Notebookcheck

Dell XPS 15 Notebook Review

Nino Ricchizzi (translated by Ariana Brodsky), 03/19/2015

Even more pixels! As the successor to Dell's XPS 15 (Late 2013) with its QHD+ display, the American company now presents the overhauled XPS 15 in a new configuration with a 4K UHD display and a more powerful processor. The almost perfect display image and reasonably good performance are enticing. Unfortunately, some of the computer's former problems remain unresolved.

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For the original German review, see here.

What's a QHD+ display with a resolution of 3200x1800 pixels if there's an even higher rung on the "sharpness" ladder? Dell decided to increase the resolution yet again to over 2.5 million pixels and outfitted the Dell XPS 15 with a 4K UHD display with a resolution of 3840x2160. But that wasn't enough of an upgrade: Our test device is also equipped with a powerful Intel Core i7-4712 HQ CPU, in place of its predecessor's Intel Core i7-4702HQ. The size of the memory, however, remains the same. The price has fallen since our first review and is now hovering around 1850 Euros (~$1968) in retail stores. In this review, we'll focus on the more important updates to the notebook; more information on the unchanged components (case, input devices, connections) can be found in our earlier review of the Dell XPS 15 (Late 2013).

Dell XPS 15 (9530-0538) (XPS 15 Series)
Graphics adapter
NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M - 2048 MB, Core: 941 MHz, Memory: 1250 MHz, GDDR5, nvlddmkm 9.18.13.4752 (ForceWave 347.52) / Win8.1 64, NIVIDA Optimus
Memory
16384 MB 
, Dual-channel, DDR3
Display
15.6 inch 16:9, 3840x2160 pixel, Capacitive, Multi-touch, Sharp SHP1431 LQ156D1, IPS, glossy: yes
Mainboard
Intel HM87 (Lynx Point)
Storage
Lite-On LMT-512L9M, 512 GB 
Soundcard
Intel Lynx Point PCH - High Definition Audio Controller
Connections
1 USB 2.0, 3 USB 3.0 / 3.1 Gen1, 1 DisplayPort, Audio Connections: Audio combo, Card Reader: SD, Noble Lock
Networking
Broadcom 802.11ac (a/b/g/n/ac), Bluetooth Bluetooth 4.0
Size
height x width x depth (in mm): 18 x 372 x 253 ( = 0.71 x 14.65 x 9.96 in)
Battery
88 Wh Lithium-Ion, 6 cells
Operating System
Microsoft Windows 8.1 Pro 64 Bit
Camera
Webcam: 720p
Additional features
Speakers: Stereo speakers, Keyboard: Chiclet, Keyboard Light: yes, 24 Months Warranty
Weight
2.1 kg ( = 74.08 oz / 4.63 pounds) ( = 0 oz / 0 pounds)
Price
1850 Euro

 

Display

XPS 15 vs. sRGB (96%)
XPS 15 vs. sRGB (96%)
XPS 15 vs. AdobeRGB98 (61%)
XPS 15 vs. AdobeRGB98 (61%)

Dell outfitted their new XPS 15 with a razor-sharp 4K-UHD display in the 16:9 format. Not only does the display offer more in terms of pixels - its brightness is higher too. An average of 365 cd/m² ensures that little reflections here and there aren't bothersome enough to disrupt the user's work-flow. As a result of the increased brightness, the black value has also risen from 0.21 cd/m² to 0.28 cd/m², which has consequences in the realm of contrast. Even so, the screen's black and color tones are rich. Thanks to the high-quality IPS panel, the display content looks correct even from sharp angles. Even in battery mode, the panel can reach high brightness levels of up to 349 cd/m². The problem remains, however, that some programs are unable to cope with the high resolution and can only be rendered very small or in a pixelated state.

