Dell XPS 15z
Price $1699 (Core i7, 8GB RAM)
Sneaking a quick glance at Dell’s new 15” XPS 15z laptop, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was a MacBook Pro. This mid-range machine seems to have taken several style cues from Apple’s pro-level laptop to boost its visual appeal – no bad thing.
From the slimline chassis to the matte-silver metallic finish, the XPS 15z exudes an image of professionalism. Even better, it backs this up with excellent performance, but without a hefty price tag. The anodised aluminium chassis is about 2.5cm thick and gives the laptop a svelte look and feel that’s a bit classier than the high-gloss plastic finish of some of its competitors.
A high-gloss casing usually looks great until you’ve handled the laptop a bit, leaving behind lots of highly visible fingerprints. The XPS 15z avoids this problem nicely.
New design features
Despite their similarity, unlike Apple’s MacBook the Dell’s chassis is not actually made entirely from aluminium. It has its share of plastic parts surrounding the keyboard and trackpad, but this doesn’t detract too much from the premium feel. The 15z is comparatively light for its size and performance too, weighing in at just over 2.5kg.
Nice touches include the characteristic XPS battery status LEDs on the right-hand edge of the chassis, giving a visual feedback on battery life, even with the laptop turned off. The LED array lights up at the press of a nearby button.
The light-sensing backlit keyboard is great for low-light conditions as it automatically adjusts to suit. The keyboard is also billed as spill-resistant, though we didn’t test this. The rounded-edged keys feel a little weird to type with at first – Dell could have used more of the space surrounding the isolated keys to make them a bit more comfortable.
The magnesium alloy palm rest feels smooth to touch and the generously sized multitouch touchpad allows scrolling and gestures similar to the MacBook, plus two normal left-/right-click buttons. Some users will miss the ability to lock out the touchpad, a handy feature missing on this model.
Considering the enormous speaker grilles on either side of the keyboard, we expected the 15z’s audio to be a treat but were disappointed by only average performance. We recommend headphones or external speakers if you’re into movies or music.
The spec sheet of the 15z is impressive – especially given the price. Features include:
- A second-generation Intel Core i7-2620M processor running at a very lively 2.7GHz
- A generous 8GB of memory
- Fast (7200rpm) 750GB hard drive
- Powerful NVidia GeForce GT 525M graphics card with a whopping 2GB of built-in memory
With these sorts of specs we had high hopes for the 15z’s performance and weren’t disappointed. This portable powerhouse is faster than most of the desktop computers tested in our recent round-up. We ran the same PCMark 7 and Peacekeeper performance benchmarks and came up with a combined overall performance score of 82%, which would place it equal-fourth among the 11 tower and all-in-one models from that test.
Backing up the performance components, the 15z also includes 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 3.0, a slot-loading DVD burner, 1.3 megapixel webcam and Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit. We were also impressed by the number and type of connections, including HDMI, Mini DisplayPort, gigabit ethernet, two USB 3.0 ports and combined eSATA/USB 2.0 port, and 9-in-1 media card reader. That said, we don’t like how all the USB ports are on the left side only – it’s fine for lefties but may be annoying for right-handed people using a corded mouse.
Like most Dell units, specifications can be customised when ordering online. The basic configuration (with a Core i5 CPU) starts from $1399. Overall, this is a premium package at a bargain price and we consider it exceptionally good value for money.
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