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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.

The XPS 15 9550 is also missing an Ethernet port. Nor is there any Thunderbolt 2 connectivity. In addition to the HDMI and USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 ports, it has two USB 3.0 ports with power-sharing, an SD Card port and a headset jack.

It's relatively easy to find inexpensive adapters for the slower 5Gbps USB-C standard to add ports for USB 3.0, gigabit Ethernet, VGA, DVI, HDMI and DisplayPort. For full support of HDMI 2.0 and DisplayPort 1.2, however, you might be better off waiting and paying more for the much faster Thunderbolt 3 adapters that are on the way.

General design

The XPS 15 9550 has top-notch build quality. MacBook Pro 15 Retinas have more case flex than this Dell. It's very solid.

In fact, on first impression, I was a little surprised at the heft of the laptop, given its overall size. It's not heavy; it's just heavier than it looks. The sides slope upward and outward as they rise from the bottom. Even so, it has an overall boxy feel, probably because of the sharp corners.

The carbon fiber deck is supple and warm. Key travel is short at 1.3mm, but the keyboard manages to inspire the MacBook Pro's "dance across the top of the keys" typing style. The key caps would be slightly better with a bit more concavity and sculpting. The keyboard backlighting works exactly like the MacBook Pro's and can come in handy.

Even under heavy usage, this laptop keeps its cool and the fans aren't as loud as with some other laptops. Part of why it handles heat well may be due to the design of the "feet" that raise the flat bottom of the laptop about 3/16 in. to let air in. This may even work on uneven surfaces, because instead of placing four footpads in the corners, Dell machined parallel ridges, one in front and one in the back, that run continuously across the bottom of the case. The two raised footings sport rounded-over rubber strips, which also give the XPS 15 a lot of traction.

A large side-to-side fan intake sits between the two horizontally running supports. I suspect this laptop wouldn't have its cooling air choked off even if it were left on a soft tablecloth or a bed. It's a smart design.

One design point: It's impossible to open the lid of this notebook with one hand. The friction hinge is so tight that the whole laptop just lifts up. A second hand is required to sneak a finger in and hold down the bottom portion of the laptop as you raise the top. That can be a little tedious. Perhaps it will loosen over time. That said, I'd rather have this problem than a lid whose friction hinge is too loose.

 

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