Friday, October 22, 2021

Dell XPS 15 9510 review: a beautiful, well-balanced workstation laptop

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Most people who buy a laptop these days will do just fine with a thin and light 13- or 14-inch computer like the Dell XPS 13 or Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Carbon. These laptops have reasonably powerful processors and integrated graphics that are good enough for one or two external monitors, but prioritize a slim profile and light weight over performance.

Still, sometimes you need something bigger and more powerful, either because you want a bigger screen to use away from your desk or because you need additional processor cores or graphics power to edit videos or play games. And if you want those things in a laptop that doesn’t completely ignore size and weight, and if you prefer or need Windows over macOS, then that’s when you buy something like the XPS 15.

the latest XPS 15 (officially, model number 9510) is another iterative upgrade for a laptop that has always looked and felt like an expanded version of the XPS 13. But six- or eight-core Intel Tiger Lake processors and a new Nvidia GeForce RTX GPU with ray tracing capabilities make this version of the XPS 15 especially attractive to professionals and light gamers, even if updated competitors like Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme Gen 4 (and, when it is finally released, an updated version of the 16-inch MacBook Pro with Apple Silicon) give it a run for its money.

Look, feel, screen and ports

Specifications at a glance: Dell XPS 15 9510
Worse Better As reviewed
Screen 15.6 inch 1920 × 1200 IPS non-touch 15.6 inch 3840 × 2400 IPS touch screen 15.6 inch OLED touch screen 3456 × 2160
SW Windows 10 Home, 64-bit
CPU Intel Core i5-11400H Intel Core i9-11900H Intel Core i7-11800H
RAM. 8GB DDR4 (2 DIMMs) 64GG DDR4 (2 DIMMs) 16GB DDR4 (2 DIMMs)
HDD 256 NVMe SSD 8TB NVMe SSD (2 x 4TB) 512GB NVMe SSD
GPU Intel UHD Graphics Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti (4GB, 45W)
Networking Wi-Fi 6 (2×2), Bluetooth 5.1
Ports 2x Thunderbolt 4, 1x USB-C 3.2 gen 2, SD card reader
Size 13.57 × 9.06 × 0.17 inches (344.7 × 230.1 × 18.0 mm)
Weight 3.99 pounds (1.81kg) 4.42 lbs (2.01 kg) 4.31 lbs (1.96 kg)
Battery 56 Wh 86 Wh
Warranty 1 year
Price (MSRP) $ 1,300 $ 4,800 $ 2,450
Other advantages Fingerprint sensor, black or white finish
(Ars Technica may earn compensation for the sales of the links in this post through affiliate programs.)

The design of the XPS 15 hasn’t changed much since 2016, when Dell took the then-new slim-bezel design from the XPS 13 and blew it up. And as with the XPS 13, the changes in the years since have been incremental but significant. The webcam that sits below the screen and on the nose has re-migrated to the proper position on the screen. The laptop has gotten a bit thinner and lighter, the trackpad has gotten even bigger, and (with the exception of an SD card reader and headphone jack) the laptop now uses Thunderbolt and USB-C ports exclusively like the MacBook Pro. The two ports on the left side of the laptop are Thunderbolt 4, while the one on the right side is USB-C; Any of the three can be used to connect an external display or charge the laptop, you just want to make sure you use any Thunderbolt accessory with the fastest ports.

The biggest difference in more recent years is the introduction of a new 16:10 aspect ratio for the screen, cutting the bottom bezel off the “chin” and filling that area with screen instead. It’s not as tall as the 3: 2 screens Microsoft uses on the Surface line, but if you’re using an older laptop, jumping from 16: 9 to 16:10 is a deceptively big upgrade on usable screen space. More symmetrical bezels also solo Sight better. There is no wasted space impression.

We tested the OLED “3.5K” version of the display, which sits between the 1920×1200 IPS panel at the lower end and a 3840×2400 IPS display at the top of the range. The difference between “true” 4K and this display’s strange 3456×2160 resolution is unlikely to be observable with the naked eye; what you will notice is the OLED panel, which has the typical benefits and disadvantages of technology. The display’s ability to completely turn off individual pixels gives you nice deep blacks and an essentially infinite contrast ratio.

But the ready-to-wear color seems a bit too vivid and oversaturated, and the maximum brightness drops a step of up to 400 nits from the 500 nits of both IPS panels. (I measured a maximum brightness of 385 nits on our review unit with an i1 DisplayStudio colorimeter.) You may notice a slight “grain” on the screen when you look at the monitor closely, especially when you see solid colors. This is a side effect of the sub-pixel design of some OLED displays. It’s not a deal breaker for most uses, but it’s something you might want to avoid for high-end photo editing or graphic design, despite 100% sRGB color gamut coverage and coverage of the 98.7% of the display’s DCI-P3 gamut (again, measured with the i1 DisplayStudio Colorimeter).

I tried the white XPS 15, which in addition to the color is different from the black and silver model in some small functional ways. The laptop’s palm rest, which is covered in a soft-touch texture in the black version, feels harder and stickier under my wrists. And a white backlight with white keys now and forever will look muddy and indistinct in anything but a completely dark room. The keys are perfectly readable in a dimly lit room and the keyboard backlight off, so I found myself keeping it off most of the time.

The white version of the XPS 15 limits your component options – both the cheapest and most expensive configuration options are only available in black. On Dell’s site, choosing the white version of the laptop automatically ups you to a Core i7 processor, 16GB or more of RAM, a 512GB or more SSD, and dedicated rather than integrated graphics (although these are at their best. most upgrades we recommend for this type of laptop anyway).

The white version’s backlight issues aside, the XPS 15’s keyboard feels good to use. Like Apple’s post-Butterfly MacBook keyboards, the keys feel firm but provide a reasonably comfortable amount of travel, and I have no complaints about key spacing or layout. I still have a slight preference for ThinkPad keyboards, which feel a bit softer and travel a bit better, but most people will be able to be comfortable with either of them. Dell has also followed Apple’s lead by including an almost comically large one-piece glass trackpad on the XPS 15. I was nervous about resting my wrists directly on it, but didn’t notice any major issues with palm rejection. hand. Like all Microsoft compliant trackpads Precision touchpad Specifications, finger tracking, and multi-touch gestures are also reliable and accurate. There’s also not much to report about the power button-mounted Windows Hello fingerprint sensor – it’s there and it works (Dell doesn’t offer an infrared face-scan camera like most Microsoft Surface models and some others. PC, but this is not a deal breaker).

The XPS 15’s webcam and speakers are useful, but nothing to write home about. The webcam does a decent job with white balance and exposure, but details look fuzzy and fuzzy. The speakers have good stereo separation and voice calls will come out loud and clear, but the bass is disappointing in the way that laptop speakers are often disappointing. This was true no matter how much I modified the “MaxxBass” setting in the laptop’s audio control panel. On the contrary, instead of improving the bass, I found that raising the bass too much only made everything else sound worse.

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