Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 review

The convertible gaming laptop of your dreams

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Benchmarks

Here’s how the Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 performed in our suite of benchmark tests:

3DMark: Sky Diver: 13,349; Fire Strike: 5,655; Time Spy: 2,174
Cinebench CPU: 645 points; Graphics: 127 fps
GeekBench: 4,826 (single-core); 15,859 (multi-core)
PCMark 8 (Home Test): 3,357 points
PCMark 8 Battery Life: 3 hours and 43 minutes
Battery Life (techradar movie test): 5 hours and 8 minutes
Total War: Warhammer II (1080p, Ultra): 21 fps; (1080p, Low): 44 fps
ME: Shadow of War (1080p, Ultra): 48 fps; (1080p, Low): 91 fps

Performance

The new Intel-meets-AMD processor inside the XPS 15 2-in-1 is a force to be reckoned with. Dell promised the new Kaby Lake G processor would deliver Nvidia GTX 1050-equivalent performance. And then some. 

Across the board, the Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 delivers 100-500 point higher scores in 3DMark and CineBench than the regular XPS 15 equipped with a Nvidia GTX 1050.

Read more: Test: Dell XPS 15 (2018)

The Dell XPS 15 also left the Samsung Notebook 9 Pro in the dust as it was only able to achieve a 3DMark Fire Strike score of 2,495. The Lenovo Yoga 920 and its integrated Intel HD graphics fared the worst, with a Fire Strike result barely above 1,000 points.

On the processor end, the Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 is no slouch either, achieving better Cinebench and GeekBench scores than any of its rivals.

Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 review

All of this impressive performance can be attributed to a new sensor hub that tells the processor-graphics hybrid chip to liberally boost frequencies. This sensor hub works in tandem with software on the processor to monitor the device’s cooling and power to make these decisions for you – so its less of a tweakable overclock and more of an automatic performance boost.

Aside from impressive benchmark scores, this 15-inch laptop can use its extra frequency headroom to better perform either more serious tasks, like photo and video editing and even some light gaming. In fact, we’re able to play Overwatch at 1080p and high settings with a consistent 60 frames per second and Destiny only ran at a slightly lower 45fps with the game set to 1080p and Ultra quality settings.

Our only major issue with the Dell XPS 14 2-in-1 is updating this machine’s Radeon drivers. Throughout this review we attempted to update the Kaby Lake G video drivers only for the software to tell us “the selected driver failed to detect the current configuration.”

We hope this is an issue that Dell and Intel will resolve in the future, as currently it seems the Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 isn’t able to update its display driver.

Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 review

One loud baby

Of course, all of this performance comes at the price of heat. To help combat this, Dell developed a new type of Gore insulation. This material directs heat out of the device better than other solutions to allow components to operate at higher temperatures. To our amazement, it works really well. Having this machine on our laps, it feels no warmer than Ultrabook running on load.

Unfortunately, any time we plug in the laptop to wall power seems to result in the fans kicking on full tilt within minutes. Nvidia Max-Q laptops might have spoiled us for silent gaming notebooks, but this machine sounds as loud as a thick gaming notebook running at full performance. 

Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 review

Battery life

Dell claims the Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 can last up to 15 hours on battery, but we found it to only run for about a third of that promised longevity. We got a maximum of 5 hours and 8 minutes from our usual local video playback test. With our regular web browsing, email checking and text editing tasks, the battery lasted for about an hour longer.

Comparatively the Dell XPS 15 with more traditional discrete graphics ran for nearly an hour longer on the same battery test. The Samsung Notebook 9 Pro held on for 6 to 8 hours with our video playback benchmark and general use.

So it seems the Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 runs on the shorter side of available battery life.

Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 review

Final verdict

The ‘smallest and thinnest 2-in-1 device of its size’ is very impressive indeed, thanks in large part to its new hybrid processor/discrete graphics chip. AMD’s Radeon RX Vega M graphics have given Intel’s processors a real shot in the arm, overtaking even a laptop equipped with Nvidia GTX 1050 graphics. All the while, this laptop maintains one of the thinnest profiles in its 15-inch class with mostly decent battery life.

However, all of this power contained in such a small package comes with a high price and it’s also one of the loudest 15-inch laptops we’ve ever tested. If you can look past these issues, though, this is one of the most innovatively engineered and powerful, thin 15-inch laptops in years.