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Dell XPS 15 9520 (2022) review: Top-quality 15.6-inch laptop gets an incremental upgrade


Pros

  • Great 3.5K OLED touch screen
  • Solid build
  • Superb speakers
  • Plenty of configuration options

Cons

  • Heavy
  • 720p webcam
  • Limited on-board ports
  • Premium pricing

Dell’s premium XPS range regularly features in lists of best laptops, and every year sees updates to key models. There are three screen sizes to select from, with the XPS 15 (2022) sitting in between 13-inch and 17-inch devices. It would appear, at first glance, to be the Goldilocks of the XPS world — not too small, not too large, not too light, not too heavy. But is it really ‘just right’?

The XPS design standards are absolutely top-notch. The chassis is made from brushed aluminium, its magnesium silver outer cladding being bright and distinctive, while inside the palm rest is made from carbon fibre and has a smooth, cool finish embodied in the XPS range’s distinctive two-tone black styling. The chassis is very tough, and I couldn’t bend or twist the lid in my hands at all. That said, the specifications make no mention of military-standard ruggedness testing.

Dell XPS 15 9520 (2022)

Dell XPS 15 9520 (2022): 15.6-inch IPS (FHD+ non-touch, UHD+ touch) or OLED (3.5K touch) screen, 12th-generation Intel Core i5, i7 or i9 processors, integrated Intel or discrete Nvidia graphics, up to 64GB RAM and 4TB SSD storage.

Images: Dell

The trade-off for this solid build quality is that the XPS 15 (2022) is heavy. There are four weight configurations:  1.84kg with a non-touch FHD+ screen and a 56Wh battery, 1.92kg for the non-touch screen with an 86Wh battery, 1.96kg for a 3.5K OLED touch screen and a 86Wh battery and 2.10kg a for 4K+ touch screen with a 86Wh battery. Even in its lightest 1.84kg guise, this is a lot of laptop to carry around.

It’s not small either. Even with the thin bezels on offer here, the Dell XPS 15 (2022) occupies desktop space measuring 344.40mm wide by 230.10mm deep. While it tapers towards the front, at its thickest this laptop is 18.54mm high.

The 15.6-inch screen is a real highlight. My OLED touch screen had a 3.5K resolution of 3,456 by 2,160 pixels (261ppi) and displayed on-screen content in a most pleasing manner, with vibrant colour (100% DCI-P3) and high contrast (80,000:1 SDR, 124,000:1 HDR). The 16:10 aspect ratio means that the full height of the screen is used, and the bezels are small all around. Dell quotes a 92.9% screen to body ratio. All of the screen options — FHD+ IPS, 3.5K OLED, UHD+ IPS — have 60Hz refresh rates; we’d prefer to see 90Hz on a premium laptop.

The upper bezel just about has room for the webcam, which is a 720p model. With some laptop cameras now reaching 1080p and video calling very much part of users’ workflows, Dell has missed a trick here, especially as there’s no privacy cover for the webcam. You might want to factor in an external camera if 720p doesn’t do you justice. On the plus side, Dell’s webcam is equipped with IR, so you can use Windows Hello face authentication for secure login.

The OLED screen is complemented by an excellent speaker system. Two downward-firing speakers are joined by two upward-firing ones, the latter pair outputting through grilles flanking the keyboard. According to Dell, the XPS 15 (2022) is the first laptop to feature Waves Nx 3D Audio for Speakers, and if my experience is anything to go buy this sets the new standard: sound quality was deep and rich, with good stereo separation, delivering a very satisfactory audio experience.

Dell XPS 15 9520 (2022): Keyboard

The keyboard is backlit and quiet in operation. There’s no separate number pad, as space flanking the keyboard is occupied by speaker grilles. The power button in the top right corner integrates a fingerprint reader. Note the very large touchpad.

Image: Sandra Vogel / ZDNET

The keyboard is nice and roomy, with large, well-spaced keys, and relatively big Fn keys. The Enter key is double-height and extra wide, and all the arrow keys are a bit wider than the QWERTY keys. The action is positive, with a little resistance on the down- stroke and mild bounce-back. There’s very little keyboard noise — in fact, as a light-touch typist, I generated only the slightest ‘click-clack’. If you’d rather not use face authentication, there’s a fingerprint reader integrated into the on/off button that sits on the right end of the Fn key row.

The touchpad is enormous. Dell has used almost the full height available to it, and the result is a touchpad that’s extremely comfortable to use. I have no complaints at all.

There are plenty of configuration options available, all based on 12th-generation Intel Core processors. In the US, the entry-level specification has a Core i5-12500H processor, integrated Intel Iris Xe graphics, 8GB of RAM, Windows 11 Home, a 512GB SSD and an FHD+ (1,920 x 1,200) non-touch screen. This costs $1,449. Dell doesn’t offer an 8GB model in the UK, but the same spec with 16GB costs £1,549.63 (inc. VAT), or $1,649 in the US.

The top-end configuration is a Core i9-12900HK processor, a discrete 4GB Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti GPU, 64GB of RAM, Windows 11 Pro, a 4TB SSD and a UHD+ (3,840 x 2,400) touch screen. This costs $3,994 in the US. Dell doesn’t offer a 4TB SSD model in the UK, but the same spec with 2TB costs £3,199.61.

My mid-range review unit had a Core i7-12700H processor, a discrete 4GB Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti GPU, 32GB of RAM, Windows 11 Pro, a 1TB SSD and a 3.5K (3,456 x 2,160) OLED touch screen. This comes in at $2,609, or £2,405.99 in the UK.

