Dell XPS 15z (P12F) laptop

Dell XPS 15z review: A thin 15.6in laptop with a great configuration, but let down by a poor keyboard

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Dell XPS 15z (P12F)
  • Dell XPS 15z (P12F)
  • Dell XPS 15z (P12F)
  • Dell XPS 15z (P12F)
  • Expert Rating

    3.50 / 5

Pros

  • Full HD screen
  • Good build quality
  • Performance

Cons

  • Poor keyboard
  • Tacky design
  • USB ports only on one side

Bottom Line

If it had a better design and a more comfortable keyboard, the Dell XPS 15z would be close to awesome. As it stands, it's just good. We like its configuration and performance, as well as its Full HD screen and its strong build quality. The XPS 15z is suitable for power users and part-time gamers.

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There was a fair bit of hype surrounding the launch of Dell's XPS 15z (P12F), which centred on the concept of it being a thin-and-light competitor to Apple's MacBook Pro. Now that we've got our hands on it though, it's not as impressive as Dell made it out to be. Sure, it's a notebook that has a good configuration and speed, and it offers good value for money, but it also has tacky styling and an awful keyboard.

Undeniable similarities to the MacBook Pro

The XPS 15z is a 15.6in laptop that's slimmer than most large laptops and it weighs around 2.5kg. It's reminiscent of a MacBook Pro, and similarities between the two notebooks are numerous: the base has a sealed, curved design that tapers upward; there is a slot-loading DVD burner on the right side; all ports are on the left side, except for the network port on the rear and the audio ports on the right side. The keyboard and speakers, too, are almost identical in layout to the MacBook Pro, but the keys on the Dell are rounded and feel awful.

In fact, the backlit, chiclet keyboard is one of the most disappointing aspects of the XPS 15z; its keys feel shallow and lack adequate responsiveness, and the arrow keys, in particular, are small and feel awkward to use. Also, the eject button for the optical drive is treated as just another keyboard button nestled between the F12 and Insert keys — it would be better off in a corner position or, better yet, on its own above the keyboard somewhere.

Speakers with etched grilles flank the ends of the keyboard, as they do in the MacBook Pro, and this is one of the aspects of the laptop's design that we find tacky. We'd prefer the speakers to be laid out above the keyboard, which would also leave room for a number pad to be included. A ribbed hinge design also adds to the tackiness, as does the chrome trim around the edge of the base and touchpad. The touchpad itself is good though. It's large (100x53mm), comfortable to use and it supports gestures. We also like its soft left- and right-click buttons.

Build quality

The Dell XPS 15z feels very solid overall and it doesn't creak or bend noticeably at the corners when you pick it up with one hand. However, because it has a slot-loading DVD burner in a relatively thin chassis (around 18mm), there is enough give in the chassis to make spinning discs rub against the body of the laptop when you pick it up. It's also a very loud DVD burner.

While the XPS 15z is a little lighter than a typical 15.6in laptop, this isn't something that's noticeable when you pick it up. That said, it feels well balanced and easy to handle. The hinges that hold the screen are strong and keep it perfectly in place at any angle, and the screen itself is vibrant and of high quality. It has a native resolution of 1920x1080, so it's good for watching movies, viewing photos and also for lining office documents side by side. Still, a resolution of 1920x1200 would be better. The screen is glossy, which means reflections could drive you crazy.

We're not fans of all the USB ports being on one side of the unit, as it leaves you with no option but to plug everything in on the left side, which can be particularly annoying if you're trying to use a corded mouse with your right hand — it's great for lefties though! It's not the first time we've seen this sort of design: the Sony VAIO SB laptop also has all of its USB ports on one side. We like the fact that you get two USB 3.0 ports, as well as one eSATA/USB 2.0 combo port; you also HDMI and Mini DisplayPort, as well as an SD card slot, Gigabit Ethernet, a 1.3-megapixel webcam, Bluetooth, 802.11n dual-band Wi-Fi (Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6230) and support for Intel Wi-Di (Wireless Display).

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