359
cd/m²
360
cd/m²
355
cd/m²
341
cd/m²
349
cd/m²
350
cd/m²
389
cd/m²
390
cd/m²
394
cd/m²
Distribution of brightness
X-Rite i1Pro 2
Maximum: 394 cd/m² Average: 365.2 cd/m²
Brightness Distribution: 87 %
Center on Battery: 349 cd/m²
Contrast: 1238:1 (Black: 0.282 cd/m²)
ΔE Color 2.65 | - Ø
ΔE Greyscale 3.77 | - Ø
96.1% sRGB (Argyll) 61.02% AdobeRGB 1998 (Argyll)
Gamma: 2.41

Despite its exemplary brightness, in outdoor use the Dell XPS 15 has its limitations. Under direct sunlight, the reflective display surface obscures the screen content and forces the user back into the shadows or indoors. Requests for a matte display option remain unheard.

The CalMAN measurements corroborate our positive subjective impression of the display. Directly out of the factory, the average DeltaE deviation from the sRGB reference color space comes to a mere 2.65, and just 3.77 for the grayscale. After a calibration, these DeltaE deviations drop to 0.84 for colors and 0.71 for the grayscale. 

Color representation
Color representation
Grayscale
Grayscale
Saturation
Saturation
Color representation calibrated
Color representation calibrated
Grayscale calibrated
Grayscale calibrated
Saturation calibrated
Saturation calibrated
Dell XPS 15 (9530-0538)
GeForce GT 750M, 4712HQ, Lite-On LMT-512L9M
Dell XPS 15 (Late 2013)
GeForce GT 750M, 4702HQ, Samsung SSD SM841 512GB
Apple MacBook Pro Retina 15 inch 2013-10
GeForce GT 750M, 4850HQ, Apple SSD SM0512F
Asus NX500JK-DR018H
GeForce GTX 850M, 4712HQ, Samsung SSD XP941 MZHPU256HCGL
Screen
-38%
1%
-7%
Brightness
365
322
-12%
302
-17%
290
-21%
Brightness Distribution
87
83
-5%
83
-5%
86
-1%
Black Level *
0.282
0.21
26%
0.3326
-18%
0.26
8%
Contrast
1238
1662
34%
998
-19%
1188
-4%
Colorchecker DeltaE2000 *
2.65
8.27
-212%
1.95
26%
4.69
-77%
Greyscale DeltaE2000 *
3.77
7.99
-112%
2.11
44%
3.35
11%
Gamma
2.41 100%
3.42 70%
2.34 103%
2.33 103%
CCT
6786 96%
8117 80%
6489 100%
6400 102%
Color Space (Percent of AdobeRGB 1998)
61.02
69.08
13%
60.6
-1%
83
36%
Color Space (Percent of sRGB)
96.1

* ... smaller is better

Performance

The hardware at work in the Dell XPS 15 reacts to commands very quickly. One of the device's highlights is a high-end Intel Core i7-4712HQ quad-core processor. Dell chose to stick with the predecessor's 16 GB of dual-channel DDR3 memory. As in the 2013 model, an Nvidia GeForce GT 750M takes care of graphics performance. Unfortunately, Dell has yet to indicate a future option to upgrade to a GPU from the newer Nvidia GeForce 800 or soon-to-be-released 900 lines. In its current configuration, the test device is a high-midrange model predestined for use in the multimedia arena, especially for image, graphics and video editing.

Processor

The Dell XPS 15 is equipped with a powerful quad-core processor from Intel. In our current model, the chip runs 100 MHz faster than its predecessor's. That means the Intel Core i7-4712HQ has a base clock rate of 2.3 GHz. In turbo mode, the clock frequency can rise to up to 3.3 GHz. Unlike other HQ models from the i7 line, the "2" in this processor's name indicates a low TDP. In our case, according to the manufacturer, the chip generates up to 37 W of heat - 10 W less than other HQ processors. The Cinebench R11.5 benchmark should reveal the efficacy of the 100 MHz increase in clock frequency. The difference between the CPU at work in our test device and the chip in the 2013 model proves to be almost imperceptible - the new notebook only scored 2% higher than the older model in the multi-core test. The CPU ran at a constant 3 GHz during the Cinebench test, which means that the computer is unable to take full advantage of the processor's turbo mode under load. In battery mode, the CPU frequency slowly rose from 800 MHz to 2.9 GHz, which explains the loss of about 40 points in the end result of the Cinebench R15 benchmark. Without a power outlet nearby, the computer will have less CPU performance at its command. 