As far as performance is concerned, my Core i7 review unit scored 1719 (single core) and 9922 (multi core) on the Geekbench 5 CPU test. Compared to last year’s 9510 model, based on Intel’s 11th-generation 8-core Core i7-11800H processor, the 9520 model delivers a modest increase in single-core performance and a bigger boost to multi-core performance thanks to the 12th-generation chip’s 14 cores.

Dell XPS 15 9520 (2022): Ports

Left side (top): Lock slot, 2x Thunderbolt 4 ports. Right side (above): USB-C port (USB 3.2 Gen 2), SD card reader, 3.5mm audio in/out jack.

Images: Sandra Vogel / ZDNET

Dell says that some configurations of this laptop are suitable for creators, and to that end all models feature a full-size SD card slot for data exchange. But that aside, the array of ports is not going to suit everyone. Dell provides three USB-C ports, one of which supports DisplayPort and Power Delivery, with the other two being Thunderbolt 4 ports. There is also a 3.5mm combo audio jack.

Dell may realise this configuration won’t make everyone happy, as it bundles a mini-adapter featuring USB-A and HDMI connectors is bundled. This will occupy one of the Thunderbolt 4 ports, and with the charger in the USB-C port that leaves just one Thunderbolt 4 port free. This is already a premium-priced laptop, but many users may find they also need to add a docking station.

A 15.6-inch screen and discrete graphics, as in my review unit, consume a fair bit of power, and the 86Wh battery in my review unit dropped 43% after three hours of working from a full charge. My workload covered everyday productivity — writing into web apps and browsing, with occasional music streaming – rather anything particularly demanding.

SEE: Best Windows laptop 2022: Top notebooks compared

By this reckoning – around 7 hours of battery life — I would struggle to complete a working day away from mains power. That said, the default screen brightness setting for working on battery power is quite high, and while I left it on default throughout the review period, including during my battery rundown test, in everyday use I’d probably take it down a notch or two. That would extract a little more life from the battery.

I pugged in the power adapter with the battery at 32% and charged for 45 minutes. After 15 minutes the battery was up to 44%, after 30 minutes it had reached 57%, and after 45 minutes it was up to 69%.

Conclusions

The Dell XPS 15 (2022) has a lot of plus points. The 3.5K OLED touch screen on my review configuration and the speakers — standard on every configuration — are excellent, and the build quality is exemplary. There are plenty of configurations, and, if budget allows, the ability to specify 4TB of storage (2TB in the UK) is impressive.

And yet, for such a high-end laptop, the 720p webcam is disappointing, and Dell could have helped users with legacy gear by including on-board HDMI and USB-A ports. However, if these issues are of no concern, then maybe the Dell XPS 15 (2022) is indeed the Goldilocks of the XPS world.


Dell XPS 15 (2022) specifications

Processor Core i5-12500H • Core i7-12700H • Core i9-12900HK
Graphics Intel Iris Xe Graphics • Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 (4GB) • Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti (4GB)
RAM 8GB, 16GB, 32GB, 64GB
Storage 512GB, 1TB, 2TB, 4TB
OS Windows 11 (Home, Pro)
Display 15.6-inch FHD+ IPS non-touch (1920 x 1200, 145ppi) • 3.5K OLED touch (3456 x 2160, 261ppi) • UHD+ IPS touch (3840 x 2400, 290ppi)
Brightness 500 nits (FHD+, UHD+) • 400 nits (3.5K OLED)
Refresh rate/response time 60Hz/35ms (FHD+, UHD+) • 60Hz/2ms (3.5K OLED)
Colour gamut 100% sRGB (FHD+) • DCI-P3 100% (3.5K OLED) • 100% Adobe RGB, DCI-P3 94% (UHD+)
Contrast ratio 1650: 1 (FHD+) • 80,000:1 SDR / 124,000:1 HDR (3.5K OLED)  • 1600:1 (UHD+)
Ports 1x USB-C (USB 3.2 Gen 2), 2x USB-C/Thunderbolt 4, 3.5mm audio in/out
Slots SD card reader
Wireless Intel Killer 1675 (AX211) – Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax), Bluetooth 5.2
Audio Realtek ALC3281 – 2x 2.5W woofers, 2x 1.5W tweeters, dual array mics
Camera RGB IR HD camera (720p)
Keyboard backlit, 79 keys (US, Canada), 80 keys (UK), 83 keys (Japan), key pitch 19.05mm (X)/18.05mm (Y)
Touchpad 150.90mm x 90mm (5.94 in. x 3.54 in.)
Battery 56Wh, 86Wh
Power adapter USB-C: 90W, 130W
Dimensions 344.40mm x 230.14mm x 11.65-18.54mm (13.56in. x 9.06in. x 0.46-0.73in.)
Weight 1.84kg (4.06lb), non-touch/56Wh battery • 1.92kg (4.22lb), non-touch/86Wh battery • 1.96kg (4.31lb), OLED touch/86Wh battery • 2.1kg (4.62lb), 4K+ touch/86Wh battery
Price from $1,449 (Core i5, Iris Xe Graphics, 8GB RAM, 512GB SSD, FHD+ non-touch screen) to $3,994 (Core i9, 4GB Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti, 64GB RAM, 4TB SSD, UHD+ touch screen)

Alternatives to consider

There’s plenty of choice if you’re seeking a premium 15-inch Windows laptop with the potential to handle creative workloads. We’ve picked out a couple below. For more, check out our roundup. And if you’re happy with MacOS and want to boost the screen size, look no further than Apple’s 16-inch MacBook Pro.

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