Update on New Windows 10 Laptop Choices: Dell XPS 15

Jan 4, 2016

Almost one month ago I posted an article about my touch-and-go experiences with Windows 10 laptops—specifically about laptops using the brand-new Intel Skylake chip architecture. In that article I’d stated that my favorite laptop of the four was the Dell XPS 15, but I had to return it because it was having a blue screen crash several times a day. And I had returned two Surface Books because they were crashing consistently when going into or out of sleep. The only new Windows 10 Skylake laptop that didn’t crash regularly was the Lenovo Yoga 900, and so it became my laptop of choice for a while.

So here’s some good news. I seem to have fixed the Dell XPS 15. Thanks to the incredibly generous return period that Best Buy offered over the holidays, I had time to try different repair approaches before actually returning it. I traced the crash down to a driver issue that got introduced during one of the automatic Windows updates. I updated the driver, and all is well now in the Dell XPS 15. 

Drives an External 4K Monitor Better

This is good news because the Dell XPS 15 does a much better job driving the external 4K monitor I got for Christmas whereas the Yoga 900 was struggling when driving that monitor. With the Yoga, my typing and mouse actions would pause for a few seconds on the screen every time a big 4K background picture changed (I have a gorgeous background slideshow set up). And there were other pauses showing up here and there that were becoming a nuisance. These pauses may be because the Yoga 900 does not have a separate discreet GPU. Or perhaps because it only has 8 GB of RAM and the Dell has 16 GB. Whatever the reason, the XPS 15 does a much better driving a 4K monitor.

Also, the strange streaming video lags I reported earlier on the Dell XPS 15 went away when I swapped in the new monitor. The WiFi dropping has also stopped for some reason. And finally, Dell solved the “Display driver stopped responding and has recovered” issue that is so common to these new laptops; the Yoga still has that going on. So for now, the Dell XPS 15 is my Windows 10 Skylake laptop of choice (I thought you might want to know). Read that linked article above for more information about the Dell XPS 15, and why I liked it so much.

But this remains a rapidly changing environment as lots of Windows 10 and manufacturer updates continue to roll out, and the “best” laptop to get changes from week to week. For example, I still like the Yoga 900 because it is a ton lighter than the Dell. So picking the best laptop is still a tough call.

Michael

6 thoughts on “Update on New Windows 10 Laptop Choices: Dell XPS 15

  1. Michael Einstein

    Michael,
    Greatly appreciate all the recent posts on your trials and tribulations with various Win 10 devices.
    I’m looking for a portable but functional Windows Device as well.. something I can use as a tablet, or as a laptop alternative. I have a laptop I use for work, so I don’t need another laptop. Looking for something I can use around the house, in bed while watching a show, or grabbing for quick use when on the go.
    I was looking at the Microsoft Surface Prof 4′s pretty seriously.. seem to function well as either a tablet, or had a “usable” keyboard, and seems to have pretty good performance. But I am trying to stick with a fanless model with a solid state drive. Since I want quiet and fast and sturdy. The Dell XPS 15 is a bit too big for my needs, but one option I found that looks pretty good is the Dell Venue 11 Pro 7140. Comes with Windows 10, runs on an Intel M5Y71, 8 Gig of Ram and a 128 GB SSD drive. Price is WAY down, and now costs only about $730 on the Dell site.. If I add a keyboard, it comes out to a out $800. I haven’t tested it out yet for performance, but looks like a possible option. You ever get your hands on one of these?
    Regards,
    Michael

    Reply
    1. Michael Linenberger Post author

      I have not tried that tablet, but it gets great reviews so you’ll probably be happy. But for about the same price you can get a Surface 3 (non-pro), and it has a number of advantages:
      –has the newer Atom processor which runs about the same speed as the Core M, but gets much better battery life.
      –also due to that processor, the Surface 3 is almost a half-pound lighter
      –the Surface 3 type cover keyboard is awesome for casual use
      –the Surface 3 digitizer is better (if you use a pen)
      But, you’ll only get 4GB of RAM on the Surface 3. The Dell comes with 8 GB RAM, and probably has a better typing experience, something to consider.
      I have a long post on the Surface 3 from September, you might want to read that. The Dell is probably a better laptop, but the Surface 3 has better tablet use. If you get the Venue 11, let me know how you like it!
      Michael

      Reply
  2. Jubilee

    Dear Michael, thank you for the post.
    I have been having a similar issue with my XPS 15. Initially, the screen flickered out of the box, and I worked with dell tehcs to fix the issue, to no avail. I finally shipped it back to their service center. The system came back worse; still flickers, and now blanks out on me so that I have to do a forced restart. This crash happens multiple times in a day. Now, dell wants me to ship it back to them, but I thinkI am done with them. I figured they must have done an update that created the new problem. I probably should have lived with the flicker at low brightness, now that I know that a lot of users of XPS 15 experience the same.

    Would you be willing to share what driver update you made to solve the incessant crash.

    Reply
  3. Michael Linenberger Post author

    Jubilee, I don’t recall which update solved it. I accepted all the Windows updates. And I activated automatic Dell updates, which have included two BIOS updates. Type “Dell Update” into the Windows 10 App search bar, and run it. You’ll see the icon appear in your system tray (a down arrow with a gear next to it). Right click that icon, and choose Check for Updates. After that, set it up to run automatically if it’s not doing that already (called Enable Auto-check). Michael

    Reply
    1. Michael Linenberger Post author

      Jubilee, I now recall neither of those 2 things are what fixed it, it was an actual driver update. I think it was the Realtek High Definition Audio driver (I know that seems bizarre, and I remember it was really strange that is worked). I found it as being the solution in some forum somewhere. Michael

      Reply

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