Review: The Dell XPS 15 Laptop (2020) is a stylish, powerful workhorse

The Dell XPS 15 Laptop (2020) review - it's a stylish, powerful workhorse.
Photo credit: Newshub.

The 2020 range of Dell XPS 15 laptops has been released in New Zealand with some much-appreciated upgrades.

With more people than ever working from both home and the office, this is a good all-round laptop for most day-to-day tasks, both business and leisure.

But do the new upgrades give it an edge over its competitors?

I've been using one of the XPS 15 laptop 2020 models for the last few weeks and here are my thoughts.

The good

Dell has really upped its game with laptop screens and the latest XPS 15 has an excellent 16:10, InfinityEdge display.

It looks practically bezel-free and has noticeably more screen room than its predecessors.

The image is also spectacular - a Dolby Vision certified 3840 x 2400 display that has 100 percent Adobe RGB coverage, this is a gorgeous screen to watch movies and TV on.

The speakers are also surprisingly good. Either side of the keyboard are grilles covering Waves Nx speakers that output sound about as good as I've ever heard from laptop speakers. Coupled with solid mics, they make video calls sweet as even if you don't have headphones.

The Dell XPS 15 Laptop (2020), powered by Intel 10th-generation Comet Lake processors.
Photo credit: Newshub.

Under the hood, all of the 2020 XPS 15s have a powerful 10th-generation Intel Comet Lake processor, with i5, i7 and even i9 versions available.

The model I've been using is an i7-10750H with 16GB of DDR4 RAM and a 512GB Samsung solid state drive (SSD).

It's very fast, easily able to handle a range of different tasks at once. While working on it I was able to simultaneously run Photoshop, Spotify, Word and multiple tabs on Google Chrome - including some fairly hefty pages like the Adobe Experience Manager interface.

I also streamed HD video from YouTube while on a Google Hangouts video chat while other programmes ran in the background, and it handled it all fine.

Recently I upgraded my home desktop to a mighty Intel i9 10900K, which is satisfyingly overpowered for almost everything I do. The XPS 15 competes with it comfortably for most day-to-day tasks, with exporting video from Adobe Premiere being one of the only jobs it was noticeably slower at.

There are definitely more powerful laptops on the market, but this is a real workhorse that's easily powerful enough for most people and costs less than a lot of its competitors.

The i7-10750H model is comparable to the current 16-inch MacBook Pro, but buying one of them new from the Apple NZ website today would cost nearly $1000 more than getting the XPS 15 from the Dell website.

At the time of publishing, it would cost a few hundred dollars less than a comparable HP model's local RRP, too.

The Dell XPS 15 Laptop features a stylish design.
Photo credit: Newshub.

Design-wise, the XPS 15 is arguably just as stylish as anything else out there, too. I really like the polished aluminum exterior and tasteful Dell logo.

On the inside, there's a lovely carbon fiber palm rest that compliments the larger keycaps from previous years.

The trackpad is also really nice and big, making a wireless mouse not the essential purchase it is with other laptops.

As for connectivity, there's one USB-C and two Thunderbolt 3 ports, a SD card reader and a headphone jack. 

However, the package comes with a handy USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 adapter that outputs with both a USB-A and HDMI port.

For the hardcore gamer?

The XPS 15 is not a great option for the most demanding games out there and won't be good for the next-generation games coming soon, but with a little additional purchasing it can be an absolute beast.

Thanks to the fast Thunderbolt 3 ports, all you'd really need is an external graphics card (EGPU). That, along with a wireless mouse, keyboard and maybe a game controller would make for a truly fantastic gaming set-up.

As all of them have 10th-gen Intel CPUs, even one of the cheaper XPS 15 models will suffice. That together with a powerful EGPU will cost around the same as a high-end gaming laptop - but unlike those you can upgrade the EGPU as often as you like, thanks to it being external.

And of course, if you do want to just game on the laptop as is, the discrete NVIDIA GTX 1650 Ti GPU will run less-demanding games just fine.

The Dell XPS 15 Laptop (2020) is great for streaming.
Photo credit: Newshub.

The bad

When it's under pressure, the bottom of the laptop can get pretty hot. Unfortunately there's no avoiding that with thin laptops and current tech.

There's also no avoiding the noise it makes when it's being rigorously used. It's sort of like a jet engine hum, but it's quiet enough that if you've got a little sound coming out the speakers you probably won't hear it. If you've got headphones on there's no chance.

While the hum can be mitigated, the heat can't; so if you're planning on using your laptop actually on your lap you're probably going to want to get a cooling pad or something with this.

The other upgrades are brilliant, but I really hope there's innovation in cooling tech so this bugbear will soon be a thing of the past.

The graphics card is a bit weak by today's standards. It makes sense given what most people will be using the XPS 15 for and to keep costs down, but still.

It's great that you get an adaptor with a USB-A plug on it, but I'd have liked there to be a few of these on the unit itself. 

The verdict

The XPS 15 is a very attractive option for a 15-inch laptop.

It has a fantastic design and a great new screen, plenty of power and is a nice, thin, lightweight package.

For working, streaming, browsing, video chatting, basic editing and multi-tasking, this is an ideal machine that'll cost less than many of its competitors.