Dell is consistently one of the most forward-thinking laptop brands on the PC market. The Austin-based PC maker remains at the top in large part because of its excellent Dell XPS line, which releases hit after hit. XPS was the first PC brand to go toe to to with Apple’s Macbook line and holds its own against its Windows competitors. Offering the latest in innovative materials, software, and screen resolutions, particularly in the Ultrabook field, but in the XPS line, it’s hit after hit.
The new Dell XPS 15 (7590) is no exception. The Ultrabook offers one of the slimmest and refreshed designs, according to Dell.com, with the nearly unmatched raw processing premium powerhouse to match. If you are familiar with the XPS 15, the new 2019 model doesn’t have any significant cosmetic differences in terms of appearance compared to the Dell XPS (9570) model. The Dell design prefers, like Porsche, to make small refinements. The internal upgrades, on the other hand, are a whole different story. Is the Dell XPS 15 (7590) worth it? Let’s find out.
World’s smallest performance laptop
The first thing that strikes you about the device Dell calls the “world’s smallest performance laptop” is the 15.6-inch 4K OLED (optional) InfinityEdge display. It’s a display that matches the power of this laptop, which packs an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 GPU and the new Intel Core i9-9980HK processor, up to 8 cores and 16 threads, which, if desired, can be overclocked. I hoped the device would have a new Wi-Fi adapter, and Dell delivered. The XPS 15 comes with an upgraded Killer Wi-Fi 6 adapter and Bluetooth 5. The model that Dell sent me came with 32GB RAM (upgradable to 64GB), a 1TB SSD (upgradeable to 2TB), and Windows 10 Home (64 bit) pre-installed. This ultrabook is sleek and contemporary, with a silver/chrome logo that glistens in the center of the silver anodized aluminum casing. It features a soft carbon-fiber keyboard deck, which holds a full size keyboard and a large touchpad. Frankly, I felt proud to show it off when I went to work at coffee shops or over to my buddy’s house for Dungeons & Dragons.
After two weeks of testing, there isn’t currently any other laptop that could lure me away from this beauty. It’s the jack-of-all-trades. The Dell XPS features a height of 0.45″-0.66″ (11mm-17mm), a width of 14.06″ (357mm) and a depth of 9.7″ (235mm) with a weight of 4 pounds. This puts it neck-and-neck with its competition, such as the lighter 15 inch Apple MacBook Pro and the 15 inch Razer Blade 15, which weighs slightly more.
Sure, Dell could have been more creative with the fourth iteration of the device—it is available only in silver/chrome, which I find unpleasing to the eye. Previous XPS models were available in frost white and rose gold. Still, I was glad to see Dell listened to its consumers and fixed the webcam placement. The RGB HD camera webcam is now located in the center bezel, so you no longer have to worry about the webcam facing directly up at your wiggling nose hairs. Unfortunately, to make room for the webcam placement and avoid compromising on the bezel size, Dell took away the Windows Hello IR camera. However, the Dell XPS 15 does come with the fingerprint reader power button (same as on the 9570). This is pretty handy, no pun intended.
Display and battery
Let’s turn our focus back to the Infinity Edge display. Dell gives you three options to choose from, with a price difference: matte full-HD non-touch, if you choose the i5 or i7 model, a 4K LCD touch screen, and, last but not least, the new 4K OLED non-touch. I am currently using the 4K OLED display, capable of ‘true’ black, significantly better contrast and smoother color gradients. Its anti-reflective screen and DCI-P3 400-nit brightness gives you the ability to use the computer enjoyably anywhere—indoors or outdoors. Overall, it’s just more vivid and pleasing to the eye than the other options.
It is by far the best Ultrabook display I’ve ever experienced. It features an 8-million pixel display and supports 100% of the Adobe RGB. The bezel measures just 6.04mm on the sides and 7.08mm on top, so the display is virtually borderless. Something you should know about the 4K OLED screen is that it uses a lot of battery. As in, you will not be able to hold battery life all day, even with the 6-cell lithium-ion 97 watt-hour (Whr) battery pack. The Dell XPS 15 uses a 130w battery, with a 4.5mm x 2.9mm connector that takes roughly about 4 hours (when the computer is off) to fully charge. You have the option to control the charging time from beginning to end using the Dell Power Manager application.
While playing the newly released ‘Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order’ by Respawn Entertainment, I found that after a little over an hour, the bottom became hot and the battery was fully drained. This didn’t surprise me since the i9 and battery are not designed primarily for gaming. I was pleasantly surprised that the game drew less power with the 4K OLED display than I anticipated.. I still played the game for over 35 hours without any significant issues. For regular laptop use, I had no issues with heating or loud fan noise. When using it for business, browsing emails, and other typical laptop functions, it averaged out around 9 to 11 hours of battery life. I do wish Dell would add in a more game-capable GPU cooling fan, so I didn’t have to use an external one. If you prioritize battery power over everything, then this laptop may not be for you. For those people, I suggest using the i5 or i7 processor and configuring your settings to prolong your battery life.
One issue I have had with the OLED screen was a flickering that began while I was playing ‘Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order,’ and continued while just using the laptop for minimal purposes. However, it was a quick fix. All you need to do is disable the Panel Self-Refresh in the Intel Graphics Control Panel and ta-da. The only downside to OLED is that it has a risk of burn-in. Do not get image retention and burn-in confused. They are both very different. The technology used these days should prevent this from happening, but if the fear of burn-in is your primary concern, then stick to an LCD-based display instead. Just understand that you will be sacrificing the absolute best picture quality that you could purchase.
