Over the last few years, I have owned nearly a half dozen different Ultrabook PCs. Ultrabooks run in the 13-inch range, ditch the antiquated CD-ROM drives and aim for lean, light and yet powerful hardware. Combined with touchscreens, Windows 8 and the availability of high-resolution displays, Ultrabooks seemingly have everything a professional would desire. However, perhaps it is my age or just habit, but the 13-inch range of Ultrabooks just never felt ideal. Instead, their displays were just a smidgen too small, and the palm rests too shallow.

See Dell XPS 15 at Dellz

Then I discovered the Dell XPS 15 at my local Microsoft Store in Long Island, New York. The Dell XPS 15 is the laptop I have been waiting for, and I distinctly remember buying it five hours before my flight to Barcelona for Mobile World Congress 2014 on a whim. A few months on and this is my review.

Premium parts, premium price

Let us cut to the chase. The Dell XPS 15 Touch Screen laptop with my configuration is likely the most expensive you are going to find across any commercially available laptop, well, except maybe Apple. The specs command a high price - nearly $2k after taxes, and even more if you go through Dell (instead of Microsoft direct). Still, if you need this hardware, it is worth every penny. Therefore, without further ado, here are the specifications.

DisplayPorts

Category Features
Processor 4th Gen Intel® Core™ processor - 4712HQ Processor (6M Cache, up to 3.3GHz)
Display 15.6 inch LED Backlit Touch Display with Truelife and QHD+ resolution (3200 x 1800)
Video Card NVIDIA® GeForce® GT 750M 2GB GDDR5, Intel HD Graphics 4600
Hard Drive 512 GB Solid State Drive
Memory 16 GB of RAM DDR3L 1600 MHz
Ports and Connections 3 USB 3.0 (each with PowerShare) • 1 USB 2.0 (with PowerShare) • HDMI • Mini DisplayPort • Headphone output/Microphone input combo • 3-in-1 card reader (SD/SDIO/SDXC)
Camera 720p HD webcam
Wireless 802.11ac/a/b/g/n (Miracast enabled)
OS Windows 8.1, 64-bit
Dimensions 14.60 x 10.00 x 0.30-0.70 in (370.84 x 254.00 x 7.62-17.78 mm)
Weight 4.4 lbs (2.01 kg)

I should perhaps draw your attention to the nearly insane 3200 x 1800 display, which yes, is also a touch screen. Also worthy of mention is the 16 GB of RAM, the powerful Core i7 processor and the dedicated NVIDIA® GeForce® GT 750M for video. Dell has, in my opinion, created one of the most feature packed laptops on the market today, and it is also fantastically well designed.

Build quality

Carbon FiberDell Logo

The Dell XPS 15 has three design elements that you immediately notice when first handling it. For one, the top exterior of the laptop is a silver, cool-to-the-touch aluminum metal. Perhaps it is obvious that Dell is aiming for the Apple crowd here, but it works very well. The thin but sturdy metal exterior is so far scratch free months on, and I am quite happy with the design choice by Dell. Dell notes that the chassis is "cut from a single block of aluminum" to make it extra ridged for what it is worth.

Dell has, in my opinion, created one of the most feature packed laptops on the market today, and it is also fantastically well designed.

The second unique component is on the bottom of the laptop, which is all carbon fiber. The material gives the Dell XPS 15 a neat dual-tone look, with silver on top and black, carbon fiber lower half, which also cuts down on the laptop's weight.

Finally, the palm rest of the laptop is a silky smooth, soft-touch matte material that feels like velvet. Compared to a MacBook Pro's metal, which can be icy, the Dell XPS 15 is easy-going and welcoming even in a cold room.

There is no creaking with the Dell XPS 15 and unlike many PC laptops, the screws blend into the body, there are no garish stickers and the bottom is clean, elegant, and symmetrical. It truly is one of the nicest looking PCs to grace consumer hands in 2014.

Keyboard and Trackpad

Laptops are only as good as their keyboards and trackpads, with the latter being notoriously difficult to nail in terms of performance and the way it feels. I am pleased to report that the Dell XPS 15's keyboard is easily one of the best I have used, and yes, I have used two Lenovo's in recent times.

trackpad

The keys are nicely backlit, with a soft bluish-white light that comes from behind and lights up the symbol. Users have access to a function key controlling the backlight with three levels, off, high and medium.

Overall, the Dell XPS 15 features one of the best trackpads I have used on a PC and it should even silence critics who boast about their MacBooks.

The keys are slightly shallow, and they do have a subtle click to them when typing. Unlike Lenovo's latest laptops, the Dell XPS 15 thankfully has a full-sized backspace key. The XPS 15 also has full-sized number keys and a small row of function ones, which controls the volume (up, down, mute), video (rewind, play/pause, forward), switch display, search, backlight for the keyboard, display brightness (up, down) and airplane mode.

The trackpad is generous in size as expected on a 15.6-inch laptop. Unlike the soft-touch palm rest, the trackpad is made from a firmer, cooler material that is smooth to the touch. The click on the trackpad is balanced, and it makes a satisfying sound when depressed. There are no wobble spots with the trackpad, and a click on any section results in the same clicking experience with seemingly no dead zones. The lower fifth divides into a left and right click area, which should be familiar to PC users. Below the Trackpad is also a hidden NFC sensor for tap-to-pair with external devices.

Overall, the Dell XPS 15 features one of the best trackpads I have used on a PC and it should even silence critics who boast about their MacBooks.

