Why I choose Dell XPS 15
I use my notebook mainly for programming (Python, Web, Android, VirtualBox VM).
- Android Studio build time is quite slow on my almost 5y old machine (5 minutes), so I prefer a much faster CPU.
- My old notebook have 12GB RAM which is not quite adequate, so I prefer 16GB minimum
- Initially I was looking for 256GB SSD + 1TB HDD
- I was evaluating 4K screen, which I decided it is not a priority for my use case. Anti-glare is prefered.
- I prefer to have a decent graphic cards to keep the options for some gaming opened
- Should weight 2kg or less
- 14-15" screen
I have filter down my options to the following
|Dell XPS 15 (9570)||MYR 8109||i7-8750H||16GB||512GB SSD||GTX 1050Ti 4GB||15.6" FHD Anti-Glare 400-Nits||97WHr||1.8kg|
|Dell G7 15 (7588)||MYR 6509||i7-8750H||16GB||256GB SSD + 1TB 5400RPM||GTX 1060 6GB||15.6" FHD Anti-Glare||56 WHr||2.86kg|
|ThinkPad X1 Carbon (6th Gen)||MYR 8121||i7-8550U||16GB||512GB SSD||Intel||14" FHD Anti-Glare 300-Nits||57Wh||1.13kg|
|ThinkPad T580||MYR 6852||i7-8550U||16GB||512GB SSD||MX150 2GB||15.6" FHD 250-Nits||32Wh + 48Wh||1.97kg|
I didn't opt for a Macbook Pro because I am mostly a Windows user (I tried someone's Macbook Air quite a few times, and I didn't find the OS more superior or user-friendly). Besides, an equivalent Macbook Pro is 20-30% more expensive than top of the line Dell XPS 15. I paid MYR 3,500 for my last notebook, now I am potentially paying MYR 6,000-8,000 for a new notebook, and I can't imagine myself paying more than RM 10,000.
I could save about MYR 1000-1500 if I choose mid-range model like
Dell G7 (slighly bulky, almost equivalent performance) or
ThinkPad T580 (slightly lower spec), but I decide to opt for lighter weight and better performance.
I prefer a better CPU (to reduce code compilation time), so I finally opt for
Dell XPS 15 (9570).
- Dell XPS 15 - i7-8750H is 6 Core (2.2Ghz - 4.1Ghz) with CPU Mark of 12537
- ThinkPad X1 Carbon - i7-8550U is 4 Core (1.8Ghz - 4.0Ghz) with CPU Mark of 8294
Dell XPS 15 have a pretty solid branding and popularity, so should have less issues (or less chances of problems being ignore into obvilion which sometimes happened to less popular model). Later I realize I was wrong about this.
Delivery took 2 weeks. I have been using the machine for 2 months. I opt for 3y hardware warranty by paying additional MYR300++.
Pros of Dell XPS 15
The screen is really good, even though it's just FHD and not 4K. Sharp and clear. It just looks stunning.
The touchpad is good and usable (the touchpad on my last Asus notebook is pretty terrible).
I would say the design and build quality is good. It's not gorgeous, but good and I have no complaint.
No much bloatware. Dell software is not great yet, but it is "better" nowadays. There is
Dell Power Manager to control baterry charing behaviour (I can set it to maximum charge of 90%, and only recharge if fall below 50%).
SupportAssist handle BIOS and driver update perfectly so far. Driver updates are pretty frequent and timely, not perfect but good.
Dell Power Manager, when it set to
AC Primary, I believe the software try to fake battery to always be 100% which is confusing. Settings to
Custom is a more sane option.
The is a pretty convenient feature to replace password for login. When the system boot up/wake from sleep, I scan my fingerprint (and remove it) and the screen unlock after 3-5s. I am not sure the delay is due to Win10 or the hardware/driver.
The processor is good and fast.
Android Studio first build used to take 4m30s on my old machine is now 1m30s, subsequent build is usually 5-10s. I believe the CPU is not throttled on battery mode (at least not much), which is good. The fan start to spin up when CPU hit 100% for a minute or so, which could be pretty noisy.
