Dell XPS 15: Terrific for the Everyday

If we’ve made a wise purchase, it’s usually because we picked up something that compliments the life we lead. The reliable but drab business notebook is a perfect match for someone that works in an office Monday through Friday. The increasingly aggressive looking gaming notebook is for Saturday, when gaming, relaxing and a trip to the coffee shop to work on a passion project is all one can think about.

Luckily, the XPS 15 that Dell provided me with is of both of those worlds. It’s stacked with the right tools to handle the spontaneous and unorthodox things that I dream up on Saturday mornings when anything seems possible. It’s also svelte, thin and light enough to get me through the grind of a normal working week – all while not looking like the typical business notebook.

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More on the promise of an eventful Saturday with the Dell XPS 15 later, let’s talk about how the notebook handles the typical work week now. In fact, let’s talk about this past Tuesday with Dell’s thin and powerful notebook PC.

Everyday Starts with A Briefing

I’ve never been really sure on how average people start out there days when they don’t have to go to an office park or a government building. I do know that since becoming a freelance writer, I’ve started every morning with a quick briefing of sorts. I alternate between listening to TuneIn, watching the terrific CBS This Morning and reading the things that beat reporters stayed up all night to cover in the national papers.

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On Tuesday I choose CBS This Morning, but I couldn’t watch directly through my set-top box because of a streaming issue. Missing it wasn’t an option, Gayle King had bet Charlie Rose that he wouldn’t wear a pair of loud Versace pants to the live broadcast the following day. Killing the power on the console, I turned my attention to the Dell XPS 15 and thought how awesome it’d be to watch Charlie Rose wear the world’s loudest pants on its 4K Display.

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The biggest compliment that you can pay to any display is that it gets out of the way, that it lets you focus on the content and not on the piece of hardware that bringing the content to you. For a moment, I forgot I was intentionally testing the capabilities of a notebook a company had given me and only saw Charlie, Gayle and Norah. I saw the pattern of the faux brick wall behind them and the texture of the blue carpeting embedded in their desk’s platform. I wasn’t distracted by bezels or color changes as I moved around the kitchen to grab my first coffee of the morning. The screen put me there in the studio as the chuckled at the horrific pattern.

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Once I’d had my fun, I used the “Hey Cortana” command to find out what I had planned for the day. It was going to be another long one.

No Flex Zone

My morning coffee finished and the news over, I meandered into my office to prepare for the day. I should mention that rarely am I not under the influence of external stimuli. When I’m not reading, I’m watching television. Even when I’m writing, I’m also listening to classical music.

The Dell XPS 15 comes with Microsoft’s Windows 10 operating system. I sat the notebook down on my desk, and pressed the Windows key embedded on the carbon fiber keyboard deck to open the Start Screen.

Some would have used the trackpad to open and navigate through the TuneIn Radio app, but I don’t. Living with Microsoft’s Surface Pro notebook and tablet replacements have made me a child of two input types. Sometimes I tap and sometimes I click. I tapped on TuneIn and selected my favorite radio station.

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I didn’t find the speakers particularly amazing, given their default settings, but I unearthed some Dell software that allowed me to tweak what came out of them.

Sometimes, what you don’t experience is just as important as what you do experience. I’d tapped through TuneIn and written for three hours before I realized that I hadn’t had to compensate for a wobbly display when navigating Windows 10 with touch. That put something else into perspective that I had noticed trying to check out Charlie Rose’s pants too.

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The Dell XPS 15 has a pretty stiff hinge hidden within all that carbon fiber, Corning Gorilla Glass and aluminum. This hinge makes it difficult to open, I’d had a hard time with it between coffee refills. That tight hinge also negates the very nasty wobbling problem that notebooks with touchscreens are usually plagued by.

Hardware Matters

Generally, I’m on-board with a philosophy that roughly equates to “Good enough is good enough.” I know that there are notebooks and other devices with way more power than the Surface Pros that I keep spending my hard-earned cash on. On the other hand, I’m big on smaller devices that are easily portable and rely on Intel embedded graphics. I simply don’t need all that extra power everyday.

This Tuesday the Dell XPS 15 prompted me to rethink that philosophy. It may even cause me to bench or sell the Surface Pro 4 and rethink my personal setup.

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You see, I’d gone through a lot of trouble to get down to just having less PCs that I need to manage in my life. I’d canned an ancient Media Center PC and replaced it with an Xbox One. I gave away a 2013 Dell XPS 13 and replaced it with a Surface Pro 3, later upgrading to the Surface Pro 4 when that original Windows 2-in-1 broke. Going with a Surface Pro allowed me to leave my smartphone on its charger and sell off a Kindle Fire. I’ve never personally owned an iPad.

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I’m not so clueless that I didn’t know going with integrated graphics and 4GB of RAM to get something that looks and feels like a tablet wouldn’t mean a slower experience overall. I knew; I just was fine with the limitation until I started using the XPS 15.

I’m no longer ok living with app splash screens that take too long to load. I’m no longer ok with Chrome taking forever to load web pages. 4GB of RAM and an Intel Core M3 processor were fine before I’d experienced the 16GB of RAM and Intel Core i7 processor in this thing.

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Mail and Calendar loaded faster after a fresh close. The Xbox App, which is always slow to load, came up quickly too. Part of the performance gains I noticed in checking news wires and email correspondence has to be that this machine has more RAM than more normal machine to keep apps at the ready.

As Cortana, the personal assistant in Windows 10 that I rely on for everything at this point, reminded me of a Skype call I had in the early afternoon, I realized that the time I had that day as a normal user, who just browses websites, works in Microsoft Office, never leaves a desk, and opens too many tabs was gone.

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Saturday I’d have to be out all day. I was going to put the strangely mounted webcam of the XPS 15 to the test. Not only that, I was going to need to leave the safety of my office and explore what that Thunderbolt port built into the Dell XPS 15 was capable of. It was time to start doing the unorthodox things I’d sometimes dreamed about doing with a device this powerful.

I asked Cortana to remind me to stop at GameStop first thing Saturday morning.