Dell XPS 15 9500 laptop: Portable computing power

When Dell’s XPS 15 9500 landed at GamejunkieNZ Towers three weeks ago, I set myself the goal of using it instead of my desktop PC.

Fast forward three weeks and I’m pleased to report that apart from a couple of times when I had to use programs that were only installed on my desktop PC, Dell’s XPS 9500 was my go-to at-home computing device. My desktop PC has been gathering dust!

Out of the box, Dell’s XPS 9500 has a stand-out white aluminium chassis with a woven carbon fibre pattern on the interior. The colour is called frost white and it looks superb and is a nice departure from the more traditional darks and bare metal commonly seen on laptops. The chassis has a real quality feel to it, too, with thin bezels around the panel, that maximises the screen real estate.

The 9500 has excellent build quality, too, tipping the scales at 1.8kg, so you’ll definitely notice it if you pick it up with one hand or lug it in your backpack.

Vital statistics: Intel i7 1075H CPU @2.60Ghz, 16Gb dual channel DDR4 memory (at 1600Mhz), 4Gb nvidia Geforce GTX1650 TI GPU, 512Gb SSD, Windows 10

The model I reviewed is powered by Intel’s 10th generation i7 1075H CPU, a six core, 12-thread processor (base clock of 2.60Ghz, max turbo frequency of 5Ghz, TDP of 45W) that has long been the go-to for high-end gaming laptops. A couple of months ago, the review configuration would set you back $NZ4698.99. Customisation options include opting for a Intel integrated graphics rather than a discrete card, i5 or i9 Intel CPUs and up to 64Gb of memory and 2Tb of storage.

Connectivity wise, the left side houses two USB C ports while the right side is home to an SD card reader, another USB C port and a 3.5mm headphone jack. Two of the USB C ports have Thunderbolt 3 support.

The lack of a USB Type A port initially caused me concern – I still have a lot of thumb drives floating about – but my concern was short lived as I found Dell had cleverly included a USB A and HDMI adapter in the accessories pack.

The work surface has a neat carbon fibre weave pattern.

Gorgeous screen

Lifting up the lid you’re greeted with a 15.6-inch touch screen display that is, quite frankly, stunning in action, offering a native 4K resolution with a 16:10 aspect ratio.

Images are crisp and clear, as is video and video streaming, and it’s probably one of the best laptop screens I’ve used, if I’m being honest. You can tweak the colour settings using Dell’s in-built PremierColor app which let’s you select a variety of colour presets, including for watching movies, sport or using it at night time

Speakers are located either side of the keyboard, and again they offer excellent performance, highlighting that this is a high-end laptop that is designed to “Wow”. The speakers provided excellent sound reproduction, with deep bass and nice treble and mid tones.

Battery life is, of course, dependent on what you do but I think with general day to day usage you should get around 10-12 hours from a full charge of the 86W battery before requiring wall juice.

The big questions, though, is how does it perform, especially since I mainly used the XPS for gaming (sorry, I couldn’t help myself) because I was super keen to see how the GTX1650Ti handled some of my favourite games. (Of course, I didn’t just limit the laptop to gaming: I also streamed online content (Netflix, YouTube) and did general day to day not-so-exciting stuff. I mainly played games on it, though.)

Well, I’m glad you asked. The answer is, I’m happy to report, excellently. It performs excellently.

Now, you’re gaming with power …

I played Gears of War 5, Forza Horizon’s 4, Titanfall 2 and cyberpunk pixel game Cloudpunk, all with medium to high graphics settings, as well as spent some time with recently released Days Gone a PlayStation title that has now come to PC.

Before I get to the gaming performance, I want to talk about the cooling this thing has. It has a lot of ventilation: There’s a massive exhaust port across the back edge of the device and a sizeable air intake on the bottom that scoops cool air onto the innards. There is also a couple of air “slits” on each side of the underside of the chassis. This thing takes cooling to new heights.

I also tested the laptop with the in-built Gears of War 5 benchmark (recommended medium to high graphics settings). It returned an average of 60FPS (average GPU frame rate 73FPS) at 1080p; an average of 59.9 frames per second at 1440p (average GPU frame rate 63.3FPS); and at native 4K an average of 46FPS (average GPU frame rate 47.2FPS).

I also tested the Dell on PlayStation Studio’s Days Gone, which delivered around 65 frames per second with a mix of medium to high graphics settings at a maximum resolution of 1440 x 900 thanks to the 16:10 aspect ratio. This game, too, had the Dell’s cooling system working over time so it did get loud at times.

I also run 3D Mark’s Timespy DX12 benchmark, scoring a “great” 2898 (GPU score 2667, CPU score 5695) and the Firestrike DX11 benchmark, delivering a score of 6836 (GPU score 7358, physics score 15311, combined score 2895).

As I mentioned earlier, under load the Dell can get quite noisy – not so loud that you can’t speak to the person next to you but it’s noticeable – so you need to ensure that no part of the underside intake is blocked when you’re doing intensive tasks.

This isn’t a laptop that I’d recommend taking to bed and resting on your duvet or using while lying on the carpet: It needs room to breath and space for air to flow. If you plan on doing gaming or high-intensity applications, this is a “use on a desk” laptop.

Top, the Dell XPS 15 9500 running the Gears of War 5 benchmark. Below, running Forza 4 Horizons.

Final verdict

After about three week’s using the Dell XPS 15 9500, I’m happy to report that this is one of the best laptops I’ve ever used. Hell, it could even be the best laptop I’ve ever used.

The screen is utterly fantastic, the performance is excellent thanks to Intel’s i71075H CPU which ensured no system bottlenecks, and it offers great gaming performance thanks to the nVidia Geforce GTX1650Ti dedicated GPU.

I could also see this laptop replacing my ageing desktop PC which is starting to show its age with an eighth generation Intel i5 8400 and a few-years-old AMD RX580 graphics card.

Thanks to Botica Butler Raudon Partners & Passion PR for arranging the loan unit.

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