A Photographer's Review: The Dell XPS 15 Laptop

A Photographer's Review: The Dell XPS 15 Laptop

I've lived with the Dell XPS 15 laptop as my main computer for all my photo and video editing for the past year. Should you buy it for your photo editing? Here's my full review of what it's like as a creative content maker, warts and all.

As a creative professional that's always on the go, I wanted to invest in a decent laptop in order to edit my content from wherever I am, whether taking shelter in the car from a snowstorm that blows over Iceland, in a coffee shop in downtown London, or simply sitting at home on the couch. I also wanted the biggest bang for my buck, so that's why last year, I settled on the Dell XPS 15 9570 laptop.

Why didn't I just go for a MacBook Pro? Well, mostly because I wanted to get the highest spec laptop for the least amount of money. And before you ask, it doesn't really have anything to do with the operating system, because I know both intimately and am happy using them interchangeably. So, let's start my review by looking at the specs I went with, and then I'll detail how I feel about it now that I've lived with it as my main computer over the past year.

Dell XPS 15 9570 side view

The Dell XPS 15 9570

Full Specification

  • CPU: 8th Generation Intel Core i9-8950HK Processor (12 MB Cache, up to 4.8 GHz, 6 cores)
  • RAM: 32 GB 2x16GB DDR4-2666MHz
  • Graphics card: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050Ti with 4 GB GDDR5
  • Storage: 1 TB M.2 2280 PCIe Solid State Drive
  • Screen: 15.6" 4K Ultra HD (3,840 x 2,160) InfinityEdge Anti-Reflective Touch IPS 100% AdobeRGB 400 Nits display
  • Operating System: Windows 10 Pro, 64-bit

It's Still Fast

After a few tweaks in Lightroom this past month, the laptop is still running faster than ever. Thanks to the powerful Intel i9 CPU and the speedy SSD, image buffering and recall are quick. It doesn't slow down when editing big video projects in Adobe Premiere Pro, either. I run CCleaner every now and again to do a bit of cleanup here and there, tidying the registry as I install and uninstall software, but once you've swapped from an old HDD to an SSD, you'll know that this doesn't make a huge difference anyway.

Dell XPS 15 laptop front view

This laptop, although over a year old, hasn't slowed one bit and is still plenty fast enough to cope with anything I throw at it

Trackpad Repairs Were Needed

I had an issue with my trackpad, in which the cursor kept skipping and jumping all over the page. Occasionally, the cursor would grab onto something and drag it across the screen, which is a real pain in the neck. Luckily it was under warranty, and I had a Dell-approved service repair center fix it for me. There's a small rubber notch that sits under the trackpad, and if installed incorrectly, the pad clicks and feels odd to the touch. But it took the engineers three separate visits before it was working properly again.

In the end, the service operator had to replace the whole trackpad and the keyboard as well. I was not impressed. I requested an extension of my warranty (which was due to end in just a couple of weeks' time at that point), but Dell didn't want to do that. It screamed "planned obsolescence" to me, something that I abhor, but has been okay in the few months since.

Dell XPS 15 trackpad top view

The trackpad required three separate service visits to repair due to an installation error by the engineer

It's Easy to Repair and Upgrade

After the service operator took it apart in my home right in front of me, (this was pre-COVID), I was impressed with how easy every component was to access. A few screws and a couple of clip-on cables looms and most things popped out of the case quite easily. It's definitely something I'd be happy doing if parts needed repairing or upgrading in the future; there's plenty of space inside, so it makes things easy to fiddle with. I can't say the same for MacBook Pros I've repaired in the past; they're a lot trickier in my experience.

Great Battery Life

The battery life in the Dell XPS 15 is great. Even with the larger 15.6" 4K touchscreen, the battery (6-Cell 97 WHr integrated) lasts several hours happily when out on location editing. When I know I'll be out shooting and editing all day, or running through airports, I'll also take my Dell Power Companion (18,000 mAh)-PW7015L, which provides another big charge to see me through another few hours of editing.

The Fans Can Get Loud

If you want to edit big batches of files in peace, then get some music on the go or wear headphones. The Dell XPS 15 isn't actually all that loud when compared with a new version of the MacBook Pro, but you can certainly tell it has fans when things get going. That's actually pretty good, because you want a cool laptop so components don't fry, but pair that with the placement of the vents (on the bottom, towards the back), and you can easily burn your legs if you don't use a tray when not at a desk. 

Dell XPS 15 profile view

There's a lot in a small package, so when using the laptop for power-intensive work such as photo or video editing, the fans kick in to keep everything cool

Biometric Login Drivers Fail

I've repeatedly reinstalled the biometric fingerprint drivers on this laptop, and the issue persists, even after BIOS, OS, and other drivers were updated. I'm not sure why this is, and to be honest, it ruins the otherwise speedy boot time when it goes wrong. That said, there are two other options for signing in, including a PIN and password. But this is more of a Windows 10 feature than a Dell thing. The fingerprint reader feels sturdy though and also doubles as the power button. 

Phenomenal Screen

To be fair, I have the highest spec XPS 15 you can get with the 4K Ultra HQ screen. The full-screen spec is 15.6" 4K Ultra HD (3840 x 2160) InfinityEdge Anti-Reflective Touch IPS 100% AdobeRGB 400-Nits display, and I can tell you from using it the past year that the touchscreen still works great, and it makes editing images accurately a doddle. It's the best editing screen I've ever used, and I'm so glad it's in something portable. It's definitely the best laptop screen I've ever seen.

