Screen and Speakers
The Dell XPS 15 can be configured with two 15-inch screen options. The lower-end models offer a WXGA resolution 1366 x 768 panel, whereas the higher-tiered models include a nicer 1080p 1920 x 1080 screen. Our review system included the lower resolution option with a glossy surface. The WXGA panel rates average to below average, with a 177nit maximum brightness and a contrast ratio of 190:1. Black levels were average at best, with an average brightness level of 0.91nit. Colors looked vibrant thanks to the glossy surface, although with poor viewing angles, most colors washed out quickly with the screen tilted forward or back. Horizontal viewing angles were better, keeping colors accurate to 60-70 degrees where reflections off the screen overpowered what you were viewing.
If there was one feature of the XPS 15 that I had to pick out as my favorite, it would be the JBL speakers. With most 15-inch notebooks going for thinner designs, it’s hard to fit really good sounding speakers in a notebook these days. Dell did an amazing job with the speakers on the XPS 15 though, which offer high peaks and rumbling lows. The subwoofer on the bottom really made its presence known, adding a soft rumble to the keyboard and palmrest when playing movies or music with lots of bass. For users looking for a more private listening session, the XPS 15 offers two headphone jacks for sharing a movie on a plane, as well as SPDIF and HDMI out for the home theater.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The Dell XPS 15 features a very comfortable backlit keyboard with a design using traits from standard and Chiclet-style keyboards. The keyboard doesn’t feature an internal bezel like most island-style keyboards, but it also has completely flat key surfaces. For typing long documents or even playing a game to blow off steam during a long company meeting, the keyboard does an excellent job. Typing noise is minimal, with each key only emitting a very soft click when pressed. The backlight is adjustable with three settings; off, low, and high. On high, the keys are lighted just enough to see the backlight is on under strong office lighting. The low setting is great for users who don’t keep their screens set to full brightness at night, but still want some illumination to figure out where some keys are located.
The touchpad is a large multi-touch Synaptics model with dedicated left and right buttons. Sensitivity out of the box was excellent, with the touchpad having no trouble tracking my finger out of the box. The touchpad supports some multi-touch features like pinch zoom, two finger scrolling, and offered a surface large enough to not make multiple fingers feel cramped. We had no trouble with lag or slow refresh speeds, making it feel very responsive in all situations. The touchpad buttons were also very nice, offering deep throws and soft feedback.