The new XPS 15 (2020) is a disappointment

Dell has finally announced a redesigned XPS 15 (2020). After five years they’ve finally brought some of its aspects in line with what competitors are offering. I was interested in this release because the XPS 15 (9560) I’m using is showing its age. I can’t even turn it on anymore without power because the battery is reportedly dead. Despite many early reviewers talking about it in glowing terms, the new XPS 15 (2020) didn’t excite me. Let me explain why.

I do believe the XPS 15 will be a great laptop for those who buy it, don’t get me wrong. But the XPS line used to be exciting and now it seems Dell is just catching up to other manufacturers with a one or two year delay. Come on Dell, you named this line of laptops Xtreme Performance System. I want to see a cutting-edge system and not just a copy of someone else’s work.

When the XPS 15 (9560) was released there was nothing quite like it available. The ultra thin bezels around the display, the sturdy yet sexy design, and pretty powerful internernals all made for a very compelling laptop. It’s thin and light, yet still serviceable. By loosening just a few screws you can pop off the back cover and exchange the RAM, the battery and even the WiFi chip.

But yet, XPS 15 laptops were always flawed. Most of those flaws were related to the cooling system Dell uses. The heatpipe and fan combination Dell designed, and never bothered to upgrade, isn’t powerful enough for the internals. XPS 15 laptops have always been notorious for throttling under heavy loads.

The new XPS (2020)
The cooling solution on the XPS 15 (2020) hasn’t been updated (Dell)

What’s new in the XPS 15 (2020)

With the XPS 15 (2020) they’ve clearly taken a page out of Apple’s book. The speakers now face upwards and the trackpad has seen an incredible increase in size. Both very welcome additions. They’ve finally managed to remove the display’s chin in order to make the screen taller and less wide. It now has a 16:10 aspect ratio. But there’s nothing that makes this laptop unique. And here’s the biggest kicker: It doesn’t have a new cooling solution. In addition to that, this redesign features a smaller battery compared to its predecessors.

But the design to me already seems outdated. Many new laptops feature a hinge that will lift the back of the device up off the table it’s sitting on. That makes for a more ergonomic typing experience and allows the fans to draw in more fresh air. I guess we’ll have to wait a few years to see that feature in an XPS.

A hinge that lifts the body of the laptop up. As seen on this video by Dave Lee.

Small changes aren’t enough

The CPU and GPU used in the new XPS 15 (2020) also don’t excite me. Yes, it does have up to an 8 core Intel processor but if the cooling isn’t sufficient you’ll never be able to fully utilise it for sustained periods of time.

The GPU, now a 1650 Ti Mobile instead of a vanilla 1650, has received the smallest of upgrades. It still doesn’t support the latest NVIDIA video encoder (NVENC), which would have been a great feature for video exports. Something from the 1660 line of GPUs would have been a much more welcome addition. I’m again guessing that the cooling system couldn’t handle anything more powerful.

AMD and XPS 15 (2020) would be perfect

What irks me most about this release is that there would have been a way to at least partially solve the problems mentioned. That solution is provided by AMD and goes by the name of Ryzen. For those that missed it, AMD is now making laptop processors that blow Intel’s offering out of the water in terms of real world performance, heat produced, and power used.

ASUS has managed to cramb an 8 core Ryzen chip and a RTX2060 into a slim 14 inch laptop. Why couldn’t Dell do the same? The new Ryzen chips seem perfect for a so-called Xtreme Performance System.

XPS 17 (2020) to the rescue?

Dell has als announced another new XPS laptop, the XPS 17 (2020). And because the displays used on both of these laptops are taller compared to the previous generation, it isn’t physically that much bigger when compared to an old XPS 15. The XPS 17 (2020) does excite me. It can be equipped with an 8 core i9 processor from Intel and an RTX2060. It has two NVME drive bays, something the XPS 15 should have had years ago. And what excites me most about this beast of a laptop is that they’ve finally updated the colling.

If the XPS 17 turns out to be what we’re hoping it to be, Dell might have a winner on it’s hands. Albeit a very pricey winner. But I can’t shake the impression that the XPS 15 is now being used to make the XPS 17 appear more reasonable. And I really don’t like seeing my beloved XPS 15 as a means to sell other laptops.

How to make a perfect XPS 15

Dear Dell, here’s what you can do to reinvigorate the good old XPS 15: Keep the design. I have always loved the design of these devices and I still do. The smaller chin and improved speakers are the cherry on top. And even if you have to make it a few millimeters thicker, I wouldn’t mind.

I’ve always loved the design of the XPS 15 (Dell)

I love that the XPS 17 supports dual NVME drives and want to see that on the 15 inch model too. Others have done it and so can you.

If the cooling system on the bigger brother works out please use it on the smaller sibling too. And how about that lifting hinge mechanism I mentioned earlier. That might help out with keeping the laptop cool too.

Above all, please give us the option of AMD processors. Yes, I know you’ve been in bed with Intel for a long time but we want choice. You can’t deny that what AMD is currently offering is just better and more importantly, cooler.

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