I’m Not Sure How Dell Could Improve the XPS 15 Laptop Next Year

I’m Not Sure How Dell Could Improve the XPS 15 Laptop Next Year
Image: Asha Barbaschow/Gizmodo Australia

The Dell XPS 15 9510 laptop. It’s good and there’s a million reasons why. Once I get past the absolute aggression in which I have to hit the button on the trackpad, that is.

The Dell XPS laptop has been the benchmark for a decent, everyday consumer computer for a while. In our 2020 review of the XPS 15, we basically said “the Dell XPS is the one”. If you didn’t know what laptop you wanted, but you wanted something nice, and something that ticked most of the boxes, the XPS would do the job.

Reviewers have changed, but the kit has remained good. The 2021 model is bad ass. Here’s what I think of this basically flawless laptop from Dell.

Dell XPS 15 9510

WHAT IS IT?

The 2021 version of Dell's XPS 15

PRICE

$1,249-$5,399

LIKE

battery life, screen is beautiful, performance, colour

NO LIKE

trackpad, key spacing, limited ports, colour

Dell XPS 15 9510 specs

Gizmodo Australia was provided with a 15.6-inch white XPS 15 9510 model for review. The specs for this laptop are as follows:

  • CPU: 11th Gen Intel Core Processor i7
  • GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti
  • Power: (Up to) 55W of power
  • Memory: 16GB DDR4 Dual Channel SDRAM
  • RAM: 16GB
  • Display: 16-inch, 4K UHD+, 16:10 aspect ratio, 92.9 per cent screen-to-body ratio, Corning Gorilla Glass
  • Ports: 2x Thunderbolt 4, 1x USB-C 3.2 gen 2, SD card reader
  • Weight: 1.9kg
  • Dimensions: 344.7mm x 230.1mm x 18.0mm
  • OS: Windows 10 Home (updated to Windows 11)
  • The RRP for the 15.6-inch Dell XPS 15 starts at $1,249.99 – the model I reviewed will set you back RRP $2,963.

Everyday use and performance

I gave the XPS 15 9510 a few days of Gizmodo-ing. That is, using the laptop as my work machine. This sees numerous windows with numerous tabs open, pages with ads, Tweetdeck, Spotify, pages with video playing and those that are image-heavy, as well as multiple Word documents. Half of this activity is usually enough to make me want to launch my 2020 MacBook Pro off the balcony.

The Dell XPS 15 handled all of this activity with no issue. And trust me, I tried to push it to the brink. I even streamed from Netflix, Prime AND Stan at the same time. All this did was cause a sensory overload in me.

Actually, there was one issue: this machine got so hot I had to stick a tea towel on my lap as I was wearing shorts and it felt like my skin was going to burn (it also didn’t help the weather out was pushing 36-degrees).

I’m actually writing this article on the Dell XPS 15 9510. Any complaint I’ve come across has really been due to Windows, not Dell. And I wouldn’t even say they’re issues, it’s really just the habits you pick up for ‘working’ on one operating system that ruins the experience when you shift to another. But there are a few things I don’t like about working on this machine: the keys are spaced too far apart for my small hands and the trackpad is an absolute punish. Not so much the mouse part, that keeps up, but the buttons.

BUT, if I didn’t have to so aggressively hit the select key, I’d have nothing to complain about. The trackpad is bigger on the 2021 model. I don’t like it because it takes up hand resting space for typing. But the extra space to draw in is greatly appreciated.

Worth a shout out here is its battery life. The XPS 15 lasted from 8am-6pm without needing to be charged. Yep. All of that I did above was done without being plugged in. When the laptop is on charge, performance continues to soar.

I also took the Dell XPS 15 to bed with me one night. To see how it’d go streaming, of course. Picture is crisp and it handles action-heavy scenes with ease, and the sound quality isn’t muffled, even at full volume. But I didn’t need to have it at full volume.

What makes this years’ XPS 15 better than the last is the six- or eight-core Intel Tiger Lake processors and the new Nvidia GeForce RTX GPUs with ray tracing capabilities. And that’s obvious the moment you open the machine.

Design & durability

This year, the Dell XPS looks pretty much unchanged (on the outside, that is). The webcam is up the top, as it should be (thanks for that) and the bezel is bloody tiny.

Image: Asha Barbaschow/Gizmodo Australia

I’m still not ready to accept I can’t plug my USB into a laptop anymore, but this is the new norm. And two thunderbolt 4 ports and one USB-C port doesn’t seem like enough, but it’s easy to make it work.

You might have noticed in the box up the top I had ‘colour’ under both ‘like’ and ‘no like’? Well, the white XPS 15 is super, super pretty. It’s a really nice change from the usual black or grey machines that flood the market. But as someone who wears makeup and apparently touches their face a lot while working, this laptop is already stained. It’s actually an issue I had with the Bose QuietComfort 45 headphones – within hours I had stained the headphones beyond repair. I guess I can’t have nice things.

This is probably where I should mention the fingerprint sensor to unlock worked every time, flawlessly.

The camera is also friendly on flaws (mine, not the XPS’s) and video calls and virtual meetings are handled brilliantly, due to the screen size and of course the display itself (more on that next). But there’s nothing overly exceptional to report, either. And NBN plays a big part in how pixelled my teammates faces are.

It’s a bit thinner and a bit lighter, but, the XPS 15 is still heavy. It’s not heavy heavy, but it is heavy when carrying it around in my work bag. I’d prefer to keep this on my desk at home and use a smaller, lighter machine for travelling to and from work. But such a scenario is stupid as I do not use cloud-based software for writing. So I’ll put up with the weight.

Display & sound

The 15-inch screen isn’t something I thought I needed – I get by just fine with a 14-inch. But the Dell XPS 15 9510 has changed my mind. This years’ XPS gave us 16:10 screen ration – a lot more screen.

You can choose between 4K Adobe RGB colour or 3.5K OLED display. Both are surely good, but after using the 4K Adobe RGB UHD+ I can only says one thing: it’s utterly perfect. I get even more vivid colour, resulting in perfect blacks and higher contrast and honestly, it’s as good as you’re thinking it is. But take the machine outside (as seen in my review promo pic) and the sun is too powerful for this to be enough. It’s better than the photo gives it credit for, however.

When I said I used the XPS 15 to watch TV in bed the other night, it was actually a perfect showcase of what 4K is capable of in a smaller (read: not TV) screen.

The speakers are good, video calls sound good and audio is loud and clear.

Image: Asha Barbaschow/Gizmodo Australia

Verdict

Dell sells this machine as ‘the perfect balance of power and portability with an unrivalled immersive visual and sound experience’. And I hate to agree with marketing fluff, but they’re right.

I’m not sure how they could improve the XPS 15, outside of the trivial issues I mentioned throughout.