The new Dell XPS 15 7590 makes a case for itself by sporting an optional OLED panel, Intel’s latest 9th generation 6 and 8-core CPUs, Nvidia’s GTX 1650 GPU, and, finally, an above-display webcam. As I wrote in an earlier editorial, however, whether or not to give the 4th revision of the XPS 15 a chance might be a tough call if you’ve been previously burned by the line’s many issues in the past.
As the XPS 15 has already been reviewed many times previously, we direct you to previous coverage (XPS 15 9550, XPS 15 9560, XPS 15 9570 and long-term review) for more detailed information about the chassis, keyboard, trackpad, ports, and audio, as these have not changed since 2015. This live review will thus mostly focus on the new UHD OLED display, sustained performance under CPU, GPU, and mixed loads, and general stability to help you determine if the likely final revision of the XPS 15 using this chassis is worth your hard-earned money.
- 19/07/2019 – Review goes live with initial impressions, specifications, screen, latency, input, and basic performance
- 19/07/2019 – Added comment on GPU throttling
- 20/07/2019 – Added more impressions on daily experience of OLED display, speakers, conducted more CPU benchmarks and graphed Cinebench loop
- 21/07/2019 – Added more notes on battery life
- 22/07/2019 – Added realtime audio test with Traktor
- 23/07/2019 – Finished CPU benchmarks; added upgradability section with photographs of internals
- 30/07/2019 – Updated OLED panel impressions, added conclusion, summary, and pros and cons
- 01/08/2019 – Updated rating and conclusion after 1.2.3 BIOS update
- Update: Our detailed review of the more recent Dell XPS 15 9510 is available here.
Just over one month after release, on July 31 Dell released a new BIOS update (version 1.2.3) which seems to address the GPU throttling issue. The review score (previously 3/5) has been adjusted upwards as a result of the significantly improved performance and the conclusion adjusted accordingly. This review will stay “live” and update ratings and conclusion based on the latest BIOS updates for at least a few months.
Specs as reviewed – Dell XPS 15 7590
||15.6” 3840 x 2160 (UHD), glossy, OLED, non-touch, DCI-P3, 400-Nits panel
||Intel Core i7-9750H 2.6-4.5GHz, 6/12 Cores/Theads, 12 MB SmartCache
||Intel UJD 630, Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 (4GB GDDR5)
||16GB DDR4-2666 (2x8GB Dual Channel config)
||Toshiba m.2 NVMe 256GB SSD
||Killer Wi-Fi 6 AX1650x (802.11ac, 2×2), Bluetooth 5.0
||1x Thunderbolt 3 (x4 3.0 PCIe), 2 x USB 3.0, HDMI, 3.5 mm audio, SD card reader
||Windows 10 Home
||(H) 357 x (W) 235 x (D) 17 mm
||2 kg / 4.4 lbs (with 97WHr battery)
Other than the webcam’s position above the screen, the XPS 15 7590’s chassis is unchanged from its predecessors. We suggest you read our reviews of the 9550 and 9560 for more detailed information on the look and feel of this series of notebooks.
Unfortunately, there is still only one colour available for the XPS 15, as well. There is a special “Titan Grey” finish available for lid of the Precision 5540 (which uses the same chassis), so it would have been nice to see that option for the XPS 15 7590 to help spruce up the 4-year-old design and appearance of the 7590.
Keyboard, Trackpad, and Fingerprint Sensor
Coming from my ThinkPad P1, which has one of the best keyboards you can find on a modern notebook, the switch to the XPS 15’s keyboard is a noticeable one ― but that doesn’t mean it’s all bad. The keyboard on the 7590 is unchanged from previous generations, and thus it’s the same shallow-but-crisp 1.3mm stroke and feedback.
In the past, I have found some XPS 15 keyboards to be a bit more “mushy” in feel while others seemed a bit more sturdy (this is likely because of different keyboards from different suppliers in the manufacturing supply chain), but I would rate the keyboard on my unit to be on the firmer side of this spectrum: The keys are fairly stable and depress without wobble, though the feel cannot be compared to the stability and smooth action of a good ThinkPad keyboard.
