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XPS 15 9570 long-term review follow-up: 3 months later

By Douglas Black , last updated on October 16, 2018

26/9/2018 update: added touchscreen bug

I originally reviewed the XPS 15 9570 (FHD) in June of this year, scoring it 4/5, so if you haven’t read my original review, I suggest reading that first here.

Too often, products are reviewed in the first few weeks of release, assigned a score, and never touched-on by media again. This blind spot means that the daily experience of the average end-user may be wildly different than that of the reviewer.

There’s no general aim of misdirection intended; it’s just the result of tight deadlines and the fact that we can only use so many devices at once.

In this case, however, I am able to report on the XPS 15 9570 as I’ve been using it daily for the last 3 months. In light of these experiences, I would like to share my observations about the device and how I would rate the product after spending hundreds of hours on it.

I originally reviewed the XPS 15 9570 (FHD) in June of this year, scoring it 4/5.

The Good

Let’s start with the good.

The 4K XPS 15 still has the best display I’ve seen on a laptop. The resolution, color accuracy, contrast, brightness, and evenness on my unit strike me every time I use it.

The CPU performance is still excellent (especially after an undervolt), posting numbers 15-20% higher than your average i7 or i9 15-inch 2018 MacBook Pro.

Battery life is generally quite good, hitting 8-9 hours on a full charge without worrying too much — in fact, I don’t believe I’ve ever run out of juice on a single day of work since I’ve had the notebook.

The TrackPad is very pleasant to use, and the keyboard is quite decent as well. It’s no ThinkPad, but I can type quite comfortably on it for long periods without feeling fatigue.

Lastly, port-wise, I appreciate having both Type-A, Type-C, and SD card ports, meaning I don’t need to bring adapters with me everywhere.

The “Meh”

About 3 weeks after getting my XPS 15, I noticed an occasional rattling noise coming from the left side of the computer. It was intermittent, only noticeable at lower RPMs and only when the GPU was active. After examining the fan, I diagnosed it as a bad bearing, called Dell, and 2 days later a tech came to swap the fan for a new one. No fuss, no muss, no downtime.

I would have been more annoyed had I not had the next business day premium warranty, however — something I have learned to never skimp on.

The Bad

Unfortunately, there are a host of issues that have popped up and remain unresolved for the XPS 15 9570. Some of them are specific to the 9570, while others have plagued the whole series for years.

The first of these is what is known as high DPC latency, and has been well-documented on the XPS 15 series for years. DPC stands for Deferred Procedure Call, and it is used to set the priority of different tasks for execution.

A high latency is a problem primarily when playing audio, especially in real-time, because it results in crackling and popping audio. As a DJ, this is job critical, but it’s also very disruptive to the average user who just wants to play media through the built-in speakers. Dell seems to be aware of the issue (caused by ACPI.sys), but there is no fix as of this moment. There are some workarounds, such as toggling Spatial Sound on and then off again, but nothing fixes the problem for good. This means that playing live audio from the XPS 15 is a no-go, precluding musicians, producers, or DJs from using it for professional purposes.

High latency on the XPS 15 9570 causing audio issues.

The second biggest issue I’ve noticed is the generally non-functional state of Modern Standby for this machine. Dell originally shipped the XPS 15 9570 with both traditional (S3) Standby and the newer phone-like Modern Standby. The first problem is that Modern Standby is broken: Every time I put the machine to sleep, I take it from its sleeve some time later to feel the chassis is quite warm, and upon waking it, I can see that I’ve lost somewhere between 2-10% per hour. Other times, the machine simply doesn’t wake up and needs to be hard-reset. I’ve tried to diagnose what might be causing this, first replacing the included Killer Wi-Fi with an Intel 9260 card and then running sleep diagnostics, but I’ve received no answers.

This is made worse by the fact that Dell removed regular (S3) Standby in BIOS update 1.3.1. As I noted in my original review, using “proper” Standby resulted in some bugs and glitches involving the screen and the CPU. Rather than fix these bugs in S3 Standby, Dell decided to remove the feature altogether, forcing everyone to use the completely broken Modern Standby. The current situation essentially forces anyone who needs to conserve their power throughout 1-2 days to hibernate their laptop every time they are not using it. Lenovo’s flawed X1 Carbon Gen 6 had similar issues with Modern Standby, and so returned the option for traditional Standby in a recent BIOS update. In comparison, Dell’s handling of the problem thus far is unacceptable.

