Notes from upgrading to a Dell XPS 9560 4k with Thunderbolt Dock TB16

I have been using the Dell XPS 15 9560 as my daily driver for nearly 6 months now. I have the most high-end configuration possible in terms of specifications, which are mentioned below :

  1. Windows 10 Pro
  2. 15.6-inch 4K UHD (3,840 x 2,160) resolution Infinity Edge display
  3. 2.8GHz Intel Core i7-7700HQ CPU
  4. Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 GPU (4GB)
  5. Intel HD Graphics 630
  6. 32GB of RAM
  7. 1TB PCIe SSD
  8. Bluetooth 4.1
  9. Killer Wireless 802.11ac
  10. Weight: 2.2 kg (4.6 pounds)
  11. Dimensions: 14 x 9.27 x 0.66-inches

Since this machine is going to be basically the only powerful computer I will have (no extra desktop), I also got a Dell Thunderbolt TB16 Dock to plug this machine into.

This puts a lot of power in a relatively compact package. As you might glean from the many reviews of the machine, the build quality is excellent. The keyboard has no flex, the screen has no wobble and the aluminium shell is very rigid. The carbon fibre on the inside has stood up well to the test of time. In short, I have no complains about the build quality of the machine. It is top-notch.

There are however, some design elements, software and UX issues that put a fly in the ointment of the Dell XPS-rience.

There are some finicky features and bugs that I have found.

  1. The Dell Premier Color utility is very good for configuring color profiles. Unfortunately, this overzealous program seeks to control not just screen color profile, but also the screen brightness. It will randomly change your screen brightness to whatever value you set in the “Color profile” as a percentage of whatever value you will set via the Windows controls. This problem is solved by simply preventing PremierColor from running on startup.
  2. The 4k screen is beautiful, but you will occasionally run into scaling issues. This problem is the subject of a finger-pointing game between Microsoft and third party developers. Microsoft has established guidelines as to how correct scaling is to be ensured on programs. Third-party developers have often ignored them. Customers suffer. There are a couple of tricks to fix scaling issues on Windows but they are too hacky for this post.
  3. Speaking of the 4K screen, the screen is so high quality that you will be hard pressed to find an external 4K monitor with similar color accuracy. This will alwaya result in weird color mismatches when you connect an external monitor.
  4. The camera positioning is horrible. No, I am not exaggerating, the camera angle is too awkward to use in any kind of professional environment. You will not be using the XPS 15 for any video conferencing with its in-built camera, if you have a sense of aesthetics more developed than a 5-year old.
  5. The keyboard backlight keeps turning off automatically after a minute. There is no mode to set it to ‘Always on’ as far as I can tell.
  6. The Thunderbolt dock works well in most cases, but it has some trouble with recognizing some older hard drives. My Intenso 2 TB external hard drive does not work on the dock for some reason, but works just fine if I directly plug it into the laptop.
  7.  The laptop thermals are not entirely balanced. The left side of the laptop tends to get a lot warmer than the right side. It isn’t searing heat by any means, but definitely noticeable.

All in all, these are pretty minor issues. The Dell XPS 15 9560 is a solid machine but there is definitely room for improvement. The software bugs should be easy to take care of, in any case. If you are willing to live with these gripes, the XPS 15 is definitely recommended. There certainly isn’t much out there that will offer so much power in such a portable package.