The latest version of the Dell XPS 15 Touch (starts at $999; $2,024.99 as tested) is a prime choice for anyone working in art, video, or photography, thanks to its edge-to-edge 4K screen, color fidelity, Kaby Lake processor, and Nvidia Pascal graphics. The price is lower than its predecessor, and it’s significantly less than its prime rival in the high-end desktop-replacement laptop space, the Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch. This is the power user’s laptop we’d recommend for working in the visual arts.
Same on the Outside
The 4K screen has a 100-percent Adobe RGB color gamut (industry-standard color fidelity), perfect if you need to view 4K videos at native resolution, and by extension, for editing full HD videos. If there’s any drawback to the edge-to-edge display, it’s that the webcam is now located below the screen, instead of on top. That means that when you use the webcam on video calls, you have to tilt the screen back or risk having folks on the other end get an extreme close-up of your face (and your nostrils) when the display is head on.
The keyboard, the touchpad, and the touch screen are a joy to use. The laptop’s interfaces include Bluetooth 4.1, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, USB 3.0, USB-C/Thunderbolt 3, and HDMI, so you should be able to connect with the majority of peripherals and accessories in use today. For greater detail on the system’s 4K panel, keyboard feel, and port selection, check out our review of the Dell XPS 15 Touch (9550).
Under the Hood
Updates on the XPS 15 Touch include an Intel Core i7-7700HQ (Kaby Lake) processor, which is a smidge faster than the previous iteration’s Skylake-based Intel Core i7-6700HQ CPU and helps a bit with battery life. A bigger improvement is in gaming performance with the new Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 GPU, as you’ll see in the performance numbers below. The Nvidia GTX 1050 also helps drive the 4K display and is a co-processor for graphics-intensive tasks like video and photo editing. The system’s 16GB of RAM is sufficient for most video editing, and lets you multitask easily after opening several programs and keeping dozens of tabs open. The 512GB SSD is a plus, though that capacity is becoming a common touchstone for large-screen media laptops. The XPS 15 Touch comes with a one-year warranty.
Go, Speed, Go!
Thanks to its Intel Core i7-7700HQ, 16GB of RAM, and 512GB SSD, the XPS 15 Touch made short work of our multimedia tests. Its time of one minute, one second in Handbrake matched the Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch, another top pick, and was one of the fastest times we’ve seen for a laptop. Its score of 3:13 in Photoshop beat powerful systems like the Apple MacBook Pro, the Asus ZenBook Pro UX501VW-DS71T, and the previous Dell XPS 15 Touch. The Origin EVO15-S, a gaming laptop, was the fastest in CineBench and Photoshop, but the new XPS 15 Touch was a close second and third, respectively. Its PCMark 8 Work Conventional score (2,859 points) also came second to the Origin EVO15-S.
The Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 GPU helped the XPS 15 Touch achieve smooth, playable frame rates in the Heaven (54 frames per second or fps) and Valley (42fps) tests set to Ultra quality and full HD (1080p) resolution. When we bumped the resolution up to 4K, frame rates slowed to a crawl, as expected. At this juncture, you’ll need a desktop-class graphics processor, like the pricey Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080, to run recent games at 4K or beyond. In any case, the new XPS 15 Touch is much better than last year’s Dell XPS 15 Touch, the Apple MacBook Pro, and the Asus ZenBook Pro when playing 3D games. You’ll be able to run recent games at 1080p with all the eye candy turned on at strong frame rates, though admittedly not as well as on more specialized gaming laptops.
If the 4K display has any drawbacks, it’s that it is an enormous drain on the battery. The XPS 15 Touch lasted 6 hours, 5 minutes in our rundown test, an improvement of only 9 minutes over last year’s iteration. That’s hours short of the Apple MacBook Pro (11:19) and the Asus ZenBook Pro (11:53). It does, however, beat out the 15-inch Origin EVO15-S gaming laptop (3:28).
Highly Recommended, for All Artists
The Dell XPS 15 Touch should be at the top of your list if you’re setting up a graphics or video editing studio, or are a well-funded art student. It has the power to complete multimedia projects quickly and features a brilliant screen that shows many more colors than a business-oriented laptop could muster. The only downside is the shortish battery life. Still, it’s faster, and costs $700 less than the Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch, and has all the requisite ports, while the MacBook Pro needs adapters for all connections except USB-C and Thunderbolt 3.