Review of the Dell XPS 15 (7590): Thin, strong, and with much improved thermals.

Dell revealed the new XPS 15 earlier this year at Computex, with Intel’s 9th generation CPUs and, more crucially, a 4K OLED display option. The camera was also relocated to its appropriate location, but other from that, there is little that distinguishes this year’s XPS 15 from last year’s.

“If it ain’t busted, don’t repair it,” they say, so Dell left the exteriors alone but made a few inside changes. We received the Dell XPS 15 with an Intel Core i9-9980HK processor for review and put it through its paces to determine if it’s worth the money.

Welcome to the world of OLED displays

Each year, Dell updates the XPS 15 with a new star feature. It was the debut of the Intel Core i9 processor last year, and the inclusion of the OLED panel this year. The XPS 15 we evaluated last year also included an HDR-enabled 4K display, and when we tested its performance using our in-house colorimeter, it did not disappoint.

This year’s OLED panel features an even brighter peak brightness than previous year’s, measuring 610 nits in the centre and between 660-680 nits in the corners.

When using the Netflix app to stream video, the panel automatically switches to HDR mode, which is truly a sight to behold. However, in typical use, the display seems to have a red bias. This implies that anytime the colour red is displayed on a screen, it appears saturated.

We resolved this issue last year by setting the display to sRGB (during regular use) and then calibrating it with our colorimeter. Regrettably, the XPS15 lacks a mechanism for selecting the proper colour space this time around.

This is certain to cause issues for content providers, since they will have no idea what colour space the display is currently configured to. Hopefully, Dell will restore the possibility to manually modify the colour space of the display in a future update.

Outstanding performance

This year’s Dell XPS 15 is powered by an Intel Core i9-9980HK CPU from the 9th generation. Additionally, our laptop was equipped with 32GB of DDR4 memory, a 1TB NVMe hard drive, and an Nvidia GTX 1650 graphics card with 4GB of video RAM.

This is the maximum specification for the XPS 15, yet powerful hardware has never been an issue for the XPS series of PCs. This is also true for our benchmarking, the results of which are included in the table below.

Contrary to predictions, the XPS 15’s benchmark results are higher than those of its predecessor. As seen by the benchmark results above, the new Intel Core i9-9980HK processor and NVIDIA GTX 1650 graphics card deliver enhanced performance across the board. However, the new XPS 15 shines in one essential area: performance.

Due to the fact that last year’s Core i9-8950 throttled a bit too quickly and abruptly in our Lightroom Render test, we opted to repeat the test with the Dell XPS. We saw that the chip’s clock rate went below its nominal value on occasion, which was reason for concern.

Dell informed us earlier this year that one of the most major changes to the new XPS 15 would be the thermal design, which would have to fit the new Core i9 processor and GTX 1650 graphics card.

We discovered that when converting 500 RAW photographs to JPGs in Adobe Lightroom, the new Core i9-9980HK was able to sustain its maximum boost frequency of 5GHz for a few seconds before being forced to throttle down to 3.5GHz.

However, it never drops below 2.8GHz while operation. Additionally, we undervolted the CPU by -125mV using Lightroom and noticed that this resulted in reduced thermals, which resulted in longer-term sustained higher clock speeds. We do not recommend messing with the voltages transmitted to your CPU unless you are really confident in your abilities.

If you’re considering gaming, the Dell XPS 15 will not provide the quickest display refresh rates or the most powerful mobile GPU on the market.

Although the Nvidia GTX 1650 is a capable graphics card, it is not the sort of GPU that will aim for really high frame rates. Indeed, when it comes to gaming, the 4K OLED and the GTX 1650 look to be out of step, since the GTX 1650 is simply incapable of driving most modern gaming titles to playable frame rates at 4K resolution.

If you set the resolution to 1080p and the graphical settings to their maximum levels, you’ll be able to play Doom at 60 frames per second and Metro: Exodus at 31 frames per second.

Finally, but certainly not least, let us discuss video editing. We saw the XPS 15 perform admirably at this time last year, and things are only going to get better this year. It was time to load our test project, which had 4K footage shot with a RED camera.

Scrubbing through the project is straightforward as long as the quality is set to half when the project is imported into a timeline properly. Exporting the project takes a varied amount of time depending on whether you’re using CPU or GPU acceleration, however undervolting the CPU results in another considerable gain in sustained performance.

I/O, the trackpad, and the keyboard are included.

Dell shocked us by maintaining practically similar keyboard, trackpad, and I/O to last year’s model, but we’re not complaining because there isn’t much new. When the keyboard’s two-stage white lighting is set to its brightest level, it affords an extremely nice view of the keyboard’s keys.

The typing experience is superb due to the ample size of the keycaps and the distance between them. Dell has retained its precision touchpad on the XPS 15, which is rather generously proportioned, feels excellent to the touch, and is incredibly responsive.

The XPS 15 features an HDMI 2.0 port on the left side, as well as a Thunderbolt 3.0 port and a standard USB 3.0 port on the right. On the other side of the gadget, there is an SD Card reader and another USB 3.0 port. We’re relieved to find that the 4-LED battery indicator continues to work. A visual display of remaining battery life is particularly beneficial for folks who are always on the move.

What we remain disappointed with is Dell’s decision to charge the XPS 15 using a conventional pin-type charger rather than a Type-C or Thunderbolt 3-based charging mechanism. This would have resulted in an additional usable port and a more universal charging approach, which would have been especially advantageous to travellers.

The Dell XPS 15 includes a Thunderbolt 3.0 connection, which is really useful.

Battery

With clearly power-hungry components, the Dell XPS 15 is a very powerful laptop with a slew of features. Although we still have a 96Whr battery in our hands, it is perilously close to the 100Whr limit for carrying on aeroplanes.

We evaluated the XPS 15’s battery life over many days and were pleasantly surprised by the findings. Even with the OLED display set to 4K resolution and the battery charged to between 50% and 75%, the laptop lasted just under 5 hours.

During the time I was working on several topics, including this review, I had over 25 tabs open in Firefox, and I performed some light photo processing in both Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop.

When used gently to moderately, this machine should have a battery life of closer to 6 or 6.5 hours, although it is unlikely to last much longer in that configuration. In any event, the battery life remains excellent for a laptop with an ultra-high-definition OLED display and a dedicated GPU.

Verdict

The Dell XPS 15 (7590) is physically identical to the XPS 15 from last year. The camera’s location is the only thing that has altered; everything else, including the physical dimensions and even the port arrangement, remain unchanged. We have no objections to it.

Thermal performance, on the other hand, has been significantly improved. This allows the computer powered by an Intel Core i9 to operate with a little more muscle before succumbing to heat throttling. Undervolting the CPU further improves sustained performance, although at the sacrifice of turbo speeds, as is to be expected.

It manages to be a computer that is ideal for travellers because to its small form factor, for business professionals due to its professional appearance, and even for content creators due to the new XPS 15’s powerful technology.

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