The new XPS 15 (also called the XPS L501X) is a completely redesigned multimedia notebook from Dell. Sporting a JBL sound-system with subwoofer, NVIDIA GT420M dedicated graphics, and an Intel Core i5 processor, this system is designed with performance and entertainment in mind. In this review, we take an in-depth look at the new XPS and see how it stacks up against the competition.
Our Dell XPS 15 Specifications:
Build and Design
The new Dell XPS 15 has a silver on grey color scheme, using metal panels and plastic for the body. Compared to past XPS designs that were trend setters that distinguished themselves from the lower models, the new XPS doesn't seem to spark much visual interest. In theory, mixing alloy panels with a brushed metal palmrest and backlit keyboard usually yields good results. The redesigned XPS 15 doesn't seem to really set itself apart, though, from the standard Inspiron 15R until you take a much closer look. Standing back five feet, the panels look like average plastic on the exterior, and the body itself even seems more bloated than the 15R. Overall, it seems like Dell missed a big opportunity to make the XPS-series the unique notebooks they once were. The result is a rather bland looking multimedia notebook where its budget-oriented sibling --the Inspiron 15R--outshines it.
Nevertheless, the XPS 15 feels nicer than it looks. The metal panels on the interior and exterior add strength to the body, reduce flex, and give the notebook a high-quality feel. Holding the notebook for the first time is a weird experience, as most of the panels look like plastic until you feel the cold metal. The screen cover does a very good job at protecting the display from impacts and seems to resist flexing when opening the screen from one of the front corners. The inside of the notebook features a large brushed metal panel that makes up the palmrest and keyboard surround. The bottom of the notebook is completely plastic (including the access panel) but still resists flex and feels durable. The only problem we noticed was the high use of plastic clips holding most of the notebook together (in addition to metal screws).
Users looking to upgrade the Dell XPS 15 will find it easy or not so easy, depending on which components they are looking to swap out. The single access panel on the bottom of the notebook houses the two sticks of RAM, wireless card, and WWAN/TV tuner slot. To get at the hard drive, you must fully disassemble the notebook, which isn't a task for the faint hearted. We counted about 16 screws, but didn't want to go further and risk breaking plastic clips or gouging the trim around the perimeter. That's an awful amount of work just to swap out a hard drive for a full-sized notebook.
Ports and Features
Users who want high-speed data connections on their notebooks will love the Dell XPS 15. Dell configured this system with two USB 3.0 ports, one eSATA/USB 2.0 combo port, gigabit Ethernet, mini-DisplayPort, HDMI-out, and plenty of audio jacks. For expansion, Dell only includes a SDHC-card reader/writer; you don't get an ExpressCard slot to add additional ports in the future.
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