The Dell XPS 16 Would Be The Perfect MacBook Rival, If It Didn’t Have This Flaw

The Dell XPS 16 Would Be The Perfect MacBook Rival, If It Didn’t Have This Flaw

The Dell XPS 16 is a mighty laptop that has me questioning my affinity to my work laptop, the Surface Laptop Studio 2.

However, in my opinion, it just gets such basic things wrong. An attempt to spearhead minimalism has left aspects of the XPS 16 extremely difficult to get used to, with an unfortunate takeaway from this computer being “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.

Dell has seen fit to “fix” it, and it doesn’t just boil down to the questionable, usefulness-pending AI Copilot key that has been added with 2024 computers. The performance of this computer ranks among the best in its range. The ergonomics, however, are just in need of a redesign.

Image: Zachariah Kelly/Gizmodo Australia

‘eXtreme’-ly simple

Quick explainer. the eXtreme Performance System, XPS, is Dell’s flagship all-rounder. There are more powerful options available, particularly under Dell’s ‘Precision’ label, but XPS is the height for consumers and for many businesses. The XPS 16 is the second-biggest model, 16-inches, in the family, with a 17-inch option also available.

There’s no denying the brilliant performance of the XPS 16, and we’ll get into that below, but the design of the XPS range this time around is so fundamentally off-putting that I need to get it out of the way first.

Image: Zachariah Kelly/Gizmodo Australia

Firstly, Dell’s XPS laptops have included a completely flush touchpad and laptop lid for a while now, where it’s difficult to tell where the touchpad begins and ends. There’s no physical indicator that hints to where detection will begin and end, and you instead have to rely completely on muscle memory. It’s extremely difficult upward and downward swiping with this trackpad, not knowing if another part of my hand is touching the pad, preventing swiping. Well I thought that was the case, until I found these markers, minutes before submitting my review. (See below).

What a useful spot that you A) don’t see unless you arch your laptop lid down, B) draw your eyes quite far away from the touchpad to spot, and C) it looks like paint chipping on the edge of the case.

Image: Zachariah Kelly/Gizmodo Australia

Not having defined edges for the touchpad has also led to some awkward situations where I’ve accidentally panned my cursor with my wrist, or accidentally clicked on something with my wrist (because, as is normal with computers now) the left and right sides of the touchpads double as left and right click).

Cool. Speaking of wrists, in actual lap use, the XPS has a habit of being uncomfortable. Here’s what it looks like after typing out an article. Obviously it’s not drawing blood, but the protrusion of the edges around the XPS 16 is irritating and doesn’t need to exist.

Image: Zachariah Kelly/Gizmodo Australia

The function row being made up of touch buttons without physical presses returns with this year’s range of XPS laptops, and while I don’t think it’s too bad, I do often find myself wishing that I had the standard buttons back. I’d love to have the physical confirmation that I’ve pressed escape, for example, or that a screenshot has been taken with Print screen (paired to the snipping tool feature by default). CTRL +ALT + DEL is extremely awkward with one of the buttons feeling like pressing in plastic.

Image: Zachariah Kelly/Gizmodo Australia

The actual keys of the keyboard feel quite dusty, and the layout is just not jelling with me. With a device of this size, I wish the keys were a little more spread out – it leaves me a bit claustrophobic. I often find myself mistakenly pressing the wrong keys. The power button is also unmarked. Why? I don’t know.

While we’re talking about layout, no, the Copilot key is still useless. It does literally the same thing as WIN + C, for functions that are already performed by a browser-based web search (albeit without a generative AI ripping words from content online). The era of AI PCs doesn’t exist.

Image: Zachariah Kelly/Gizmodo Australia

‘Performance System’ is about right

If it weren’t trapped in the casing of a laptop, then the performance of the Dell XPS 16 would be perfectly passable as a mini PC, akin to a NUC. My time gaming and working with the device has been flawless, and not once have I noticed any hiccups while using it. As far as Dell machine goes, this is one of the more powerful options for most people.

The Dell XPS 16 reviewed by Gizmodo Australia came with the following specs:

  • Intel Core Ultra 7 155H w/Arc graphics
  • 32GB RAM at 6400Mhz
  • 1TB SSD
  • Nvidia RTX 4060
  • 3840 x 2400 4K OLED touch display
  • 3 Thunderbolt ports (2 left, 1 right), charging via USB-C

A lot of these specs can be switched for cheaper or more expensive options when you order via Dell – a non-touch display (1920 x 1200) can be ordered in lieu of the touch display we received, and there are four storage options – 512GB, 1TB, 2TB, and 4TB.

Memory options include 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB, and graphics options include models reliant entirely on the integrated Arc graphics, or the RTX 4050, 4060, or 4070. The Intel Ultra 9 185H is also available.

With that in mind, know that Dell’s offers quite a wide range of customisation options here. The performance stats we’ll get into below are exclusive to the model we reviewed, and you’ll get different results when swapping some parts around.

Image: Zachariah Kelly/Gizmodo Australia

Starting with gaming benchmarks, the laptop achieved 41FPS in Forza Horizon 5 on the Ultra preset, and 57fps on High. In Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 (2023), 54fps was achieved on the recommended ‘high’ preset, though 65fps was achieved on the perfectly acceptable ‘balanced’ preset. Note that the laptop was operating with a 4K display.

In our battery benchmark, where we let the laptop play the entirety of Avengers Endgame via a Google Chrome browser on Disney+, the laptop dropped to 85 per cent in the first hour, 72 per cent in the second, and then 61 per cent in the third. Perfectly acceptable results, especially with a device operating a 4K display.

In Cinebench, the laptop achieved 103 points in the Single-core test, and 854-points in the Multi-core test. In Geekbench, The laptop scored 2,407 in the Single-core test, and 13,185 in the Multi-core test, along with 79,184 in the GPU test.

Incredible results no doubt, and a confirmation as ever that the laptop has the juice to be your pick for work and play. In tandem with part options and changing your settings across games, the XPS 16 doesn’t skimp out where it matters.

The verdict: should you buy the Dell XPS 16?

I can highly recommend the Dell XPS 16 if what you’re after is a mobile workstation, and not a laptop. If you’re after a laptop, you may find the XPS 16 too cumbersome (though some people like laptops upwards of 15-inches) and too uncomfortable, per the touchpad, keyboard, and edges.

If you’re the type of person who wants something to use in a stationary position most of the time, such as on your desk and connected to a second display, keyboard, and mouse, with the portability to take and use anywhere, then the Dell XPS 16 is for you.

The Dell XPS 16 is available now from Dell online. Prices start at $2,698 and go as high as $6,798.

The model we reviewed is $4,398.

Image: Zachariah Kelly/Gizmodo Australia

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