Dell XPS 15 2-In-1 Review: An Ultra-Powerful, Premium Convertible Laptop

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Dell XPS 15 2-In-1: Battery Life, Acoustics And Thermals

In the following benchmarks we employ two very different battery life tests, Battery Eater Pro and a custom 1080p HD video loop test developed in-house, to prove out battery life with our test group of machines. In all tests, Windows 10 Quiet Hours has been enabled and the displays are calibrated with meters on pure white screens to as close to 115 lux as possible. For the average laptop this is somewhere between a 40 - 60% brightness setting. Since laptop displays significantly affect power consumption and battery life, it's important to ensure a level playing field with respect to brightness of the display for battery testing. And, since many laptop displays vary in brightness at each respective setting in Windows, this calibration with a meter is critical to ensure all displays are set to as near identical brightness output as possible, before running battery tests.

Battery Life - How We Test:

Our custom HotHardware video loop test takes a 1080p HD video with a 16Kbps bit rate and loops it repeatedly, with 1 minute break intervals in between. A timer log file increments minutes of up-time, every minute -- along with the grand total -- before system shutdown is stored and logged. This is a lighter-duty test that is still a bit more strenuous than many office productivity tasks, but it's not nearly a taxing as the load the Battery Eater test we'll have next puts on a system.

Editorial Note, 3/30/2018, 8:36AM: We are still testing the Dell XPS 15 2-In-1 with respect to battery life performance and as a result the following are preliminary results only. We are running additional tests and will update this section.

XPS 15 2 in 1 Battery Life video loop test

In this lighter-duty battery test, the XPS 15 2-In-1 drops in at the lower quadrant of our test group, along with a few other machines with 4K panels. However, we're re-running this test because the battery in our recently received eval unit may still need a bit of conditioning. We'd also offer that the 1080p variant of the XPS 15 2-In-1 would of course offer significantly better battery life, with many fewer pixels to light up in its display. 

Update, 4/4/2018 - 6:44AM: We have been re-testing the XPS 15 2-In-1 with respect to battery life and have thus far not seen any difference in battery life performance with respect to this test. We hope to offer additional test results with respect to battery life shortly, however. 

Dell XPS 15 2-In-1 Acoustics & Thermals

Building a thin and light laptop while keeping heat and noise in check is an inherently challenging task, and it requires some major engineering chops to bring balance to the equation. So how does it all play out in regards to the XPS 15 2-in-1? Like any aspect of performance, it depends on what you are doing with the machine. Dell does however, employ a robust, dual heat-pipe cooling system in the XPS 15 2-In-1, and we observed very little throttling with the machine over successive benchmark runs.

For more mundane workloads, like surfing the web and tooling around with Google Docs or whatever productivity software / service you use, the XPS 15 2-in-1 runs virtually silent and just slightly warm to the touch.

decible meter xps 15 2 in 1
Max Noise Output Measured While Gaming

Things can change in a hurry, however, when you start to stress the components. There is just no avoiding this in a system this thin with the level of horsepower that's crammed inside. The XPS 15 2-in-1 doesn't get obnoxiously noisy, but you can hear the fans working feverishly when playing games or running an intensive workload for an extended period of time. Above you can see our worst-case acoustics while gaming with the new Dell hybrid. Under modest content creation use cases, it's dramatically quieter, however, and its cooling fans operate at only a dull whir.

thermal gun xps 15 2 in 1 bottom thermal gun xps 15 2 in 1 top
Maximum Thermal Temps And Locations, Under Load

Heat output is mostly noticeable in the upper-left quadrant of the Dell XPS 15 2-In-1, which is likely where its Intel-AMD hybrid Kaby Lake G multi-chip module sits. A long ventilation system runs along the bottom of the laptop for cool air intake, while a thin slit along the rear edge of the machine at the bottom provides warm air exhaust. This cooling system is pretty effective; even when the XPS 15 2-in-1 heats up under load, it doesn't get scorching hot to the touch like we've experienced on some laptops. The laptop also benefits from a layer of thermal insulation called a "Gore" thermal barrier (Gore material from the makers of Gor-Tex), that keeps external areas of the machine (like the keyboard) relatively cool. This insulation covers select areas of the heat pipes over the CPU and GPU, and does a good job of providing a buffer between the toasty bits and the XPS 15 2-In-1's skin. As you can see, under heavy gaming workloads, the bottom of the machine registers a tepid 93ºF, while the top left corner of its keyboard also stays in check at 103ºF, which is just warm to the touch and not the least bit uncomfortable.

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