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Dell XPS 15z Review: Kinda Luxurious

Author: Matt Smith
Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: Dell

Performance - Synthetic 3D, Game Benchmarks

Synthetic 3D Benchmarks

Now it’s time to tackle the GT 525M. This is not a particularly common GPU. You’ll find it in just a handful of laptops including the Dell XPS 15 and some Toshiba Satellite models. 

Nvidia’s branding of this part suggests that it is a close sibling of the GT 520M, but specs tell us differently. This GPU has 96 CUDA cores, which is the same as the GT 540M. They run at 600 MHz, which is just 72 MHz below the 540M. Our review unit paired this GPU with 2GB of DDR3 memory. 

Let’s see how it stacks up in 3DMark.

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In the aging 3DMark 06 benchmark the GT 525M appears strong but not exceptional. It beats the Lenovo ThinkPad T420 handily but comes up well short of the newer Kepler-based GT 640M. Alienware’s M14X, with its GT 555M, runs away with the crown.

What about 3DMark 11? 

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The performance story changes quite a bit in this benchmark, but not for the Dell. The main difference is the Acer Aspire M3’s sudden surge into the lead. This can be explained by the new architecture of its GT 640M GPU, which is tuned for the challenges of modern games. 

So far our information seems to indicate that the XPS 15z is capable, but just barely. Let’s see how it handles real-world games.

Real World Gaming Benchmarks

We always start this section with Dawn of War 2: Retribution. This older strategy title often ends up CPU bound. This gives some hope to the XPS 15z.

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Yep - the fast Core i7 comes to save the day, providing overall benchmark results that are nearly on par with the Alienware M14x. If you like to play games that are known to be CPU bound, like many strategy and some MMO titles, you could find yourself just as well served by this laptop as one that has a faster GPU - provided you reduce the game’s resolution from 1080p.

Now let’s try Just Cause 2, a much more GPU intensive game, but one that is a couple years old. Can the XPS 15z handle it?

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Well...kinda. The Concrete Jungle loop we use to test Just Cause 2 is demanding, and in actual gameplay the frame-rate is usually a tad higher than the average found in our testing. Most gamers will find the experience tolerable, but it’s adequate at best and a bit jerky at worst. 

Finally, let’s have a look at Battlefield 3, one of the most demanding games you can buy today.

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Here we see the XPS 15z falter. The gaming experience is playable at these settings, but certainly not enjoyable. I encourage gamers who want decent gaming performance in a thin laptop to wait until the new Kepler-based GPUs become widely available. Or you could go with the HP Envy 15, which comes standard with a Radeon HD7690M.

1080p Gaming Benchmarks

We don’t normally run 1080p gaming benchmarks because they simply aren’t relevant, but in those rare cases where we receive a 1080p capable laptop we do test its gaming performance at its native resolution. Let’s briefly look at what happens when you pump up the pixels. 

For purposes of this section of the review we will be using different laptops for comparison, as the ones used in previous benchmarks are not capable of 1080p. Instead, we will be using the ASUS G74, ASUS N55 and Alienware M17x

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Cranking the resolution puts a big dent in the framerate of this game, but it remains playable. There are hiccups from time to time, and they are noticeable. But I think most gamers would rather play this title at 1080p/35FPS than at 1366x768/55FPS.

Just Cause 2 might be a different story, however.

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Indeed. Playing at 1080p is simply too much for the GT 525M to handle in this game. Our average of 16 FPS is representative of general gameplay. It’s jerky enough to make effective use of the game’s controls difficult. Anyone hoping to play this title on a Dell XPS 15z will have to stick with a lower resolution.

This result doesn’t give us much hope for Battlefield 3, but let’s give it a whirl anyway, shall we?

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No surprise here. Trying to play BF3 at this resolution is hopeless. You’re going to need a serious gaming laptop to handle this game.

Overall, the GT 525M does seem over-matched by the display’s resolution. Only older titles will play well. This is not a problem unique to the XPS 15z, however. All non-gaming laptops with 1080p displays have difficulty with modern titles.

 

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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