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After almost 7 years of running around with a MacBook Pro / Late 2013 Model, I decided to go back to windows. Or at least try...

TL;DR

  • August: purchased a 2020 Dell XPS 15 9500
  • Touchpad-Wobble. No replacement parts. Re-ordered after 17 workdays.
  • late October: Replacement XPS arrived
  • Touchpad-Wobble. Palm Rest was replaced two times - issue resolved.
  • January: Noted a chassis-flex causing accidental mouse-clicks
  • Palm-Rest replaced. Then Palm-Rest and mainboard replaced. Issue not resolved.
  • Send to Dell UK. Issue could not be resolved.
  • February: Dell kept the Notebook and refunded me all the money.

Story Time

The main reason to go Mac in 2013 was a friend and his recommendation. Still grateful for that. And no other real option was available for what I was looking for: weight less than 2kg, long battery life, a good looking device - let's be honest here good looking was number one. Good build quality. Performance. Nothing else came even close. And I do work a lot in terminals - made Mac a good choice.

I did never regret going MacBookPro - the build quality is fantastic. The MagSafe charger is too. Very good screen. Quietly running. The touchpad is simply amazing. A lot of good things.


I decided to replace the MacBook for several reasons. The main one: the battery degraded and MacOS did start showing a warning. The tool coconutBattery showed a remaining capacity of 78%. Everything was still working fine. But every other computer I use runs Windows. The switching around became cumbersome.

And windows has evolved. The very good Git Bash, the new Microsoft Terminal, the WSL2 (Windows Subsystem for Linux) - great things.

On the Apple side some of the Mac Book Pro features have been removed: no more MagSafe. I don't like the touchbar.

If I want to believe my Google search history (yes I have that turned on) the first search for "dell xps 15" was 2016. But I was looking for a device with a similarly good touchpad, weight, screen, battery life and good looks. It got more serious in 2018 where I had a lot of struggle with MacOS upgrades. Had to reset the MacBook twice within a year as of weird root certificate issues. Since Dell now offers a good sized touchpad with Microsoft Precision Drivers I thought thats my exit strategy.

The Pain of Ordering

The reviews of Dave Lee, Hardware Canucks and LTT as well as The Everyday Dad (sort of more of the "Mac" perspective) all sounded very good. But they all mentioned touchpad issues where there is a wobble. But they all claimed Dell would replace those parts, and as of June it should not be an issue anymore.

In July 2020 I ordered a Dell XPS 15 9500. It arrived mid-august 2020. A nice box, well packaged, a very good experience.

The touchpad had that wobble issue. So I called Dell Premium Support the same day. The support employee was very nice and good to talk to (after the usual 2-5 phone redirects...), a technician would show up the next day with a replacement part (the whole palm-rest needs to be replaced). Sounded good. Ticket closed (?!).

The next morning a received an email that no replacement parts are available and I would be contacted again. Ten days later I called again. No progress, the Dell support told me there is a wait time of 15 business days until something else can be done. Ticket closed (?!). Waited some more. Called again after seventeen days since the delivery. This time a new notebook was ordered for me with a delivery date planned for early October 2020. Not ideal. But well... Ticket closed (?!).

The delivery date was then moved back again into November. Also the notebook with the defect was picked up - had to do nothing there, thats a plus.


In the meantime I decided to order an iFixit kit and replace the MacBook battery myself following the very good guide they provide. In 55 easy steps - ok, a bit messy, because batteries really need to be glued into a chassis, right apple?! - I replaced the battery and in another 55 easy steps put it back together. Took longer than expected: but worked! Back to 100% capacity.


The replacement XPS arrived in the end of October. Nice packaging, good experience. Same touchpad issue with the replacement device! Dell Support again. Had another good call - after 3-5 redirects. Technician for tomorrow. Deja vu. BUT: actually he showed up the next morning. Cool. Replaced the palm-rest. The issue STILL there! I asked him if I'm nuts, but he confirmed that wobble, and that its broken. Weirdly: the old part did no longer have that wobble once not out of the notebook. Only when screwed into the laptop it appeared. He also stated he's replacing this part a lot, more in XPS series than the Precision series. Well. Disappointing quality control - but ok at least they replace the part and don't force you into discussions. New ticket.

New replacement part! He showed up again the next day again. Cool. Another palm-rest replacement. This time: SUCCESS! Finally. So the notebook I ordered end of July 2020 was usable end of October 2020. My very positive unboxing mood: gone by now. GONE! This is an expensive machine. The joy of buying one: GONE. Thats one working palm-rest out of four.

In January 2021 I noted a weird effect: lifting the notebook with one hand on one side caused accidental mouse clicks due to some weird chassis-flex (see Dell Community). The palm rest was replaced twice, also the mainboard was replaced once. Did not resolve this issue. Send the notebook to Dell UK. Issue could not be fixed, so Dell refunded me the Money. After this track record of repairs that was probably the best solution.

Summary

  • are you satisfied? no.
  • can you recommend the XPS: no.
  • regrets? maybe.
    Had I tried the battery replacement earlier I might would not have ordered one and waited until AMD Ryzen Mobile CPUs are more widely available.
    But this operation was a bit risky as you have to "rip out" the old battery, leaving me with no notebook at all. Didn't want to risk that.
  • I miss a USB-A port
  • I miss the HDMI output
  • Dell Support: despite the premium support purchased with the notebook, I can only describe the process as very cumbersome.