Cinebench R11.5
CPU Single 64Bit (sort by value)
Dell XPS 15 (9530-0538)
GeForce GT 750M, 4712HQ, Lite-On LMT-512L9M
1.44 Points ∼65%
Dell XPS 15 (Late 2013)
GeForce GT 750M, 4702HQ, Samsung SSD SM841 512GB
1.38 Points ∼62%
CPU Multi 64Bit (sort by value)
Dell XPS 15 (9530-0538)
GeForce GT 750M, 4712HQ, Lite-On LMT-512L9M
6.4 Points ∼27%
Dell XPS 15 (Late 2013)
GeForce GT 750M, 4702HQ, Samsung SSD SM841 512GB
6.29 Points ∼26%
Cinebench R10
Rendering Single CPUs 64Bit (sort by value)
Dell XPS 15 (9530-0538)
GeForce GT 750M, 4712HQ, Lite-On LMT-512L9M
6205 Points ∼50%
Dell XPS 15 (Late 2013)
GeForce GT 750M, 4702HQ, Samsung SSD SM841 512GB
6021 Points ∼49%
Rendering Multiple CPUs 64Bit (sort by value)
Dell XPS 15 (9530-0538)
GeForce GT 750M, 4712HQ, Lite-On LMT-512L9M
22609 Points ∼55%
Dell XPS 15 (Late 2013)
GeForce GT 750M, 4702HQ, Samsung SSD SM841 512GB
22243 Points ∼54%
Cinebench R10 Shading 64Bit
6499 Points
Cinebench R10 Rendering Multiple CPUs 64Bit
22609 Points
Cinebench R10 Rendering Single CPUs 64Bit
6205 Points
Cinebench R11.5 OpenGL 64Bit
57.12 fps
Cinebench R11.5 CPU Multi 64Bit
6.4 Points
Cinebench R11.5 CPU Single 64Bit
1.44 Points
Cinebench R15 Ref. Match 64Bit
99.6 %
Cinebench R15 OpenGL 64Bit
74.48 fps
Cinebench R15 CPU Multi 64Bit
565 Points
Cinebench R15 CPU Single 64Bit
125 Points
Help

System Performance

Short reaction times make working more of a breeze. Thanks to the fast storage medium and dual-channel RAM, our interaction with the system was always quick and smooth. The accuracy of our subjective impression was confirmed by PCMark 7, although the results are a bit perplexing at first glance. The hardware Dell chose to install in our test device is slightly more powerful than the components at work in the predecessor model, but the new notebook's results are considerably worse than the previous machine's. This could be a first clue that the change of SSD manufacturer wasn't necessarily a positive one.

Dell XPS 15 (9530-0538)
GeForce GT 750M, 4712HQ, Lite-On LMT-512L9M
Dell XPS 15 (Late 2013)
GeForce GT 750M, 4702HQ, Samsung SSD SM841 512GB
Apple MacBook Pro Retina 15 inch 2013-10
GeForce GT 750M, 4850HQ, Apple SSD SM0512F
Asus NX500JK-DR018H
GeForce GTX 850M, 4712HQ, Samsung SSD XP941 MZHPU256HCGL
PCMark 7
19%
17%
2%
System Storage
5392
5562
3%
7136
32%
5608
4%
Computation
17929
19543
9%
10885
-39%
17559
-2%
Creativity
10028
4481
-55%
9329
-7%
10264
2%
Entertainment
4000
10503
163%
4674
17%
3907
-2%
Productivity
2782
2878
3%
5357
93%
2911
5%
Lightweight
3555
3678
3%
3748
5%
Score
5549
5937
7%
5842
5%
5565
0%
PCMark 7 Score
5549 points
Help

Storage Devices

Compared to the storage device at work in the predecessor model, Dell "only" switched manufacturers - the amount and type of storage remain the same. Instead of a storage medium from Samsung, our XPS is equipped with a solution from LiteOn-IT. The AS SSD benchmark's analysis reveals that the new SSD's sequential read and write rates are somewhat slower, but its results in the more important 4k tests are stronger. Of the drive's 512 GB, the Windows partition has 457 GB at its command. A further 20 GB belongs to the recovery partition.

