After a ton of research and having damaged my ThinkPad in several unfortunate ways (it served me a good 3.5+ years) I have finally bought myself a new laptop. I have here the XPS 15 9570, with 3 Year Onsite Warranty for good measure. TBH my expectations were lowered given my research - good thing too…

Purchased from Dell eBay Store with a 20% Off code, which comes around quite frequently.

General impressions

The lid and base are physically constructed well and are very solid! I can chuck this into my backpack and not worry that too much pressure will damage the screen. Unlike my old ThinkPad (e.g. see https://forum.thinkpads.com/viewtopic.php?p=828964#p828964).

The CPU upgrade is MASSIVE. 6-cores is way faster than the 2-core CPU that I had been living on for the past 4 years.

Weight is good. Lighter than my rMBP 2015 from work.

Servicability is good. It was quite easy to open up to upgrade the RAM and repaste. The base lid screws are poor quaility (think: ‘soft metal’ screws), so take care when using the screw driver. I’m considering buying some replacement screws from the XPS 15 9560 which also fit.

Display

Mine had 3 dead pixels right out of the box, and major ghosting on the right side. A really bad first impression! Reflects upon poor QA processes.

[Also, over the phone Dell tech support said to contact Dell eBay support, who replied back and told me to phone Dell tech support… once again showing how much in isolation each department operates within Dell.]

No problems once Dell replaced the FHD display assembly with a new one. Display is now good - clear (no grainy coating but still anti-glare), bright (400 nits), and sharp.

To turn off Intel adaptive contrast, head to [HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\ControlSet001\Control\Class\{4d36e968-e325-11ce-bfc1-08002be10318}\0000]

Replace the dword value for FeatureTestControl:

Original value New value
9240 9250
c200 cff0
8200 8210

Keyboard

Coming from a ThinkPad, the keyboard travel is not as pleasant on the XPS 15. If you’re a Macbook person you’d be okay. Because I don’t appreciate the Macbook keyboard either. I just find it not a ‘clicky’ as the current generation Latitude keyboards either. But hey, it’s still an okay keyboard which does work. Update: After a few months, I’ve gotten used to the keyboard for the most part.

No dedicated Page Up and Page Down keys - I find them quite handy - but the touchpad makes up for this.

I wouldn’t want to type on this keyboard for long periods at my desk - I have a pretty nice wireless keyboard! (Microsoft sculpt keyboard, bought for my day job).

No defects or key skipping issues on mine, yay. This had been one of my negatives during pre-purchase research.

Trackpad

No complaints! Great.

Sleep mode

The battery drains during sleep mode as the laptop does not use S3 mode but C0. The drain is noticable but acceptable. Sometimes the fan runs/spins up and then down during sleep mode - I can even hear it when I am trying to sleep! And there was one morning when the laptop went really loud in sleep mode and WOKE ME UP FROM MY SLEEP!

This ‘fake’ sleep mode does cause the laptop to sometimes heat up in a e.g. backpack during sleep mode!!!

Setting CsEnabled to 0 in the registry causes intermittent display flickering after waking, so I’ve just left it to the defaults and living with the slight drain.

Fix: Best mitigation is to set Windows to hibernate after a timeout: https://code.luasoftware.com/tutorials/windows/win10-problematic-modern-standby/

This issue is common to all laptops wich support C0 sleep mode, e.g. Microsoft Surface products.

Undervolting

Mine is stable at -155.3mV. I had one rare BSOD at -160mV though it could have been unrelated.

Repasted ofc, and chucked a thermal pad somewhere near the VRMs for fun.

Noise

My unit has hardly any coil whine. Or my hearing is getting worse.

No crazy fan noise problems. Noise sounds fine to me whilst ramping up speed, and also fine at both low and high speeds. Nothing unusual or particularly irritating. 100% better than the fan noise from the ThinkPad T430 days, that’s for sure!

Quirk: When a USB-C dock (Dell DA300) is connected, the laptop’s fan always run, but the noise level is at minimum and thus acceptable to me. I also find that the laptop is noisier with the lid closed during ‘sleep’, if the USB-C dock is connected. (?)

SSD causes BSODs [Update: Non-issue as this fixed itself]

I bought the SATA cable for the XPS 15 because mine didn’t come with one, thinking that I’ll just chuck in my trusty 850 EVO 500GB 2.5” SSD.

Turns out that the XPS did not ‘like’ the SSD I put in. Symptoms were system-wide stuttering (system freezes of ~2 seconds) and a Driver_Power_State_Failure BSOD!

See comments in https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=564N84rN6iU

Removing the SSD immediately fixed the stuttering and BSOD occurances. I was really looking forward to making use of the extra storage and empty space since my configuration only has the smaller 56Whr battery :/

(This particular issue is not well documented. Perhaps I should make some noise about this as its firmware/hardware.)