Keyboard, touchpad and audio
The new Dell XPS 15 (7590) opted for a chiclet-style keyboard, instead of the Maglev keyboard on the XPS 13 2-in-1 and others. When it comes to keyboards, I assume all users want portability, productivity, and an experience that gives them, well, butterflies. The keys on the backlit keyboard feel soft but a little too plastic. Additionally, the 1.1mm of travel was a bit cramped compared to my preferred minimum of 1.5 millimeters. The 4 x 3.1” large glass touchpad uses the same Microsoft Precision drivers as recent years. These are still considered one of the better, sensitive trackers for Windows PCs to navigate web pages and play games. I didn’t have any issue using multiple fingers to decrease or enlarge images nor did I while using the three-finger tap to launch. I still hit my 95 words per minute with minimum slippage. Overall, the keyboard and touchpad were very responsive and reliable, but nothing to brag about. Dell has the technology to do better and should if it wants to stay ahead. It has a pretty lovely carbon fiber palm rest, but for the amount of money you are spending on this product, I would expect a little more space and a different keyboard style. At minimum I would appreciate a wider touchpad.
Dell XPS 15 still features the speakers in the front bottom for sound amplification—the same design as last year. The audio quality is still pretty darn good, though, with no crackling or choppy sounds at maximum volume like I experienced with the HP Spectre. The Dell XPS comes with MaxxAudioPro preinstalled, which gives the two bottom-placed speakers a bit of a boost. That said, don’t be like me and forget to turn it off when using the headphone jack—ouch.
Pricing and performance
Everyone has different needs for their laptops. Some that are increasing nowadays are features that enable creativity and content creation. Whether you’re a video editor, photographer, or music producer, you’ll appreciate one of the premium features this system has to offer—an SD reader. Alongside the preinstalled applications of Dell Mobile Connect, Dell Cinema, and MaxxAudioPro, the 4K LCD model also features the preinstalled Dell Premier Color application and the ability to use touch screen.
Since the model design hasn’t changed, the ports remain the same. On the right side, you have an SD card slot, a USB 3.1 Gen 1, a battery gauge button and indicator and a wedge-shaped lock slot AC power. On the left, is an HDMI 2.0 Thunderbolt™ 3 (4 lanes of PCI Express Gen 3) supporting Power Delivery, a Thunderbolt™ 3 (40Gbps bi-directional), a USB 3.1 Gen 2 (10Gbps) and a 3.5mm headset jack. You’ll have all the I/O you’ll need in the Dell XPS 15 (7590). Just for fun, I tried to charge the laptop in the Type-C port, and it charged momentarily, but the watts were too low. I would recommend using the Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 with the 130W USB-C charger that it comes with. Additionally, Dell could add in an another USB-C port to use for charging purposes.
Right now, the Dell XPS 15 (7590) with Intel Core i9-9980HK, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650, 32GB RAM, 1 TB SSD, 4K OLED non-touch and 400-Nits display sells for $2,349.99. The 4K LCD, touch screen, 500-nit option is priced at $2,399.99, before add-ons and tax. If you decide to upgrade to 64GB RAM and 2 TB SSD, it will cost anywhere between $2,999.99 and $3,049.99 before add-ons and tax. As mentioned before, if battery life is most important thing to you, then stick with the i5 or i7 1080p with an external cooler. Both i5 and I7 both come with the H chip, not the K, which ranges from $999.99 to $1,849.99.
Overall, I was blown away by how well this “not-meant-for-gaming” laptop did. It’s not primarily built for gaming, but it sure does kick some butt with its powerful GTX 1650. The i9-9980HK processor is a 45W octa-core CPU with a 2.4GHz base frequency and a 5GHz turbo frequency, and as mentioned before, it can be overclocked since it has a K chip. The GTX 1650 is a step up from last year’s 1050Ti and I love it. It’s about 30 to 40% faster, but unfortunately, there are studio drivers for the GTX 16 series GPUs that are still unreleased.
As mentioned earlier, I played the newly released ‘Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order’ (keep an eye out for my review soon) with the 4K OLED on ‘epic’ settings and 1080p. I averaged at 65 fps with no dropped frame rates below 60. With the amount of detail in that game, and considering it’s not a gaming laptop—bravo. It does get a bit hot on the bottom after 30 minutes of gameplay, which again, doesn’t surprise me since it’s not a gaming laptop, and it’s using an OLED display at the same time. That said, I wish Dell had adjusted the fan placement to stop any overheating issues. Since I primarily use my laptops for work and gaming, I believe Dell should redesign the future XPS 15 models to keep the i9 GPU cool. Or maybe I should just step up to an Alienware.
In conclusion, the webcam is fixed, the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth adapter is fixed, the upgraded GPU is 30 – 40% faster, and the 4K OLED features beautiful contrast and luminance. It is expensive but impressive. There are more creator laptops out there, and many great options that you couldn’t go wrong with. Still, I always find myself coming back to the Dell XPS. An outstanding laptop like this fits practically every need that I have for business and creativity. I highly recommend the Dell XPS 15 (7590).