Heat and Noise
Dell did a pretty good job handling the thermal load of the high-performance components stuffed into the XPS 15. Airflow through the chassis is very good and the system is able to expel most of the CPU and GPU's thermal load quickly when the load increases. During our benchmarking, the system quickly ramped up its cooling fan speed to handle the higher heat levels while still maintaining a minimal noise output. The chassis felt only mildly warm to the touch under continuous loads, with only one recorded hotspot on the bottom. External temperatures shown below are listed in degrees Fahrenheit:
The XPS 15 is offered with either a 6-cell or 9-cell battery. Our configuration included the smaller 56Wh 6-cell battery, which performed pretty well while still maintaining a clean flush appearance on the bottom of the notebook chassis. In our testing with the screen brightness reduced to 70%, keyboard backlit disabled, wireless on and refreshing a webpage every 60 seconds, and Windows 7 set to the Balanced profile the XPS 15 stayed on for 5 hours and 16 minutes. For a notebook with an upper midrange processor and decent dedicated graphics, this was pretty good. Expect roughly 7 to 8 hours on the larger 9-cell battery.
The newly redesigned Dell XPS 15 brings a lot of cool features to the table, but seems to miss the mark in the design department. With previous XPS notebooks being flagship models from Dell, it's disappointing to see such a bland and normal looking system. I think it's rather odd when you look at "budget" models like the Inspiron 15R and see flashier colors and sleeker profiles. Build quality was a step up at least, with metal panels protecting the screen and metal on the palmrest and keyboard trim inside the notebook. The plastic chassis felt strong, but left something to be desired when it came to accessing internal components. Users looking to replace the hard drive will find it very difficult, as the notebook requires full disassembly if they want to upgrade to an SSD later on.
System performance was very good with the Intel Core i5 560M and NVIDIA GeForce GT420M performing well in a variety of tasks. The sound system was my favorite feature on this notebook, providing booming bass and great audio quality. Overall if you don't mind the looks, the XPS does offer a pretty good value, starting at $799 for the base configuration.
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