Dell XPS 15 2-in-1: Hands-on with Dell’s new powerful, but light, laptop
Traditionally the Dell XPS 15 has been the beefier version of the XPS 13 – its ‘roided-up brother, if you will.
That’s not to say it’s ever been thick or cumbersome, though. At 14mm it’s been one of the thinnest and lightest powerful laptops you can get.
But Dell has changed the XPS 15 at CES 2018 and given it a new form and function. It’s now a proper 2-in-1 with a screen that can fold all the way back on itself to create a graphics tablet.
The hinges are solid and allow you to rotate, and keep, the screen at pretty much any angle you want. There’s also a new glass-fibre material used that Dell promises to be incredibly hard-wearing. I wasn’t able to test that, but I did find the weave soft and warm to the touch. It was a lot more comfortable to rest my palms on compared to the hard metal of the MacBook I wrote this on.
The new Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 is 16mm thick, which is 2mm thicker than its extremely svelte predecessor. That’s still fantastic for a 2-in-1 PC with a 15-inch screen. At 2kg it’s also light enough to carry without breaking your back, thanks to the aluminium and magnesium build.
Dell has packed in a brand-new maglev keyboard. Maglev is the tech that floating high-speed trains use to reduce friction and go faster. What this means for the XPS 15 2-in-1 is that the keyboard doesn’t have many moving parts that can go wrong, so it should last longer.
The maglev keyboard doesn’t have a huge amount of travel, but feels fast and accurate, and was quiet to boot.
To make the most of the Dell XPS 15’s 2-in-1 capabilities, Dell has also announced the Premium Active Pen. It comes with 4096 levels of pressure sensitivity and tilt support for more detailed drawing and shading.
The pen attaches magnetically to the side of any Dell 2-in-1 laptops and will cost $99 when it goes on sale in April 2018.
Dell XPS 15 2-in-1: An unlikely union brings more power in a smaller space
It wasn’t that long ago that you’d be thought of as barking mad for suggesting that Intel and AMD would work together, but that’s exactly what’s happened. It’s this collaboration that’s powering the Dell XPS 15 2-in-1.
Intel and AMD’s Radeon team have joined forces to create a custom chipset for Dell that offers oodles of power, without sacrificing the space a discrete GPU requires.
So the XPS 15 2-in-1 is powered by an Intel 8th Gen quad-core i5 or i7 and AMD Vega graphics brought together with high-bandwidth RAM into a single, compact package.
This allows Intel to better manage the thermal performance in a way that wouldn’t be possible if all these components were separate. It also means that this custom chipset offers high performance on a board that’s 33% smaller than it otherwise would be.
I can’t wax lyrical about this solution yet, as there was no way of stress-testing in the hands-on environment, but I can say that the XPS 15 2-in-1 was cool and silent for the whole time I spent with it.
And just like the new Dell XPS 13, the XPS 15 2-in-1 uses Gore as a thermal insulator. You might have heard of Gore-Tex clothing before. It’s a special fabric that’s water-resistant and brilliantly terrible at conducting heat, which in a PC is a good thing. It means that Dell is now able to direct all the heat exactly where it wants it, into the rear fans, and that means cool palms and cool laps.
Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 – 15 hour battery life
One area where the new Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 doesn’t quite match its predecessor, nor the new Dell XPS 13, is battery life. Dell claims it can last for up to 15 hours from a single charge, which is still excellent for a powerful laptop with a 15-inch display.
We’ll be testing the 2-in-1’s stamina in our full review.
Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 – Cinema Color, Sound and Stream
Dell believes that the trend of watching shows and movies on a PC, as opposed to a TV, is growing, and it wants to make sure that experience is the best it can possibly be.
The Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 now comes packing HDR tech. That means higher contrast for better low-light scene definition.
Related: What is HDR?
Dell Cinema Sound offers deeper bass but also better overall clarity when watching movies and shows on the XPS 15 2-in-1.
Dell Cinema Stream, on the other hand, tries to combat one of the biggest issues with watching streaming content: buffering. It basically turns off all background tasks that leech bandwidth when you’re trying to watch online. This has the potential of improving streaming performance by up to 10 times.
Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 – Release date and price
The Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 will go on sale in spring 2018, with prices starting at $1299.99. We’ve no word on UK pricing yet.
Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 – Specs
|Model Number Processor Options||8th Gen Intel® Quad CoreTM i5-8305G processor with RadeonTM RX Vega M GL graphics (6MB cache, up to 3.8GHz) / 8th Gen Intel® Quad CoreTM i7-8705G processor with RadeonTM RX Vega M GL graphics (8MB cache, up to 4.1GHz)|
|Operating System Memory||8GB-16GB Dual Channel DDR4 at 2400MHz (On Board); 32GB post RTS|
|Graphics||RadeonTM RX Vega M GL graphics with 4GB HBM2 RAM|
|Display Options||15.6-inch UltraSharp 4K Ultra HD (3200×1800) InfinityEdge touch display; 100% Adobe RGB (min) / 15.6-inch FHD (1920 x 1080) InfinityEdge touch display; 100% sRGB|
|Display Specs||400-nits, 1500:1 contrast ratio, anti-reflective 178° wide viewing angle – 89° / 89° / 89° / 89° Capacitive touchscreen – 10-finger touch support; Multi-Protocal Active Pen with Tilt Support|
|Storage Options||128GB, 256GB PCIe, 512GB PCIe, 1TB PCIe SSD|
|Speakers||Stereo speakers professionally tuned with Waves MaxxAudio® Pro; 1W x 2 = 2W total Headset jack|
|Webcam||Widescreen HD (720p) webcam with 4 array digital microphones; Windows Hello compliant infrared camera|
|Construction||CNC machined aluminum in platinum silver with carbon fiber composite palm rest in black Edge-to-edge Corning® Gorilla® Glass 4, Steel hinges wrapped in aluminum|
|Battery||75WHr battery (built-in)|