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Dell XPS 15z Review: Kinda Luxurious

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Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: Dell

Introduction, Design, User Interface

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Dell has long tried to enter the high-end luxury laptop market. These attempts have always been met with mixed results. While Dell’s thick, power and relatively affordable XPS laptops are a good pick for people needing a desktop replacement, they don’t cause the thinness-obsessed media to salivate. 

Enter the Dell XPS 15z. It’d be easy to think that it’s a MacBook Pro clone considering its similar pricing and silver exterior, but reality is simpler then that. This is just an XPS 15 that has been slimmed down. Like the standard XPS laptops, the 15z follows a form-balanced-by-function approach that is common among all of Dell’s laptops. 

Slimming the chassis has forced the use of some less powerful components, but our review unit still arrived with some impressive hardware. Let’s have a look.

Continue reading our review of the Dell XPS 15z notebook!!

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The Core i7 processor should perform well and the Nvidia GT525M should make games reasonably enjoyable without killing battery life. The inclusion of an optional 1080p display hints at the 15z’s up-market focus. 

Our review unit is a high-end model. The hard drive is upgraded to 750GB from a base of 500GB and the RAM is upgraded to 8GB from a base of 6GB. The Core i7 processor is also an upgrade. Dell’s website suggests our review unit would retail around $1300, but the company is known to have sales, so you may be able to pick one up for $100 or $200 cheaper if you’re lucky.

That’s a steep price that makes the XPS 15z far more expensive than a typical mainstream laptop. Even the base 15z is $200 more than the base XPS 15, and a lot of that price seems to go in to the XPS 15z’s thinner design. Let’s see if the premium is justified.

Design

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I reviewed the Dell Inspiron 14z late last year and loved it, but that laptop usually retails for between $500 and $800 bucks. Given the higher price and XPS branding of this laptop, I expected something radically different. That’s what we received, but the changes are not in favor of the XPS 15z.

Unlike the smaller Inspiron 14z, which feels more expensive than it is, the XPS 15z seems a bit cheap and tinny relative to similarly priced competition. The silver metallic finish might have looked cool in 2009, but today it seems bland and out-of-date. Dell has also endowed the laptop with some design traits that are just plain weird. The speakers are covered by an odd bathroom-tile pattern and the display hinge is a long hunk of silver plastic that seems carved out of the dash of an econo-car.

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Look past the aesthetics and the XPS 15z improves. Its metallic display lid is firm, the hinge allows for minimal display wobble and the lower chassis doesn’t groan in protest or flex noticeably no matter how poorly you treat it - impressive, as this thin laptop is not particularly light. 

Connectivity is well thought out, as well. The individual microphone and headphone jacks are located at the front right corner, while the rear left flank houses two USB 3.0 ports, a combo USB 2.0/eSATA port, HDMI and DisplayPort. Ethernet and the power can be found around back. 

User Interface

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Dell’s strange design choices continue to the user interface. The keyboard is small for a laptop of this size and individual keys are adorned with rounded plastic caps that look a bit cheap. As far as I can tell, there’s not much reason to include such a small keyboard in a large laptop unless you’re doing it for design - which makes me wonder what Dell was thinking. If the hope was to achieve a premium appearance, the company has failed, and reduced functionality while they were at it.

Not everything about the keyboard is bad, however. Though individual keys are small, they are large enough to be comfortable and there is sufficient space between each key to make touch-typing easy. Key travel is decent and keys bottom out with authority. You can find better laptops to type on, but the XPS 15z isn’t bad.

Telling you about the touchpad simply requires that I repeat myself. It too is much smaller and less luxurious than you’d expect it to be. Oh, sure, there’s some chrome trim around the surface, but the actual touchpad has a simple matte plastic finish that’s no different than that found on laptops costing hundreds less. At least the individual left/right mouse buttons are a high point. They are large and offer significant travel. 

