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Out with the old, in with the new. Dell XPS 15 (2018)

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Jim K    10,115

Let me start off by saying this ... I am not a reviewer.  However, I just bought a new XPS 15 and figured I'd post this in case anyone had any questions.  This is what I bought...

 

2018 XPS 15

  • i7-8750H w/ 1050ti Max-Q
  • 512GB m.2 SSD
  • 16GB RAM
  • 1920 x 1080 Display
  • SD card slot
  • 2x USB 3.1 Gen 1 with PowerShare
  • HDMI 2.0
  • Thunderbolt 3 (4 lanes of PCI Express Gen 3) 
  • Headset jack
  • Price (for this configuration before tax): $1500 (w/ a $30 savings and 10% coupon)

 

This is replacing my old XPS 15 L501X which I bought in 2011.

 

Couple of pictures ...

 

20180525_181226.thumb.jpg.7d7e0da29f5530d9a97148ca3a38bb01.jpg

 

20180525_181239.thumb.jpg.77143b6a1cb5dc775e9976ee993a6087.jpg

 

20180525_181300.thumb.jpg.4304ce3c78e5687523187696ca27769f.jpg

 

20180525_181319.thumb.jpg.a1bf95d70c96e5aab4c058b06f0a0aa7.jpg

 

20180525_181408.thumb.jpg.d660b3a8461d6b0fc798198ec98c8609.jpg

 

The SSD that came with this notebook is a SK hynix w/ the following benchmark below...

 

1376287019_as-ssd-benchPC401NVMeSKhy5_25.201818-28-33.thumb.png.fd9861c19cccb837b718ba723e564ccd.png

 

...which is kind of "meh" for a PCIe SSD ... but I'm not worried about it.  Plenty fast enough for the notebook.

 

So, what do I think about the notebook?  It is fine ... I like the small compactness of it and it is fairly lightweight (4 pounds according to the specs).  There is hardly any flex on the backlight keyboard and the notebook is overall very sturdy (lots of aluminum).  The keyboard, itself, still getting used to it.  Very hard to explain ... but it is just different (not bad...just different).  I really like the track-pad ... nice and smooth.  So smooth, in fact, my finger slipped and broke its neck the first time I used it.  Finger print reader works without fail and I dig it.  RAM is replaceable ... though I doubt I'll be adding any in.  It came with Micron Tech DDR4-2666.  Bluetooth mouse support, oh man ... I really like this as there are no more dongles. :) 

 

Will it game?  Why, yes ... sure.  I played Doom for about an hour on GeForce Experience recommended settings and it looked really good ... though the CPU got a little toasty (88C for CPU and 84C GPU...recorded by HWInfo as Max temps after 1 hour).  The fan noise wasn't really a problem but you can tell they were spinning.  I experienced maybe one or two little stutters ... but overall it was smooth.  I'm not really going to use this for gaming ... but it can if needed or I get bored.

 

Here is the Unreal Heaven Benchmark if interested...

 

Capture.thumb.JPG.fa7b3e6c7228022d95915d339f4f2da0.JPG

 

 

What do I not like about this notebook?  Well, for one ... the power cord is shorter than my older XPS 15 which kind of sucks.  The speakers, well they are notebook speakers but they are not anywhere near as good as the old XPS 15 (which had really good speakers for a notebook).  The screen is fine but there is noticeable backlight bleeding in both lower corners (obvious more noticeable as the screen gets darker).  The USB port on the left side is very close to where the power plugs in ... so if you have a big USB stick or whatever you'll probably have to use the right port.  Webcam placement is dumb ... but I never use it so whatever.  Cannot add an internal drive (which is why I opted for the larger 512GB vs 256GB).  Cannot (easily anyway) change the battery ... might be an issue down the road as my older XPS went through two batteries during its lifetime.

 

Overall, this is a nice notebook and built like a tank (little to no flex anywhere).

 

If anyone has any questions regarding this notebook ... let me know.

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+DevTech    1,201
31 minutes ago, Jim K said:

 

Overall, this is a nice notebook and built like a tank (little to no flex anywhere).

 

I have a Dell XPS 15 9550 which is very similar with a i7 6700HQ and 960 GPU. I have taken mine apart a few times and replaced the motherboard due to an errant Dr. Pepper...

 

Your model is two CPU refreshes ahead but uses the same chassis by the looks of it.

 

"...which is kind of "meh" for a PCIe SSD ... but I'm not worried about it.  Plenty fast enough for the notebook."

 

Dell previously used Samsungs for the NVMe but I replaced mine anyways with a Samsung 960 Pro which I recommend highly.

 

"the notebook is overall very sturdy (lots of aluminum)"

 

Actually the notebook is sturdy due to more expensive Carbon Fiber Composite materials.

 

"The keyboard, itself, still getting used to it."

 

In my case I had a similar awkwardness with the keyboard which vanished when I replaced it. Hopefully that's not your situation but the new keyboard has a fantastic feel.

 

" The fan noise wasn't really a problem"

 

Given simple Physics Laws of Thermodynamics, the end of fans that sounded like Jet Engines is due more to Thermal Throttling than clever heat management. I would prefer to have the option of a Jet Engine when I need it but alas, that's not the trend in these thin workstation powerhouses.

 

"The screen is fine but there is noticeable backlight bleeding in both lower corners (obvious more noticeable as the screen gets darker). "

 

I have the 4K LCD Touch Screen and it is gorgeous beyond belief. I am still amazed every time I use it. I suspect they make a larger profit on the 1080p screen and use multiple suppliers to minimize costs. If so there will be support forums and listings of the various panels available and you might be able to get it serviced.

