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Dell XPS 15z Review: Kinda Luxurious

Author: Matt Smith
Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: Dell

Performance - Competitors, Processor, General, Hard Drive

Performance

Even in base form the Dell XPS 15z, which is standard with a Core i5 processor and GT 525M discrete GPU, looks set to offer excellent performance. Our review unit’s upgrades to a Core i7-2640M and 8GB of RAM (up from 6GB) further underline the laptop’s performance intent. None of this hardware is exotic, but it’s actually superior to what many competitors in the high-end laptop market offer. A similar HP Envy 15 is priced at $1449. The Sony Vaio S 15.5” is nearly the same price, but this is offset by a significantly smaller battery. 

For comparison we will be using the Lenovo ThinkPad T420, the Alienware M14x and the Acer Aspire Timeline Ultra M3. This provides us with a broad range of modern processor performance as well as a broad range of modern mobile discrete graphics performance. All of these laptops are roughly similar in price, as well - the Acer Aspire Timeline Ultra M3 being the outlier with its MSRP of $799. Here are the specifications of the competitive systems.

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Processor Benchmarks

Our old pal SiSoft Sandra starts off our look at performance. It’s good at teasing out the maximum potential of a processor, so let’s see how the Core i7 dual-core fairs.

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The higher clock speed of the Core i7 is obviously paying off, providing a small but measurable leap in performance over the Core i5 powered ThinkPad T420 in both of these tests. Of course, the quad-core Core i7 in the Alienware runs away with the crown, which is exactly what you’d expect to see in a highly optimized benchmark like SiSoft.

Now let’s have a look at 7-Zip and Peacekeeper. 

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7-Zip is probably the most multi-core friendly benchmark we have in our testing suite, so it’s no surprise to see that the Core i7 quad-core in the M14x runs away from the crowd. What’s more surprising is just how large of a gap we see between the XPS 15z and the ThinkPad T420. Upgrading to the Core i7 does seem to offer a significant improvement over a base Core i5.

Peacekeeper, on the other hand, favors clock speed above all else. As a result the Core i7 dual-core takes the crown. This laptop will scream ahead of anything else on the market if you’re using software that is poorly optimized for multiple threads.

General Performance Benchmarks

To help gauge performance in everyday usage scenarios we put our laptops through some common tasks. The first is saving a 1080p video via Windows Live Movie Maker, the free program from Microsoft. It’s a simple but informative test that shows how the laptop handles heavy lifting in a real-world scenario.

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It turns out that the XPS 15z handles the lifting just fine, offering a score that’s about 40 seconds behind the M14x and much quicker than the dual-core competition. It would be nice if Dell had managed to place a Core i7 quad in this laptop, but it does seem to get by.

Now let’s take a look at BatchBlitz, a freeware program that performs batch photo editing. 

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This time around the XPS 15z is actually the winner. BatchBlitz seems to have problems handling multiple threads - which, to be honest, is why I include it. Many freeware programs have this flaw, so while quad-core processors are great, there are real-world scenarios where a fast dual-core can claim victory. 

Let’s wrap up this section with boot and resume times. 

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Hard Drive Benchmarks

The performance of a hard drive can drag down a system if it’s not in line with the competition, or make it feel unusually spry if it’s better than average. Our hard drive benchmarks help us understand performance. Let’s look at ATTO first.

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All of the competitive computers offer similar performance in this benchmark. That’s no huge surprise, as they all rely on mechanical hard drive (the Acer Aspire Timeline Ultra M3 has a solid state drive, but it’s used for instant-on). 

We also use HD Tune to provide another point of data when gauging hard drives. Let’s see if it has anything different to tell us.

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We do see that the Acer Aspire M3 and ThinkPad T420 stand out from the crowd due to higher burst rates, but otherwise the performance is similar. Dell’s XPS 15z is actually one of the better examples - it is tied for the lowest access times and has the highest average transfer rate. 

April 19, 2012 | 05:20 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 | 10:19 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 20, 2012 | 12:29 AM - 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 | 04:22 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 | 11:18 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 15, 2012 | 12:45 AM - 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 | 06:07 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 | 03:15 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 15, 2012 | 12:39 AM - 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 | 09:06 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 | 05:35 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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