The touchscreen isn't just a gimmick either. It's gotten me out of tight spaces when the trackpad wasn't working and makes certain operations much quicker, as I don't have to search for the cursor and waggle my finger around on the trackpad or an external mouse.

Dell XPS 15 screen view

The 4K HQ IPS screen has 100% Adobe color range and reproduces images with great accuracy — perfect for photo and video editing

Should You Buy It?

If you're happy working on Windows 10 and aren't bothered with the label on the front, then yes. It outperforms the MacBook Pro at the same price range, and it's easier to upgrade or repair when needed. It looks great with its metal exterior, has a brilliant screen (we're photographers/videographers after all), and does it all in a small, neat package.

Also, it plays games well too if you're into that kinda thing. I've got Forza Horizon 4 up on high settings quite comfortably. I would probably say it's worth dropping to the i7 version if you want to save a boatload of cash or if it's not your main computer, as you likely won't need the extra power or a touchscreen. You can purchase yours here.

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56 Comments

Edison Wrzosek's picture

It's a PC running Winblowz, that's the nail in the coffin for it right there.

John Adams's picture

Nice downvotes.. lol

Edison Wrzosek's picture

I was expecting as much, don't really care :)

I speak from vast experience in the IT industry spanning 25+ years, and I stand by that statement...

Inside joke is "Winblowz keeps me employed, Apple keeps me going".

John Adams's picture

Excuses, excuses..

Edison Wrzosek's picture

Sorry if facts and truth hurts...

John Adams's picture

-18 downvotes, congratulations, truth does hurt for you :)

Edison Wrzosek's picture

The ignorance is strong with this one...

John Adams's picture

-19 already.. lol, you might qualify for the most downvotes on fstoppers. Congrats :)

Edison Wrzosek's picture

And do I get a hoot about a bunch of ignorant Windows fanboys downvoting me? No...

John Adams's picture

-21, you go girl!

John Adams's picture

Your website and your portfolio.

Edison Wrzosek's picture

And you just outed yourself as a complete asshat jerk, congratulations...

Reported

John Adams's picture

Says the -21 votes guy.. lol

Edison Wrzosek's picture

And you’re a coward too, editing your post to remove the vile statements.

Jerk and coward, check.

John Adams's picture

It's important that you just read the message. happy face

Felix Reyes's picture

OSX is a sandboxed BSD environment. Not sure what sort of superiority you're exuding here.

Edison Wrzosek's picture

If you have to ask, then you have no clue.

Felix Reyes's picture

I'm not asking, because it doesn't logical sense. Windows 10 is a good platform for it's intended uses. I get it, they missed the mark with some of the releases like 95, ME, etc. but it's also been a while (5+ years) since we had unstable desktop on the Windows platform.

And OSX shares much of that, with many photographer and workflow programs being approximately compatible between ecosystems with a few exceptions. Not an issue.

HOWEVER -- hating on one ecosystem versus another because "WOAH THIS IS SO MUCH BETTER BECAUSE I'M A POWER USER HOORAH" doesn't really speak to the fact that real power users don't care about the platform. I mean, I have no issues using Slackware, FreeBSD, or AIX to get a job done. Fuck, I'll compile a custom kernel with Gentoo if I need to. It's all about how much work we have to put into it and whether we're happy with that. Continuing to expound on the virtues of a sandboxed and locked BSD distro while snubbing Windows with such phrases like "Winblows" doesn't make you woke, it makes you a pedestrian.

Edison Wrzosek's picture

And as most of that diatribe shows you COMPLETELY have no clue about the differences between the two platforms, and infer that Windows 10 is actually one of their better releases (what a load of total garbage), I’ll end this right here as I have better things to do than waste my breath on this stupidity.

Felix Reyes's picture

By far, the rudest Canadian I've ever met.

Rick Rizza's picture

I purchased one on a black Friday deal last December. I never regret it. I custom setup the laptop to include a 4K touch screen. Yes, a ridiculous decision which I love it so much. This laptop is the beast, even with the i7, it o ly took me 10 minutes to render 25 minutes FHD clip to MP4 using Premiere Pro. Seamless editing in Premiere Pro, lightroom, Photoshop, Studio One 5 and all it's plug ins. The 4K touch screen is fun when you edit photos in PS.

Also, it's great to play games. I had Tomb Rider, GTA V, and many other games played at max resolution with no lag. Definitely worth the price.

Now Dell must give me some goodies for this testimony.

Deleted Account's picture

I have the same laptop but I never use the trackpad, preferring an external gaming mouse for more control.

Jason Parnell-Brookes's picture

Great idea. I prefer using a mouse most of the time, but when I'm travelling light I just make do - though it does hurt the finger after a while!

James Bernardi's picture

This is the main advantage of mac for me - the track pads are great. I use mine even at home when i could use a mouse. However id probably not spend my own money on a macbook still (its a work laptop)

Deleted Account's picture

I think it's more about what feels natural to you. Try as I might, I can't get used to a tablet, either.

Desmond Stagg's picture

I agree, I prefer a mouse every time. However, I do use a Wacom tablet for editing. This provides excellent control! Although, the first 24 hours with it will drive you crazy.

Rusty Watson's picture

I have the exact same laptop too. 1st thing I do is turn off the trackpad... gets in the way of my resting thumbs, etc. Touchscreen more than makes up for it!

Deleted Account's picture

Mine is almost never open but that's a good suggestion about turning it off.

Rui Bandeira's picture

I have one just like your, but with the i7 cpu.
And i love it, its my only computer.
I use it in the studio and on the road when o shoot concerts.
ist wasome

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