Hands on with Dell's powerful new XPS 15 2-in-1

Back in October, I reviewed the Dell XPS 15. Containing Intel's seventh-generation high-power processors and an Nvidia GeForce 1050 GPU, it was one of the most powerful laptops around that wasn't designed for gaming, or as a workstation. But today at CES, the company introduced the XPS 15 2-in-1.

Unlike the XPS 13 2-in-1, there's actually no sacrifice in performance this time. That's because it uses Intel's new H-series processors - which were announced on Sunday - that include dedicated AMD Radeon graphics. Dedicated graphics means that graphics memory doesn't have to be shared with system memory, and since the GPU is on the same die as the CPU, it can be used in devices with much slimmer profiles.

Along with HP's new Spectre 15 x360, Dell is one of the first out of the gate to use the new chip. That means that it's one of the most powerful convertibles that exists. Indeed, there are very few convertibles, if any, that use an H-series processor, let alone with discrete graphics. The bottom line is that this is one of the most powerful convertibles on the market, and it's breaking new ground.

But alas, I am but a man at an event, and I cannot take a device on display and run benchmarks, as much as I'd love to do it. That will have to wait until I can get my hands on one to review. In the meantime, we'll have to focus on the externals of the device.

The 4K display is stunning, as always, and the new one uses Dell Cinema. This means that you'll be able to watch videos in High Dynamic Range (HDR), something that Netflix recently added to its Windows 10 app. The feature also includes better sound and better networking. When streaming videos, the system should allocate networking resources to the video, similar to how Killer Wi-Fi works with gaming.

The keyboard on the new PC is different than you'll find on previous XPS devices. The keys are shallower, as Dell is using a new magnetic system to save some space and allow the PC itself to be thinner.

I'm not going to lie. It does feel a bit awkward at first, and Dell's claims that it feels the same as a regular keyboard don't seem accurate. I'm not going to say it's a bad thing though, as the awkward feeling doesn't last. It feels pretty easy to get used to, similar to the keyboards on Apple's new MacBooks.

Naturally, the 2-in-1 PC does have pen support, and the pen supports tilt. The added functionality allows artists to draw in new ways, and write more naturally. Attaching magnetically to the side of the device, you can use the pen to draw in Ink Workspace, take handwritten notes in OneNote, mark up webpages and PDFs in Edge, write on photos, draw routes in Maps, and more.

Like XPS devices that came before it, the camera is still placed underneath the display. Dell tells me that this is to keep the top bezel as narrow as possible, and indeed, the display is quite immersive. The question is what's more important to you: a good camera or an immersive display. For me, I really don't use the webcam on my PC, although on those rare occasions that I do use it, I want it to work.

Another thing that's been added is an IR camera for Windows Hello. This is another thing that I cannot test in a demo environment, so the final verdict will have to be reserved for when I get one to review. Presumably, it will work just fine while you're looking down at it.

Dell's new XPS 15 2-in-1 marks the first time in years that Intel has delivered a significant boost in performance in its new generation of Core processors. Combined with the fact that the new chip can power slimmer form factors, including convertibles, this is a pretty big deal and should be exciting for any enthusiast.

Personally, I'm really excited to get my hands on one of these. It's powerful enough for virtual reality, and yet it still adds the additional functionality that comes with a convertible PC. And with Dell Cinema, streaming movies and TV shows should be a delightful experience.

The Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 will be available this spring, starting at $1,299.99.

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