Dell's XPS 15z Ultra Slim Notebook Review

Design and Build Quality

We don't want to beat around the bush here: the Dell XPS 15z is one of the most surprising and innovative 15.6" laptops to arrive in years. Dell's XPS 15z is a monumental leap forward in overall design and build quality in the affordable notebook sector. And that "affordable" bit is key. This machine starts at under $1000, and the hardware that you get for that amount of money is impressive.

At less than 1" thick, this ultra-sleek machine just oozes style. It weighs around 5.5lbs., par for the course for a slim, stylish 15" mainstream notebook. We have watched other publications make the comparison, and it's a reasonable one: the XPS 15z looks a lot like the 15" MacBook Pro in many ways. There's no skirting the facts -- unless you're just attempting to overlook the obvious, you can see the similarities. But that's hardly a bad thing. Apple's hardware design has been world-class for years, and to see a PC counterpart come anywhere close with a price tag that's far less, well, that's a great accomplishment.

The entire machine is rigid and well-made. The accents are subtle, and aside from three small palm rest stickers, it's the most understated 15.6" notebook we've seen in some time. Dell really went out of their way on the style factor here. The silver body is highlighted with subtle chrome accents, the speaker grills have a snazzy pattern, and the matte black LCD bezel, well, you barely notice that it's there.

There are no ports or slots along the front lip, while the right edge is home to an 8x slot-loading CD/DVD burner, a 3.5mm headphone jack, and a 3.5mm audio input. The rear edge is home to an AC input, a textured exhaust fan and a Gigabit Ethernet port. The left edge houses an HDMI port (full-size), a mini-DisplayPort, eSATA / USB combo port, two USB 3.0 ports and a 9-in-1 multi-format card slot.

The Apple similarities continue on the underside, there the 8-cell battery that is totally sealed within the frame, so you can forget about buying an extended batter and popping it in yourself. As you open the LCD up, you'll find a glossy 1080p (or 720p, depending on what build you get) display, a backlit keyboard, and a monster trackpad that sits in the center of the casing instead of aligned with the spacebar. Kudos on that, Dell!

The multi-gesture pad recognizes multi-finger pinch-to-zoom and scrolling efforts, while the left / right dedicated click buttons were just about perfect. There's a bit of a "plasticky" click feel, and they have a lot of travel, but most consumers won't even notice. The keyboard has keys that are gently sloped towards the middle, and typing on them was very comfortable. A truly awesome typing experience, and a world-class mousing experience.

The LCD, while glossy, is still fairly resistant to reflections, and the 1080p display on our test unit was just gorgeous. Colors were dead-sharp, viewing angles were above average (though not perfect at extreme angles), and fast motion was no problem for it. The keyboard itself had no flex whatsoever, and the LCD hinge was rock solid. Really, we can't complain about any of the design or construction choices; it's all top tier stuff here.

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