By my estimation, the weakest aspect of the XPS 15’s keyboard (beyond not having a TrackPoint, which is honestly a stupid criticism for a non-ThinkPad product) is its shallow throw. You and your fingers will notice the abrupt bottoming-out as you type. It isn’t exactly uncomfortable, but you won’t forget that there are better keyboards out there. On a positive note, however, there seems to be no issue with rapid adjacent keystrokes (“download” coming out as “downloda”) not being detected, as frequently happens with the ThinkPad X, P, and T-series. I am able to type between 90-110 WPM without any issues in key-detection, which is something I am happy to experience coming from the P1.
The XPS 15’s touchpad is the same Windows Precision glass pad as before, with full support for a number of settings including 1/2-finger tapping, 2-finger scroll and zoom, and 3 and 4-finger Windows gestures. My only gripe with the touchpad is that there is still no more setting in Windows to enable or disable palmcheck, with this setting instead tied in with the “sensitivity” option (highest sensitivity decreases the palm rejection and the keyboard typing delay after using the trackpad, and vice versa).
This means that you will frequently either suffer from accidental clicks while typing, be forced to wait for a few split seconds to type after moving the cursor, or have to disable tap-to-click. I ended up disabling both tap-to-click options to avoid frequent annoyances while typing, which is not ideal.
A highlight is the Goodix fingerprint sensor integrated into the power button (same as on the 9570). The sensor works extremely quickly and accurately, reading prints successfully in ~0.2 seconds. This is a welcome change from the non-integrated fingerprint sensor on my ThinkPad, which is more secure but is frustratingly only able to read my prints around ~10% of the time.
A major point in focus of this review of the 7590 is its Samsung OLED panel, which is rated at 400-nits brightness and should cover the DCI-P3 gamut. As an interesting side note, DCI-P3 is the standard gamut for film per the major production companies, and as mobile computers like notebooks, smartphones, and tablets are used more and more for media consumption, manufacturers are pushing DCI-P3 displays more frequently.
The FHD matte non-touch and UHD glossy touch IGZO IPS panels also available on the 7590 are rated at 500 nits brightness (100 more than last year) each, but otherwise should have the same operating specifications.
OLED displays are known for their excellent contrast ratios, and this panel is no exception.
Let’s get into the display then. In the past, I have found issues with backlight bleeding, uncentered panels, and uneven brightness on the FHD and UHD screens in the XPS 15 series. Because of the way the technology works, OLED displays don’t suffer from backlight bleeding, but other defects are certainly possible. Luckily, this unit has a centered panel and no issue with uneven brightness.
Even the best IPS panels show a little bit of backlight bleed or glow, but OLED skirts these limitations by the pixels being individually lit.
However, there is a small issue with this OLED panel that seems to be reported by most users as well, and that is a slight graininess or “banding” when displaying certain colors such as lighter shades of grey. The issue seems to be most prominent when displaying the light shade of grey shown below. This is the only OLED laptop I have had a chance to test so far, so it is a bit early to tell whether the problem gets better over the panel’s lifespan or if this is not an issue generalized to all units.
There are some lighting/compression artifacts in this picture, but most of what appears to be dithering is actually banding artifacts from the OLED panel.
The light “banding” effect in the middle of the screen when displaying darker colours.
(Update, 30/07/2019) I called Dell and arranged a replacement panel to try and determine if this is an issue with the Samsung OLED panel in general or it was just poor quality control. The replacement I received was a new (not refurbished) part, but had a much more severe issue with uneven lighting, illustrated below.
There’s no way around the disappointment of the quality of the panels being used in a US$2000 laptop, but I have sent away for a third panel and will update this article if I can receive one that meets my expectations given the asking price.
Defects aside, my overall impression of the OLED SKU of the XPS 15 7590 as someone who has never owned an OLED laptop before is largely positive. I appreciate the inky blacks and lack of any IPS glow or backlight-bleed when viewing dark content, and I haven’t faced any issues with perceived flickering.
