I admit it. I drooled a little when I first heard about the Dell XPS 15z. And that’s not small praise, coming from me. (Let’s just say that I’m not what you’d call a Windows PC fan.) But the promise of a beautiful, thin, powerful laptop with an attractive price point is awfully hard to resist.
Dell finally unveiled its Z series “ultra thin” line of notebooks, putting to rest all the speculation and rumors. With a price range from $999.99 to $1499.99, the company will begin shipping models with the 720p HD screens tomorrow (“Essential,” “Home and Student” versions). All others (with 1080p HD displays) ship June 3, including the “Premium” version.
A few lucky reviewers have gotten their hands on pre-production XPS 15z models, including Engadget, and so far, the consensus seems quite decent, though not perfect. Here are a few highlights for your perusal. (For the full review, be sure to hit up the source link.)
- An Air competitor or Pro contender? The buzz may be around the XPS 15z being a MacBook Air competitor, but comparisons to the MacBook Pro are inevitable‚ especially when it comes to design choices (putting the input ports on the left), and thickness and weight (being slightly thicker than the Pro, it doesn’t live up to the “ultra thin” rep, and it weighs the same). The fact that it looks so similar, thanks to its aluminum and magnesium alloy body, among other things — well that doesn’t help either. While it’s not a total dead ringer, offering a top-sided hinge design, it comes close. But there’s one extremely obvious difference: the retail price. The XPS 15z costs several hundreds less.
- Hands-on physical experience: The metal fabrication is a bit thin — so much that it yields a little under pressure and can impede the system fan’s airflow. The trim has rough edges, noticeable at the wrists, but the keyboard’s size and chicklet keys are nice and usable. (Mac laptop owners will find it convenient and familiar.) The Cypress trackpad, which is a little bigger than most, works well enough — pretty fast and smooth with single finger action, albeit slightly buggy with certain gestures. And for neat freaks, the magnesium alloy construction here helps keep fingerprints at bay. Unfortunately, the metal can get pretty hot, particularly between the keys.
- Screen: The display gets nods for beauty. The base model comes with 720p (as well as the Home and Student version, with more memory and hard drive space), but for another $100 on top of the base model, shoppers can get a full 1080p HD screen. Only downside is the glassy display can be a bit “glarey,” depending on lighting conditions, it’s not quite sharp enough to qualify as “glorious,” and viewing angles/radius is not the best. On the up side, the software can help with some of that, with adjustable settings for backlighting.
- Speakers: Perhaps doesn’t deliver enough bass, and can get shrill and tinny (like most laptop speakers), but in this class, it’s actually quite good. Very decent for notebook computer speakers, with crisp audio that comes across nice and loud.
- Multitasking/Gaming: Overall, the specs allow for some decent processing heft, and multitasking works like a champ up to the “heavy use” line. Singular gaming also delivered pretty well, with Batman: Arkham Asylum and Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare offering decent play. (Bulletstorm, however, was harder on the system. Hit the full review for more info on this.)
- Battery life: Dell promises 8 hours of use, but 3.75 hours was more like it. Even with GPU settings tweaked, the best squeezed out of it was 4.5 hours.
- Specs: Even the base model is no schlump here, with a dual-core 2.3GHz Intel Core i5-2410M processor, switchable NVIDIA GeForce GT525M graphics with 1GB of memory (6GB of DDR3 RAM), a 7200RPM hard drive, gigabit Ethernet jack, two USB 3.0 ports, one eSATA / USB 2.0 combo port, one Mini DisplayPort, an HDMI 1.4 jack, a pair of 3.5mm headphone and microphone jacks, and dual-band 802.11a/g/n support. For more specs, see the list below.
If Dell’s trying to chip away at the Mac notebook market, then: First, it needs to get its marketing message straight. (This isn’t a MacBook Air competitor. It just ain’t.) And second, that battery life needs a way bigger boost. Finally, cooking a user’s hands really may not be wise either. But as long as that fan still works, this might not have to be a deal breaker, with a good external keyboard.
To be honest, these issues might be less forgivable if the specs weren’t so good and the price tag wasn’t so attractive. But it’s hard to beat this value, and in a nice-looking form factor, no less. So from the looks of this, though it may not be a perfect laptop, the XPS 15z actually seems like a fairly decent option — especially for PC people who like the MacBook Pro aesthetic, but not the price tag or OS.
What do you think? Are you leaning toward Dell’s latest and greatest? Or holding out for a different brand? (Ahem, Samsung.) To help you decide, here are more XPS 15z specs below.
Dell XPS-15z Notebook Specs (base model)
- Processor: 2nd gen Intel Core i5-2410M processor 2.30 GHz with Turbo Boost 2.0 up to 2.90 GHz
- OS: Windows 7 Home Premium 64-Bit
- Screen: Elemental Silver Aluminum 15.6″ HD (720P) WLED Display with Webcam
- Memory: 6GB1 Dual Channel DDR3 SDRAM at 1333MHz
- HD: 500GB2 SATA hard drive (7200RPM)
- Video Card: 1024MB NVIDIA GeForce GT525M
- Optical Drive: 8X Tray Load CD/DVD Burner (Dual Layer DVD+/-R Drive)
- Case Color: Elemental Silver Aluminum 15.6″ HD (720P) WLED Display with Webcam
- Wireless: Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6230 & Bluetooth 3.0
- Battery: 64 WHr 8-Cell Lithium Ion Primary Battery
- Warranty: 1 Year Basic Service Plan
- Weight: 5.54 lbs.