The XPS 15 is still noisy, hot, and performs admirably.
It isn’t as powerful or efficient as the MacBook Pro 16-inch model. However, when it comes to a combination of power, build quality, and mobility, the Dell XPS 15 is the closest Windows-running competitor I’ve found. For its size, it’s really thin and light. It has the greatest keyboard and touchpad in the industry. Its OLED display is a sight to behold.
You’re best off going elsewhere if you’re seeking for a Windows PC that can last all day. The XPS 15 is a no-brainer if you’re searching for a large-screen laptop that’s tiny, elegant, and less expensive than the most powerful computers on the market.
The most crucial thing to keep in mind if you’re contemplating this laptop is that it lacks the most powerful hardware available in a 15-inch laptop. The laptop I received has a Core i7-11800H processor, 512GB of storage, 16GB of RAM, and an Nvidia RTX 3050 Ti GPU, and is presently offered for $1,999.99 on Dell’s website. (A 16-inch MacBook Pro with comparable RAM and storage costs $2,499, for example.) There’s a Core i9 option, but I’m wary about it for reasons you’ll see shortly.
However, after using this device, it’s evident to me that these are the most powerful components Dell has been able to fit into this 4.3-pound chassis. Of course, they’re powerful enough to handle any productivity task you throw at them. The fan, on the other hand, was having a hard time dealing with them. I wish Dell could work out its cooling issues sooner rather than later, because a better chip and GPU in this thing could make it absolutely outstanding.
- 16:10 OLED touchscreen with great keyboard and touchpad
- Exceptional XPS construction
- Loud and sweltering
- Battery life is poor
- Not everyone will be able to use ports. Noisy webcam
When I test a laptop, even one that is rather small, I often witness a temperature surge above 90 degrees (Celsius) while running high loads. Larger laptops with good cooling (like Asus’ ROG Zephyrus G15) can keep their CPUs below 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Recent MacBooks seldom, if ever, turn on their fans.
THE CPU WAS ALWAYS IN THE 99-100 DEGREE RANGE.
This XPS 15 device, on the other hand, was truly exceptional. The CPU temperature was consistently around 99-100 degrees during my numerous tests. It wasn’t just a case of temperature fluctuations; it was extremely hot. This appears to have had an effect on its performance. Between the 10-minute and 30-minute loops of the test, I noticed a drop in Cinebench R23 results, indicating that the XPS was slowing down the chip’s performance as it heated up. As you can see in the table below, the unit’s scores were fine overall, but they were a long way from the top of the market.
The audience didn’t hold back either. During the majority of my exams, they were roaring the entire time. For the length of our 4K video export test (which took 3:57 – a good but not outstanding time), the XPS could be heard from across the room.
Outside of benchmark testing, I wasn’t always hearing the fans while running my considerably lesser load of Chrome tabs, applications, and streaming with occasional Zoom calls on top. But I did occasionally hear them, and more concerningly, I did feel a lot of heat. The keyboard keys never became too hot to use while I was working, although they did get near, and the bottom of the chassis was frequently warm on my lap. Neither of these facts suggests that you shouldn’t buy the laptop; rather, it appears that this chassis has reached its cooling capacity.
BENCHMARKS FOR THE DELL XPS 15
|Cinebench R23 Multi||9089|
|Cinebench R23 Single||1439|
|Cinebench R23 Multi looped for 30 minutes||8911|
|Geekbench 5.3 CPU Multi||7883|
|Geekbench 5.3 CPU Single||1539|
|Geekbench 5.3 OpenCL / Compute||58763|
|Puget Systems Benchmark for Premiere Pro||659|
And, of course, even these mid-range CPUs have one significant drawback: battery life. Even with the GPU off, this XPS has a fraction of the battery life of a MacBook Pro. (The high-resolution screen, I’m sure, isn’t helping.) With the screen at medium brightness with intermittent downloads, file copying, and other such chores running, I was only averaging three hours and 46 minutes of continuous work.
THE LIFESPAN OF THIS XPS IS A FRACTION OF THAT OF A MACBOOK PRO
As I’m sure others will point out in the comments, the battery life isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker for this type of laptop. Dell didn’t make any bold battery claims, and the XPS 15’s 86 Whr battery isn’t exceptionally large. Still, a $1,999 computer dying so fast is a tough pill to swallow, especially since portability (i.e., the ability to take it away from your desk) is meant to be one of its main selling points. It looks that the XPS’s slimline dimensions are imposing a hard limit on its performance yet again.