Still, there’s the matter of flickering and eye strain that needs to be discussed. OLED doesn’t work the way LCD does, so it’s doesn’t experience the same kind of flickering. OLED panels are current driven, and as far as I understand, they don’t flicker for everything above certain gray levels, but they do for darker grays. I can’t tell how much that will bother you with actual use, just that it didn’t bother me. OLED eye strain is something people have reported on OLED phones, so you might also experience it with OLED laptops, especially since you’re going to stare at this screen for much longer.
When using the laptop at night, I strongly suggest using Night Light to cut the UV spectrum (though this is definitely something to do on any display), as the whites can be especially searing. This is quite noticeable when editing text in Word or other apps with white backgrounds. Another area of disappointment for me is the lack of an OLED touch option, as it is a glossy panel that resembled the UHD IPS IGZO touch display also available on this series. I feel like it can be a bit of a difficult decision to choose between the matte non-touch FHD, touch UHD, and non-touch OLED displays as a result.
Manufacturing defects aside, OLED panels also suffer from something called “black crush”, where colors that should not be black but are very close to black end up being displayed as blacks, i.e. they will not be displayed.
Greyscale graph courtesy of cosmotography.com.
If you are looking at the above on a properly calibrated IPS display, you should see a clear delineation between 21, 22, 23, and 24, with only 24 being displayed as pure black. On an OLED display such as the one in the XPS 15 7590 OLED, however, 22-24 may all show as pitch black unless you tweak things very particularly (more on this later, as I intend to write a short guide on how to calibrate the display on an OLED laptop in Windows 10).
Not backlight bleeding on the second panel from Dell ― just extremely poor uniformity.
If you are wondering which of the IPS or OLED displays to choose from, my personal preference if I were to use this laptop for a daily driver is to go with the UHD IPS panel, purely for the touch option. I find the OLED is quite similar in appearance to the 100% Adobe UHD IPS option, which in theory actually has a slightly higher gamut coverage than the OLED, but also improves upon the OLED display in having touch functionality.
There doesn’t seem to be much of a hit on battery life between the UHD and OLED panels in my testing so far, but I have switched to a dark theme for Windows and my apps where applicable, which helps a lot with power consumption. I would estimate 8 hours of light productivity with dark-themes on the OLED, and roughly the same 8 hours with the UHD IPS touch display whether dark or light content is displayed. If you’re viewing light-colored content, I could see battery life on the OLED dropping to 5-6 hours quite easily, and this is another potential drawback to keep in mind if you really want to spring for the OLED option. The FHD matte panel remains the best choice for battery life, outdoor viewing, and weight (you gain a few hundred grams by springing for UHD IPS or OLED options).
In short, I recommend the OLED SKU (assuming you can get one without defects) if you don’t want touch, don’t mind mild banding, and will not be doing work with light-coloured backgrounds or 5-10% blacks. It’s a beautiful display that will give you fairly good power-efficiency when working with dark content, but not the most efficient or comfortable choice for working with word processing or other light-coloured content.
Hardware, performance and upgradability
Our main measurement of CPU performance will be the standard 10-run loop of Cinebench R15 64-bit Multi. The i7-9750H is clearly thermally limited, as it is unable to maintain its initial level of performance. It’s also interesting to note the lack of increase in performance from the 8th generation i7-8750H, which is rated several hundred MHz slower in theory.
As we can see by the table, the XPS 15 7590 unit I have seems to perform worse in Cinebench R15 multi than the 9570. In terms of CPU performance, it’s clear that there is not much reason if any to move from the i7-8750H to i7-9750H CPU.
||Cinebench R15 Single
|Cinebench R15 Multi
|Cinebench R15 10-Loop Average
|XPS 15 9560 (i7-7700HQ)
|XPS 15 9570 (i7-8750H)
|XPS 15 7590 (i7-9750H)
|XPS 15 7590 (i7-9750H) w/ repaste + undervolt
|XPS 15 7590 (i7-9750H) w/ repaste only
The reason for the poorer scores of the i7-9750H in the XPS 15 here can be found by examining the data from HWiNFO charted below. We can see clear temperature spikes up to 99C followed by a corresponding drop in CPU frequency as the system thermally throttles to MacBook-like clocks (sorry, I couldn’t resist).
