Dell XPS 15z: Imitation with a Twist

Dell relaunched their XPS brand (which was languishing under the Studio XPS name for a couple years) last year with their XPS 15 L501x. Combining reasonable performance, battery life, and portability with a great display upgrade at an impressive price tickled my fancy in just the right way, and we awarded that laptop our Gold Editors’ Choice award. The XPS 15 L502x brought along Sandy Bridge processor support with a minor upgrade to NVIDIA’s 500M graphics, but outside of a few component changes the two laptops looked the same. We still liked the L502x, but the build quality and keyboard actually took a step backwards in our book, and a few of the design elements of the XPS 15 didn’t hold up as well over the long term (e.g. the hinge-forward design).

Dell has now launched a completely reworked laptop with the XPS 15z, which shrinks the chassis, modifies the layout, and changes the component options. In many ways the XPS 15z is a better laptop than the XPS 15, but compromise is still present and accounted for. Let’s hit the spec sheet to see just where things are changing. The table lists the available options for the XPS 15z, with our review configuration components bolded where applicable.

Dell XPS 15 L502x Specifications
Processor Intel Core i5-2410M (dual-core 2.30-2.90GHz, 35W)
Intel Core i7-2620M (dual-core 2.70-3.40GHz, 35W)
Chipset Intel HM67
Memory 6GB (1x4GB + 1x2GB DDR3-1333)
8GB (2x4GB DDR-1333 CL9)
Graphics NVIDIA GeForce GT 525M 1GB DDR3 or
NVIDIA GeForce GT 525M 2GB DDR3
96 SPs, 600/1200/1800MHz Core/Shader/RAM clocks
Display 15.6” WLED Glossy 16:9 768p (1366x768)

15.6" WLED Glossy 16:9 1080p (1920x1080)
(AU Optronics B156HW3)
Hard Drive(s) 500GB 7200RPM HDD
750GB 7200RPM HDD
(Seagate ST9750429AS)

256GB SSD (Samsung?)
Optical Drive 8X Slot-Load DVDRW (HL-DT-ST GS30N)
Networking Gigabit Ethernet(Realtek RTL8168/8111)
802.11n WiFi + Bluetooth 3.0 (Intel Advanced-N 6230)
WiDi 2.0 Ready
Audio Stereo Speakers + Waves MaxxAudio
(Stereo speakers and subwoofer)
Microphone and two headphone jacks
Capable of 5.1 digital output (HDMI/SPDIF)
Battery 8-cell, 14.8V, ~4.2Ah, 64Wh
Front Side N/A
Left Side Battery Life Indicator
Memory Card Reader
2 x USB 3.0
1 x eSATA/USB 2.0 Combo
Mini DisplayPort
HDMI 1.4a
Right Side Headphone Jack
Microphone Jack
Optical Drive
Back Side AC Power Connection
Exhaust vent
Gigabit Ethernet
Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
Dimensions 15.15" x 10.25" x 0.97" (WxDxH)
(384.8mm x 260.4mm x 24.6mm)
Weight 5.54 lbs (8-cell)
Extras Waves MaxxAudio 3
1.3MP HD Webcam
80-Key backlit keyboard
Flash reader (SD, MS, MMC)
MS Office 2010 Starter or Home/Student
90W Power Adapter
Warranty 1- or 2-year standard warranty
3-year extended warranties available
Pricing Starting Price: $999
Reviewed Configuration: $1499
 

As you can see in the above table, Dell shipped us the fully upgraded version of the XPS 15z, which is good and bad. On the good side, there’s a nice 1080p display, CPU performance will be better, and the GPU gets twice the memory; there’s also 8GB of system RAM and a very large 750GB 7200RPM hard drive. Also note that all the available configurations other than the base model comes standard with a 2-year warranty and include Office 2010 Home/Student; the base model gets you Office 2010 Starter and a 1-year warranty. So what’s the bad news? The price is 50% higher than the base model, and performance definitely won’t be anywhere near 50% higher. Most of the performance gains will come from the CPU upgrade, which amounts to a 17% average increase in CPU-limited applications.

