Dell XPS 15z, quite a tasty MacBook Pro alternative

A super thin, matte-finish aluminum and magnesium body, sleek and clean lines, backlit silicon keyboard.

You could be forgiven for thinking about the MacBook when you first set your eyes on Dell Inc.’s XPS 15z laptop.  On closer scrutiny, there are many differences but where Dell most notably fails to crib Apple Inc.`s flagship laptop (as far as many users would be concerned) is at the sticker price.

Dell XPS 15z key features:

  • Less than 1” thick, easy to grasp and carry around
  • Aluminum and magnesium alloy body
  • Bright 15.6” 720p full high definition screen – great for games, video and multi-tasking. 1080p screen available for additional $100
  • Speakers produce crisp and loud sound
  • Intel Sandy Bridge Core i5 or Core i7 processor
  • GeForce GT525M 1 GB or 2 GB graphics memory
  • Basic 4GB RAM expandable to 8GB, up to 750GB HHD

First impression

Elegant was the word that came to mind at the first sight of the slim aluminum and magnesium alloy body of this new addition to the Dell XPS line. Some reviewers had complained about rough edges but the fluid design of this machine is really beautiful and it’s very well put together.

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The matte exterior finish makes sure that you don’t see any ugly fingerprints on the laptop surface. The speakers are large and well-placed on the outer edges of surface. The speakers may be a bit low on bass, but you get good audio from them and they are loud enough to make movie viewing without earphones enjoyable.

The Chiclet-style, silicon keys are well-spaced and have a nice feel to then when tapped. The keyboard is also backlit, which enables users to work in the dark or under dim lights.

They laptop’s touchpad is spacious and that’s good for providing your fingers better control of the cursor.

The XPS 15z’s touchpad is also multi-touch gesture enabled. Some gestures are useful such as: the four-finger swipe to enable Windows Flip 3D which allows the user to view all open windows without clicking on the taskbar; or the single-finger swipe which enables users to flip through pages. Some gestures are annoying, like the pinch-to-zoom action, which is frequently unintentionally triggered.

Thin is relative

While some features may disappoint, the XPS 15z, which is advertised as the “world’s thinnest 15-inch laptop,” comes with an admirable set of specs and at a base price of $999.99, is hundreds of dollars cheaper than Apple’s 15” MacBook which starts at around $1,800.

For the record, the 15.4” MacBook Pro at around 24.1 mm is still a shave thinner than the 24.6 mm thick XPS 15z. However, the Dell machine could still lay claim to being the world’s thinnest Windows laptop. The XPS 15z may be ultra thin but it is not lightweight. The laptop is about 2.54 kg. That said, its svelte dimensions make the XPS 15z easy to grasp and carry around.

Last year, Dell’s Adamo laptop line took on Apple’s MacBook Air for the title of “world thinnest laptop.”

Performance

The Dell XPS 15z is an excellent all-around full-size laptop. With a Sandy Bridge Core i5 base processor, the machine chugged along without a hiccup when multi-tasking with office programs while surfing social networking sites.

While it is not a gaming laptop, the XPS 15z’s Nvidia GeForce GT525M graphics card ran most popular game titles pretty well with seamless action and clear graphics.

The 1366×768 display screen provided clear and bright video rendition. The screen automatically adjusts its backlighting based on room lighting. When the user moves slightly to the right or left though, the images become less vibrant.

Along the left side of the laptop are an HDMI 1.4 port and Mini-Display port that can handle a wide variety of video output types, including 3D. A USB2/eSATA port, twin USB 3.0 ports and an SDHC/XC card slot are also available.

Behind the unit, you will find a Gigabit Ethernet port. The right side of the computer houses the headphone/microphone jack and a slot-loading DVD drive. WiFi N and Bluetooth 3.0 handle wireless connections.

Dell claims eight hours and 22 minutes of battery life on the unit’s 8-cell lithium polymer battery. Alternately watching videos, working on Word documents and Web surfing I was able to get pretty much as advertised from the battery.

Conclusion

The XPS 15z does not provide any ground-breaking innovation, but it is a very welcome tweak to the XPS line. The laptop comes with the power and features expected by users from a high-end business laptop plus a pretty long battery life.

It doesn’t hurt that all this comes in a very attractive package comparable in sexiness to Apple’s top of the line machine but at a considerably lower price.

Nestor Arellano is a Senior Writer at ITBusiness.ca. Follow him on Twitter, read his blogs on ITBusiness.ca Blogs and join the ITBusiness.ca Facebook Page.

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