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Long-term review: The Dell XPS 15 Touch is the laptop to beat

Scot Finnie | Feb. 3, 2016
Dell's latest Windows 10 laptop is lightweight and powerful, with one of the best displays around.

There are, of course, professions that can easily cost-justify the use of Ultra HD on very large external displays. But for most people, any desktop computing benefit of 4K is more nice-to-have (actually, very nice to have) than have-to-have.

The machined aluminum outer shell and carbon-fiber keyboard deck complement the minimalist industrial design on the XPS 15's display surrounds, probably Dell's most inspired design decision and manufacturing feat. I measured the bezel at just under 6mm (or less than a quarter of an inch) on the sides and maybe a quarter inch along the top. The lighted part of the screen goes nearly edge-to-edge.

And because the rest of the laptop takes its dimensional cues from the screen and bezel measurements, this is one small 15-in. laptop. To the nearest 16th of an inch, it measures 14-1/16 in. wide by 9-1/4 in. long by 11/16 in. deep with the touchscreen. Without the touchscreen, it is 1/4 in. thinner at just 7/16 in. deep.

Dell pegs the XPS 15's weight (with the touchscreen and its larger 84 watt-hour battery) at 4.4 lb. Without the touchscreen and with the lighter 56 watt-hour battery, it weighs just 3.9 lb. Dell's touchscreen model is smaller and slightly lighter than the current Apple MacBook Pro 15 Retina.

An additional point worth noting about the XPS 15 9550's 4K display is that it shows 100% of Adobe's RGB color space, a feat many other displays don't match. The glossy 10-finger touchscreen is made of Corning Gorilla Glass NBT, which is bonded to the aluminum top lid for strength. The XPS 15 wasn't designed to function as a 2-in-1, but I find that I use the touch capabilities more frequently than I expected to and sometimes prop the screen up on my lap for casual Web surfing.

Precision Touchpad pluses and minuses

People who have used Apple's MacBook Pros over the years but were tempted to switch to Windows may have found themselves held captive by a single feature: Apple makes the best trackpad in the business. After using Apple's "glass" trackpad, I stopped using a mouse for about 90% of my pointing needs. Windows trackpads are barely functional by comparison. The quest to find a Windows laptop with a decent trackpad has been a frustrating experience. In most ways, the XPS 15 has answered the call. But it's not (yet?) a perfect solution.

The XPS 15 is one of the new crop of Windows laptops that makes use of Microsoft's Precision Touchpad driver, first evident in Windows 8. Microsoft's driver was recently revised with new gestures for Windows 10. Although not quite as smooth as Apple's trackpad, Dell's touchpad comes close and the hardware works well. My only wish is that Dell would make the trackpad a little wider. I may be wrong about this, but my inclination is that the touchpad should match or come close to the 16:9 aspect ratio of the screen.

 

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