Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 2018 Review and Benchmarks

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Laptop Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 2018 Review and Benchmarks. The XPS 15 2-in-1 is a premium laptop from Dell which can be flipped over into tablet mode. It’s got a Kaby Lake G processor, which features an Intel quad core CPU with AMD Radeon Vega graphics on the same package, so let’s check it out and see if it’s a laptop you should consider.

Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 2018 Review
Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 2018 Review

Let’s start with the specs of this unit. For the CPU we’ve got Intel’s i7-8705G Kabylake-G processor with 4 cores 8 threads, a 3.1GHz base clock and 4.1GHz single core turbo boost speed, although the lower end models come with the i5-8305G. We’ve also got AMD Radeon Vega M GL graphics with 4GB of HBM2 memory on the same package, making this an interesting combination, it’s not often we see Intel and AMD teaming up.

There’s 16GB of DDR4 memory running at 2,400MHz which is the highest available option, although it’s also available with 8GB. Unfortunately it’s soldered to the board, so make sure to pick the amount of memory you need. For storage there’s a 1TB M.2 NVMe SSD, but it starts at 128GB, while the screen is a 15.6” 4K IPS panel at 60Hz with slim bezels.

For the network connectivity there’s support for 802.11ac WiFi and Bluetooth. No ethernet port here as the body’s too thin, you’ll need to use a USB Type-C adapter for that. The body of the laptop is CNC machined aluminium, and I’ve got the platinum silver model here, but there’s also the brushed onyx model which is black. The interior is a smooth black carbon fiber composite and overall the laptop felt really nice, definitely high quality and premium materials.

The dimensions of the laptop are 35.4cm in width, 23.5cm in depth, and just 1.6cm in height. Dell note that the laptop has a 2kg starting weight, and mine came in just under this. With the 130 watt power brick and cable for charging the total weight increases to 2.4kg, so still fairly portable. As mentioned the touch screen is a 15.6 inch 60Hz 4K IPS panel.

The bezels are just 4.7mm thin with what Dell is calling their InfinityEdge anti-reflective touch display, and I think it looks great. The viewing angles were perfect on any angle, still clear with excellent colours. The screen gets fairly bright too, Dell list it as 400 nits with a 1500 to 1 contrast ratio, and I measured it at 497 nits at 100% brightness with a 1390 to 1 contrast ratio. I’ve also measured the current colour gamut using the Spyder 5 Pro, and my results returned 100% of sRGB, 91% of NTSC and 97% of AdobeRGB, so some excellent results here. I’ve performed my usual backlight bleed test on the display, which involves having the laptop show a black screen in a dark room to help emphasize any bleeding.

I then take a long exposure photo to display any bleed, so this is a worst case scenario test. There’s some minor imperfections that the camera was able to pick up mostly toward the bottom and top right corner, however to my eyes I wasn’t able to see anything, even in a dark room it looked good to me, but this will of course vary between laptops. There was almost no flex at all while moving the display, it felt very sturdy as it’s solid metal with thick steel hinges towards the corners. It can’t quite be opened up easily with one finger, demonstrating that there seems to be more weight up towards the back.

The hinge is fairly sturdy and the screen can be flipped fully over to use it in tablet mode, hence the 2-in-1 name. In tablet mode you can use the included Dell active pen which has 4,096 pressure sensitivity levels, and when you’re done you can easily attach it magnetically to the left hand side.

Personally I found it a bit heavy and large to use in tablet mode, at least while holding it, I’d probably prefer the 13 inch version for that. Below the display in the center is a 720p camera, it’s got infrared giving us Windows Hello support.

The camera doesn’t look too bad, but you get that up the nose look due to the lower placement, and if you need to use the keyboard fingers are easily visible. The microphone sounds alright, but you’ll be able to judge both for yourself.

The keyboard has white LED backlighting which can be adjusted between two levels of brightness or turned off using a button on the keyboard. The keys themselves are MagLev, it uses magnets to allow for a thin form factor.

They have hardly any key travel at all as a result, personally I didn’t really like them and would prefer a more traditional laptop keyboard. They still felt a little clicky for the small amount that they move, here’s how they sound to try and give you an idea. The keyboard had minimal flex while pushing down fairly hard, quite solid overall and definitely not an issue during normal use.

