Most people who buy a laptop these days will do very well with a thin and light 13 or 14 inch PC like the Dell XPS 13 or Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Carbon. These laptops have reasonably powerful processors and integrated graphics that are good enough for an external monitor or two, but they favor a slim profile and light weight over performance.
Still, sometimes you need something bigger and more powerful, whether it’s because you want a bigger screen to use away from your desk, or you need additional processor cores or graphics power for it. edit videos or play games. And if you want those things in a laptop that doesn’t totally neglect size and weight – and if you prefer or need Windows over macOS – then you buy something like the XPS 15.
The latest XPS 15 (officially, model number 9510) is yet another iterative improvement for a laptop that has always looked and felt like a larger version of the XPS 13. But the six- or eight-core Intel Tiger Lake processors and a new one Nvidia GeForce RTX GPUs with ray tracing capabilities make this version of the XPS 15 particularly appealing to professionals and lightweight gamers, albeit updated rivals like Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Extreme Gen 4 (and, when will finally be released, an updated version of the 16-inch MacBook Pro with Apple Silicon) gets its money’s worth.
Look, feel, display and ports
|Features at a Glance: Dell XPS 15 9510|
|Filter||15.6 inch 1920 × 1200 IPS non-touch||15.6 inch 3840 × 2400 IPS touch screen||15.6-inch 3456 × 2160 OLED touchscreen|
|YOUR||Windows 10 Home, 64-bit|
|CPU||Intel Core i5-11400H||Intel Core i9-11900H||Intel Core i7-11800H|
|RAM||8 Go DDR4 (2 DIMM)||64GG DDR4 (2 DIMM)||16 Go DDR4 (2 DIMM)|
|Hard disk||256 SSD NVMe||Disques SSD NVMe 8 To (2x 4 To)||SSD NVMe 512 Go|
|GPU||Intel UHD Graphics||Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti (4 Go, 45 W)|
|Networking||Wi-Fi 6 (2×2), Bluetooth 5.1|
|Ports||2x Thunderbolt 4, 1x USB-C 3.2 gen 2, SD card reader|
|Cut||13.57 × 9.06 × 0.17 inch (344.7 × 230.1 × 18.0mm)|
|Weight||3.99 lbs (1.81 kg)||4.42 lbs (2.01 kg)||4.31 lbs (1.96 kg)|
|Price (MSRP)||1 300 $||4 800 $||2 450 $|
|Other advantages||Fingerprint sensor, white or black finish|
The design of the XPS 15 hasn’t changed much since 2016, when Dell took the new slim bezel design of the XPS 13 and blew it up. And like the XPS 13, the changes over the years have been gradual but significant. The webcam below the screen, up to the nose, has migrated to the correct position above the screen. The laptop got slightly thinner and lighter, the trackpad got even bigger, and (with the exception of an SD card reader and headphone jack) the laptop now uses ports exclusively. Thunderbolt and USB-C, like the MacBook Pro. The two ports on the left side of the laptop are Thunderbolt 4, while the one on the right side is USB-C. use any Thunderbolt accessory with the fastest ports.
The biggest difference in recent years is the introduction of a new 16:10 aspect ratio for the screen, cutting off the lower ‘chin’ bezel and filling that screen area instead. It’s not as tall as the 3: 2 displays that Microsoft uses across the Surface lineup, but if you’re using an older laptop, going from 16: 9 to 16:10 is a deceptive upgrade from the usable screen space. More symmetrical glasses just as well see better. There is no sense of wasted space.
We tested the “3.5K” OLED version of the screen, which sits between the low-end 1920 × 1200 IPS panel and a high-end 3840 × 2400 IPS screen. The difference between “real” 4K and this display’s bizarre 3456 × 2160 resolution is unlikely to be visible to the naked eye. The display’s ability to completely turn off individual pixels allows you to achieve beautiful deep blacks and an essentially infinite contrast ratio.
But the ready-made color looks a bit too much vivid and oversaturated, and the peak brightness drops to 400 nits from the 500 nits of the two IPS panels. (I measured a peak brightness of 385 nits on our review unit with an i1 DisplayStudio Colorimeter.) You may notice a slight “grain” on the screen when you look at the monitor closely, especially when you look at solid colors. This is a side effect of the subpixel arrangement of some OLED displays. This isn’t a problem for most uses, but it’s something you might want to avoid for photo editing or high-end graphic design, despite having 100% coverage of the sRGB color gamut. and 98.7% coverage of the DCI-P3 gamut (again, measured with the i1 DisplayStudio colorimeter).
I tested the white XPS 15, which aside from the color is different from the black and silver model in a few small functional respects. The laptop palm rest, which is covered in a soft-touch texture in the black version, is harder and more plastic under my wrists. And a white backlight with white accents will now and forever look muddy and indistinct in everything but a dark room. The keys are perfectly readable in a dimly lit room with the keyboard backlight off, so I found myself keeping it off most of the time.
The white version of the XPS 15 limits your choice of components – the cheapest and most expensive configuration options are only available in black. On Dell’s site, choosing the white version of the laptop automatically upgrades you to a Core i7 processor, 16GB or more RAM, 512GB or more SSD, and dedicated graphics instead of being built-in (although these are mostly upgrades that we recommend for this kind of laptop anyway).
White version’s backlight issues aside, the XPS 15’s keyboard is a pleasure to use. Like Apple’s post-butterfly MacBook keyboards, the keys are firm but offer a reasonably comfortable amount of travel, and I’m not complaining about the key spacing or layout. I still have a slight preference for ThinkPad keyboards, which feel a bit softer and have better travel, but most people will be able to get comfortable with either. Dell also followed Apple’s lead by including an almost comically large one-piece glass trackpad in the XPS 15. I was nervous to rest my wrists directly on it, but didn’t notice any major issues with the rejection of the palm. Like all trackpads that meet Microsoft’s Precision Touchpad specifications, finger tracking and multi-touch gestures are also reliable and precise. There’s not much to report about the power button-mounted Windows Hello fingerprint sensor either: it’s there and it works (Dell doesn’t offer a face-scanning infrared camera like the ones in most Microsoft Surface models and a few other PCs, but that’s not a compromise).
The XPS 15’s webcam and speakers are both serviceable but nothing to write home about. The webcam does a decent job with the white balance and exposure, but the details look blurry and blurry. The speakers have good stereo separation and the voice calls will be loud and clear, but the bass is underwhelming in the same way that laptop speakers usually are. It was true no matter how much I changed the “MaxxBass” setting in the laptop’s audio control panel. On the contrary, rather than improving the bass, I found that boosting the bass too much made everything else worse.