AS SSD
4K Write (sort by value)
Dell XPS 15 (9530-0538)
GeForce GT 750M, 4712HQ, Lite-On LMT-512L9M
62.02 MB/s ∼29%
Dell XPS 15 (Late 2013)
GeForce GT 750M, 4702HQ, Samsung SSD SM841 512GB
59.57 MB/s ∼28% -4%
4K Read (sort by value)
Dell XPS 15 (9530-0538)
GeForce GT 750M, 4712HQ, Lite-On LMT-512L9M
29.65 MB/s ∼11%
Dell XPS 15 (Late 2013)
GeForce GT 750M, 4702HQ, Samsung SSD SM841 512GB
23.83 MB/s ∼9% -20%
Seq Write (sort by value)
Dell XPS 15 (9530-0538)
GeForce GT 750M, 4712HQ, Lite-On LMT-512L9M
373.51 MB/s ∼15%
Dell XPS 15 (Late 2013)
GeForce GT 750M, 4702HQ, Samsung SSD SM841 512GB
404.87 MB/s ∼16% +8%
Seq Read (sort by value)
Dell XPS 15 (9530-0538)
GeForce GT 750M, 4712HQ, Lite-On LMT-512L9M
486.19 MB/s ∼15%
Dell XPS 15 (Late 2013)
GeForce GT 750M, 4702HQ, Samsung SSD SM841 512GB
498.51 MB/s ∼15% +3%
Lite-On LMT-512L9M
Sequential Read: 485.2 MB/s
Sequential Write: 425.4 MB/s
512K Read: 375.5 MB/s
512K Write: 403 MB/s
4K Read: 32.41 MB/s
4K Write: 70.24 MB/s
4K QD32 Read: 386.3 MB/s
4K QD32 Write: 338.6 MB/s

Graphics Card

The Dell XPS 15 is still outfitted with the Nvidia GeForce GT 750M, first introduced at the beginning of 2013. Due to the fact that the current configuration's more powerful CPU has very little effect on the notebook's graphics performance, more information regarding the GPU's performance reserves can be gleaned from our review of the Dell XPS 15 (Late 2013). Out of the benchmark tests we performed, only 3DMark Cloud Gate showed an inexplicable, substantial improvement of 22%. For further comparisons and benchmarks, see our benchmark list of notebook graphics cards.

3DMark
1920x1080 Fire Strike Score (sort by value)
Dell XPS 15 (9530-0538)
2049 Points ∼9%
Dell XPS 15 (Late 2013)
1953 Points ∼8% -5%
1280x720 Cloud Gate Standard Score (sort by value)
Dell XPS 15 (9530-0538)
10521 Points ∼21%
Dell XPS 15 (Late 2013)
9739 Points ∼20% -7%
1280x720 Ice Storm Standard Score (sort by value)
Dell XPS 15 (9530-0538)
70949 Points ∼6%
Dell XPS 15 (Late 2013)
55377 Points ∼5% -22%
3DMark 11 - 1280x720 Performance (sort by value)
Dell XPS 15 (9530-0538)
2971 Points ∼10%
Dell XPS 15 (Late 2013)
2974 Points ∼10% 0%

Legend

 
Dell XPS 15 (9530-0538) Intel Core i7-4712HQ, NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M, Lite-On LMT-512L9M
 