Even worse, from BIOS 1.31 update onward (currently at 1.4.1), Dell quietly began throttling the GPU at only 74C rather than the 78C the machine previously was limited to. I will try to be fair and assume this is not out of malice and manipulation of early benchmark scores and instead guess that perhaps there was another reason for this change. However, there was nothing mentioned in the BIOS update notes about this and no reason for the change was given. Since the XPS 15 9570 is a thin and light notebook, the GPUs have always run quite close to their prioritize temperature of 78C. Cutting this temperature limit down to a very conservative 74C will significantly impact the performance of the GPU as a result.

Additionally, the 1.4.1 BIOS — which cannot be downgraded from — seems to have introduced yet another severe bug: the touchscreen stops functioning after the laptop is put to sleep. To get this functionality back, the laptop must be restarted.

A final annoyance is that the CPU seems to have issues with idle power consumption. Instead of idling at around 0.7 W as intended, the CPU is often found to be unable to enter a lower C-state for some reason. The result of this is the CPU idling at significantly higher levels of power consumption, between 2.8-4.0 W. This has a significant negative impact on both battery life and idle temperatures, as it increases the idle drain from what should normally be 6-7W to 12-14W total system-wide consumption. This can be temporarily fixed by putting the computer to sleep and waking it, but it will happen each time the laptop is restarted. I’m not sure if this is a Windows problem, Intel problem, or Dell problem, but at the end of the day it’s Dell’s product that I paid nearly US$2500 for, and the ball is in their court to make the product work as it should.

These last two issues in conjunction lead to an almost farcical reality: the XPS 15 9570 now must be put to sleep in order for the CPU to properly enter low power states, but doing so will break the functionality of the touchscreen.

Conclusion

I gave the XPS 15 9570 a score of 4/5 in my initial review, noting that despite its flaws, it’s still one of the best all-around notebooks money can buy. This is still somehow true, but these issues remaining with the machine nearly 6 months after launch cannot be ignored, and I would now rate the XPS 15 9570 more like a 3/5.

Dell can and should do better to iron out these issues, and I hope that we can see some progress in this area in the next few months. In the meantime, I will be giving the new ThinkPad X1 Extreme a shot, so keep an eye out for my review where I match the X1E up against the XPS 15.

Based in Hong Kong, Douglas Black is a veteran editor of Notebookcheck, university lecturer, researcher, and writer.

19 Comments

  1. Matt

    September 25, 2018 at 5:17 pm

    I am in the market for this laptop and surface book 2 15". I am getting both for around same price, but surface book 2 is a open box with little base scratch. Which one would you recommend based on your experience?

    • Douglas Black

      September 26, 2018 at 1:58 am

      I cannot recommend any product as expensive as the SB2 that cannot be upgraded or repaired by the user. I would go for the xps.

      • matt

        September 26, 2018 at 2:30 am

        Even if it is for the same price as the XPS 15?

        • Douglas Black

          September 26, 2018 at 3:24 am

          It's superior in most ways to the SB2 except for GPU performance. The CPU of the 9570 blows the SB2 out of the water by 50%, it's a smaller, lighter machine, upgradable, on-site warranty, Thunderbolt 3…

  2. AkashGG

    September 25, 2018 at 7:33 pm

    The problem of waking up from standby mode was also on my Dell 3470. So Dell has been sleeping on this since many years already…
    What about about the absence of a numeric keypad? Or are you just one to use a laptop for 'work' that does not even need inputting numeric information?

    • Douglas Black

      September 26, 2018 at 2:02 am

      I'm not sure what to make of your tone here about numbers, tbh. As I generally write probably 1 number per 500 words, I much prefer a centered keyboard on a laptop. It's just painful to use an off-centered keyboard on my lap. If I need to enter a few hundred columns of data for some reason, I'll use one of my desktops.

      • Akash GURA GOREDO

        September 26, 2018 at 12:02 pm

        "hundred of columns of data for some reason" – this overkill would require and 90's style data-entry logger or something, thanks but no thanks. I apologise for the tone, even if the intent is certainly not to vex – I am so happy to see someone actually reading and replying to me!
        If you write only 1 number per 500 then it's just text and you don't really need a powerful thing like XPS for your 'work' – it's only text that can be handled by any other computer/laptop, actually.
        My dislike of XPS and all 15" laptops (like Lenovo's convertibles) with designers – not you reviewers – is that they forget that real people who actually need this kind of power also need to make analyses and write reports which rely on inputting and manipulating numeric data, and that the absence of a dedicated numeric keypad squarely frustrates (infuriates) them. What a waste of real-estate is that XPS15's keyboard, and only Asus has made an effort to cater to this problem in its new trackpad-cum-touchscreen thing, and even LG Gram's first version did justice to some number-crunching…
        It was very kind of you to reply to my comment, so, thanks again so much for your time, Sir.

