Dell XPS 15z: Imitation with a Twist

Dell relaunched their XPS brand (which was languishing under the Studio XPS name for a couple years) last year with their XPS 15 L501x. Combining reasonable performance, battery life, and portability with a great display upgrade at an impressive price tickled my fancy in just the right way, and we awarded that laptop our Gold Editors’ Choice award. The XPS 15 L502x brought along Sandy Bridge processor support with a minor upgrade to NVIDIA’s 500M graphics, but outside of a few component changes the two laptops looked the same. We still liked the L502x, but the build quality and keyboard actually took a step backwards in our book, and a few of the design elements of the XPS 15 didn’t hold up as well over the long term (e.g. the hinge-forward design).

Dell has now launched a completely reworked laptop with the XPS 15z, which shrinks the chassis, modifies the layout, and changes the component options. In many ways the XPS 15z is a better laptop than the XPS 15, but compromise is still present and accounted for. Let’s hit the spec sheet to see just where things are changing. The table lists the available options for the XPS 15z, with our review configuration components bolded where applicable.

Dell XPS 15 L502x Specifications
Processor Intel Core i5-2410M (dual-core 2.30-2.90GHz, 35W)
Intel Core i7-2620M (dual-core 2.70-3.40GHz, 35W)
Chipset Intel HM67
Memory 6GB (1x4GB + 1x2GB DDR3-1333)
8GB (2x4GB DDR-1333 CL9)
Graphics NVIDIA GeForce GT 525M 1GB DDR3 or
96 SPs, 600/1200/1800MHz Core/Shader/RAM clocks
Display 15.6” WLED Glossy 16:9 768p (1366x768)

15.6" WLED Glossy 16:9 1080p (1920x1080)
(AU Optronics B156HW3)
Hard Drive(s) 500GB 7200RPM HDD
750GB 7200RPM HDD
(Seagate ST9750429AS)

256GB SSD (Samsung?)
Optical Drive 8X Slot-Load DVDRW (HL-DT-ST GS30N)
Networking Gigabit Ethernet(Realtek RTL8168/8111)
802.11n WiFi + Bluetooth 3.0 (Intel Advanced-N 6230)
WiDi 2.0 Ready
Audio Stereo Speakers + Waves MaxxAudio
(Stereo speakers and subwoofer)
Microphone and two headphone jacks
Capable of 5.1 digital output (HDMI/SPDIF)
Battery 8-cell, 14.8V, ~4.2Ah, 64Wh
Front Side N/A
Left Side Battery Life Indicator
Memory Card Reader
2 x USB 3.0
1 x eSATA/USB 2.0 Combo
Mini DisplayPort
HDMI 1.4a
Right Side Headphone Jack
Microphone Jack
Optical Drive
Back Side AC Power Connection
Exhaust vent
Gigabit Ethernet
Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
Dimensions 15.15" x 10.25" x 0.97" (WxDxH)
(384.8mm x 260.4mm x 24.6mm)
Weight 5.54 lbs (8-cell)
Extras Waves MaxxAudio 3
1.3MP HD Webcam
80-Key backlit keyboard
Flash reader (SD, MS, MMC)
MS Office 2010 Starter or Home/Student
90W Power Adapter
Warranty 1- or 2-year standard warranty
3-year extended warranties available
Pricing Starting Price: $999
Reviewed Configuration: $1499

As you can see in the above table, Dell shipped us the fully upgraded version of the XPS 15z, which is good and bad. On the good side, there’s a nice 1080p display, CPU performance will be better, and the GPU gets twice the memory; there’s also 8GB of system RAM and a very large 750GB 7200RPM hard drive. Also note that all the available configurations other than the base model comes standard with a 2-year warranty and include Office 2010 Home/Student; the base model gets you Office 2010 Starter and a 1-year warranty. So what’s the bad news? The price is 50% higher than the base model, and performance definitely won’t be anywhere near 50% higher. Most of the performance gains will come from the CPU upgrade, which amounts to a 17% average increase in CPU-limited applications.

When you look at the actual pricing breakdown, the fully equipped model actually isn’t necessarily a bad deal. The $1200 system gives you a 2-year warranty, Office Home/Student, 8GB RAM, a 750GB HDD. If you figure around $150 for the warranty alone and $100 for Office Home/Student, that’s a fair bargain. The $1300 adds the 1080p display and the 2GB GT 525M, and since the 1080p LCD is a $100 upgrade on its own you get the GPU upgrade “gratis”. The $1500 configurations is the same as the $1300 unit, other than the CPU, so you’re basically paying $200 extra (15% more) for the 17% performance increase. Taken individually, we can easily justify every one of the upgrades, but $1500 is a big step up from $1000. Personally, if I were buying the 15z, I’d go with the base model but upgrade to the 1080p LCD, and if you like the longer warranty and Office software you can bump up to the $1300 model. I’d also drop the at-home service, since I’ve almost never had any laptop fail in the first year of use, which gives a final price of just $1043 for a very nice laptop.