Dell XPS 15 (Late 2013) Intel Core i7-4702HQ, NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M, Samsung SSD SM841 512GB
3DMark 11 Performance
2971 points
3DMark Ice Storm Standard Score
70949 points
3DMark Cloud Gate Standard Score
10521 points
3DMark Fire Strike Score
2049 points
Help

Gaming Performance

Unfortunately for gamers, even somewhat older games can only be enjoyed at low or medium graphics settings. Additionally, the notebook is only able to reach fluid frame rates if the display resolution is dramatically reduced. In the game BioShock Infinite (2013), we see that the stronger CPU doesn't have a significant effect on performance. For current games, the GT 750M GPU at work in our test device plainly proves to be too weak. Even though the XPS 15 clearly isn't primarily designed for gaming, we would expect a premium notebook - which Dell obviously intends for the XPS 15 to be - to have up-to-date hardware for maximum graphics performance.

BioShock Infinite
1920x1080 Ultra Preset, DX11 (DDOF) (sort by value)
Dell XPS 15 (9530-0538)
22.04 fps ∼10%
Dell XPS 15 (Late 2013)
21.85 fps ∼10% -1%
1366x768 High Preset (sort by value)
Dell XPS 15 (9530-0538)
59.98 fps ∼20%
Dell XPS 15 (Late 2013)
61.08 fps ∼20% +2%

Legend

 
Dell XPS 15 (9530-0538) Intel Core i7-4712HQ, NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M, Lite-On LMT-512L9M
 
Dell XPS 15 (Late 2013) Intel Core i7-4702HQ, NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M, Samsung SSD SM841 512GB
low med. high ultra
BioShock Infinite (2013) 121.7277.3159.9822.04fps

Emissions & Energy Management

The XPS 15's fans perform their task discreetly until the system is under stress. In idle mode, we only heard subtle sounds of up to 32 dB(A). Not even under load does the system generate a disruptive level of noise. The fans run at a distinctly audible 45 dB(A) and whir more loudly than in our test device's predecessor, but the dull sound of the fans isn't bothersome. We did notice in our tests, however, that the fans occasionally grew noticeably louder for no apparent reason. It's not clear whether some specific piece of software in our test device is at fault for this.

Noise Level

Idle
29.6 / 31.6 / 31.6 dB(A)
Load
45.4 / 45.4 dB(A)
 
 
 
30 dB
silent
40 dB(A)
audible
50 dB(A)
loud
 
min: dark, med: mid, max: light   Voltcraft sl-320 (15 cm distance)

Temperature

The combination of the notebook's thin build and powerful hardware components has an unmistakable effect on the device's case temperatures. Advantageously, however, the rubberized surface of the keyboard proves to be heat resistant.

Underside of the XPS 15: Hot under load.
Underside of the XPS 15: Hot under load.

In idle mode, we measured temperatures of up to 38 °C (100.4 °F) on the top side in the keyboard/palm rest area. This amount of heat isn't bothersome. However, at 44 °C (111.2 °F) on the bottom side of the case, you can feel the warmth emitted by the notebook on your lap. Under load (stress test), the temperatures increase substantially: We measured a temperature of almost 65 °C (149 °F) in a hotspot on the underside of the case towards the back, which presumably reveals the position of the CPU. At around 30 °C (86 °F), the palm rests remain comfortably cool, but the keyboard reaches a much too warm 52 °C (125.6 °F) in the middle towards the back. We were able to give the notebook's predecessor an all-clear in our tests in this discipline, as even games like Battlefield 4 only warmed up the XPS to 50-55 °C (122-131 °F). The power supply can heat up to 49 °C (120.2 °F), so leaving it under a blanket would be dangerous.

In our stress test, we run Prime95 and Furmark simultaneously to analyze how the machine behaves as it heats up inside. Within the first few minutes, the clock rate already starts to drop continuously and lingers between 2.5 and 2.6 GHz. After more than 40 minutes, the core temperatures rise to over 95 °C (203 °F) and the CPU starts to throttle. At the end of the stress test, we determine how much performance power the notebook has at its command by starting 3DMark 11. With a score of 2969, the system performs just as well in this state as it did after a cold boot.

