New Laptop Time - Dell XPS 15 vs Microsoft Surface Book

Time for me to scratch my hardware itch again ... 

Moving from a Thinkpad X1 Carbon, really fantastic machine, but just want a better screen and a little more horsepower. 

I've now bought:
XPS 15, i7, 16gb, 512gb
Surface Book, i7, 16gb, 512gb

The Microsoft store in NYC has units of both in stock, even for the high end configurations. I had an XPS 15 on order, scheduled for a December delivery but when I went to the MS store to check out the book in real life, they had the XPS 15 available so I pulled the trigger on one as well. I asked and it's a 30 days, no restocking fee return policy which is great!

Observations so far:

I still prefer the Thinkpad keyboard over the two machines. The SB has a slightly stiffer keyboard, feels like a Macbook Pro keyboard. The XPS is not bad, but a little bit mushy, especially in the space bar. 

The screens on both machines are really spectacular. One of the reasons I wanted the XPS 15 is because I've always dreamed of having a 15" screen in a lightweight machine. That been said, the SB's squarer format is quite refreshing. With the screens open, the SB actually has the same vertical height as the XPS because of the format, I wonder if this will cause issues with reclining seatbacks when using the laptop on a plane. 

The weight of both machines are a little surprising, but then again, I'm used to my X1 Carbon's 3lb weight. The SB feels a touch heavier and the XPS noticeably more at 4.5lb. It may be the deal breaker for me on the XPS but I'll give it a few more days. 

The hinge on the SB is super interesting and a lot sturdier than I expected. I heard some reports that the screen wobbles a bit if you're typing. I assumed it would be attributable to the top heavy nature of a 2-in-1 design. In reality, no such issues. 

I thought using the SB as a tablet would be a total gimmick and waste of time. However, I have actually used it a few times in that format when I just want to sit around and read or watch something. It is not that heavy, 1.6lb which is almost the same as the original iPad. Quite amazing given the screen is nearly 3" bigger!

FIt and finish on the XPS is good but on the Surface, it's really something else. Easily equivalent to a Macbook, which remains the standard by which construction should be judged, and a much more complex design as well. 

On the SB, still haven't tested the stylus properly yet. 

As for issues:

I did experience a freeze on the SB earlier today. Not a crash or a blue screen but a complete hardware lockup, which was a little worrying. Some searching online showed that some units may be defective which causes this issue. I'm intending to use the machine all day to see if the issue crops up again. 

The XPS 15's wireless card doesn't seem to wake from sleep properly. I did manage to fix it without a restart by disabling and enabling the device in system manager. There's probably a driver fix I can apply to make it all better. 

Update 2015-11-18 12PM

Trying to stress test the SB, been using it all morning. No more freezes, seems like that one from earlier was just an anomaly. However, a few disconcerting errors.

1. Hooked up an external HD to go through some files and play some videos. Video played for about 10 minutes before crapping out and almost taking the computer with it. It acts as if the IO requests to the hard drive are being delayed or not reaching at all. I have two theories:

  • 1. It's an insufficient power thing, maybe something is wrong with the USB ports? I tried both ports, problem persists with both.
  • 2. Is it a heat thing? I noticed as I was trying to play the video, the system was cranking hard, fans fully on and the back of the machine gets extremely hot.

2. Ejecting the screen and putting it back in crashes the machine fairly consistently. 

Update 2015-11-18 3PM

Ahhh ... so disappointing. Just had another freeze. Going to try and swap the machine out. Really loving my X1 Carbon now, haha!

Update 2015-11-18 6PM

Called up Microsoft, organized a return, return was super painless. Nice!