For what you get for the price, the XPS 15z is a compelling mainstream laptop.
The death of Stargate can't have been good for Dell.
Its constant product placement would have been perfect for the XPS 15Z, which looks like it would be at home on any sci-fi, from the rounded keys, to the gunmetal grey colour and militarised angles, to the strange HR Giger-esque pipe that's used for the hinge.
The 15Z is a push to make mainstream laptops thinner, although its structural integrity hasn't suffered at all from the move. The keyboard has though, with shorter throw causing more typos than we'd like cropping up due to its odd feel. The backlighting somewhat makes up for it, something we appreciate in any laptop.
It may be a little thinner than your average laptop, but it still weights the same — at 2.51kg it's not the lightest belle at the ball. Sound quality isn't the best either, as the reduced space in thin laptops usually means audio suffers. Dell's done reasonably well here, with a broader sound stage than most and with tonal correction from Realtek Audio Manager it's almost passable. They're definitely not up to JBL standards, but they'll fit the bill for system sounds. Those who want to engage with music and movies, however, will do better with a dedicated set of headphones.
A nice surprise is the inclusion of a Full HD screen. We've never felt comfortable with the low resolution of 1366x768 that's pumped out on so many 15-inch laptops, and the 1920x1080 resolution of the XPS 15z feels natural and expansive.
Being a halo product, the XPS 15z has done its best to appear modern — and in doing so, has dropped the age old, now business-centric VGA port. If you want video out, you'll either need to use HDMI or Mini DisplayPort. It also has two USB 3.0 ports, a combined USB 2.0/eSATA port, a nine-in-one card reader, gigabit Ethernet and separate headphone and microphone jacks.
Internally, our review sample had a Core i7 2620M, although a cheaper model with a Core i5 is available. This is complemented with 8GB RAM, a GeForce GT 525M and a 750GB hard drive.
All this translates into some pretty mean performance, with 3DMark06 clocking 7383, and PCMark05 hitting 8626. This machine should be able to handle modern games at moderate settings, and almost any productivity task you choose to toss at it.
Battery life was decent too for the hardware involved. With all power-saving settings turned off, screen brightness and volume set to maximum and an XviD file played back, the laptop lasted two hours and 35 minutes for spluttering into hibernation.
The XPS 15z isn't an amazing new frontier, and it doesn't set any new benchmarks. But it is nice to see mainstream laptops getting thinner and dropping legacy ports. Now we just need to work on the weight.