PS: There are reported thermal issues with i9, but I am using i7 and doesn't have pro-longed CPU tasks.
The SSD is fast. Dell gave me a Toshiba SSD, though I wish they would gave a Samsung instead.
I am mostly on AC, so I didn't really test out the battery life. I believe it's between 5-8h depending on the workload.
Cons of Dell XPS 15
When I first got the machine (Jun 2018), the sleep mode is interrupted when I unplugged the power or move the mouse. There is supposed to be a
Power Management tab for mouse to disable such behaviour, but it's no longer there. I realize the machine is using Win10
Modern Standy (which is supposed to make laptop behaves like mobile device, sleep light and quick wakeup), which I don't think is very practical (not working well, higher power consumption). I disable
Modern Standy and the problems are resolved.
There are 2 ways to disable
Modern Standy: BIOS or Registry key. I read in some forum there are other issues when enabling S3 sleep through BIOS, so I opt for the registry key path. Start
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Power and set
0. Restart the machine just to be safe. The sleep mode cosume 3% battery for 8h of sleep (rough estimation).
Hibernate is enabled by default, where my configuration allow the laptop to Sleep for 2h then goes into Hibernate. There is one occasion where the computer wakeup from sleep but fail to go into Hibernation, thus draining my battery. This is probably a Win10 problem, or maybe the battery start charging at 50% is interrupting the process. In the end, I disabled Hibernate.
I notice the wireless network reconnect after sleep is pretty slow (10-20s), and sometimes outright fail and need to restart the driver. Though the wireless network support 5GHz network, I realize the connection is usually lost after connected to it for about 10 minutes, and 5GHz access point is no longer discoverable. This problem is widely reported across all XPS models. One of the mitigation strategy is to set
Device Manager -> Network adapters -> Killer Wireless-n/a/ac 1535 Wireless Network Adapter -> Advanced -> Wireless Mode -> 08 - 11 a/b/g/n (original is
12 - 11 a/b/g/n/ac), seems to make 5GHz connectivity more stable. Things are more stable/bearable after update driver to
220.127.116.114, but still not perfect.
The forum consensus are units with
Intel wireless adapter are better than the one with
Killer (most units come with
Sometimes the screen flicker every 10-15 minutes or so, especially after waking up from sleep. The problem is not persistent, but sometimes it does happens (usually sleep again or restart the machine would solve the problem). I suspect it's due to graphic driver issues. Sadly Dell deploy a custom Intel Graphic Driver which is a few months behind the latest driver from Intel. I uninstall the Dell Intel Driver and install the latest from Intel (
Intel UHD Graphics 630 - 18.104.22.16894), and the problem is mitigated mostly. Screen flicker still happens occasional (once a week), and it is not continuous (it flickers once, but no problem after that - thus no action is required to remedy it).
There are occasional annoying crackling sound from the speaker, which only happens on certain music (things are fine when I use an external speaker). I am on the latest
Realtek Audio - 22.214.171.12454 driver.
Lack of LED Indicator
There are only 2 LED indicator available: The AC Adapter (to show the power adapter had power) and front LED which only lit up when battery is charging (blinks when there is power or thermal issues). Disk LED light is missing, though less relevant when using SSD. There is no LED indicator to hint if the machine is actually switch on or off, and you can only verify that by checking if the screen is on or not. If something goes wrong with the Screen/Windows/Long System Update, I usually have to put my ear closed to the machine to listen for the internal fan (to check if machine is active).
PS: I wish Dell used the front LED to indicate the machine is powered on or not.
Dell XPS 15 is still a pretty good machine (build quality, screen, cpu), and most of the problems are software/driver related, and updated driver are available.
It is far from perfect, but still good, but not great. For the price point I am paying, I do wish it is more reliable with less issues and troubleshooting required.
I hope this machine could last at least 5 years, else it is a really bad ROI.
NOTE: Refer to "Win10 (Dell 9570) Problematic Modern Standby - Battery Power Drain.