April 19, 2012 | 02:20 PM - Posted by BC Hiker (not verified)

I haven't had a hands on with the the HP Envy, but they acutally have both the Dell XPS 15z and the Sony Vaio S 15.5 at Sam's Club. I like the look and the keyboard (plus number pad) on the Sony better than the dell, but the Sony screen is super flimsy. I don't remember another laptop with such screen flex.
The Dell is more solidly constructed, but the I really dislike the keyboard.
This is just an at a glance opinion, but I also like the Dell 1080 screen better than the Sony 1080 screen.

April 19, 2012 | 07:19 PM - Posted by Matt Smith

Yea, I don't know what Sony was thinking with the displays on their new laptops. They're all terribly constructed.

I've also heard that some Sony 1080p displays suffer from the same "red is orange" problem as the HP Envy.

My pick of the bunch is the HP Envy 15, as it has performance, a good user interface and solid construction.

April 19, 2012 | 09:29 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

someone might want to blur out the windows product key on the high resolution shot of the bottom of the laptop.

April 20, 2012 | 01:22 PM - Posted by Soulman83 (not verified)

Looks are purely subject. Saying looks weren't outdated then but is now just means you expected a radical re-design.
I see new laptops with new techy looks but my brain isn't fooled so easily anymore.
It's the hardware inside and how smooth the egronomics of the laptop are, and the XPS laptops have a good combination of this.
The keyboard needs to be placed differently and the keys are small, but the backlit ones make up for it.

THe XPS has a smooth, refined design and DELL want to keep it that way.

April 23, 2012 | 08:18 AM - Posted by Outsider (not verified)

I know the emphasis is on gaming performance, but there are screen comments here and I noticed some diversity of displays in the review. Perhaps you can have a review that addresses various displays- like a more current review of glossy, gamut matte and their various percentages, LED, etc, etc. Does it really make that much difference?

At any rate- thanks for doing these- as I'm in the market at about this ballpark.

July 14, 2012 | 09:45 PM - Posted by DIE.DELL.DIE (not verified)

Hey, I've had this laptop for a bit over a year, and the display itself is really nice, but the screen kinda annoys me. It's glossy (I didn't have any other options, they may have them now) and I use it on the plane so to conserve battery, I turn down the brightness, and all you can see then is the reflection. I could use it as a mirror! Haha =] It's a bit frustrating, I've just learned to live with it.

April 26, 2012 | 03:07 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Is the XPS i7 a good laptop for video editing? How does it stack up against a Mac Book Pro with an i7?

Do you prefer Mac to PC for video editing or is that not the case anymore since they use the same intel processors?

Thanks.

May 16, 2012 | 12:15 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I have had my Dell xps 15z for about a year and to be honest the video editing is awful compared to a mac. The dell software takes up so much ram that it is impossible to edit video because it constantly comes up with errors due to there not being enough memory. I finally gave up on making my short 2 minute video and used my mac.

July 14, 2012 | 09:39 PM - Posted by DIE.DELL.DIE (not verified)

This laptop has been the worst experience I've ever had with technology EVER! I mean the laptop is fine when it works fine, I actually like it, but I've had the hard drive replaced 3 times, the optical drive replaced, the mother board replaced, the screen and shell replaced, the microphone replaced and there was more that I can't remember. Not to mention, that this is the second laptop I've had of this model, BECAUSE A DELL TECHNICIAN BROKE THE FIRST ONE! None of this was caused by me, there was a faulty part in the laptop. And after all this, Dell refuses to give us an extended warranty. This laptop may work perfectly fine for you, but it and their service has caused me to HATE Dell and I will slander their name everywhere I can. I am so sick of this, I am just getting a Mac.

August 6, 2012 | 06:06 PM - Posted by puneeth (not verified)

I own Dell xps15z,I am not able to install designing software like assays,pore ,catia and even I was not able to install sum game also can any one help me

September 1, 2012 | 02:35 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

How much does it cost around...? nd how long can it hold the battery time..nd how about gaming ? :) pls reply..thank YOu :)

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