Dell XPS 15-L502X (Intel Core i7-2630 review: Dell XPS 15-L502X (Intel Core i7-2630

The important basics to note: the starting CPU is a 2.3GHz Core i5-2410M; the top CPU, a 2.3GHz Core i7-2820QM, costs an extra $500. RAM can be upgraded to 8GB from the base 4GB for $120. A 256GB SSD drive option is available for $600. GPU options are limited: either the Nvidia GeForce GT 525M, or the GT 540M, with twice the memory, for an extra $100. A TV tuner will cost you $50.

Our configuration came with a quad-core 2.0GHz Intel Core i7-2630QM CPU, which costs $175 over the base CPU. This is one of Intel's new Sandy Bridge 2011 processors. In our benchmarks, performance was excellent and clear improvement over last year's dual-core Core i5--not surprising, since that was a last-gen processor and a lower-end CPU option. However, even against other 2011 laptops with Intel Sandy Bridge next-gen CPUs, it more than held its own, making a considerable speed leap over last year's Intel CPUs. We ran multiple windows of processor-intensive tasks and experienced practically no slowdown, although the side vents blasted some very hot air from time to time.

Graphically, this XPS is another step up from an already solidly performing 2010 version we reviewed. The Nvidia GeForce GT 525M Optimus automatic-switching GPU has 2GB of video memory; Unreal Tournament III ran at 53.1 frames per second at full 1,920x1,080-pixel resolution, and 81.5fps at 1,440x900 pixels with medium settings. Our benchmark of Street Fighter IV at full-screen and full-HD resolution played perfectly, at a buttery 59.8fps. As you'd expect from a laptop priced this high, it's more than capable of playing cutting-edge games on its HD screen.

Juice box
Dell XPS 15 Mainstream
Off (60%) 0.37
Sleep (10%) 1.06
Idle (25%) 10.39
Load (05%) 72.16
Raw kWh number 57.23
Annual power consumption cost $6.50

Annual power consumption cost

The nine-cell battery that came with our XPS 15 (an extra $40 option) made a difference, lasting 4 hours and 2 minutes using our video-playback battery-drain test. That's a solid number for a laptop this powerful, but it's still hours short of the similarly-equipped 15-inch MacBook Pro. On the other hand, it's a big improvement from the 2 hours and 26 minutes we got on the XPS 15 last year with a standard six-cell battery. Without having tested the XPS using a standard six-cell, it's hard to tell what part of the advantage comes from the larger battery and what's the result of a more efficient Intel CPU.

Dell includes a one-year in-home service warranty with the XPS 15, expandable up to four years for an extra $290 on Dell's Web site, or four years with accidental damage protection for $410. Dell's Web site offers 24-7 toll-free phone service and Web support, including software drivers and documentation that are easy to find.

Multimedia multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Adobe Photoshop CS3 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Unreal Tournament III (in fps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
1,280x800, 0X AA, 0X AF  
1,440x900, 4X AA, 8X AF*  
Alienware m15x
Dell XPS L502X
Acer Aspire 5742G-7200
Dell XPS 15

Video playback battery drain test (in seconds)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

Find out more about how we test laptops.

System configurations:

Dell XPS L502X
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit); 2.0GHz Intel Core i7-2630QM; 8192MB DDR3 SDRAM 667MHz; 2GB Nvidia GeForce 540M + 64MB(Dedicated) Intel GMA HD; 750GB Western Digital 7,200rpm

Alienware m15x
Windows 7 Ultimate (64-bit); 2.0GHz Intel Core i7-920XM; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,066MHz; 1GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 260M; 500GB Seagate 7,200rpm

Apple MacBook Pro - Core i7 Sandy Bridge 15.4 inch - 2.2GHz
OS X 10.6.6 Snow Leopard; Intel Core i7 2.2GHz; 4,096MB DDR3 SDRAM 1,066MHz; 1GB AMD Radeon HD 6750M / 384MB (Shared) Intel HD 3000; 750GB Toshiba 5,400rpm

Dell XPS 15
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit); 2.53GHz Intel Core i5 M460; 4,096MB DDR3 SDRAM 1,333MHz; 1GB Nvidia GeForce 420M + 64MB(Dedicated) Intel GMA HD; 500GB Seagate 7,200rpm

Acer Aspire 5742G-7200
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit); 2.53GHz Intel Core i5 M460; 4,096MB DDR3 SDRAM 1,066MHz; 1GB Nvidia GeForce GT 420M; 500GB Western Digital 5,400rpm