It might not have the eye-catching convertible design of its stablemate, the flipping-screen Dell XPS 12, but the 3200 x 1800 display of the latest version of the Dell XPS 15 ensures that it provides plenty of visual appeal of its own. With a weight of just 2.01 kg, it's also one of the lightest 15-inch laptops currently available.

Dell XPS 15

The partial-aluminium casing and Retina-style screen of the Dell XPS 15 prompts inevitable comparison with Apple's MacBook Pro, and its weight and 18 mm thickness are also virtually identical to those of the Apple original. However, the XPS 15 has some ideas of its own and outguns the MacBook Pro in a number of respects.

The laptop makes a good impression even before you turn it on. The aluminium casing is both light and sturdy, and provides good support for the 15.6-inch screen. The keyboard, trackpad and surrounding panels all have a pleasant ‘soft-touch' matt-black plastic finish that looks smart and feels very comfortable to use.

The slimline design forsakes an internal DVD drive, but few people will complain about that if it means that the XPS 15 can lose some heft compared to most 15-inch laptops. It's a shame that there's no ethernet port for a wired network connection, but one of the three USB 3.0 ports and one USB 2.0 could accept an adaptor. Both HDMI and Mini DisplayPort provide good connectivity for external monitors.

Dell XPS 15 review: QHD display

However, it's Dell's ‘QHD' screen that is the real eye-opener. With a resolution of 3200 x 1800 pixels and 235 pixels per inch, the XPS 15 has a higher resolution than the Retina display of the MacBook Pro, at 2880 x 1800 and 220 ppi.

Numbers aside, it looks terrific, as the IPS panel is very bright and colourful, and strong contrast ensures that blacks look very black while the pristine white backgrounds of many web pages help accentuate how dull the colours are for many other laptops.

The screen is touch-sensitive too, although we found ourselves rather reluctant to mar the brilliant and shiny screen with our fingerprints.

Dell XPS 15

The bigger problem with that high-res display is that many Windows programs don't work properly. The adjustable scaling technology in Windows works well enough on the main Windows desktop, allowing you to adjust the size of OS text and icons to enhance visibility. But it doesn't always help with interface elements within individual applications, which resolutely remain at the screen native resolution.

This means that toolbars, icons and buttons in some third-party applications appear so small that they're almost unusable. And, ironically, it's often graphics applications such as the Adobe Photoshop Elements program we tried that suffer the most here, because of their reliance on graphical-based tools.

That means you may find yourself switching to a lower resolution for tasks such as photo- or video-editing; which rather defeats the point of paying for the QHD display in the first place.

That's Microsoft's fault rather than Dell's, although it's you as the latter's customer that has to put up with it.

next section: Dell XPS 15 review: better than the MacBook Pro