Dell’s XPS 15 (version 7590) is a test of just how much hardware you can jam into a 4.2-pound laptop. This latest iteration includes up to an 8-core “overclockable” Core i9-9980HK and a discrete GeForce GTX 1650 card. That is a lot of hot hardware in a body arguably not built to handle it. Hardware you'd expect to see in a gaming laptop, not a high-end, thin-and-light workhorse.
We know why Dell likely did it: to compete with another high-end 15-inch laptop that's stuffed to the gills, the MacBook Pro 15. That's not a gaming machine either—both are systems designed for programmers, engineers, content creators, and other computing-intensive professionals. But the sad truth is most consumers will compare the top CPUs in both laptops, and buy the one with the “faster” CPU. So yes, if Apple is going to cross the line with a Core i9, Dell is apparently ready to cross it too, thermal limitations be damned. Our review will see if the XPS 15's stretch was worth the sacrifice.
What’s outside: Same as before
First, we’ll start off in the most unremarkable area: the exterior, essentially the same as before, with a carbon fiber keyboard deck, aluminum top and aluminum bottom. Most probably could not tell the difference between old and new except for the relocation of the webcam from the bottom to the top of the screen. So yes, double-chin folks, rejoice.
The XPS 15 continues to be friendly to upgrades. To get inside, you’ll need to remove the perimeter Torx screws and two Phillips-head screws in the center. You can then gently remove the bottom panel and access two DIMM slots, an M.2, the battery, and a wireless module.
Dell XPS 15 7590 CPU Performance
Our first benchmark is the venerable Cinebench R15. This is a 3D modelling test built on an engine sold by Maxon in its Cinema4D product. It is nearly a pure CPU test and, like most visualization applications, it loves CPU cores and threads.
The higher scores of the 9th-gen Core i9 laptops are there for all to see. However, you should also notice that the 9th-gen and 8th-gen Core i7 laptops follow close behind. Most would be hard-pressed to tell the difference between a Core i9 or Core i7 in the vast majority of single-threaded tasks such as Office, Chrome or even most Adobe Photoshop routines, even if they are a little faster.
The thermal limits on the XPS 15 7590 put it uncomfortably close to the HP Omen 2XS (when the latter is set to performance mode). We’ll dive further into the thermal limitations of the XPS 15 and what you should expect later on.
XPS 15 7590 Gaming Performance
The HandBrake tests give you a good hint about what to expect if you try to game on the XPS 15. While it's not officially a gaming laptop, anyone looking at its parts may understandably assume otherwise. We won't run it through the full gauntlet of gaming tests, just enough to show you what it can (and can't) do.
First up: We ran UL's 3DMark FireStrike to measure just the graphics performance of the laptop in DirectX 11. The result is no surprise: The XPS 15 slides in just under an Acer Nitro 7 budget gaming laptop with the same GeForce GTX 1650.
Dell XPS 15 7590 Battery Life
We’ll end our official tests with the most important metric to many: battery life. We loop a 4K video with the laptop in airplane mode, with the screen brightness set to reasonably bright 250 to 260 nits. We also attach a pair of earbuds with the audio turned on about halfway.
Dell XPS 15 Thermal Throttling
We don’t normally get into the weeds of the thermal performance of a laptop, but the XPS 15 7590 jams an 8-core CPU and decently powered GPU into a 4-pound, 6-ounce package. Is Dell asking too much of this slender chassis?
We suspect many games could hit this limitation (we also saw it on Rainbow Six Siege). That disturbing graphic should make anyone with a gaming bent consider the Alienware M15 M2 instead of the XPS 15.
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