Max. Load
 41.3 °C51.8 °C44 °C 
 46.1 °C48.9 °C34.5 °C 
 30.8 °C29 °C30.5 °C 
Maximum: 51.8 °C
Average: 39.7 °C
48.5 °C64.6 °C48.5 °C
31.2 °C40 °C37 °C
29.3 °C29 °C28.5 °C
Maximum: 64.6 °C
Average: 39.6 °C
Power Supply (max.)  49 °C | Room Temperature 24.3 °C | Voltcraft IR-360

Power Consumption

Even with its brightness level set to minimum and its communications modules deactivated, at a power consumption rate of 14.6 W, our test device is rather thirsty. The notebook's predecessor was more frugal, only using 10-17.4 W in idle mode. The increase in power usage may be traceable to the 4K display.

The difference between the results in our medium and maximum load tests is especially striking. Under medium load, the XPS requires between 90 W and 96 W. When we start our stress test using Prime95 and Furmark, however, the machine only needs about 86 W. This can be traced to the aforementioned CPU throttling.

Power Consumption
Off / Standbydarklight 0.2 / 0.9 Watt
Idledarkmidlight 14.6 / 19.6 / 19.8 Watt
Load midlight 92 / 85.8 Watt
 color bar
Key: min: dark, med: mid, max: light        Voltcraft VC 940

Battery Life

Dell once again chose to equip their XPS 15 with a relatively large 91 Wh battery with 6-cells. The notebook's energy consumption rates lead one to surmise that our current test device will run out of steam faster than its predecessor. We are, however, unable to make a perfect comparison, as our WLAN test has been revised since the 2013 review. After a little over 5 hours, the new XPS needs to be plugged back into the wall. Unfortunately, though the XPS is designed as a work and multimedia device, it won't last through a full workday without a connection to a power outlet. The predecessor kept chugging along for almost 9 hours in our test, though the test parameters were slightly different.

Battery Runtime - WiFi Websurfing 1.3 (sort by value)
Dell XPS 15 (9530-0538)
314 min ∼26%

Legend

 
Dell XPS 15 (9530-0538) Intel Core i7-4712HQ, NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M, Lite-On LMT-512L9M

Pros

+ High brightness
+ Good color representation out of the factory
+ Display calibrates very well
+ High resolution
+ High-quality case

Cons

- Possible scaling problems
- Heats up under load
- Reflective display
- Higher energy consumption compared to predecessor

Verdict

Dell XPS 15
Dell XPS 15

The Dell XPS 15 is and remains a showpiece. When it comes to the notebook's case and input devices, Dell sets the bar high, but the main focus of attention here is the new 4K display. The resolution isn't the display's only impressive quality - its relatively high average brightness and its correct color and grayscale representation are also exemplary. Even though the new notebook's contrast is lower than that of its predecessor, thanks in part to its fast hardware components, working on the Dell XPS 15 is just plain fun. Dell has once again created a well-rounded multimedia package - though at 1850 Euros (~$1968), it certainly comes at a price. Gamers would be happier if Dell was to install a more powerful GPU, and at this point such an upgrade is overdue.

Dell XPS 15 (9530-0538) - 03/06/2015 v4(old)
Nino Ricchizzi

Chassis
95 / 98 → 97%
Keyboard
88%
Pointing Device
81%
Connectivity
67 / 81 → 83%
Weight
90 / 67 → 100%
Battery
89%
Display
88%
Games Performance
84 / 85 → 99%
Application Performance
94 / 92 → 100%
Temperature
80%
Noise
80 / 95 → 84%
Audio
70%
Camera
68 / 85 → 80%
Average
83%
87%
Multimedia - Weighted Average

Pricecompare

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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > Reviews > Archive of our own reviews > Dell XPS 15 Notebook Review
Nino Ricchizzi, 2015-03-19 (Update: 2015-06- 8)