Dell XPS 15 (2016): For a quad Core i7-based powerhouse, it’s thin and has decent battery life.
Put Intel's INTC +1.54% latest quad-core silicon in a thin package with an 8-million pixel display and you’re on the cutting edge of laptop design — which, by the way, is a nice place to be.
What follows is a brief first-take on performance and battery (with a more in-depth review to come later).
After spending some time with the new Dell XPS 15 I can see why speed seduces. Combine high-performance with a 15.6-inch Ultra HD display and it can be addictive. But here’s the clincher for me: Dell manages to squeeze all of the above into a 0.66-inch thick (at its thickest point) chassis with respectable battery life. I’m not a gamer, I don’t use Photoshop, and only do things like video encoding on occasion. So, the XPS 15 — which also houses an Nvidia GeForce GTX 960M graphics chip if you need it — would seem like overkill for me. But when everything you do executes with buttery smoothness, maybe it is for me after all.
For the record, the configuration I’m using comes with the Ultra HD touch display (3,840-by-2,160), Intel’s newest 6th Generation Intel Core “Skylake” i7-6700HQ Quad Core cable of running at burst speeds of up to 3.5 GHz, 16GB DDR4-2133MHz RAM, and a 512GB PCIe Solid State Drive.
Quad Speed: The tl;dr on the XPS 15 is that it’s a productivity monster. I tested it on Windows 10 with close to two dozen Chrome browser tabs open and a bunch of Firefox tabs open while runningMicrosoft MSFT +1.72% Office, a Windows Defender scan, iTunes, and a bunch of apps from the Windows Store (running in the background). Nothing seemed to slow it down. In fact, It’s hard to get the CPU percentage in Windows Task Manager to register over 15 percent. And it consistently stays in the five to ten percent range (which is not the case for less-powerful laptops I’m using). But numbers aside, any digital device that’s this fast is a boon. Speed means efficiency for me.
Battery life: My unit came with the bigger 84Whr battery (Dell also offers a 56 Whr version). And this is where my experience differs from some reviews. I get consistently decent battery life for a brawny laptop with a big, high-resolution display. With the brightness up (above 70 percent), it can last six hours. Granted, I’m not gaming or doing video production. But, like anyone, I run lots of applications simultaneously (some mentioned above). For me, that makes it suitable for a cross-country flight or a day of local traveling. (Note: The larger battery brings the weight up to 4.4 pounds, a little less the 15-inch MacBook Pro.)