Dell XPS 15 review:

A big screen that stands out in a crowd

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4 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good An eye-catching 15-inch 4K display in a nearly bezel-free frame, plus high-end processor and graphics options, all in a slim, professional-looking body.

The Bad The better configurations can cost a lot, while the keyboard could be bigger and the touchpad has a floaty feel.

The Bottom Line The Dell XPS 15 is a premium-feeling 4K laptop that outdoes the MacBook Pro in several categories. Its bezel-free design should be the gold standard going forward.

8.5 Overall
  • Design 9.0
  • Features 9.0
  • Performance 8.0
  • Battery 6.0

Consider the bezel. That humble landing strip of plastic or metal that frames the screen in almost every high-tech device. Televisions have largely done away with the the wide bezels of old, at least in mid-price and better sets, extending the screen nearly all the way to the very edge for a seamless, floating look. Phones are getting closer as well, especially in forward-looking devices such as Samsung's Galaxy Edge line.

But laptops have lagged behind in shaving down the frame around the display, making mobile PCs look downright clunky compared to other electronic gadgets. Apple's MacBook Pro is a step in the right direction, with edge-to-edge glass over a reasonably thin black bezel, but the still popular MacBook Air is a poster child for overly wide screen bezels, a look that has not changed in several years.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

That's why the Dell XPS 13 was such a breath of fresh air when first introduced in early 2015. That slim 13-inch laptop took its high-resolution display nearly all the way to the system edge. That eye-catching design won raves from reviewers, including me -- after all, people want to look at more screen, not more bezel.

The next step in the anti-bezel revolution is a bigger version of that system, the Dell XPS 15. Like the 13-inch model, it's available with a few different resolution and component options, but unlike the XPS 13, the display can go all the way up to 4K resolution. The least exciting versions have a standard 1,920x1,080-pixel display, Intel Core i5 CPU and lack a touchscreen, but start at a very appealing $999 in the US. (It starts at £1,149 in the UK and AU$2,099 in Australia, but for a more high-end starting configuration.)

Adding a faster Core i7 processor, big solid state hard drives, a touchscreen or an Nvidia GeForce 960M graphics card steadily drives the price up until it hits $2,129, £1,599 or AU$2,999 for the configuration reviewed here, which includes all the bells and whistles.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

The end result is a machine that looks and feels much like a 15-inch MacBook Pro, but one that also outdoes the Apple version in many areas. The MacBook Pro doesn't offer 4K displays, nor touchscreen options. Configuring a 15-inch Retina-display MacBook Pro with a similarly large 512GB SSD and the AMD Radeon R9 M370 graphics card boosts that system's price to $2,499 in the US, although the Radeon is not as gamer-friendly as the Nvidia 960M found here (which may be a moot point, as Apple's OS X limits the games available in the first place).

Dell XPS 15

Price as reviewed $2,129, £1,599 or AU$2,999
Display size/resolution 15.6-inch 3,840x2,160 touch display
PC CPU 2.6GHz Intel Core i7-6700HQ
PC Memory 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,133MHz
Graphics 2GB Nvidia Geforce GTX 960M
Storage 512GB SSD
Networking 802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 4.0
Operating system Windows 10 Home (64-bit)

But specs aside, this is a laptop that will draw the eye of anyone who passes by while it sits open. The larger screen against the thin bezel feels even more impressive than in the 13-inch version, because there's an even greater screen-to-edge ratio at play here. Note that, like the 13-inch model, the lack of bezel real estate means the webcam has been moved to a spot below the screen, right above the hinge. It can make for some less-than-flattering up-the-nose shots if you're not careful.

The interior is matte black, with a backlit but otherwise featureless keyboard sitting above a large button-less touchpad. The keyboard feels small, considering how wide the XPS is. Function keys are helpfully reversed, with a single tap controlling volume and brightness, rather than a function-key-plus-FN-button combo as still required by many laptops. The touchpad has a pleasing matte surface, but also has some of the same floaty feeling as the 13-inch XPS 13 had last year. It's still very usable, but doesn't feel quite as tight as on the best Windows laptops or a MacBook.

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