Dell XPS 15z: A Good Copy or a Cheap Clone?
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  • FlyBri - Friday, September 2, 2011 - link

    I'm looking for a new 15.6" laptop with a 1080p screen, and this fits the bill better than any other. Too bad the company is horrible -- every department -- support, customer service, executive customer service, etc. I won't bore everyone with my whole ordeal, but lets say that they refused to do the right thing numerous times, even with the BBB involved, and I had to take them to small claims court. I was a loyal Dell customer for years before that too. So be warned people -- the laptop might be pretty good, but if you run into any out.
  • tipoo - Friday, September 2, 2011 - link

    Honestly I think the horror reports about Dell's customer service are mostly just repeated by people who have never experienced it in the last three-ish years. Their support has been fine to me. I had a Studio 15 with a flickering screen, and not only did they fix it in three days and ship it back in that time, they upgraded me to the 1080p screen two models up from mine for free, under standard support.
  • jabber - Friday, September 2, 2011 - link

    Yeah its been good to me too. I had a bit of the A key on my Dell laptop flake off after 10 months hard use.

    I just called up to chance my arm in getting a new keyboard.

    Less than 24 hours later I had an engineer sitting at my desk and 5 mins later a new keyboard fitted.

    Nice one!
  • seapeople - Saturday, September 3, 2011 - link

    I think people expect too much of Dell support.

    If your Dell breaks or malfunctions in any way within warranty, you simply call Dell and tell them the problem without screaming bloody murder and they fix it for you.

    If your Dell breaks one week out of warranty then you're out of luck.

    If you call Dell to figure out which one of their 50 computer configurations will come with four RAM slots versus two RAM slots without you having to actually pay for an amount of RAM that requires four slots... then they'll probably tell you something like none of their computers have four RAM slots and their 12GB RAM offering comes with two 6GB sticks of RAM.

    You just have to have the right expectations.
  • robinthakur - Friday, September 2, 2011 - link

    What is it with people simply lifting the design work of Jonathan Ives for Apple? First Samsung with its imitation products, then Asus in its Ultra thin MBA ripoffs, and now Dell. Does a company as big as Dell think it can get away with selling what might as well be a chinese MBP clone? Absolutely disgusting behaviour, they and their 'designers' should be ashamed. Whatever happened to originality?
  • robinthakur - Friday, September 2, 2011 - link

    Oh and having read to the end of the review, major shame on Anandtech for actually rewarding this artisitic fraud with an Editors Choice award. When I saw the photo on the homepage, I did a double take because I thought it was a MBP. If Apple don't sue over this they are crazy, it is far more similar to a MBP than a Galaxy S2 is to an iP4. Theft is theft however you slice it an yes all Laptops have screens keyboards etc. but the MBA and MBP did not end up looking the way they did by accident and neither did this sorry excuse for an original product.
  • Uritziel - Friday, September 2, 2011 - link

    LOL, that's hilarious. Someone doesn't know how design patents work or what theft is. If the world worked that way, Apple (and so many other companies) wouldn't be around today.
  • TEAMSWITCHER - Friday, September 2, 2011 - link

    Apple was the first company to put the pointing device in front of the keyboard on a laptop, and today all laptops are made that way. The problem with obvious patents are that there is a very thin line bewteen an obvious idea and a patentable one. According to Forbes magazine Apple is the fifth most innovative company on the Planet. Microsoft is like 80 something. Fan boys like to hate, but the real world knows that Apple is at the forefront of techno-industrial design. People who say otherwise are simply wrong. I don't like design patents, but every company needs them to protect their design works. In the grand scheme, they are at least shorter that copyrights and trademarks....
  • Dustin Sklavos - Friday, September 2, 2011 - link

    A good idea is a good idea, period, end of discussion. Ignoring the BS that Apple pulled on Samsung in European courts, some of the decisions these big companies make take cues from the smart design choices of Jonathan Ive (no "S"). Why reinvent the wheel when someone else already made a great wheel? You might as well accuse Intel of ripping Ive off with their ultrabook initiative.

    I think some of the differences designers make feel arbitrary instead of just authentically better for the end product. But if someone makes a good call, why shouldn't the industry follow suit?
  • HMTK - Friday, September 2, 2011 - link

    Bla, bla and more bla. Sorry, you're the typical Apple apologist. Guess why Apple is among the first with very thin laptops or a given design. Not because they're particularly good but because they can price their products high enough to make it worth their while. Others follow when technology and materials get cheaper so that the average Joe can buy it. For my needs I haven't seen a single Apple product with an acceptable price/performance/features/quality ratio. I'd choose affordable "imitation" over overpriced design any given day.

    Perhaps think the world should be held back because an overvalued company like Apple has designed something a certain way. I don't think so.

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