Thin, strong and with much better thermal
Earlier this year at Computex, Dell unveiled the new XPS 15 with Intel 9M Generation processor, but more importantly, it offers a 4K OLED display option. The webcam is in the right place now, but apart from that, there are very few that allow you to tell the difference between this year’s XPS 15 and last year. “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it,” they say. We have an Intel Core i9-9980HK powered XPS 15 for review and we worked it out to see if it was worth all the money.
Display: Welcome to an OLED world
Every year that the Dell XPS 15 refreshes, the machine has a Hero feature. Last year, it was the launch of the Intel Core i9 and this year, it is the inclusion of the OLED panel. Last year’s XPS 15 that we reviewed had an HDR-enabled display with 4K resolution, and when we measured its performance using our in-house chlorimeter, it didn’t disappoint.
Gaming on a 4K OLED display is definitely a treat!
The black on the Dell XPS 15’s OLED display blends perfectly with the bezel
This year’s OLED panel has even higher peak brightness than last year, with 610 net brightness in the middle of the screen and 660-680 net brightness in the corners. Using the Netflix app to view the content kicked the panel into HDR mode and it was quite eye-catching to watch. In normal use though, the display seems to have a red-bias. This means that whenever the screen is red, it is extra full.
The Dell XPS 15 has an incredibly bright display that exceeds the 600-knot mark
0-nits, a hallmark of OLED panel
Last year we tackled this issue by setting the display to sRGB (during normal use) using Dell’s own PremiereColour app and then calibrating it using our calorimeter. Unfortunately, at the moment XPS15 lacks a tool that allows you to choose the right color space. This is bound to be problematic for content creators, not knowing what color space the display is currently set to. Hopefully, in a future update, Dell may return the ability to manually set the color space of the display.
Performance: top notch
The 15 Dell XPS reviews we’ve reviewed this year are powered by a 9M Generation Intel Core i9-9980HK processor. Our unit comes with an Nvidia GTX 1650 with 32GB DDR4 memory, a 1TB NVMe drive and 4GB video memory. In terms of specifications, it’s more like the XPS 15, but powerful hardware has never been a problem with the XPS. This is also true of our benchmark test, for which the numbers below are 7
Dell XPS 15 (2018 – i9 7590) vs. Dell XPS 15 (2019 – i9 9570)
3DMark Firestrike Results for Dell XPS 15 2019 vs. XPS 15 2018
Gaming on the new XPS 15
Surprisingly, this year’s XPS 15 benchmark numbers are higher than its predecessor. The new i9-9980HK and GTX 1650 provide better performance for both CPU and GPU metrics, as we can see from the benchmark numbers above. But the real area where the new XPS 15 is burning is the real-world performance.
We put the Dell XPS through our lightroom render test where we saw last year’s Core i9-8950 throttle a little too much, a little too fast. We occasionally saw the chip drop below its stock clock, which was rather related. This year, Dell told us that one of the biggest changes to the new XPS 15 was its thermal design, which included the new Core i9 chip and GTX 1650 GPU. While exporting 500 RAW files to JPG using Adobe Lightroom, we noticed that the new Core i9-9980HK managed to hit its 5GHz boost clock for a few seconds, but then the throttle started to go down. However, it never goes below 2.8GHz. We reduced the CPU by -125mV and re-tested it with the Lightroom and found that it tended to be less thermal, resulting in better clock speed. We do not recommend tweaking the voltage in your CPU, unless you are sure what you are doing.
Lightroom render bar
Render time for fractal using apophysis
If you’re thinking about gaming, the Dell XPS 15 won’t give you a display with the highest refresh rate or the most powerful mobile GPU available on the market. The Nvidia GTX 1650 is a decent GPU, but it’s not exactly what it would be for stellar frame rates. In fact, 4K OLED and GPU feel somewhat incompatible (when gaming is considered) because the GTX 1650 can’t push most modern gaming titles to a playable frame rate of 4K. Set the resolution to 1080p and you’ll be able to run Doom at 60fps and Metro: Exodus at 31fps, while both games are set to their maximum graphics settings.
Finally, let’s talk about video editing. Last year, we saw the XPS 15 take things easy, and this year, things just got better. We loaded our experimental project featuring 4K footage shots from a red camera. When loaded into a proper timeline, scrubbing through the project is smooth until the quality is set to 1/2. Depending on whether you are using CPU or GPU acceleration the project takes a different amount of time to export, but either way, after lowering the CPU, there is again a significant improvement in sustainable performance.
Keyboard, trackpad and I / O
Surprisingly, the Dell left the keyboard, trackpad and I / O close to last year’s model, but we’re not complaining, at least not about something new. The keyboard still offers 2-level white backlighting, which, when set to its brightest, offers a very comfortable view of the keys. The typing experience is paramount due to the decent size and spacing of the key-caps. The Dell XPS 15 continues to use a perfect touchpad that is quite generous in size, feels great to the touch and is highly responsive. When it comes to I / O, the XPS 15 offers an HDMI 2.0 port on the left with a Thunderbolt 3.0 port and a standard USB 3.0 port. On the other hand, there is another USB 3.0 port with an SD card reader. The 4-LED battery indicator is still present for our comfort. Having a visual indication of the remaining battery is great for those who are moving a lot.
The Carbon-Fiber Knitting Keyboard Island remains the same as last year, with a reliable typing experience.
Using a regular pin-type charger for the Dell XPS 15 instead of switching to a Type-C or Thunderbolt 3 based charging system we still feel dissatisfied with that. This would mean an extra port and a universal charging system, especially for travelers.
Dell XPS 15 offers a very generous I / O selection with a Thunderbolt 3.0 port
The Dell XPS 15 is a very powerful laptop, packing material that is definitely energy-hungry. We still have a 96Whr battery, which is close to the 100Whr limit for carrying on airlines. We used XPS 15 for battery life for a few days and was fascinated. The OLED panel is set to 4K resolution and typically within 50-75 percent battery life, the laptop lasts a little over 5 hours. Firefox opens more than 25 tabs, including this review involves typing multiple stories and using light photo editing in both Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop.
With light to moderate use, one should be able to get out around 6, probably 6.5 hours worth of juice from this machine, but it is less likely to be long lasting. However, for a laptop with a 4K OLED display and a dedicated GPU, battery life is still commendable.
The last row
The Dell XPS 15 (7590) is physically unchanged from the 2018 XPS 15. Literally, only the placement of the webcam has changed, but other than that, the physical dimensions and even the port placement are the same. We don’t think so. Significantly improved is the thermal performance that allows the Intel Core i9 powered machine to flex some more muscle before hitting thermal throttling. Undervolt the CPU and you’ll get more durable performance even at the price of turbo speed, but that’s fine. The new XPS 15 manages to be a computer thanks to its slim form-factor for travelers, its beautiful appearance for business people, and even thanks to the powerful hardware inside for content creators.