Dell XPS 15z: Imitation with a Twist

Dell relaunched their XPS brand (which was languishing under the Studio XPS name for a couple years) last year with their XPS 15 L501x. Combining reasonable performance, battery life, and portability with a great display upgrade at an impressive price tickled my fancy in just the right way, and we awarded that laptop our Gold Editors’ Choice award. The XPS 15 L502x brought along Sandy Bridge processor support with a minor upgrade to NVIDIA’s 500M graphics, but outside of a few component changes the two laptops looked the same. We still liked the L502x, but the build quality and keyboard actually took a step backwards in our book, and a few of the design elements of the XPS 15 didn’t hold up as well over the long term (e.g. the hinge-forward design).

Dell has now launched a completely reworked laptop with the XPS 15z, which shrinks the chassis, modifies the layout, and changes the component options. In many ways the XPS 15z is a better laptop than the XPS 15, but compromise is still present and accounted for. Let’s hit the spec sheet to see just where things are changing. The table lists the available options for the XPS 15z, with our review configuration components bolded where applicable.

Dell XPS 15 L502x Specifications
Processor Intel Core i5-2410M (dual-core 2.30-2.90GHz, 35W)
Intel Core i7-2620M (dual-core 2.70-3.40GHz, 35W)
Chipset Intel HM67
Memory 6GB (1x4GB + 1x2GB DDR3-1333)
8GB (2x4GB DDR-1333 CL9)
Graphics NVIDIA GeForce GT 525M 1GB DDR3 or
96 SPs, 600/1200/1800MHz Core/Shader/RAM clocks
Display 15.6” WLED Glossy 16:9 768p (1366x768)

15.6" WLED Glossy 16:9 1080p (1920x1080)
(AU Optronics B156HW3)
Hard Drive(s) 500GB 7200RPM HDD
750GB 7200RPM HDD
(Seagate ST9750429AS)

256GB SSD (Samsung?)
Optical Drive 8X Slot-Load DVDRW (HL-DT-ST GS30N)
Networking Gigabit Ethernet(Realtek RTL8168/8111)
802.11n WiFi + Bluetooth 3.0 (Intel Advanced-N 6230)
WiDi 2.0 Ready
Audio Stereo Speakers + Waves MaxxAudio
(Stereo speakers and subwoofer)
Microphone and two headphone jacks
Capable of 5.1 digital output (HDMI/SPDIF)
Battery 8-cell, 14.8V, ~4.2Ah, 64Wh
Front Side N/A
Left Side Battery Life Indicator
Memory Card Reader
2 x USB 3.0
1 x eSATA/USB 2.0 Combo
Mini DisplayPort
HDMI 1.4a
Right Side Headphone Jack
Microphone Jack
Optical Drive
Back Side AC Power Connection
Exhaust vent
Gigabit Ethernet
Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
Dimensions 15.15" x 10.25" x 0.97" (WxDxH)
(384.8mm x 260.4mm x 24.6mm)
Weight 5.54 lbs (8-cell)
Extras Waves MaxxAudio 3
1.3MP HD Webcam
80-Key backlit keyboard
Flash reader (SD, MS, MMC)
MS Office 2010 Starter or Home/Student
90W Power Adapter
Warranty 1- or 2-year standard warranty
3-year extended warranties available
Pricing Starting Price: $999
Reviewed Configuration: $1499

As you can see in the above table, Dell shipped us the fully upgraded version of the XPS 15z, which is good and bad. On the good side, there’s a nice 1080p display, CPU performance will be better, and the GPU gets twice the memory; there’s also 8GB of system RAM and a very large 750GB 7200RPM hard drive. Also note that all the available configurations other than the base model comes standard with a 2-year warranty and include Office 2010 Home/Student; the base model gets you Office 2010 Starter and a 1-year warranty. So what’s the bad news? The price is 50% higher than the base model, and performance definitely won’t be anywhere near 50% higher. Most of the performance gains will come from the CPU upgrade, which amounts to a 17% average increase in CPU-limited applications.

When you look at the actual pricing breakdown, the fully equipped model actually isn’t necessarily a bad deal. The $1200 system gives you a 2-year warranty, Office Home/Student, 8GB RAM, a 750GB HDD. If you figure around $150 for the warranty alone and $100 for Office Home/Student, that’s a fair bargain. The $1300 adds the 1080p display and the 2GB GT 525M, and since the 1080p LCD is a $100 upgrade on its own you get the GPU upgrade “gratis”. The $1500 configurations is the same as the $1300 unit, other than the CPU, so you’re basically paying $200 extra (15% more) for the 17% performance increase. Taken individually, we can easily justify every one of the upgrades, but $1500 is a big step up from $1000. Personally, if I were buying the 15z, I’d go with the base model but upgrade to the 1080p LCD, and if you like the longer warranty and Office software you can bump up to the $1300 model. I’d also drop the at-home service, since I’ve almost never had any laptop fail in the first year of use, which gives a final price of just $1043 for a very nice laptop.

Dell XPS 15z: A Good Copy or a Cheap Clone?
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  • vol7ron - Friday, September 2, 2011 - link This is the image that stands out.
  • tag12171 - Wednesday, September 7, 2011 - link

    Really? The OS never freezez on me and never crashes. Maybe you have a bad one. I would return it or find out what is wrong with it.
  • tipoo - Friday, September 2, 2011 - link

    Yeah, its closer to the 6530M.

    And with a chip of this calibre, yeah, 2GB isn't going to help you much in games. 1GB should be fine for it.
  • JarredWalton - Friday, September 2, 2011 - link

    Edited the statement. You're right that the 6750M is a fair bit faster than GT 525M -- it's around the GT 555M I'd guess. I was thinking of the 6570M when I wrote that, though with OSX you're still likely to get lower than GT 525M performance if you compare something like Portal 2 FPS between the two (unless something has significantly changes since the last we looked at it?)
  • sean.crees - Friday, September 2, 2011 - link

    No Thunderbolt port? Sorry, not getting my money without at least one. External desktop grade graphics are just around the corner, and without thunderbolt your going to be stuck with your middle of the road non upgradable mobile graphics.
  • tipoo - Friday, September 2, 2011 - link

    True, but it will still be some time before it takes off. The fact that all of its ports are USB 3 (minus the e-sata USB combo port I think) is a redeeming quality though.
  • retrospooty - Friday, September 2, 2011 - link

    Thunderbolt? I doubt we will ever see that on a lot of products. USB3 is plenty fast enough for anything out there for the next several years, is cheap and backwards compatible. The industry has absolutely zero reasons to pick up Thunderbolt, and likely never will.
  • darwinosx - Friday, September 2, 2011 - link

    Heh, Right. I suggest you take a look at what Thunderbolt offers and how it blows USB 3 out of the water. There is a flood of products coming as well.
  • jabber - Friday, September 2, 2011 - link

    Were we not supposed to get all those kind of exciting things for laptops over 5 years ago with PCI-E card slots on laptops?

    Nope didnt happen so I wont hold my breath.

    Plus those really pricey Thunderbolt cables...owwww!

    That'll be the $1 USB3.0 then.

    Thunderbolt is dead in the water.
  • AssBall - Friday, September 2, 2011 - link

    What exactly are you using that is going to saturate your USB3?

    There are things that can, but ffs only 1 percent of people are going to use it on a consumer laptop.

    If you are doing huge commercial or industrial data transfer fine, but most people looking at a Dell or Mac consumer notebook aren't those folks.

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