Review: Dell's XPS 15 7590 reaches for 8 cores of CPU power

When you jam that much hardware into a tiny laptop, there will be trade-offs.

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Of course, the XPS 15 7590 isn’t officially a gaming laptop. It’s mostly intended for content creators and those who need a decent GPU and an 8-core CPU in a 4.4-pound package. To see if clockspeeds would collapse similarly while running a GPU- and CPU-intensive application, we installed Adobe Premiere Creative Cloud and Adobe Media Encoder. We then took a 4K video project and had Media Encoder concurrently encode 15 duplicates of that project using the Mercury CUDA engine. Although it is a very heavy GPU load, Media Encoder also taps the CPU.

We ran that project three times, with each run taking about 15 minutes to complete. In the chart below, you can see that under the CUDA load, all was fine. The CPU’s temperature is in green, the GPU’s clock speed is in blue, and the GPU’s temperature is in orange. During 45 minutes of encoding 45 4K videos, we see no sagging of GPU clock under the load. 

xps 15 7590 adobe media encoder 15 simultaneous h.264 encode gpu IDG

Running a heavy CUDA workload on the GPU using Adobe Media Encoder, the GPU didn’t bend.

For the last run, we carved out the CPU’s performance (the first two looked nearly identical). Because it’s the third run, it’ll also be the worst performance for the CPU.

In the graphic below, the CPU clock speed is in blue, the wattage is in orange, and the CPU temperature is in green. For the most part, the CPU is running at 2.9GHz to 3GHz. We’re not seeing the performance of the CPU crash to 1.4GHz, like it did under a gaming load.

xps 15 7590 adobe media encoder 15 simultaneous h.264 encode third iteration only IDG

The CPU’s clockspeed is represented in blue and for the most part, appears fine for this class of laptop.

We also ran the same workload under HEVC/H.265, which shifts most of the work from the CPU cores and GPU to the CPU’s integrated graphics core. Adobe Media Encoder didn’t allow us to run HEVC encodes concurrently, so we ran 15 encodes in a row. Even if you batch the load to Media Encoder with it set to Mercury CUDA and Hardware, it appears to throw most of the work to the dedicated encode/decode Quick Sync engine in Intel’s integrated graphics chip. For the entire run, the CPU’s graphics engine ran at its rated 1.2GHz, while the GPU and CPU read a newspaper.

The end story is that while it’s theoretically possible to crash the CPU clock speeds in content creation, we didn’t see it under pretty heavy use cases.

Conclusion

The Dell XPS 15 7590 takes an interesting position among laptops. The top-end CPU and GPU options say "gaming," and we’ve seen these parts scream—when installed in a 10.5-pound gaming laptop (13.5 pounds with the power brick.) In this tiny little 4.2-pound Dell, though? No. But you’re also not dragging around several barbells' worth of weight every time you need to get work done in the field.

The XPS 15 7590's thin-and-light chassis and easier weight are clearly geared for corporate power users and creatives on the go. So while it’s a bit scary to see the clock speeds go off the cliff while gaming, the XPS 15 7590 aced the tests that more closely approximated actual use cases. 

So no, in case you were wondering, don't buy the XPS 15 7590 as a gaming laptop. But if you're shopping for a thin-and-light workhorse (with compromises) you'll like this price. Our unit with Core i9, 32GB of RAM, 1TB SSD and 4K OLED was selling for $2,649 at the time of our review. A similarly configured Macbook Pro 15 with the same CPU, as well as the same amount of storage and RAM, hits the wallet harder at $3,600.

So yes, believe or not, the XPS 15 7590 is a deal. But know what you're buying and what you're buying it for.

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At a Glance
  • Pros

    • Relatively thin and powerful
    • Beautiful 4K OLED panel
    • Actually reasonably priced vs. the competition

    Cons

    • Will rarely hit maximum Turbo Boost clocks
    • CPU tends to heavily downclock under gaming workloads
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