Display

The Dell XPS 15 comes with a jaw dropping 15.6 inch LED Backlit at 3200 x 1800. By comparison, the MacBook Pro with Retina display is "only" 2880 x 1800. Additionally, Dell has an extra trick up its sleeve in being a full touchscreen with 10-finger multi-touch support. We can sit here and debate about the merits of a touchscreen on a laptop, but all else being equal I will gladly take the one with it over the one without any day. Indeed, I ran a test after a few months of usage whereby I disabled the touchscreen to see if it is something I would miss. The result surprised me, as I did. Sometimes, it is easier just to reach out and touch something rather than 'mouse over' for the same task.

display

When it comes to displays, Dell tends to have two lines: their regular, off-the-shelf ones and their premium 'ultra' displays. Undoubtedly, the XPS 15 contains the latter. Color representation is accurate; whites are white and even with all of those pixels my laptop does not have a single dead one or any issue whatsoever.

So how is 3200 x 1800? You may be quick to dismiss such a decision by suggesting that Windows does not scale properly, with fonts being too tiny to be useable. In other words, 3200 x 1800 is a novelty with no real value. I would disagree. For one, Windows 8.1 scales very well, even at such a high resolution. Whether it is the new Modern apps or even traditional desktop ones e.g. Office 2013, I cannot say it hinders in terms of productivity. Fonts look amazing; images pop, and the whole display is just a one-of-a-kind HD experience. Well, except for anything Adobe. Yes, even in mid-2014, many of Adobe's products still require a magnifying glass to use them, and that is a shame.

The monitor is rated at 400-nit for brightness, which is very high for such a display with this pixel density. Irrespective of the specs, it is dazzling and readable outdoors. Finally, being a touch display you can be assured of its resilience as the Dell XPS 15 boasts "edge to edge" Corning Gorilla Glass NBT.

Performance

The 4th generation Haswell Core i7-4712HQ Processor (6M Cache, up to 3.3GHz) is as powerful as you would expect in a laptop, especially when running the highly efficient Windows 8.1 operating system. Nearly every Modern app opens instantly, and even desktop x86 applications respond sprightly when clicked.

Combined with 16 GB of RAM, a 512 GB SSD and NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M, you are essentially getting the latest and greatest in mobile technology in 2014, without destroying battery life. The Dell XPS 15 is a powerhouse and besides the high-resolution touchscreen display, it ties the Apple Macbook Pro 15-inch in terms of specifications.

Battery life

The Dell XPS 15 comes with one of two battery configurations, depending on the package purchased. On the high-end, you get a 91 WHr, 6-Cell Battery and on the lower end you get a 61 WHr, 6-Cell Battery. Microsoft and Dell both claim this garners around 11-hours, which I think is being very judicious.

When I take the Dell XPS 15 out for the day, I never take the AC adapter in tow.

A closer approximation is eight to 8.5 hours when used for typical workloads including internet, web browsing, Microsoft Office, Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop Elements. Although the battery life falls short of the claimed 11-hours, 8.5 hours is still very admirable when you consider just how much horsepower the Dell XPS 15 is packing. When I am using the Dell XPS 15 for business trips where battery life and raw power is needed, I cannot say I am in any way disappointed with the battery performance. Sure, more is always better but I have yet to do more than eight hours of straight computing in one day where an AC outlet was not nearby even once.

More to the point: When I take the Dell XPS 15 out for the day, I never take the AC adapter in tow.

Odds and ends

The Realtek speakers with MaxxAudio algorithms are admirable with rich bass and high output. Although they may not be the best, Dell did not skimp out in this department.

Likewise with the 720P front facing camera, which is probably one of the best built-in cameras I have used in a laptop. Specifically, it gets solid low-light performance and is comparatively sharp to others in its class.

vents

Although it weighs 4.4 lbs the XPS 15 is not super light, but due to the materials used by Dell it is very deceptive, by which I mean it seems like it should be heavier than it is. As a result, carrying around the Dell XPS 15 in a standard shoulder bag, especially sans AC adapter, is a near joy when you consider how much of a computer you have stowed. Everyone whom I show this laptop too are surprised about how light it is compared to one's expectations.

Regarding fans and noise, the Dell XPS 15 is solid. It is silent and I rarely, if ever, hear the fan come on let alone feel it. The fan's quietness is obviously due to the generous size of a 15.6-inch laptop compared to the smaller Ultrabooks, along with the some newer, more efficient technology. As a result, the XPS 15 is one of the quietest laptops I have come across, and it is ideal for those who detest the whir of fans.

Finally, as to the issue of heat, the XPS 15 can get slightly warm near the back end on the bottom but because Dell opted to use carbon fiber instead of aluminum, the heat never gets beyond mild.

Conclusion

Nearly every aspect of it is perfect

You can likely discern my conclusion of the Dell XPS 15. Although it is one of the priciest pieces of hardware on the market, it is worth every dime. The Dell XPS 15 is one of the first PCs that I can think of that approaches – and even at times surpasses – Apple's high-end MacBook Pro line. Nearly every aspect of it is perfect, whether it is the awe-inspiring specifications or the elegant and premium design. In short, there are many areas where laptops can go wrong, whether it be in the display, the trackpad, the keyboard design or performance. The Dell XPS 15 seemingly does the impossible and gets them all right.

All of this comes at a price, and the $1,899.00 version of the Dell XPS 15 (discounted from Microsoft) is well north of what average consumers may be willing to spend these days. Nonetheless, if you are in the market for a high-end, premium laptop that is light, powerful, well-built and you would like to boast about having the highest display resolution around in a 15.6-inch laptop, the Dell XPS 15 is your only choice.

All I know is this finally the laptop I have always wanted.

See at Dell