Comparing the machines


MacBookDell XPS 15
The touchpadIt's just perfect. Like it a lot. Never used a mouse.

The touchpad is very nice. Is it not as good as the Mac one (from 2013!). Even after 7 years, the Windows world has not been able to catch up.

I had to change some settings in the registry editor (see superuser.com):

Computer\HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Wisp\Touch\Friction

The feeling is still 'weird'. If scrolling faster it's not really keeping up. Might needs some more messing around. And the general sensitivity is not as good. Sometimes touches (to click something) are not recognized. Never ever had that on the MacBook. Never needed to tweak something. It is just perfect the way it comes. So it's possible. Hear that? Microsoft? Dell? Both? Anyone?

Physical sizeA bit bigger, but nothing as a big plus or minus.The XPS is a bit smaller in size - mainly in width. But it has a good format.

WeightAround 2010gThe XPS feels quite a bit more heavy. But it's around 2055g. From lifting it up I would have said it must be more.
Display

Not too bright. But very nice to look at. Glas. No touch.

Good scaling in MacOS.

After 7 years some sort of coating on the display is gone. Some sort of stain? It's not noticable when the screen is on, but clearly when off.

The screen has some good and ugly sides.

The color and brightness: fantastic.
Touch: I like it. I use it a lot for scrolling and closing windows. I think it's a handy feature. Hear that Apple? Probably not.
The automatic brightness changes in steps that I notice. Irritating. Had to turn it off (settings, not registry).

And one thing I don't understand: Windows on High-Res displays does not look so eye friendly like MacOS does. Can't tell what it is. It's all sharp and color accurate. But the font scaling still shows ugly dialogs and relative sizes that have not been fully "resolved".

The brightness can only be adjusted down to some limit, and not entirely turned off. I sometimes do that when I need the device to do something overnight. 

Build quality

Looks very good even after 7 years. The lid is a bit "tilted" from carrying it around. And dropping it once. Nothing serious. As good as new. Robust machine.

The lid closes with no gaps...

It is very good looking. There are "gaps". There is a rubber lid around the screen - as on the MacBook - to prevent dust entering when it's closed. But the lid does not close good enough. There is a gap. The MacBook does not have that.

Some small things I noted as well - and one better does not "note such things":

  • There are two little holes on top of the lid. I thought I broke something already. Maybe microphones? Was just irritated.
  • there is a white light in front that indicates charging. It is not fully illuminated.

    Update: I was able to fix this myself. Found a hint where maybe only a wire was blocking the led - which it was. See this Dell Support Topic.
  • The lid opens with one hand and has a perfect resistance. My MacBook requires two hands.
SpeakerNo complains.The Dell speakers sound better than the 7 year old MacBook speakers. The headphone output just produced static noise until the drivers (700MB) where re-installed.
Keyboard

got used to it. hard to tell (smile)

The arrow keys on the MacBook are somehow better to use. Less shift button hitting.

Feels better than the 7 year old MacBook. Has a fingerprint reader.

Also the Power On button could be a bit away from the other buttons.

There is no FN+Disable Microphone Shortcut? But neither has the Mac.

"Instant on"Open the lid to login: just a slight delay - sometimes the keyboard is not quite ready when the screen is. MacOS: just nice.Windows: differs. When not asleep it's very close. After some time its maybe 10 seconds. Not as good. Acceptable. Hope this may gets a bit better with time. No expectations, just hope.
Noise

mostly quiet. When doing something heavy for a while: well there are no miracles. But YouTube and Chrome: no fans kick in. But the MacBook is certainly on the warmer side. I will not say it's an issue, just if I could choose I would rather not have that warm fingers.

The air intakes are on the side. Thats perfect for my couch position.

The XPS is a bit more noisy that the MacBook. There are battery profiles to configure it to your preferences. A "migrate from mac" profile might be good... because... why again do I configure something I never did on MacOS?

But it is also a rather quiet machine. Not that quiet - it also has 64GB of RAM compared to the 16GB on my MacBook. And comes with double the CPU Cores/Threads and double the storage.

The air intakes are on the side and on the bottom. That feels not so perfect for my couch position (not sure if an issue).

Yet: when using Google Chrome the fans tend to kick in where on the MacBook I don't have that.

Battery Lifestill impressive. And after my battery-swap: even more so. I use caffeine to have the MacBook just "on". When left alone with only the screen running, it runs for hours and hours.

Battery-Life felt bad at the beginning. But it holds up quite nicely. Did not measure anything as I don't know how to compare both. But I have no complains.

At least the charging technology improved in the last few years. Also the charger that Dell includes is compact in size and nice. Not a random ugly one.

Running Linuxtried it. You can't run both internal and dedicated GPU. Well you can with some messing around. But: no, not going there. This is embarrassing. The notebook runs very hot and has a very bad battery life. You're obviously not supposed to do this. It's not your device alone.Linux and battery life. Open topic. But I meet more and more people doing this.
Ports
  • MacSafe
  • USB-A
  • HDMI

  • obviously no USB-C
  • no USB-A (for all the Logitech presenter, USB tokens and other devices I have)
  • no HDMI output
  • USB-C - nice for charging and docking stations. But very picky with the chargers.

a dongle for both USB-A and HDMI is included


Status

Currently: back on my late 2013 MacBook. Congrats Dell. Well done.

Given the issues I found within hours or days, and given a replacement machine had the same issues, I feel the reviews I saw on YouTube where all a bit "lazy"?


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