CNET First Look
Dell XPS 15Sure, it's bulky, but Dell's new XPS 15 offers more bang for the buck than most high-end laptops, combining great audio and rock-solid features into a package that could easily serve as a desktop replacement.
Hi, I'm Scott Stein, senior associate editor at CNET.com and this is the Dell XPS 15. Now, when we first heard about the XPS 15, it seemed like it was trying to take on the HP Envies and the MacBook Pros of the world, a high-end laptop with media features and we're a little bit skeptical about what it brought to the table to really compete with those products. Well, color us pretty impressed. Despite the fact that it seems to have a slightly bulky design that's not the best looking laptop out there, its internal specs and features are really tough to beat especially at the price point that this puts out. For $849 which is the base configuration, you get a Core i5 processor, good Nvidia GeForce graphics. You also have HDMI 1.4 which enables playback of 3D games or Blu-ray if you configure it with Blu-ray to a 3D television, kind of a fun idea, and it has USB 3.0 ports. It's a really nice package and we haven't even mentioned one of the most compelling features, a really great JBL speaker set with subwoofer that provided some of the best audio we've ever heard on a laptop. Now, there are a few drawbacks, namely that the base configuration only has a 1366 X 768 screen in 15.6 inches. You probably wanna upgrade that to a 1080p display but the good news is that even with the 1080p display and a Blu-ray drive addon, this base configuration only comes with a DVD player, you're going to about $1079, which is still really reasonable for everything that you get in this. Now, it's not gonna be something you take around and put on your lap. Really, it's designed to sit on a desk and this baby got back. It's got a pretty thick end around the side to it and most of the ports that come around the back here are really meant for desk use. That's alright because, really, frankly, we'd rather use a laptop like this on a desk, and its features extend to some of the ergonomics. While the keyboard doesn't have a number pad and looks a lot like a lot of other Dell keyboards, it is backlit which is a nice plus and the trackpad is really large. The multitouch response worked really well for us. It's not that fancy looking but its nearly as hard as a MacBook Pro's trackpad and that's saying something. Now, there are a couple of weird things. There's no VGA port on this laptop but there is a mini DisplayPort and HDMI. Again, that's HDMI 1.4. And you'll also have an okay battery life. It's not fantastic but who would expect that on a laptop like this. Thankfully, because there is Nvidia Optimus automatic switching graphics on this, it does switch out when you're not using it and it conserves a little bit of battery life so you get about 3 hours of battery time. Another nice plus is its webcam. It has an HD webcam that actually records in H.264 if you so choose and is Skype compatible for Skype HD web chat and it also has a noise canceling microphone inside so it's an above average web chat experience compared to other laptops. When you look at other $999 laptops this compares to, its price-per-feature set comes out on top so even if you add the extras, you're still coming out at a better price situation. That may be worth considering if you're in the market for a high-end media laptop. I'm Scott Stein and this is the Dell XPS 15.