Over the last month I have been using a Dell XPS 15 as my main machine (see my initial unboxing) replacing my music production / podcasting setup. As I have been using it for a while I thought I would document my thoughts.
The first thing you notice about the XPS 15 is the screen which looks gorgeous. It has a 15.6 inch display running at 3840 x 2160 (4K UHD) with 100% Adobe RGB certified colour reproduction. It is incredibly sharp and bright, add that to the fact it has a tiny bezel (5.7mm) and it looks very impressive. The laptop is about the size of most 14 inch devices.
The screen is also 10 point multi-touch which works great with Windows 10, whenever I use a Mac now I end up touching the screen and waiting for something to happen. It works great with music mixing software being able to retime control the faders.
The case is made of brushed aluminium with a carbon fibre wrist rest which has a soft coating on it so it is extremely comfortable to type on. The keyboard is pretty good for typing on, there is a positive feel to them with a short amount of travel, I have typed many blog posts with it and I find it very productive. There is also a large smooth trackpad that supports multi-touch gestures and also has palm rejections so you don’t get accidental movement on the trackpad. My only criticism of the keyboard is there is plenty of space to the left and right of the keys and Dell could have added a number pad and still had the same sized keys but this is a minor issues as I very rarely use the a number pad on my other machines. The keyboard is backlit so the Dell is great for low light situations.
The XPS is 17mm thick at the hinge end and 11mm thick at the front, the tapered design makes it feel like a thin device. I really like the overall design of the Dell, it has a premium well made feel to it. The XPS 15 weights 2kg so it’s as light as something like my Surface Pro 3 but it compares well too many other 15 inch laptops.
There are plenty of connectivity options: There is a full size SD card slot, 2 USB 3.0 ports, headphones, one Thunderbolt 3 port (USB-C) which supports power in and connecting up external monitors and HDMI. Also included was a USB port adapter which adds VGA, HDMI, Ethernet and a USB port.
The model I am using has a 6th generation quad core i7 processor with an Nvidia GTX 960 graphics chip paired with 16GB of RAM and 512 GB solid state drive. As you can imagine from the specs the machine really flies, the SSD drive and Intel processor makes it a really fast performer. I haven’t tried gaming on the Dell, I imagine the Nvidia GTX 960 is pretty good for gaming certainly it helps with video editing. I have been using the XPS for music production and podcast and for tasks like mixing down the audio files it takes about half the time of my i5 Surface Pro 3, and many times faster than my spinning drive based i5 Lenovo laptop. The power also means that it can run multiple audio tracks and virtual instruments in Cubase without causing any audio lag or pushing the processor to hard. As you can see from the video a multi-track Cubase project uses hardly any processor. It also has proven its worth for video editing, most of the recent videos I have posted to YouTube have been done on the XPS and the fast processing time make it a very smooth editing experience and has halved the video rendering time.
I found I get about 6 to 8 hours of battery depending on usage. When video editing I found it was closer to 6 hours whereas web browsing is about 8 hours.
As you can see in the video below it is a very powerful laptop and a great design, it is working really well with Cubase and for podcast production. I am pretty sure it would work well for any situation where you want a hi-res screen, power and portability. I have used Microsoft’s new Surface Book and this offers very similar specs but with a traditional laptop design and about £300 cheaper which makes it well worth considering when you are looking at a premium laptop. It very much has a premium feel like the Surface Book and Macbook Pro.
One niggle I do have is it comes with Windows 10 Home and not Windows 10 Professional which when you paying over £1800 for the Dell is disappointing but other than that I have no complaints.
In this video I take a look at music production with the Dell XPS 15 and talk about some of its features.