Temperatures and clocks during Cinebench R15 Multi 10-loop test via HWiNFO.
All in all, CPU performance with the i7-9750H seems within the margin of error to be no faster than the i7-8750H from last year, and I would not expect the 8-core variants to be able to reach their potential based on the thermal issues seen here with the 6-core i7-9750H. I would be interested to see how an i9-equipped SKU fares in testing before stating this conclusively, however.
This year’s XPS 15 utilizes Nvidia’s new GTX 1650 mobile GPU. Though it lacks the raytracing cores of the RTX-series, it should be a competent card and a solid upgrade over last year’s GTX 1050 and 1050Ti. This appears to be the case from initial single-runs of benchmarks like 3DMark’s Firestrike.
||Fire Strike (standard)
|Fire Strike (Graphics)
|Unigine Heaven 4.0 (basic)
|XPS 15 9560 (i7/GTX 1050)
|XPS 15 9570 (i7/GTX 1050Ti Max-Q)
|XPS 15 7590 (i7/GTX 1650)
|XPS 15 7590 (i7/GTX 1650) w/ undervolt
Things change drastically, however, when we put the 7590 through its paces in sustained-load GPU benchmarks. (Note: the following section’s results are based on the initial BIOS release from Dell. The throttling issue has been greatly improved with the 1.2.3 BIOS update. Feel free to skip the initial testing results if you are not interested to see how this laptop performed for the first month of its release before Dell put a patch out.)
Running a Firestrike Stress Test of 10 loops yields a disappointing score of 60.7%.
While the Fire Strike test showed a solid score that champed the GTX 1050Ti Max-Q, running the stress test reveals something seriously wrong with the 7590’s ability to sustain GPU performance. HWiNFO charts reveal a frequent dropping of the GPU to a core clock of only 300 MHz that likely contributes to this poor score.
This severe throttling results in games becoming unplayable as the GPU effectively grinds to a halt, and I have to comment that I am quite disappointed to see such an issue crop up on the XPS 15 line once again. It is not the first, second, or third time that an issue like this has occurred in the XPS 15 series, and I also have to wonder if any stress testing was conducted prior to shipping with this hardware/firmware design.
When undervolted by -125mv on the CPU and repasted, GPU performance stability appears to be much improved for a time when observing a 10-run firestrike stress test:
Unfortunately, this only slightly prolongs the time before the GPU begins to throttle. Running the stress test for 20 loops resulted again in a 60% fail score.
Testing in games like Killing Floor 2, Apex Legends, Warframe, and Overwatch yielded the same observed behavior of sudden bouts of unplayability:
Every time the GPU hits 75C, the clockspeeds were observed dropping from ~1500 MHz to only 300.
(Update: 31/07/2019) Dell has released BIOS update 1.2.3 which seems to change the throttling frequency from 300 MHz to 1125, resulting in playable game performance.
After running the 1.2.3 BIOS update, however, I am happy to report that the issue is essentially resolved. The GPU still downclocks slightly at 74/75C, but it still runs plenty fast enough to keep gaming performance consistent. This behavior is far superior to simply downclocking the core to 300 MHz, however, and I’m still a bit incredulous how any engineer could have thought doing so was the best solution.
Recently released BIOS update 1.2.3 fixes the playability of most games on the 7590.
Having run the XPS 15 7590 for several hours testing Killing Floor 2, Overwatch, Warframe, and running 3dmark Firestrike stress tests, I observed solid and consistent performance without any major downclocking or temperature spikes. With the current BIOS (1.2.3), it seems the issue has thankfully been resolved. On this topic, however, I have been told by a number of 9570 owners that a similar throttling issue as originally present on the 7590 still exists on the 9570. That is, the XPS 15 9570 with GTX 1050Ti exhibits the same throttling to 300 MHz at 75C that the 7590 initially did. I find it strange that the XPS 15 9570 has been out for a year or so and had this problem for months without any resolution, and that makes me more than a little bit wary of Dell’s commitment to supporting these machines. Hopefully, Dell will quickly release a similar BIOS update for the 9570 as they did for the newer 7590.
