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Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 (2018) review: A big-screen 2-in-1 with some wow

Showcasing a new hybrid chip developed by Intel and AMD, the 15.6-inch convertible has power for content creation and gaming in a superslim body.

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Joshua Goldman
Joshua_Goldman.jpg

Joshua Goldman

Senior Editor / Reviews

Joshua Goldman is a senior editor for CNET Reviews, covering laptops and the occasional action cam or drone and related accessories. He has been writing about and reviewing consumer technology and software since 2000.

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4 min read

Dell's latest XPS 15 2-in-1 is the world's smallest and thinnest 15.6-inch convertible. It's also one of the first to feature an Intel CPU paired with an AMD Radeon Vega M GL GPU, giving you some pretty decent graphics muscle for a superslim two-in-one PC.

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Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 (2018)

The Good

The Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 9575 is the smallest, thinnest in the category with strong performance from its hybrid Intel/AMD chip and a gorgeous 4K-resolution display that goes nearly edge-to-edge.

The Bad

Its new keyboard design isn't the most comfortable typing experience. Its 4K display doesn't do battery life any favors. Nothing but USB-C ports means you'll need dongles and docks.

The Bottom Line

Dell's XPS 15 2-in-1 moves the 15.6-inch convertible category forward with a host of premium features, but the overall design does require some sacrifice.

You might think that high-performance components fitted into a body that's only 0.63 inch (16 mm) at its thickest might not be the best idea and, well, you'd be right. Dell developed a special cooling system for it that includes two large liquid-crystal polymer fans and three composite heat pipes as well as synthetic graphite heat spreaders and Gore thermal insulation to help protect your lap from heat. 

And it all works well together, offering up performance to handle everything from office work to content creation and gaming, even if that last one isn't this PC's purpose. Granted, there are a few compromises for the design and it's pricey with my review system going for $2,350, £2,199 and AU$3,899. If you don't need the two-in-one design, consider the XPS 15 laptop, which ends up being a better deal for the money. 

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 9575

Price as reviewed $2,350, £2,199, AU$3,899
Display size/resolution 15.6-inch 3,840 x 2,160 touch display
CPU 3.1GHz Intel Core i7-8705G
Memory 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,400MHz
Graphics 4GB AMD Radeon RX Vega M GL Graphics
Storage 512GB NVMe PCIe SSD
Networking 802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 4.1
Operating system Window 10 Home (64-bit)

Being a two-in-one, though, you can use it as a laptop, of course, but it's also a tablet. A big 15.6-inch tablet that weighs 4.4 pounds (2 kg), which is not light, but is less than its closest competitor, the HP Spectre x360 15, which uses the same Intel/AMD chipset. 

Dell has a new $99 Premium Active Pen that has 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity and tilt functionality for detail shading. The pen is good with relatively little lag, but the tilt support is going to depend on the application support. Still, it's definitely nice to have and the pen itself magnetically attaches to the left side of the body. 

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Sarah Tew/CNET

You can get the system with your choice of a full HD display with 100 percent sRGB color gamut or a 4K UHD-resolution touchscreen with 100 percent AdobeRGB color gamut. Both are capable of hitting 400-nit brightness without shifting the white point of the panel. 

The 4K display is beautiful and that 400-nit brightness really helps with reflections. Out of the box it had very good color performance and Dell has a utility to set the screen to different profiles and you can calibrate to improve color accuracy. Getting that display adds $400 to price and requires you to step up to the Intel Core i7-8705G processor. Also, it will drain your battery faster than the full HD. 

Because of the superthin bezels around the sides and top of the display, Dell put the webcam below the screen. It's an awkward position for video calls and for using the IR camera to sign into the PC with facial recognition. There's a fingerprint reader built into the power button if you want to use that instead. 

Mixed feelings on Maglev

This is one of Dell's first laptops with a new keyboard using Darfon's Maglev design combined with a butterfly mechanism. It uses magnets to pop the keys back up instead of traditional rubber domes, which allowed Dell to make a thinner keyboard that it says will last longer than rubber domes. 

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Sarah Tew/CNET

The keys have a satisfying clickiness to them, but there is little travel to them. I hit keys hard when I type, so it wasn't the most pleasurable experience using the keyboard for long periods of time. Also, the keys are nearly flush with the body and if I wasn't careful or was typing especially fast, I ended up with extra letters from surrounding keys. 

Also, its thinness costs you legacy ports, with Dell switching to four USB-C ports: Two Thunderbolt 3 (four lanes of PCIe gen 3) and two USB-C 3.1. Because of that, you'll need some adapters or a dock to handle peripherals. There's just a microSD card slot, so anyone working with full-size SD cards is out of luck. 

