Tech, Toys, and Tidbits

So I’ve been using a Dell XPS 15 9530 as my daily (and nightly!) driver for the past 8 months.  I have the top-end version (3200×1800 touch, Core i7, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD)

It’s not the perfect laptop, but it’s damn close.  I primarily use it for work, which is to say I use Windows, light virtualization, and spend a fair bit of time in Colocation facilities or at client sites.  I also use it for all my gaming needs – at least once I week I play a few hours of Borderlands 2, or Mechwarrior online.

Things I like:

  • Thin and light – For it’s size it’s remarkably powerful.
  • Touchscreen – I didn’t think I’d use it a lot, but I often find myself poking at the screen.  It’s nice to have the option.
  • Keyboard – The keyboard is great.  Absolutely no complains.  It’s a joy to use.
  • Screen – The screen is gorgeous.  Though I usually run it at half-res (1600×900) since a lot of the apps I use day-to-day don’t scale nice YET.  e.g. VMWare console, RDP, etc.  It’s bright, quick, and crisp.
  • SSD – The SSD is huge and zippy.   Once you go SSD you can never go back.
  • Battery life – Exceptional!  I regularly go all day without plugging in.  The battery in this thing is awesome!

Things I wish were better

  • Cooling.  Gaming on this thing requires some compromises, and it’s all due to cooling.  Most games can run at half-res + high detail at 60 fps for about 10 mins and then things drop to 10fps due to heat throttling.  To get around this I’ve had to run things at lower settings and cap framerates at 30fps.  With those compromises it can play for hours, but it would be nice if the cooling system was capable of handling the head load the hardware is capable of generating.  I get that compromises were made in order to make it thin & light, but IMHO Dell got the balance wrong here.
  • Trackpad.  The trackpad is OK most of the time, but sometimes it gets stuck down and I have to flex the chassis to get it to unclick.  Doesn’t happen enough for me to put in a call to support yet, but that’s something I’ll have to do before the warranty expires.  Heard similar complaints from other XPS owners.
  • Ethernet.  Why is there a trend to not put Ethernet on laptops?  For the love of Pete PLEASE give me back my Ethernet port.  Dongles suck.  For casual users wifi may be enough, but for anyone serious it’s just too slow and flakey and not always an option.  Had I realized that the 9530 didn’t have Ethernet when I was selecting it I probably would have gone with something else.

Overall, I’d give this laptop an A-.  It’s very very good, and juuuust shy of great.  If Dell had done a better job of balancing the components against the cooling system it would get an A+.