Dell XPS 15 review: better than the MacBook Pro

There are areas where the XPS 15 provides better performance and value for money than its rival the MacBook Pro with Retina display.

There are two versions of the Dell XPS 15 currently available, with prices starting at £1249 for a model with a quad-core Intel Core i7 running at 2.3 GHz, 16 GB memory and an nVidia GeForce GT 750M handling graphics duties.

Note that the model we tested had a 2.2 GHz GHz Intel Core i7-4702HQ; Dell's website now lists a 2.3 GHz Intel Core i7-4712HQ, after Intel's running processor upgrade.

Our review model included a 512 GB solid-state drive, which bumped this price up to £1499. That compares very favourably to a starting price of £1699 for the 15-inch MacBook Pro, which has a 2.0 GHz processor, 8 GB of memory and 256 GB solid-state storage. This entry model of Apple's notebook also relies on Intel's Iris Pro integrated graphics rather than a discrete GPU.

Lab performance of the Dell is good, with a score of 5833 points in the general-purpose PCMark 7. This suggests that the XPS 15 can provide desktop-PC levels of performance for a wide range of software.

Performance in the Home and Works suits of PCMark 8 wasn't quite so strong, but scores of 2699 and 2800 points respectively are still solid enough for all but the most demanding tasks.

It can handle a fair bit of gaming action too, easily breezing to 68 fps when running our Stalker: Call of Pripyat casual gaming test at 1920 x 1080 resolution.

We tired Batman: Arkham City at the full 3200 x 1800 resolution – which looked terrific, but only gave us 21 fps. Dropping down to 1920 x 1080 allowed the XPS 15 to hit a smooth 50 fps even with graphics details set to High.

Battery life is disappointing. Dell quotes a life of ‘up to 11 hours', but in our usual test we only just managed 5 hours of streaming video with the XPS 15.

Apple's entry-level 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display lasted more than 50 percent longer in the same test, running for 8 hours 14 mins. (See also: 20 best budget laptops of 2014.)

Dell XPS 15

OUR VERDICT

Battery life is disappointing, especially as the XPS 15 is intended as a lightweight Ultrabook, although as a desktop replacement system it ticks more of the right boxes. It provides outstanding display quality and high-end performance at a competitive price, while still being slim and light enough to slip into a bag for the occasional business trip or weekend away.