purposes.
The overall fast performance and the high-res 4K display do take a toll on the battery life. Dell claims up to 8 hours of life while streaming Netflix. In reality, my workflow saw the XPS 15 9500 die at the 5.5-hour mark at best. Do note that I kept the laptop connected to my Wi-Fi network, streamed songs via the laptop speaker, and used mice to get my work done. The Full HD version could get better battery life but I expect at best two hours more life on a single charge. Charging up the battery does not take a lot of time. I saw the battery fill up from 46 percent to 100 in around an hour.
Conclusion: Is the Dell XPS 15 9500 worth it?
The Dell XPS 15 9500 is one of the finest Windows laptops you can have on your desk today. The previous versions set a benchmark for premium ultrabooks and the updated XPS 15 9500 simply extends it to another level. It is built exclusively well, has a superb display (if you opt for the 4K display), performs adequately, and has decent battery life. For content creators, you will like the audio-display package of the XPS 15. That said, I would have liked Dell to offer a better GPU.
At this price, the Dell XPS 15 competes with the likes of the 16-inch MacBook Pro and HP Spectre x360 15. The MacBook Pro draws with its macOS ecosystem apps (Final Cut Pro X) but for everything else, I think it is the Dell XPS 15 9500 that does things better with its 4K display, 32GB memory, and a hot design. If you are blessed with a budget of Rs 2,18,000, go ahead and get this XPS.