The XPS 15 7590 maintains exactly the same upgradability as its predecessors. At least the Wi-Fi module and SSD are still user-replaceable, however, as the XPS 13 series has lost more and more upgradability and repairability in the past two iterations.
No major changes to the internals beyond a bit of active cooling on the VRM.
At least part of the cause of the high temperatures the 7590 saw at stock was caused by excess thermal paste applied in the factory. Too much thermal paste actually insulates the chips and makes the heat spreader much less effective at transferring the heat. As a result, simply repasting with less grease of a higher quality (Gelid GC Extreme, in this case) increased the Cinebench loop average by around 90 points.
Dell didn’t chance putting too little thermal grease on.
Latency issues have plagued the XPS 15 line for years, but Dell has made a number of recent attempts to bring the problem under control so the 9570 and 7590 can be made suitable for real-time audio processing. Unfortunately, my testing so far has not yielded positive results.
It had been suggested to disable the dedicated GPU, which I tried next.
Disabling the dedicated GPU in device manager did not seem to help.
Running 4 decks with tracks in Traktor Pro as a realtime audio test, I did not hear any audio artifacts with my ears. However, LatencyMon reports occasional spikes beyond its acceptance threshold, around one per minute.
All in all regarding latency, it may be possible to use the XPS 15 7590 for realtime audio. However, it is clearly not handling it flawlessly per LatencyMon results, and thus I would not suggest the 7590 is realtime audio is your primary use-case for it.
The bundled Toshiba SSD puts up quite respectable performance, especially compared to the rather shoddy roughly 260 MB/s read and write speeds of the Lite-On SSD that came in my XPS 15 9570 last year. As usual with SSDs, the higher capacity the faster the performance should be.
The 256 GB Toshiba SSD in my unit provides fairly strong performance despite its smaller capacity.
In the past, Dell has shipped XPS 15s with Lite-on, Samsung, and Toshiba SSDs, with Samsung SSDs generally being the most performant. Unfortunately, which SSD and what performance you’ll get is just luck of the draw.
Unscrew the 10 T5 and 2 Phillips screws and you will have access to all that can be upgraded in the XPS 15 9570. Everything that was true for the 9550, 9560, and 9570 is still true here. The internals contain an NVMe PCIe SSD slot (m.2 2280), 2 SO-DIMM slots, an m.2 NGFF slot for Wi-Fi, and, if you have the 57WHr battery, a SATA III bay for 2.5″ storage. Compared to many ultrabooks, the XPS 15 has fairly good expansion. However, to compete against contemporaries like the X1 Extreme, it would be nice to see a second NVMe PCIe SSD slot.
Emissions (noise, heat) and speakers
Noise and heat
The XPS 15 runs hot as per initial CPU and GPU tests, but this does not mean it’s for lack of the fans trying to keep things cool. The fans rev up to 4000-5000 RPM under heavy usage and are very audible, though they produce more of a “whoosh” than a whine, thankfully. Even during slightly heavy multi-tasking, the fans become audible at times when using the “Ultra Performance” profile via Dell Command Power Manager, but one bright spot is that the laptop does not heat up appreciably on one’s lap like many other thin-and-light performance machines, and thus it remains fairly comfortable to use through all but gaming (which you won’t be able to do at present due to the throttling issue described prior).
The XPS 15 7590 has the same downward-facing drivers as before. Even when enhanced by the bundled Waves MaxxAudio Pro software, the speakers are very underpowered when it comes to bass. You can use the MaxxAudio software to tune up the bass and other aspects like details and separation, but there’s just no getting by the fact that it can’t put out enough low frequencies. Things get worse when you disable MaxxAudio (as you will need to if you are doing any audio work), and the speakers just sound flat. All in all, the speakers are sufficient for casual consumption of movies and games with MaxxAudio enabled, but will not get you what you need if you are doing audio production or want to feel your music as it was intended to be heard.