 

"Webcam placement is dumb"

 

They need some real estate at the bottom so would you want to add 1/2 inch to the top or live with a bottom webcam? It's not dumb, it's a difficult design choice that I have to grumpily agree with.

 

"Cannot add an internal drive (which is why I opted for the larger 512GB vs 256GB).  Cannot (easily anyway) change the battery ... might be an issue down the road as my older XPS went through two batteries during its lifetime."

 

The cheap model with an SSD drive uses a much smaller battery. In theory one could source a small battery and then add an SSD but again the design tradeoff here is a fantastic battery that permits 2 hours of battery life while doing full CPU load professional workloads. I couldn't care less about battery life figures for checking Facebook in Hipster coffee shops...

 

Once you have removed the bottom cover a few times, the battery replacement is just plain trivial which involves pulling one connector that you have to do every time anyways to remove power and then a few screws gets you a very nice battery that extends the entire width of the unit.

 

It should be easy to source it for a long time to come on Alibaba etc.

 

I would be curious to know if the several revs in the motherboard ended up with a second NVMe slot which Dell has a habit of not documenting but somebody should have a mobo photo...

 

Your laptop is an example of a truly great design which has been basically unchanged through a few refresh cycles, quite rare these days...

 

Now, about Dr. Pepper... The keyboard is rated as spill proof and Dell demonstrated that at a computer show by dumping a glass of water on a running laptop and of course the laptop was angled forward for the audience to see it. The Achilles Heel in the design is that if the laptop is angled flat or backwards, the liquid will literally bounce off the spill proof keyboard and into the heat escape vents at the base of the LCD. Inside, right next to that vent on the motherboard is the main power supply circuits. It's dead Jim!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Jim K    10,115
10 hours ago, DevTech said:

I would be curious to know if the several revs in the motherboard ended up with a second NVMe slot which Dell has a habit of not documenting but somebody should have a mobo photo...

Looks like it is about the same motherboard design as older generations (at least the 9560).  There isn't an obvious 2nd NVMe slot....doubt it would be hiding under the battery...haha.

 

20180526_073423.thumb.jpg.7f165b65f3111457f66787bd098a9ba9.jpg

 

 

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+DevTech    1,201
12 minutes ago, Jim K said:

Looks like it is about the same motherboard design as older generations (at least the 9560).  There isn't an obvious 2nd NVMe slot....doubt it would be hiding under the battery...haha.

 

There is a spot for a SSD SATA right next to the NVMe where the battery and in that config a much smaller battery is provisioned. Just to the right of the NVMe there is an unused connector which I suspect is for the SATA. With the right cable adapters it might be possible to duct tape a M.2 SATA right there which would permit the combo of a 2 TB Samsung 960 Pro and a 2 TB Samsung 860 Pro? Would be nice to try.

 

FWIW, I drilled a few holes in the bottom cover right next to the NVMe because they get quite hot and can then go into throttle mode which sucks for a high perf device.

 

Sadly, my Samsung 960 Pro is only 512 so I pack an external USB 3 to hold VMs and stuff. A full install of Visual Studio 2017 can take 100 gigs and ther is the Adobe stuff so 512 is frustratingly tiny and forever forcing painful decisions...

 

You can get external USB 3 drives in a 2" super thin form factor using flash and I considered duct taping one of those to the bottom, but the capacity on those drives is still too small. (Disclaimer: whenever I mention Duct Tape, it is being used as a code word for "Home Brew" and would probably involve glue and putty and paint so the resulting effort would look like a tiny bulge in the case)

 

These Dell XPS are beautiful and advanced engineering, but for me I am tempted to a return to a 17" Workstation with thicker case and lots of drive bays... One of the Alienwares had 2 undocumented NVMe slots for a total of 4! The problem with 17" is lack of the amazing 4K IPS Touch Screens with full color range. I also could use 64 gig RAM and a 1080 for GPU AI computing... but then there is that new Razor Core external GPU via Thunderbolt and we have Thunderbolt...

 

Oh one thing missing in your review, that still annoys me because I missed noticing it myself before purchase, is lack of an Ethernet port due to the ultra-thin size. Sort of like the Webcam situation where you understand why they did it but maybe they could have made a really small bulge in the LAN spot??

 

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Mindovermaster    1,365

You know if this matches the System76 Oryx Pro? Looks similar in specs, and the price looks "about" the same.

 

But, if it were me, I did like my Dell Vostro 15" that I had way back, circa 2005. Might give them the chance again ;)

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zhangm    1,280

How's the trackpad?

 

I've used multiple Dell systems that happened to have awful trackpads from Alps, including my XPS1530 and now a few Precision systems. Curiously they seem to be hit or miss - the 1330 got a Synaptics pad, which was tiny but quite good.

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Jim K    10,115
27 minutes ago, zhangm said:

How's the trackpad?

 

I've used multiple Dell systems that happened to have awful trackpads from Alps, including my XPS1530 and now a few Precision systems. Curiously they seem to be hit or miss - the 1330 got a Synaptics pad, which was tiny but quite good.

I like the touchpad ... nice and smooth.  It is a Synaptics touchpad (HID\SYNA2393), using the Microsoft Precision driver. 

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tsupersonic    1,463

Do you have any coil whine? It's been a problem with my work laptop (Latitude series), but I hear it's a problem with all modern Dells. 

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