The touchpad felt extremely smooth to the touch, it seems to have precision drivers and worked really well, it’s also got left and right click buttons toward the bottom. Moving onto the I/O on the left there’s two 4 lane Thunderbolt 3 Type-C ports both with DisplayPort support which allows you to run up to two 4K displays, microSD card reader, and a button to show the battery charge level.

On the right there are two USB 3.1 Type-C ports which also have DisplayPort support, 3.5mm audio combo jack, and noble lock slot. You can also charge it using any of the four Type-C ports. The air exhaust vents can just be seen on the back, while the front has the 4 array microphones and a status LED in the center.

On the silver metal lid there’s the Dell logo in the center with a mirrored finish. It’s difficult to see fingerprints on the silver finish, but they show up quite easily on the carbon fiber interior, although as a smooth surface they’re pretty easy to clean. The power button toward the top right is also a fingerprint scanner, and I found it to work very well.

Underneath there’s some rubber feet which do a good job of preventing the laptop from sliding around while in use, as well as some air intake vents towards the back. The two one watt speakers are found underneath towards the front left and right corners. They sound pretty good for laptop speakers, fairly clear at higher volumes with a little bass.

The laptop can be opened up easily with a Torx screwdriver. After removing the panel we get easy access to the single M.2 slot, as mentioned the RAM is soldered to the motherboard, so you’ll need to keep that in mind while buying, as it can’t be upgraded. Powering the laptop is a 6 cell 75 Watt hour battery, and with a full charge and just watching YouTube videos with the screen on half brightness, keyboard lighting off and background apps disabled, I was able to use it for 4 hours and 52 minutes.

While playing the Witcher 3 with medium settings it was able to run at around 32 FPS on battery power, and the battery lasted for 1 hour and 27 minutes. Overall the battery life was pretty decent. Thermal testing was completed with an ambient room temperature of 18 degrees celcius, it’s cold here at the moment as it’s winter in Australia, so expect warmer temperatures in a warmer environment.

Also remember that the CPU and GPU are on the same package, so they share heatpipes, meaning a change in temperature of one component will affect the other. I’ll also note that I wasn’t able to manually max out the fan speed here. At idle the CPU and GPU were a little warm at 42 and 49 degrees celsius respectively.

While playing PUBG at high settings we can see that the temperatures rose as shown in green. By undervolting the CPU by -0.140v as shown in yellow the temperatures don’t actually change at all, but we’ll see how this affects clock speeds in the next graph.

The full load stress tests were run using Aida64 and the Heaven benchmark at the same time, and again the temperatures are very similar even with the undervolt applied. These are the average clock speeds while running the same tests for the temperatures just shown, it wasn’t possible to reach the full 3.7GHz all core turbo clock speed in any of these tests due to power limit throttling.

We can see that the CPU undervolt did improve this quite a bit, but wasn’t enough to completely remove the throttling. These are the clock speeds I got while just running CPU only stress tests without any GPU load. At defaults we were seeing intermittent power limit throttling, but it was possible to remove this with the -0.140v undervolt applied, getting us to the 3.7GHz all core turbo speed in Aida64.

As for the external temperatures where you’ll actually be putting your hands, at idle the body of the laptop is sitting in the high 30s in the center towards the back. While gaming this increases to the mid 40s in the center and towards the left hand side, while we’re seeing similar results while under stress test. As for the fan noise produced by the laptop, I’ll let you have a listen to some of these tests.

At idle it was silent, which explains the warm idle temperatures just shown. Even while gaming or with the stress tests running it wasn’t actually getting that loud, quieter than pretty much any gaming laptop I’ve tested as it wasn’t getting that hot. I’ll also note that there was no noticeable coil whine while testing in my unit.

Laptop Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 2018  Benchmarks

Finally let’s take a look at some benchmarks, we’ll first cover some real world gaming benchmarks followed by tests with various benchmarking tools. As the XPS has a 4K 60Hz display and the AMD graphics aren’t too powerful I’ve only tested games at 1080p as that makes much more sense.

Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 2018 with fortnite
Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 2018 with fortnite

Fortnite was running well at high settings or below, it felt a bit laggy to me at epic, but keep in mind that results will vary quite a lot in this game depending on what other players are doing.

