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Dell XPS 15
What's hot: Great looks and build quality, slim. Lovely full HD display.
What's not: Thermal mangement and heat issues throttle power and can stymie performance on the 2012 model, but that's been fixed with the 2014 model.
Reviewed October 2, 2012 (updated May 2014 to add latest model video review) by Lisa Gade, Editor
in Chief (twitter: @lisagade)
The Dell XPS 15 is one of the nicest looking laptops Dell has turned out in some time. Gone is the disorganized design language of the XPS 15z, replaced with a unified, if somewhat MacBook Pro-looking package that continues the Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook style. The 15.6" notebook features Intel Ivy Bridge Core i5 and i7 CPU options and switchable graphics with Intel HD 4000 and your choice of Nvidia GT630M or GT640M dedicated graphics. All XPS 15 models have an excellent 1080p WLED display covered in Gorilla glass.
The XPS 15 L521X notebook goes after the powerful thin-and-light and style segments that the HP Envy 15 and 15" MacBook Pro inhabit. It's 0.91" thick and weighs a lithe 5.79 pounds. The lid and casing are unibody aluminum, and the keyboard deck is magnesium alloy coated with a black soft touch finish. The bottom cover has a black silicon soft touch finish with a pop-open metal door that reveals the Windows product key and serial number (just like the Dell XPS 13 and Dell XPS 14). There's no arguing: this is an attractive machine.
Specs at a Glance
Our unit has the quad core 2.1GHz Intel Core i7-3612QM, 8 gigs of DDR3 1600MHz RAM, a 750 gig 7200 RPM HDD, 32 gig SSD drive and Nvidia GT640M graphics with 2 gigs of DDR5 VRAM (Kepler). Ours has a Blu-ray drive, and you order it with a DVDRW if you prefer. Our config lists for $1,699, so this isn't a cheap machine. The base model starts at $1,299 with a Core i5-3210M, 6 gigs of RAM and a 500 gig HDD plus 32 gig SSD. Other goodies include a very good chiclet style backlit keyboard, 1.3MP webcam, dual band Intel WiFi with WiDi, Bluetooth 4.0 and a 9 cell battery that's sealed inside.
Hot Under the Collar
Is this a well-built machine that's put together as tightly as the MacBook Pro? Yes. Is it a performance champ? Yes and no. Thermal issues have plagued the XPS 15 since its launch this summer. The machine doesn't get hot to the touch, but the CPU and GPU inside run fairly hot. Dell has issued several BIOS updates to tune CPU and GPU throttling, and our machine with the latest A09 BIOS, throttles the dedicated GPU significantly. That means gaming is problematic with today's demanding 3D titles. After 5 minutes of game play in Crysis 2 and Batman Arkham City, our frame rates dropped from the mid-30's to an unplayable 12 fps. So the Dell XPS 15 is a performance powerhouse for tasks other than gaming.