Dell's XPS 15z Ultra Slim Notebook Review

Software and User Experience

The XPS 15z, for the most part, ships without too much bloatware. That's saying a lot for a mainstream, pre-fabricated machine, particularly a Dell. We have openly pleaded for companies to ditch bloatware, and it seems that even Dell knew that the classy nature of this machine would be marred with too much excess (and largely unwanted) software.

The Dell Stage UI is available for desktop access to multimedia and such, but it's easy to disable if you aren't into it. We prefer it off, but it's actually not too distracting. Our review unit also shipped with Office 2010, Roxio Creator 2011, Windows DVD Maker, Windows Live Movie Maker, Windows Media Center, Dell Webcam, McAfee anti-virus, and Adobe Reader. A 64-bit copy of Windows 7 Home Premium is included as well. The only real annoying parts were the My Identity Protection and eBay shortcuts on the desktop, but those were easy enough to remove.

The overall user experience with the machine is excellent though. It's hard to describe how huge of a leap this is for mainstream 15.6" notebooks. It's sexy, enjoyable to use, and fast. Our $1599 test unit was equipped with a Core i7 (2nd-gen) CPU, 8GB of RAM, NVIDIA Optimus + GT525M graphics and a massive 750GB (7200RPM) hard drive. That combo, along with a lovely 1080p panel, was enough to keep us happy even under demanding circumstances.

Windows 7 seemed pleased as punch to have that many resources at its disposal, with bootup times hovering around 35 seconds, wake-from-sleep times in the sub-3 second range, and quick application launch times. Overall, we felt as if we were never waiting for our system to "catch up" with us, which is a rare find at any price in the PC notebook market.

The typing and trackpad experience was truly second-to-none in. The curved keys were a delight to type on, and the massive multi-touch trackpad nearly matches Apple's MacBook Pro pad in terms of accuracy and texture. The backlit keys are a huge boon as well. We really wish there were a couple of extra USB 3.0 ports on here, and perhaps a VGA output, but otherwise the port selection is satisfactory.

In all-around use, you will be hard-pressed to find a more capable machine in the 15.6" sector, let alone one that looks this good. It's simply a joy to use, and it impressed us on numerous occasions with its speed. Even doing mundane tasks like toggling between a tab-packed Firefox browser and a host of Word documents was no issue, and the haste at which that was completed left us pleased. It probably helps that all that nimbleness is tucked into such a beautiful package, but hey -- it's the full monty that counts!

We have to say, however, that the one major user experience pitfall is the heat and noise. Even after some fairly basic Word processing, fans kicked on (they're impossible to not hear) and the heat level started to rise. After a half-hour gaming session, the left side of the keyboard plate was hot to touch. The bottom of the machine was simply smoking hot. That's the price you pay for cramming such high-end components into such a thin chassis, we suppose. Either way, those who are very sensitive to hot machines will want to take note; it's a staple in the gaming machine universe (where heat is a tough thing to avoid), but it's really notable on this particular laptop.

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