Overwatch was tested playing with the bots, and I found it to run quite well at ultra settings or below, but still playable at epic settings.

Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 2018 with PUBG
Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 2018 with PUBG

PUBG was tested using the replay feature, as usual the 1% lows are a fair bit below the averages which seems normal in this game, but of course take the results with a grain of salt, as like the previous two games results will vary based on what’s going on in the game.

CS:GO was running fairly well, the averages in this benchmark are pretty good with low 1% lows due to the smokes in this test.

Rainbow Six Siege was tested with the built in benchmark, and even the 1% lows at ultra were around the 60 FPS mark, so it should work nicely. I’ve tested Farcry 5 with the built in benchmark, and the results aren’t anything special as expected on this hardware, still playable at lower settings.

Assassin’s Creed Origins
Assassin’s Creed Origins

Assassin’s Creed Origins was also tested with the built in benchmark, and again should be playable at the lower setting levels.

Dota 2 was tested using a fairly intensive replay, so this should be a worst case scenario, realistically you’ll probably get better results than this while actually playing, and even in this intensive test the averages are looking pretty good for this game.

Testing Battlefield 1 in the first campaign mission ran well for me even with ultra settings, no noticeable problems here as shown by the 1% lows which aren’t too far behind the averages at the higher settings.

DOOM was tested using vulkan, and even at ultra settings it ran smoothly for me, just a little under the 60 FPS sweet spot but still very playable. I’ve got a few more games covered in the dedicated gaming benchmark video if you’re interested.

For the most part performance was generally in between the Nvidia 1050 and 1050Ti, so we’re still able to get some pretty nice results for 1080p gaming, although for more demanding AAA games you’ll need to run with lower settings here while less demanding games like Overwatch ran great even at higher settings.

As for overclocking, it was possible to overclock the i7-8705G using Intel XTU, I tried putting all 4 cores to 4.1GHz up from the default 3.7GHz, and even with the -0.140v CPU undervolt and boosting the power in XTU we were still hitting power limits, but all cores were able to reach 3.9GHz under stress test now.

I was also able to boost single core speeds from 4.1 to 4.2GHz, and I wasn’t able to overclock the graphics. I’ve got some Cinebench CPU benchmarks here, and we can see that out of the box it’s actually not performing quite as well compared to the 7700HQ, which is also a quad core CPU from last generation, however once we undervolt it the multicore performance is a little ahead. With the overclock applied we can also get an additional boost.

With both the CPU undervolted and overclocked I actually saw slightly worse performance in games as the power limit was being hit sooner, so it doesn’t seem to practically help with games but might give you a little boost in CPU specific applications. In Crystal Disk Mark the 1TB M.2 NVMe SSD was performing pretty well, over 2.6GB/s in sequential reads and around 1.3GB/s for sequential writes. As a thinner laptop there’s no 2.5 inch drive bay here, so no option to install a hard drive.

I haven’t tested the MicroSD slot as I don’t have any fast MicroSD cards. As for the price the Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 with these specs goes for around $4,200 AUD here in Australia at the time of recording but starts at $2,900 AUD with lower specs, or for my international viewers starts at $1,250 USD, check the links in the description for updated pricing.

So what did you guys think of the Dell XPS 15 2-in-1? Overall I think it’s a really impressive machine, it’s clearly well built with premium materials and design, but that of course is attached with a premium price. The only issues I had with it were with the maglev keyboard, I just wasn’t personally a fan of the shallow key presses. It would have been nice to have a USB Type-A port for backwards compatibility, but I guess we’ve got to start the move to USB Type-C sometime and it did com with a Type-C to Type-A dongle.

Should buy Aero 15x or Aorus X5?

When using it in tablet mode it was a bit heavy and sometimes difficult to hold due to the thin bezels, as a laptop though it worked great and has an exceptional screen, it would be a pretty good choice for creatives. It was interesting to check out a Kabylake-G laptop with the combined Intel CPU and AMD Vega graphics, as we’ve seen it actually performs quite well and it will be interesting to see where this goes in the future. Let me know what you guys thought down in the comments, and vote to let me know if you found the review useful.

Review by Jarrod’sTech

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