        • Douglas Black

          September 26, 2018 at 12:13 pm

          I apologize for taking it that way! I've been too exposed to macrumors forum arguments about what constitutes "real" work! I can understand the need for numpads for some people, it's just personally i don't like the appearance and the offset nature. On my aero 15 i put my hands into the wrong home keys probably 50 times a day because of it, and it drove me crazy!

          • Akash GG

            September 29, 2018 at 1:13 pm

            Agreed on the off-centre placement of the trackpad, but I've managed to do with it by placing my index finger on the J key instead of the middle finger: hope this helps. And again thanks so much for your time in replying! Keep it up!

  3. JT Miller

    September 25, 2018 at 8:48 pm

    I always hope for these long term types of reviews and rarely see them – so thank you! I would be very interested in a six month update as well (although in my opinion not solving the high dpc latency and power state flakiness three months after release for a flagship product is pretty disappointing).

  4. Matthew

    September 25, 2018 at 9:30 pm

    My questions:

    Have you done a full system wipe, and reinstall of windows without Dell bloatware?

    Has the nvme or ssd been set to achi in the bios?

    Have you been updating the other system drivers besides the bios? Intel, Nvidia have had very recent updates.

    I have noticed the throttling so I look forward to undervolting

    • Douglas Black

      September 26, 2018 at 2:03 am

      I have done a full clean install, changed ssd to ahci, and always run the latest updates from Dell.

  5. Rohnin

    September 27, 2018 at 12:38 pm

    Sir, do you had any chance to verify eGPU performance using latest drivers and bios? I've heard that some improvements were made by Dell regarding this functionality.

    Thanks!

    • Douglas Black

      September 27, 2018 at 12:40 pm

      Performance does seem a bit more consistent in Prey and some other games, especially in terms of low framerates. I can't quantify it, however.

  6. Rob

    September 28, 2018 at 1:45 am

    Great review,

    One thing ai would add is how annoying the fans can be good low intensive talks especially in a quiet environment

    The fan curve on the XPS 9570 needs fixing, many of the solutions Suggested too generic. Putting it on quiet doesn't work, disabling turbo boost doesn't work.

    A quick way to test the issue is to press F12 on boot up, go to Dell Diagnostics – "ePSA Pre-boot System Assessment). From there look at the System health and you will see that temps never get past 49C, and the fans keep cycling from 0 – 2504 RPM. It does this every 20 secs or so. This eliminates any concerns about windows running something it shouldn't.

    Dell engineers I urge you to go to a library with a Dell XPS 9570 laptop, plug it into the AC wall charger and just use it in a very quiet environment and be surprised at how often the fans kick in when you are doing absolutely nothing extraordinary

  7. Michael

    October 2, 2018 at 11:59 pm

    Thank you very much for this review! Very instructive.
    Really look forward to reading your Lenovo x1E review

  8. Tom

    October 5, 2018 at 1:57 pm

    The fans are a nightmare, constantly spinning up and down on my machine.

    Add to that:
    The power socket is loose and Dell tried to tell me this was wear and tear and I'd have to front for it to be repaired…
    The headphone jack has some wonky interference when no audio is playing.
    The machine wont go into standby on Ubuntu.

    the track pad has a mind of its own a lot of the time and copy pastes all over the shop.
    The price has dropped £400 since I bought it

    I'm stuck with a very irritating and massively expensive computer…

    Also the audio issue above means I'm going back to my old Mac to do music, which is a shame as I could do with the grunt for Komplete…

    Pretty disappointed, should have fronted the extra £1000 and bought another mac are my general feelings…

  9. Thesis

    October 19, 2018 at 12:56 am

    Douglas, for those of us who are anti-Mac, what would you suggest for audio?

    • Douglas Black

      October 19, 2018 at 1:54 am

      That is a very good question. Unfortunately I am not sure yet. Many laptops can work, but afik they all require some fiddling such as disabling c-states and power management

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