The Dell XPS 15 is a great choice for someone who needs more performance in their laptop, in addition to a larger screen. A redesigned model was launched in 2020, complete with a larger 16:10 aspect ratio screen, thinner bezels, and more.
If you’re looking at picking one up, there are a bewildering amount of choices to consider, including memory, storage, processor, graphics, and more. Here’s everything you need to know to select one that will work for you.
Dell offers three options for CPUs: The Intel Core i5-, Core i7-108750H, and the Core i7-10975H. The Core i9-10980HK is expected to come to the XPS 15 soon as well, though it’s yet available.
The processor you choose is important, defining performance more than anything else. Now’s the time to be honest with yourself. If you don’t need the performance that discrete graphics and high-core count processors get you, the base model is the right choice for you. The Intel Core i5 model still comes with four cores, plenty of processing power to handle heavy multitasking, web applications, and some light Photoshop work. This model currently goes for $1,274 on Dell’s online storefront, $26 off the $1,300 “estimated value.”
Don’t let the “sale” price confuse you. The prices of these configurations shift often, but Dell “discounts” them more often than not.
The leap up from the base model starts at $1,715, which is $35 off the $1,750 “estimated value.” That’s a big jump in price, but this is where most XPS 15 shoppers will be looking. Most potential buyers of the XPS 15 are content creators or those with the need for extra power, and that’s what these sets of configurations get you.
Thanks to Intel, there are two options for Core i7 configurations. The Core i7-10750H has six cores and twelve threads, whereas the Core i7-10875H has eight cores and sixteen threads. The difference in core count is substantial, adding extra performance for any multithreaded applications. It will not make a difference for gaming, but if you plan to edit video or photos with your XPS 15, the $98 upgrade is well worth the money.
The Core i9 model will also have eight cores, though it has a higher boost clock speed.
Memory and storage
The base model is the only version of the XPS 15 that can’t be customized. If you opt for the Intel Core i5 model, you’re stuck with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of solid-state storage. This base model is the option furthest to the left on Dell’s website.
Once you select one of the Core i7 configurations, your customization options greatly expand. The starting RAM is still 8GB, but you can then choose to upgrade either to 16GB of 32GB. There’s no reason to configure either of the Core i7 options without at least 16GB of RAM — especially since it’s only a $98 upgrade.
Moving up to 32GB should be reserved only for those who have a specific need for that much memory. Dell charges an extra $147 to go from 16GB to 32GB, which is still a solid price. It’s even cheaper from manufacturers like HP, but Apple charges $400 for that same upgrade on its MacBook Pro 16-inch.
Dell also charges reasonable prices for storage upgrades. The configuration starts with just 256GB, which is likely not enough for content creators working with large files. I recommend at least starting with 512GB. It is currently capped at 1TB, though Dell previously stated that larger capacities might be available in the future.
There are two options for displays on this year’s XPS 15. To replace the 1080p option, Dell offers a 1,900 x 1,200 screen. The new 16:10 aspect ratio, which is a bit taller than a standard 16:9 laptop, is the reason for the odd screen resolution. It’s technically more pixels, but the visual quality is similar to using a conventional 1080p laptop. This 1,900 x 1,200 option is not touch-enabled.
It’s still a sharp screen, though, and you’ll get at least a couple more hours of battery life by not upgrading to 4K. The 1200p display can be chosen regardless of what processor you opt for.
The “4K+” model, though, is reserved only for the Core i7 configurations. 3,840 x 2,400 is as pixel-dense a screen you can find on a laptop, even surpassing the MacBook Pro 16-inch or Surface Book 3. Beyond its incredible sharpness, the 4K+ model has a wider color gamut and increased color accuracy. It’s the best screen for creative professionals you’ll find on a laptop. On top of that, it’s also a touch screen. It is a $294 upgrade that’ll only be worth it for serious content creators, and it’ll result in only around six hours of battery life.
It should be noted that OLED is no longer an option as it was in previous years.
Discrete Nvidia graphics is one of the most important benefits of a larger laptop like the XPS 15. The options are simple. The basic integrated graphics that come with the Core i5 model, or the Nvidia GTX 1650 Ti in the Core i7 models.
You won’t be able to play games on the Core i5 model any more than you would a basic 13-inch laptop. Intel’s UHD integrated graphics just aren’t cut out for it.
The GTX 1650 Ti, though, can handle some modern games quite well.
If you want even better graphics, you’ll need to wait for the Dell XPS 17. This larger laptop is expected to have much more powerful graphics, with configurations up to an Nvidia RTX 2060.
What about the old model?
You can still buy the previous-gen XPS 15, which is still being sold on Dell’s website (and at retailers like Amazon or Best Buy). It doesn’t have all the design innovations featured in the newest model, such as the 16:10 screen, improved speakers, larger touchpad, and thinner bezel. The older XPS 15 also has a different assortment of ports, including HDMI and USB-A. The new XPS 15 features two Thunderbolt 3 ports, a standard USB-C 3.1 port, an SD card slot, and a headphone jack.
The older model also has slower RAM, slightly worse graphics, and a previous-generation Intel processor. The exchange, however, is price. The base model is around $200 cheaper, and that price difference remains fairly consistent as you upgrade it. If you’re looking to save a few bucks and don’t care about the design upgrades, the older XPS 15 is still a solid option. That’s especially true if you opt for the powerful Core i9 and 4K OLED screen.
You can easily spot the difference by the Dell logo below the screen as the new model has removed it.
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