Update - this fixed itself: https://www.dell.com/community/XPS/XPS-15-9570-DRIVER-POWER-STATE-FAILURE-BSOD/td-p/7244172

Everyone says the Wi-Fi chip needs replacing. They were right.

Killer networks… more like Killer notworks :>

I initially had troubles with the Killer Wi-Fi chip. When the chip stops working, not even pinging e.g. http://192.168.1.1 will work. Reconnecting to the Wi-Fi network immediately fixes this. This sometimes happened twice within an hour.

Fix: Buy a replacement Intel 9260 which costs $15.

Update: I create a ticket in SupportAssist but they NEVER replied. Fortunately dropouts have stopped happening - maybe because I upgraded my home to UniFi APs?

Update: On the phone, I tried to ask for the Intel chip as a replacement. Tech support effectively said “Nah, go bother the Dell Spare Parts team”. Haha good joke I won’t be wasting my time with that department again. I also talked to 5 different Dell support agents until someone gave me the correct contact details for Spare Parts:

        Dell Spare Parts (ANZ)

        Consumer : partssales_anzdell@dell.com

        ANZ_Consumer_TTS@dell.com (1800 505 180)

Everyone complains about audio crackling. It is real.

May 2019 update: Dell released BIOS 1.10.1 to improve the high DPC latency issues. Hallelujah!

As you can see below, the lag spikes are much more rare - but still present, as is to be expected for any Windows system TBH. Further optimisation on the Windows/software/driver side of things is required for serious realtime audio work e.g. http://www.fidelizer-audio.com/, disabling networking services, swapping to Intel 9260 (??)

Considering the BIOS release dates (30 Apr 2019 for 1.10.1, and 4 May 2018 for 1.0.0), it has taken Dell just shy of an entire year to acknowledge, R&D, test and then ship a firmware fix.

I suppose this fact justifies the pricing of Apple Mac products and their flawless audio production capabilities… this DPC fix took Dell engineers quite some months! That’s quite some month’s wages… you know what I mean?

What options you have for the audio driver:

  • Use current, latest Realtek(R) Audio driver. Download from Dell.

    • This package bundles MaxxAudioPro, which is a software effect which makes the internal speakers sound good (improves bass) but at times also distorted. It comes with a GUI to tune and toggle the effects.

    • If you want to disable MaxxAudioPro APO, I recommend using the FX Configurator program from the APO Driver (google it) package for the job. I still think that disabling the APO will help reduce the occaisonal audio stutter with Spotify/YouTube - even with the 1.10.1 fix. Simply disabling the effect from the GUI does not completely disable the APO from processing.

    • Also disable the Waves Audio Effects Component in Device Manager > Software Components. Whatever that actually does..

  • Use Realtek High Definition Audio drivers from 2017. Much less stutter lag spikes, but problems with mics and headphone jack detection. Instructions here.

  • Modded drivers for XPS, known as KSMRD and is available at this GitHub repo. This is quite positively reviewed. However if you read Issue #9 there are some shortcomings and doubts as to its effectiveness of completely disabling MaxxAudioPro. Worth a shot anyhow.

Related links

Dell Mobile Connect

Run the below to get it to install from the Microsoft Store:

REG ADD "HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Store" /v OEMID /f /t REG_SZ /d DELL

and

REG ADD "HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Store" /v StoreContentModifier /f /t REG_SZ /d "DELL_XPS"

If the mobile connect driver shows a ‘load error’ message, it may just magically start working after a few days :S

Battery life

With a 6-core 45W CPU, this is certainly no ultrabook and it shows when it comes to battery life.

i7/16GB/256GB/FHD/56Whr runtime is 4:48 for me.

Conclusion

It’s a powerful laptop with some shortcomings and major/minor nigling issues, depending on how you see things. Owners can only hope that the firmware engineers at Dell solve the remaining issues such as proper S3 sleep mode.

Other than the issues above I’m happy with the unit overall. It should be a handy laptop to get things/life admin/coding done and some light graphics work (cough PP6) and actually be able to play some video games for once in my life.

Would I recommend this laptop to you? Only if you actually read and understood this blog post and NEED/BENEFIT from a 45W CPU and dGPU.

The audio and sleep issues with this laptop is a bit backwards and silly considering that it is a 2018 product. My Dell Latitude E6320 from 2011 does both of these things without issue!!!

My next option was to get the ThinkPad X1 Extreme, however that was considerably more pricey (to me). Well, perhaps not as much as a brand-new Macbook Pro. And probably has its own issues too.

Don’t they all?