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 internals have received a considerable boost over last year. But, that’s about all that’s going on with the laptop this year.
So, while you’re sure to see a more powerful XPS 15 than ever before, don’t expect anything as exciting as the totally new directions that Dell’s other flagship products that debuted at Computex are taking.
Price and availability
Dell is calling for an entirely reasonable $999 (about £790, AU$1,450) for the starting XPS 15 configuration in 2019. This price gets you a decent amount of power: 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.
Of course, the star of this show would be the fully kitted out configuration. A maxed out XPS 15 for 2019 boasts an 8-core Intel Core i9 CPU, Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 graphics (4GB GDDR5), a whopping 64GB of RAM and a 2TB SSD behind an OLED 4K UHD (3,840 x 2,160) multitouch display. Unfortunately, Dell has yet to reveal pricing on this souped up model, but expect to pay a considerable amount.
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 $1,899 (about £1,500, AU$2,730) – not bad considering most laptop OLED configurations cost upwards of $2,000.
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. Dell has yet to disclose when the XPS 15 will hit the shelves… that is, beyond that it's “coming soon.”
Design and display
While we’re ecstatic to see that Dell has finally moved the webcam from beneath the display to above it where it belongs, we’re disappointed to find out that just about nothing else regarding 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?
For example, we could 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.
But, much to our disappointment, we’re getting the same design as the last one or two iterations of this laptop: an aluminum-clad lid and base with a black carbon fiber palm rest surrounding the keyboard. While there’s nothing evidently wrong with this design, 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 in modifying the font on the keys to something less robotic-looking and much closer to the hipness that is Helvetica. Plus, not all unchanged aspects are bad. 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 and 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.
Of course, 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.
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, we can get a good idea based on the laptop specs. 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 enjoy a Fortnite session on their lunch breaks or after work – or for a college student who wants to both play PC games on the weekends and be taken seriously in class. 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 outlandish to us, but again, only a full review will tell how accurate these numbers are.
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 real downer.
We’ll save any further praise or condemnation in a full review, but right now, here’s 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.