Roughly 7-8 hours so far using mostly dark-themed apps as well as WordPress. Batterybar Pro measures roughly 1W more power consumption on average looking at a light webpage vs a dark one, but I will be running more tests on it.
Traditional sleep (S3) seems to be long gone on the 7590, with only Modern Standby in its stead. The problem is that Modern Standby has a terrible efficiency rate, with 10% drain measured over just 5 hours. If you are going to bestowing this laptop for a long period of time to preserve power, you’ll definitely be needing to use hibernation rather than standby. On the bright side, I have yet to find the 7590 waking itself and cooking at extreme while in my bag as the 9570 is fond of doing.
Price and availability
The 7590 currently starts at $1099 and can be priced up to well over $2,500 USD with higher-end configurations directly from Dell. Outside the US, you’ll be able to find different SKUs available with global shipping direct from Amazon, which is usually cheaper than from Dell themselves in the rest of the world.
- Unable to play games for more than a few minutes before the GPU drops to 300 MHz on core clocks, rendering framerates unplayable
- Fn + F7 (unobtrusive mode) seems to crash the OLED panel and require a restart to fix it.
- Audio becomes unsynced while watching streaming videos (reported by others, not confirmed in my tests)
Updated conclusion as of 01/08/2019:
With the 1.2.3 BIOS update greatly improving the consistency of the XPS 15 7590’s performance, the 7590 is a much more competitive choice in the thin-and-light professional/workstation notebook market thanks to its GTX 1650 GPU, webcam placement, solid chassis design, good selection of ports, and reasonable price. In terms of the OLED SKU in review here, however, I am a bit less enthusiastic about recommending an OLED laptop in general, and I would probably suggest either the FHD IPS or UHD IPS configuration of the 7590 rather than this one. The lack of touch, visible banding, black crush, and slight discomfort when looking at light images (such as documents) over a long period of time make the OLED more of a niche option for certain content consumers rather than those doing work.
Beyond the OLED panel itself, I would have liked to see some improvements in the 7590’s port selection (2x TB3 would have been great), a second PCIe NVMe slot, better speakers, and a better keyboard. It’s still a nice-looking laptop with good performance backed by a reliable warranty, however, and for now, in 2019, it’s a good option for those who value looks, portability, and CPU/GPU performance.
Update: Our detailed review of the more recent Dell XPS 15 9510 is available here.
Original conclusion based on the release firmware:
Buckle up, because this is going to seem a little harsh.
Dell had every reason to be able to make the XPS 15 7590 OLED the laptop that the 9550, 9560, and 9570 should have been, and my verdict as of three weeks of using the XPS 15 7590 daily for work and (eGPU-enabled) play is that Dell still have yet to succeed.
The key problems by my estimation are 1) GPU throttling rending games unplayable and 2) poor quality of the OLED display. Let me explain why these matter: It’s often commented by certain types of users that “the XPS 15 is not a gaming laptop” and that this means you shouldn’t expect it to play games. Why not? “Gaming” is mentioned three times on the XPS 15 7590’s website alone, and it has a very capable GTX 1650 GPU. If the specifications can’t be properly utilized, then they shouldn’t be put into the laptop. It is ridiculous to tell customers that they have no right to expect the performance that the specifications and product marketing implies.
The poor quality control observed on the OLED panels I’ve seen in so far is also not something acceptable in a laptop that more often than not will cost around $2000 USD. Some people may hand-wave these issues, but for me it is like being a professional driver yet driving with a cracked windshield. It taints the experience of everything seen through it, and I would expect better for anything other than a budget laptop.
To determine whether the XPS 15 7590 is worth buying, you need to look carefully at what the laptop actually is in its current state: a nice-looking laptop with poor quality control for its displays and high specifications that cannot be utilized for gaming. If you want a laptop that looks nice to do basic work on, then I think the lowest-end configurations for the XPS 15 7590 or the 9570 are actually the best buys here. If you want a laptop that looks nice and can be used for work or play, then get a ThinkPad X1 Extreme. If I am able to get a replacement panel of acceptable quality and Dell is able to fix the GPU throttling with a firmware update, I will be able to better recommend it for serious users.
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