There’s an old saying that goes “fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me”.
The question about buying the XPS 15 7590 for me is this: What do you call it when you get fooled four times?
A laptop reviewer?
I’ve said it again and again over the years since my reviews of the XPS 15 9550, XPS 15 9560, XPS 15 9570 (plus subsequent long-term review), and XPS 15 tweak guide: The XPS 15 used to stand head-and-shoulders above the competition. It used to be the laptop to beat, and it earned its top-score ratings despite its litany of bugs and flaws because of that. But the march of progress never stops for electronics, and since then, a lot of competition have come to town.
For example, the ThinkPad X1 Extreme/P1 (review here) does almost everything the previous XPS 15s did, only better. It’s got a better keyboard, a second TB3 port, TrackPoint, physical camera shutter, an extra m.2 PCIe NVMe bay, better DPC latency, S3 sleep (rather than Microsoft’s currently buggy/broken Modern Standby), superior stability, and better software support. Lenovo has put out a few BIOS updates that had the potential of bricking your X1E/P1, but at least they haven’t changed the throttling point of the GPU from 78C to 74C several months after the initial reviews were conducted.
There are a couple of drawbacks on the X1 Extreme that still don’t look like they’ll be addressed by the second generation, however: the XPS 15 has a larger (97 WHr) battery and better quality panels, and the upcoming XPS 15 7590 promises a few improvements that appeal to me. Firstly, it appears that the throttling problems with the Voltage Regulator Modules (VRMs) may finally be addressed. This improvement to cooling should allow the XPS 15 7590 to run faster and maintain loads on the GPU and CPU much better than previous generations.
Secondly, the XPS 15 7590 now offers an non-touch UHD OLED panel (the X1E/P1 have offered a touch OLED panel since their first iterations) in addition to the matte FHD and glossy/touch UHD panels. For certain purposes (media consumption), the OLED panel should be superior in quality and response times to either the FHD or UHD displays. Although all the displays are still limited to 60Hz or 60 frames-per-second, OLED panels offer nearly instant response times (especially compared to the sluggish/ghosting displays the XPS 15 series have always had before) and almost infinitely better contrast (OLED displays actually turn off individual pixels when they are black). This is at the cost of battery life, however. Dell’s website advertises:
“On our UHD panel, get 13 hours and 22 minutes* using productivity apps or 9 hours and 22 minutes* of Netflix streaming and with OLED get 7 hours and 23 minutes* on productivity apps and 9 hours and 23 minutes* of Netflix streaming.”
On phones, OLED displays are generally known for having better battery life, but their power consumption greatly depends on what the displays are showing. As the pixels do not need to be lit when showing blacks, the darker the image, the lower the power consumption. Based on this, watching media should be the optimal situation to maximize battery life with an OLED panel due to the black bars on the top and bottom. However, according to Dell’s (often optimistic) suggestions on their website, this does not seem to be the case, and the IPS UHD display seems like it will provide better battery life than the UHD OLED option. Oh, and I almost forgot that above that new screen is (finally) a webcam which would finally make the XPS 15 usable for serious video conferencing.
Thirdly, ex-XPS and Alienware VP Frank Azor has promised time and time again fixes for the Modern Standby and DPC latency issues the XPS 15 has struggled with for years. As this is likely the last iteration of the XPS 15 using the original chassis design from 2015, it’s tantalizing to think that Dell will have finally ironed out all of the kinks.
Tantalizing, but perhaps ignorantly optimistic — and this is where I struggle. XPS 15 owners have had to deal with a maddening array of problems over the years from thermal and VRM throttling to DPC latency, expanding batteries, poor panel quality control, BSODs, sound issues, and excessive battery drain and overheating during sleep. Why should I (or anyone else) finally start to believe that this will finally be the version of the XPS 15 that Dell will get right?
That’s a very good question, and I can’t answer it until I get hands on one myself for an extended time and follow others’ experiences with the 7590 online as well. If Dell finally has fixed the S3 and Modern Standby issues, if they finally fixed the thermal solution, if the quality control for the displays are better, and if they don’t screw around with the temperature throttling points and limit performance months after release without notifying customers, it might be a worthy laptop to pick up over its competitors. But if the 7590 ends up having the same kinds of issues as the 9550, 9560, and 9570 have, then I think you know where else to go with your money from now on.
It’s up to you (and I) to decide whether to place our trust and hard-earned money in the XPS 15 series one last time.