Dell XPS 15 review (2020): The ideal 15-inch laptop for creatives
The laptop’s 15.6-inch screen is 5 percent larger than before and has a taller 16×10 aspect ratio. That gives the XPS 15 a bit more breathing room for juggling multiple windows and scrolling through large documents. Larger aspect ratios, like the 3×2 screens that Microsoft’s Surface notebooks feature, are simply better for getting work done. These days, I have a hard time using 16×9 laptop screens for anything more than Netflix binges — they’re just too cramped to be genuinely productive.
I’d wager you won’t feel so bad about losing ports when you see just how fast the XPS 15 is. Our review unit featured Intel’s eight-core i7-10875H CPU, NVIDIA’s GTX 1650 Ti, 16GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD. You can configure it all the way up to the super-speedy Core i9 with 64GB of RAM. It easily trounced the Surface Book 3 in the PCMark 10 benchmark, especially when it came to multi-core testing (though the Surface’s faster GPU gave it a leg up in 3DMark). And it kept up with the ASUS Zephyrus G14 and the Intel NUC 9 Extreme, some of the fastest PCs we’ve seen this year.
The true test for a machine like this is real-world work, and it didn’t have any trouble there either. The XPS 15 converted a one-minute 4K video clip into 1080p in 43 seconds with its CPU and 33 seconds with the NVIDIA GPU, which is on par with the powerful NUC 9 Extreme. Needless to say, it didn’t have any trouble with my usual workflow, which involves juggling dozens of browser tabs, Slack, Evernote, Spotify and Audacity recordings. And while this isn’t a machine you’d really get to play games, the GTX 1650 Ti is more than enough to play most modern titles like Overwatch in 1080p.
To get that performance, though, You’d have to go beyond the $1,300 base model, which only comes with 8GB of RAM and integrated graphics. We’d recommend jumping up to the $1,850 configuration for twice as much RAM, a six-core i7 processor and that NVIDIA GPU. That’s a huge price jump, I know, but it’ll make the XPS 15 last you a lot longer. Even then, it’s still less than the MacBook Pro 16-inch, which starts at $2,400 but is admittedly more powerful. That XPS 15 configuration is also much cheaper than an upgraded Surface Book 3, which also has a lesser quad-core CPU.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the XPS 15 is in many ways the ideal workhorse PC — assuming you can live without legacy ports, and you don’t need the graphics rendering power from more advanced GPUs. It’s tough to find an ultraportable 15-inch that’s this polished from top to bottom. If you’re a photo or video editor or just someone who demands a bit more power than what you’d get from smaller ultraportables, you’ll find a lot to love with the XPS 15’s glorious big screen.
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