Quite the combo

The XPS 15 2-in-1 starts at $1,300 with a full HD display and drops the processor down to an Intel Core i5-8305G, but keeps the 4GB Radeon RX Vega M GL graphics and includes 8GB of memory and an 128GB NVMe PCIe SSD. You can open up the bottom and swap out the storage drive, but the memory is onboard and can't be upgraded easily after purchase. 

Our Core i7-8705G and Vega M GL combo turned in excellent performance in our benchmarks and general use. The graphics performance puts it on par with Nvidia's GeForce GTX 1050, which for gaming means you can play newer graphically demanding games like Battlefield 1 if you dial back the settings. Games like Fortnite, Overwatch and PUBG can be set to high and still play smoothly. 

The processor didn't stumble with demanding tasks such as encoding and rendering video edits, either. It'll handle everyday office tasks well, too. Basically, this configuration is close in performance to the current 15-inch Apple MacBook Pro with Touch Bar with an Intel Core i7-7820HQ, but in a two-in-one design with a pen-enabled 4K-resolution display. 

It's worth noting that despite Dell's best efforts, the bottom does get warm if you're pushing the system. Its fans certainly let you know they're working, too. 

Dell's XPS 15 2-in-1 is thin, sturdy and loaded with power

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Battery life, on the other hand, comes up a little short at 6 hours and 46 minutes in our video streaming test. That's likely due to the 4K display since Dell rates a full-HD configuration at nearly 16 hours of runtime. The XPS 15 2-in-1 does charge pretty fast, though, and Dell's Power Manager app lets you quickly prioritize performance and cooling for your needs.   

Creative potential

Dell's XPS 15 2-in-1 is a big step forward for the 15.6-inch convertible category. Once you get over a 14-inch screen size, convertibles start to feel clunky and cumbersome in way that this Dell doesn't. And it doesn't really sacrifice performance or features to get there. That said, the smaller body does require some sacrifice, so if you don't need the two-in-one design, consider getting the regular XPS 15 laptop instead. 

Video playback battery drain test (streaming minutes)

Acer Aspire E15-57G6 718Apple MacBook Pro with Touch Bar (15-inch, 2017) 643Dell XPS 15 9575 2-in-1 406HP Spectre x360 Convertible 374Digital Storm Equinox 247
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

Geekbench 4 (Multi-core)

Digital Storm Equinox 19,725Apple MacBook Pro with Touch Bar (15-inch, 2017) 15,973HP Spectre x360 15,425Dell XPS 15 9575 2-in-1 14,810Acer Aspire E15-57G6 10,891
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

Cinebench R15 CPU (multi-core)

Digital Storm Equinox 1,021HP Spectre x360 783Apple MacBook Pro with Touch Bar (15-inch, 2017) 763Dell XPS 15 9575 2-in-1 691Acer Aspire E15-57G6 531
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

3DMark Fire Strike Ultra

Digital Storm Equinox 3,413Dell XPS 15 9575 2-in-1 1,627HP Spectre x360 Convertible 1,614Acer Aspire E15-57G6 384
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided (fps)

Digital Storm Equinox 72.4Dell XPS 15 9575 2-in-1 28.3HP Spectre x360 Convertible 28.2Acer Aspire E15-57G6 16.5
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

Bioshock Infinite (fps)

Digital Storm Equinox 171.67Dell XPS 15 9575 2-in-1 76.36HP Spectre x360 Convertible 76.28Acer Aspire E15-57G6 42.66
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

System configurations

Dell XPS 15 9575 2-in-1 Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 3.1GHz Intel Core i7-8705G; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,400MHz; 4GB AMD Radeon RX Vega M GL Graphics; 512GB SSD
HP Spectre x360 Convertible Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 3.1GHz Intel Core i7-8705G; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,400MHz; 4GB AMD Radeon RX Vega M GL Graphics; 512GB SSD
Acer Aspire E15-57G6 Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 1.6GHz Intel Core i5-8250U; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 2GB Nvidia GeForce MX150 Graphics; 256GB SSD
Digital Storm Equinox Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.2GHz Intel Core i7-8750H; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,660MHz; Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 with Max-Q Design; 500GB SSD
Apple MacBook Pro with Touch Bar (15-inch, 2017) Apple MacOS Sierra 10.12.5; 2.9GHz Intel Core i7-7820HQ; 16GB DDR3 SDRAM 2,133MHz; 4GB Radeon Pro 560 / 1,536MB Intel HD Graphics 630; 512GB SSD
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Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 (2018)

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 8Performance 8Battery 8