Hands on: Dell XPS 15 (2019) review

The webcam has moved – but not much else

What is a hands on review?
Dell XPS 15 2019

Early Verdict

The Dell XPS 15 for 2019 addresses the laptop’s most glaring flaw – the webcam placement – but doesn’t do much more than this beyond some updated internals. This feels like a missed opportunity to bring Dell’s flagship 15-inch laptop in line with the rest of its redesigned XPS range.

For

  • Webcam has finally moved
  • Core i9 power
  • Gorgeous OLED screen option

Against

  • No major redesign

Dell took to Computex 2019 with some exciting new designs for some of its flagship 2-in-1 laptops and gaming laptops … oh, and its flagship 15-inch laptop gets a refresh that’s more powerful than ever, too. 

That’s essentially how it feels to cover the Dell XPS 15 of 2019: it’s a footnote to a far more exciting announcement.

The Dell XPS 15 webcam has finally been moved to its rightful place, and the internal components have received a considerable boost over last year. Yet, that’s about all that’s going on with the laptop this year.

This means that, while you’re sure to see a more powerful XPS 15 than ever before, don’t expect anything as exciting as the completely new directions that Dell is taking for its other flagship products that debuted at Computex.

Dell XPS 15 2019 keyboard and trackpad

Price and availability

The Dell XPS 15 starts out at an entirely reasonable $1,168 (about £930, AU$1,660) for the base base configuration, which offers a decent amount of power. With it, you’ll get a 9th-generation quad-core Intel Core i5 processor (CPU), 8GB of 2,666MHz memory (RAM) and a 256GB PCIe solid-state drive (SSD) behind a 15.6-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) display.

This exact configuration is not available in the UK and Australia. The base configuration in the UK has a 9th generation i7 and the same memory, storage and display. On the other hand, the base in configuration in Australia, while touting the same processor, memory and display, offers twice the storage.

Of course, the star of this show is the fully kitted out configuration. A maxed out Dell XPS 15 2019 boasts an 8-core Intel Core i9 CPU, Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 graphics (4GB GDDR5), 32GB of RAM and a 2TB SSD behind an OLED 4K UHD (3,840 x 2,160) multitouch display. This souped up model will set you back a whopping $3,118 (£2,899, about AU$4,440).

This exact configuration is not available in Australia. There, the maxed out configuration boasts the same internals except for the storage, which is only 1TB. This will set you back AU$5,199.

You’ll likely be able to access those enhanced Nvidia graphics somewhere in between the extremes of the available configurations, as has been the case in the past. We do know that the minimum amount to get that gorgeous OLED display will be $2,018/£1,868/AU$3,499.

Therefore, you’re looking at getting an impressive amount of performance out of this year’s Dell XPS 15 for not much more than an XPS 13 currently costs.

Image 1 of 7

The Dell XPS 15 (2019) webcam.

The Dell XPS 15 (2019) webcam.
Image 2 of 7

The Dell XPS 15 (2019) ports (left side).

The Dell XPS 15 (2019) ports (left side).
Image 3 of 7

The Dell XPS 15 (2019) rear hinge.

The Dell XPS 15 (2019) rear hinge.
Image 4 of 7

The Dell XPS 15 (2019) OLED display.

The Dell XPS 15 (2019) OLED display.
Image 5 of 7

The Dell XPS 15 (2019) ports (right side).

The Dell XPS 15 (2019) ports (right side).
Image 6 of 7

The Dell XPS 15 (2019) webcam.

The Dell XPS 15 (2019) webcam.
Image 7 of 7

The Dell XPS 15 (2019) from afar.

The Dell XPS 15 (2019) from afar.

Design and display

We’re ecstatic to see that Dell has finally moved the webcam from beneath the display to above it where it belongs, However, we’re disappointed to find out that just about nothing else in the Dell XPS 15’s design has changed. If Dell had already invested in moving this crucial design element, wouldn’t it have made sense to take the opportunity to revisit other facets of the XPS 15 look and feel as well?

We could, for example, do with either top-firing stereo speakers or a number pad on the keyboard to make up for that wasted space on either side of the keyboard.

Much to our disappointment, we’re only getting the same design as the last one or two models of this laptop: an aluminum-clad lid and base with a black carbon fiber palm rest surrounding the keyboard. There’s nothing evidently wrong with this design, but it also just looks and feels dated, especially next to the entirely fresh-looking and -feeling Dell XPS 13 and XPS 13 2-in-1 for 2019.

That said, Dell did make some updates to the keyboard this year, if only to modify the font on the keys to something less robotic-looking and much closer to the hipness that is Helvetica. Not all unchanged aspects are bad, however. The travel has stayed at 1.3mm, and the feedback force feels strong after our brief testing. The trackpad remains unchanged as well, still glass-coated, not to mention as smooth and accurate as ever.

The real focus for Dell here was clearly in getting an OLED display into its leading ‘prosumer’ laptop, which was a valiant effort. The sizable 100,000:1 contrast ratio is immediately apparent upon looking at the display, with blacks that simply blend into the laptop’s thin bezels.

Dell tells us this display will help content creators with its 100% DCI-P3 color gamut, though it’s a bit less bright than other options at 400 nits max, leaning on that enhanced contrast ratio to pick up some slack left behind by the decrease in brightness.

The laptop remains weighing just 4 pounds (1.8kg) with the standard display and 57 Watt-hour (Whr) battery, and now 4.5 pounds (2kg) with the OLED display and a 97Whr battery. Likewise, the laptop remains thin – just 0.66 inches (17mm) across the board. Lastly, ports on hand are the same, with two USB 3.1 ports, one USB-C port with Thunderbolt 3 and PowerShare, an HDMI 2.0 port, an SD card reader and a headset jack.

Dell XPS 15 2019 display

Performance

There’s not much we can say about the performance that the new XPS 15 puts out – we’ll have to wait until we actually get a review unit tested. However, based on the laptop specs, we have a a good idea. The combination of Core i9 power across eight cores and GTX 1650 graphics is going to make this laptop a beast when rendering high resolution images and video content.

Likewise, the laptop’s gaming performance will be enough for the professional who wants to squeeze in a Fortnite session on their lunch breaks or after work – or for a college student who wants to be taken seriously in class, but also play PC games on the weekends. Plus, the option for that much RAM just demands multitasking worthy of the hardware.

As for battery life, Dell promises up to a whopping 20 hours and 30 minutes of general runtime on an FHD model, more than 13 hours with the 4K model and more than seven hours on the OLED display. These numbers seem rather unbelievable to us, but again, only a full review will tell how accurate these numbers are.

Dell XPS 15 2019 lid

Early verdict

The Dell XPS 15 for 2019 certainly addresses what was probably the laptop’s most glaring flaw, the webcam placement. On top of that, Dell did update the internals extensively in almost every category, not to mention inherited the great bits from its predecessor.

However, after seeing and briefly testing out this revision, we’re still left wanting. There is plenty more than can be done to perfect Dell’s 15-inch laptop, and Dell unfortunately didn’t take that opportunity this year. That is, simply put, a downer.

We’ll save any further praise or condemnation in a full review, but right now, this is what we can say: what you’re looking at is a 15-inch laptop that’s set up to nail the basics and not much more.

Check out all of TechRadar's Computex 2019 coverage. We're live in Taipei to bring you all the breaking computing news and launches, plus hands-on reviews of everything from fresh laptops and desktops to powerful new components and wild overclocking demonstrations.

What is a hands on review?

Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.