Dell XPS 15z (P12F) laptop

Dell XPS 15z review: A thin 15.6in laptop with a great configuration, but let down by a poor keyboard

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Dell XPS 15z (P12F)
  • Dell XPS 15z (P12F)
  • Dell XPS 15z (P12F)
  • Dell XPS 15z (P12F)
  • Expert Rating

    3.50 / 5

Pros

  • Full HD screen
  • Good build quality
  • Performance

Cons

  • Poor keyboard
  • Tacky design
  • USB ports only on one side

Bottom Line

If it had a better design and a more comfortable keyboard, the Dell XPS 15z would be close to awesome. As it stands, it's just good. We like its configuration and performance, as well as its Full HD screen and its strong build quality. The XPS 15z is suitable for power users and part-time gamers.

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Battery life

Like the MacBook Pro, the Dell XPS 15z has a sealed design, which means its battery is internal and can't easily be replaced. It's an 8-cell battery with a 64 Watt-hour rating and the laptop uses NVIDIA Optimus technology to automatically switch between discrete and integrated Intel HD graphics (it used the latter when running our battery test). It lasted 3hr 30min in our battery rundown test, in which we disable power management, enable Wi-Fi, maximise screen brightness and loop an Xvid-encoded video. This is a good time, especially for a laptop with a powerful configuration such as this one. It's about an hour longer than most typical 15.6in laptops that have 6-cell batteries and Second Generation Core CPUs, such as the Sony VAIO CB Series, for example.

We like the inclusion of a battery meter on the left side of the base. Simply press the button, even when the unit is off, and a series of white lights illuminate to let you know how much charge is left. A battery utility is also present so that you can choose settings that prolong the battery life, and it will also show how healthy your battery is (in terms of how much charge it can hold). However, there is no obvious option for changing the charge capacity in order to prolong the number of cycles that the battery will last while still offering a long life. Laptops such as the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 and Samsung Series 9, which also have sealed designs, have this feature in their battery utilities.

Specifications and performance

On the inside, the Dell XPS 15z has a powerful configuration. You get a Second Generation Intel Core i7-2620M CPU, which has a frequency of 2.7GHz, two cores and Hyper-Threading. It's one of the lower-end Core i7 CPUs, but it still offers very good performance. In our Blender 3D rendering test, it recorded a time of 37sec, while in the iTunes MP3 encoding test it recorded 44sec. It recorded 44min in our video transcoding test, in which we turn a DVD file into a 1.5GB Xvid file using AutoGordianKnot. All of these times are fast and they show that there is absolutely nothing wrong with the speed of this machine. (See our 2011 performance chart to see how it compares to other laptops we've reviewed.)

Along with the fast CPU, you also get 8GB of 1333MHz DDR3 SDRAM, a 7200rpm, 750GB hard drive and an NVIDIA GeForce GT 525M graphics adapter with 2GB of dedicated RAM. It's a configuration that power users and even gamers should enjoy. Its hard drive recorded a fast speed of 51.2 megabytes per second when copying data from one location on the drive to another (although this will slow as the drive gets fuller), and its graphics card recorded 7428 in 3DMark06. While it won't be able to play many recent games at the screen's native Full HD resolution, it will be able to run most games well at 1366x768 (depending on the detail level of the game, too).

After running for a while under a full load, the Dell XPS 15z's body will get warm and you will feel this in the left palmrest as well as the base. It doesn't get hot, but its warmth is enough to possibly make for uncomfortable typing (notwithstanding the keyboard design itself). There are vent holes etched into the base and rear, as well as a cooling fan, which does a good job of extracting warm air from the chassis. It does get loud when it's working hard, which is understandable.

Conclusion

There is a lot to like about the Dell XPS 15z; primarily, it has a good configuration, strong build quality, a Full HD screen and a good price ($1698 at the time of writing). However, its keyboard is awful; it is perhaps the worst keyboard we've ever seen on a Dell laptop. We're also not fans of the design, which looks a little tacky — especially the ribbed hinges and chrome trim. Overall though, this laptop would suit users who are after a powerful configuration, a Full HD screen, a thin 15.6in form factor and value for money. You could always plug in an external keyboard when you're using it at home.

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