When you look at the actual pricing breakdown, the fully equipped model actually isn’t necessarily a bad deal. The $1200 system gives you a 2-year warranty, Office Home/Student, 8GB RAM, a 750GB HDD. If you figure around $150 for the warranty alone and $100 for Office Home/Student, that’s a fair bargain. The $1300 adds the 1080p display and the 2GB GT 525M, and since the 1080p LCD is a $100 upgrade on its own you get the GPU upgrade “gratis”. The $1500 configurations is the same as the $1300 unit, other than the CPU, so you’re basically paying $200 extra (15% more) for the 17% performance increase. Taken individually, we can easily justify every one of the upgrades, but $1500 is a big step up from $1000. Personally, if I were buying the 15z, I’d go with the base model but upgrade to the 1080p LCD, and if you like the longer warranty and Office software you can bump up to the $1300 model. I’d also drop the at-home service, since I’ve almost never had any laptop fail in the first year of use, which gives a final price of just $1043 for a very nice laptop.

Dell XPS 15z: A Good Copy or a Cheap Clone?
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  • MobiusStrip - Sunday, September 11, 2011 - link

    "What is it with people simply lifting the design work of Jonathan Ives for Apple"

    What is it with people who don't understand that a rectangle with buttons on it isn't the private domain of one company, especially a company that didn't invent the form in the first place?

    Do you bitch about every car that has four wheels ripping off the work of some ancient cart-builder?

    How about every camera maker that puts the lens of the camera ON THE FRONT, and the viewer on the back?

    Plus, your pathetic strawman here doesn't even hold up for superficial similarity. Show us the Apple laptop that has upward-sloping, curved bottom sides?
    Reply
  • zepi - Friday, September 02, 2011 - link

    You should just take all three Macbook Pro configurations trough your normal Windows-test to give people a measurement stick.

    A lot of people install Windows to a bootcamp partition to play games that are not released for OSX.

    Doing the same with iMac would not hurt either.
    Reply
  • Rob Sims - Friday, September 02, 2011 - link

    +1

    Considering how common the 6750m is (the default card in all base model iMacs and also high spec MBP15 and MBP17) there are surprisingly few reliable gaming benchmarks of it.

    I run my games through bootcamp on a MBP17 2011 and would be very interested to see how it stacks up to standard windows laptops.
    Reply
  • tipoo - Friday, September 02, 2011 - link

    +2'ed. Reply
  • darunium - Friday, September 02, 2011 - link

    Why the need for a discrete graphics card with intel HD3000 pulling its weight out there? Sure it is no replacement still for a solid discrete solution, so if you want a moderate gaming-capable laptop you still need to look for a separate card, but the GT525M doesn't significantly outperform Intel HD3000 at all, all it will do is add heat, cost, and reduce battery life. It's just another means to sell to an unknowing consumer who will be turned on by the presence of a useless (and now I imagine much-discounted anyway) discrete VGA solution. Reply
  • tipoo - Friday, September 02, 2011 - link

    What would be "significantly outperform" to you? If I recall correctly it offers about twice the performance of the HD3000. Besides, the laptop will automatically switch between them anyways, so if your not doing anything intensive it will use the lower power chip. Reply
  • Iketh - Friday, September 02, 2011 - link

    aside from what's already mentioned, it also frees up thermal limitations for the cpu and memory bandwidth Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, September 02, 2011 - link

    Without the dGPU, gaming on the XPS 15z would be a no-go, especially at 1080p. There's a huge difference between 30-40 FPS at 1366x768 at minimum detail (what the HD 3000 can handle) and 30-40 FPS at 1080p and medium detail. Reply
  • seapeople - Saturday, September 03, 2011 - link

    As a corollary to the OP's point, I don't understand why they went with Sandy Bridge in this laptop instead of Core 2. Sandy Bridge doesn't significantly outperform Core 2 anyway, so it's just adding heat, cost, and reducing battery life. Reply
  • Brad4 - Friday, September 02, 2011 - link

    Low quality monitor. Not good for productivity. I like Windows, but Apple is the only company these days making a 16:10 display laptop. All 16:9 laptops are inferior. Reply

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