The good news is that those are pretty much my only criticisms of this laptop. The rest of it is excellent if you’re aware that you’re making those tradeoffs.
DELL XPS 15 AGREE TO CONTINUE (2021)
Before you can use a smart device, you must agree to a set of terms and conditions — contracts that no one actually reads. We won’t be able to read and examine each and every one of these agreements. But, because these are agreements that most people don’t read and can’t negotiate, we started counting how many times you have to touch “accept” to use gadgets when we reviewed them.
To use the Dell XPS 15 (2021), you must agree to the following terms:
- A request for your geographic area
- I’d like to see your keyboard layout.
- Dell Terms of Sale / License Agreement and Windows 10 License Agreement
- PIN for Microsoft account
You can also choose to answer yes or no to the following questions:
- Face and fingerprint identification through Wi-Fi Windows Hello
- Settings for personal privacy (speech recognition, location, Find My Device, sharing diagnostic data, inking and typing, tailored experience, advertising ID)
- Tell Microsoft how you intend to use your device to get personalized recommendations (you can choose between gaming, schoolwork, creative, entertainment, family, and business)
- Connect an Android phone to the computer
- Backing up to OneDrive
- Office 365 is a cloud-based version of Microsoft Office
- Allow Microsoft to gather data such as contacts, voice input, speech and handwriting patterns, typing history, search history, calendar details, content and communication history, messages, and apps.
- Sign up for a McAfee security subscription through Dell Support and Protection.
To use the Dell XPS 15, you must agree to six mandatory agreements and 16 optional agreements (2021).
It’s a good piece of software. It has Dell’s intriguing Mobile Connect feature, which allows you to connect your device to a smartphone and effortlessly transfer files, mirror screens, and other features between them. For sign-in, both the fingerprint reader and the Windows Hello camera function perfectly. And my computer didn’t come with McAfee or any other rubbish pre-installed.
In terms of hardware, not much has changed since the XPS 15’s last major redesign a few years ago, which we discussed in detail in our review. The construction is beautiful, strong, and as high-end as it gets. The 16:10 display is stunning, and it also comes with an OLED option, which is a big plus for those who want a lot of contrast. The 2.25mm infrared HD webcam is still little, not fantastic, and far from perfect. (However, other laptops are starting to ship with surprisingly good webcams, so Dell should improve this for the next model.)
While the port selection is restricted (two Thunderbolt 4 USB-C ports, one USB 3.2 Type-C, a headphone jack, an SD reader, and a lock slot), it should suffice for most users, and Dell includes USB-A and HDMI adapters. The microphones and speakers are also excellent. Despite its power restrictions, I always end up utilizing the XPS 15 after hours since I can’t bear going back to my personal laptop. It’s a work of art.
That’s why the battery life is such a disappointment. People who buy an XPS 15 know what they’re getting — it’s been a hot, loud, and not-super-long-lasting machine that’s outstanding in every other regard for years. However, competing businesses are swiftly advancing in this size and price range, and while the XPS’ chassis and screen continue to lead the market, the battery life leaves a bad taste in my mouth with each passing year.
THE XPS 15 CONTINUES TO PROVIDE A UNIQUE PACKAGE
The fact that there aren’t many 15-inch laptops with this form size and price point that offer superior performance and battery life is its saving grace. The MacBook Pro 16 does, but it’s more expensive (and, of course, doesn’t run Windows). Other 15-inch productivity laptops exist, but the XPS’s premium build quality is difficult to match. You could go with a well-built gaming laptop like the Asus ROG Zephyrus G15, but it won’t appeal to many folks looking for an XPS-like computer.
The XPS 15 is still very unusual in terms of what it offers, so it’ll continue to be my pick for some people looking for a premium 15-incher with excellent peripherals and a remarkable screen. However, I believe it might be a wonderful device if Dell could find out how to cool more powerful chips (or put a freaking AMD chip in this thing).
DELL XPS 15 (2021)
About this item
- 62% larger touchpad, 5% larger screen, and 5.6% smaller footprint
- 16:10 FHD+ edge to edge display equipped with DisplayHDR 400 and Dolby Vision
- Integrated Eyesafe display technology
- Quad speaker design with Waves Nx audio
- High-polished diamond-cut sidewalls
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