Performance and battery life
The downside to these 4K screens is that they generally suck power, so battery life tends to be a big concern. Dell says the XPS 15's 97 watt-hour pack should last up to 20 and a half hours, which would be impressive if true. On our battery test, the runtime was more like 13 and a half hours, That's pretty respectable, though. It's more than enough for a full workday and longer than the Alienware 15 and the ASUS ZenBook Pro (although that has a battery-draining touchscreen trackpad). Plus, you could probably hit Dell's estimate if you dimmed the screen and turned on the most energy-saving mode. Oh, or if you opted for a lower-res, less power-hungry panel and CPU.
Our review unit came packing a ninth-generation eight-core Intel Core i9 CPU and an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660 graphics card. Add to that 32GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD and we've got a super powerful machine on our hands. That explains why during my testing, the XPS 15 blazed through tasks like editing photos and video conferencing. It also ran smoothly while I switched between a dozen open Chrome tabs and a session of Overcooked.
But the configuration we were sent also costs a whopping $2,649, which is about $400 more than a similarly specced ZenBook Pro 15. Though the ASUS machine comes with a less-powerful GTX 1050 GPU instead, and offers a useful touchscreen trackpad. Our XPS is $100 cheaper than the highest-end MacBook Pro 15, which has a similar CPU, Radeon Pro graphics, 16GB of RAM, 512GB of storage and the Touch Bar. The HP Spectre x360 15 is also more expensive, despite packing an older CPU and less-powerful graphics card.
If you don't expect to be killing it at Overwatch while concurrently streaming to Twitch, you probably won't need such a powerful setup. The $1,099 base model with a ninth-generation Core i5, 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage should be enough for your daily workflow and some light photo and video editing.
The XPS 15 lives up to its family's reputation for being well-rounded, powerful machines. It delivers much-appreciated tweaks to an already-successful formula, but could use a bit of a refresh on its style. For the money, though, the XPS 15 is still one of the best laptops you can get.