The XPS has the best screen on the market, powerful hardware suitable for nearly any task, good thermals, is upgradeable, and future-proofed by the inclusion of a Thunderbolt 3 port.
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The Broadcom WLAN card is currently a broken mess, there are occasional issues like BSODs or disappearing wireless cards that hurt reliability, the battery life only just reaches “acceptable” levels with a 6-cell battery, and it’s expensive.
Original article: Ever since the XPS 13 with its “Infinity Edge” nearly bezelless display came out (and added the word bezelless to the lexicon), it has been topping most websites’ “best ultrabook” lists. Despite a rocky launch owing to quite a few BIOS, drivers, and hardware issues, the XPS 13 seems to have finally been sorted out by Dell and is now enjoying its reigning position as the Windows ultrabook to get for professionals who prize portability.
Dell’s XPS 15 series is a newer, bigger and badder version of the XPS 13, with a 15.6-inch display. The XPS 15 9550 (the most current model at the time of this post) takes advantage of its larger size with Skylake quad-core CPUs and a dedicated 2GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 960M graphics and just as Dell touted cramming a 13.3-inch display into a 12-inch chassis, the XPS 15 boasts the footprint of most 14-inch notebooks, while packing a larger display.
Unfortunately, the XPS 15 also mimicked—and outdid—its little brother in terms of a buggy and rocky release: Notebookcheck.net had to dedicate extra reviews and tests just for various BIOS updates to see if they fixed the crippling problems they found in their earlier models. At the time of writing (March 2016), NotebookReview also has a 62-page thread dedicated to establishing common problems (and possible solutions) endemic to the XPS 15.
With those in mind, this review will serve as up-to-date look at the current state of the newest iteration of the XPS 15, the 9550 and those of you looking to buy one of these computers past these dates will surely find it helpful. While most major bugs have been worked out as of the latest BIOS update and drivers, there are still quite a few software/driver/firmware wrinkles remaining which prevent this excellent laptop from getting the highest honors and my unqualified recommendation, and you’ll find all about it from this post.
Update 1: As of March 23rd, 2016, Dell has released an update for the WiFi driver here. This update seems to fix many of the WiFi-related problems that plagued my experience with the laptop earlier. In its current state, I have few remaining issues with the XPS 15 and would increase the rating to 4/5.
Update 2: The new BIOS update (1.2.0) has introduced bugs with TB3 docks with USB/Ethernet ports on them, causing them to disconnect during use and after waking from sleep.
Update 3: A follow-up of this laptop is available, with Kaby Lake processors, Nvidia 10 series graphics, a larger battery and a few other improvements. You can read all about it in this detailed review of the XPS 9560 model.
Specs as reviewed
Standouts from the specs sheet include the Thunderbolt 3 (via USB C) interface, the Nvidia GeForce GTX 960M graphics, the NVMe storage and the quad-core CPUs (i5/i7), which make this system a prime candidate for an eGPU system such as the Razer Core once they are available.
Design and exterior
Made from aluminum and carbon fiber and measuring 17mm at its thickest point at the rear (aren’t we all?) to a 11mm taper at the front, the XPS 15 is durable and relatively lightweight for its class.
The silver anodized aluminum shell is precisely machined and it blends seamlessly into the dark-grey carbon fiber which it sandwiches. The carbon fiber is covered in Dell’s soft-touch coating, which feels very comfortable to the touch and is also nice respite for your palms while typing compared to the sharp aluminum or plastic palm-rests of other notebooks. The only downside of this coating is that it smudges easily from the oils on your hands, and you’ll need a microfiber cloth to keep it clean.
The XPS 15 is beautiful, fast and packs a great display, but the multitude of bugs and issues make it a far from ideal pick, at least for the time being
With time, I hope the drivers, firmware, and BIOS matures and these problems will be cleared up. If/once that happens and the XPS 15 becomes rock-solid, it would be a near perfect laptop deserving a very high rating. In its current state though, it’s still only deserving a qualified recommendation: I love my XPS 15 and I’m going to replace my Razer Blade with it as a my daily driver due to its power, portability, screen, and the future-proofing offered by the TB3. However, it’s still buggy, and if your computer BSODing or dropping a call can cost you your job or business deal, this is not the laptop to count on—at least not yet.
That’s about it for now. Let me know what you think about the XPS 15 or if you have any questions that I might be able to help you with in the comments section below.
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