Dell XPS15 9570 and Screen Calibration

February 14, 2019

If you are thinking of purchasing the Dell XPS15 with the 4k display, and intend to use it for photography, I urge you to take that $1,000 you saved by buying the Dell instead of the Apple MacBook Pro and buy the X-Rite i1 Display Pro.

I purchased a Dell XPS15 9570 some months ago now, primarily because I wanted a laptop that could, if required, replace my desktop in terms of performance. I chose the Dell XPS15 because it had the newly released Intel Core i9 CPU with 6 cores, 32GB RAM, 1TB of SSD Storage and an NVIDIA GTX 1050 Ti Graphics Card that would help with 4K video editing. The final deciding feature was the 15 inch 4K display. In short, it is a total powerhouse for the road.

Having loaded all of my apps and testing things such as 4K video editing, I was absolutely happy with the XPS15’s performance, and that 4K display was simply gorgeous. Some months later in January 2019, I go on my annual family holiday to Tasmania and I took my Dell with me so that I could offload images from my SD cards and check my images at the end of each day.

The first day, I happened to use a new Polarising filter that I bought prior to the holiday, and was somewhat horrified when I looked at my images in Capture One. Greens and blues were so over saturated and of course the effects of the polarising filter on skies was not great as it looked like the sky was a dark blue to light blue vignette. I figured OK, big mistake never use it again.

The next day I shot without it for most of the day and could not wait to see the results that evening. It was at this point my elation turned to concern. Even the images without the polarising filter were so over saturated to the point where I felt I needed to reduce saturation in Capture One, but having never needed to do that on my desktop, I knew something was wrong.

Fast forward a month, I start to compare the Dell XPS15’s screen to the HP Z27s display on my desktop setup and they were worlds apart. I always thought the colour on the HP display was excellent, colours looked natural and realistic. The Dell in comparison was significantly brighter, and so much more saturated. After much searching online to see if it could be rectified, it became increasingly clear that many people switched to the Dell XPS15 from MacBooks and did so primarily for the 4K screen. Many of them however, like me, were disappointed with the colour for photo use. Some, recommended the use of screen calibration systems from the likes of Datacolor and X-rite.


x-rite i1 Display

To cut a long story short, I bit the bullet and bought the X-rite i1 Display Pro system for $350. My goal was to get both screens properly calibrated for the sRGB colour Gamut, and ultimately to look the same.

I cannot simplify the process any more than it actually is, which was to install the included software, plug the colorimeter into a spare USB port, and run the wizard. The entire process takes about 5 minutes. I did this on the HP display first to see how different the results would be to what I had been running and to my surprise, there was more shift than I had expected, but not huge. The result looked excellent.

Next came the Dell XPS15, I crossed my fingers and ran the wizard. A few minutes later, the Dell screen looked truly, truly stunning. When I put it side by side with the HP display, I was amazed at how close the two screens looked. The very very small difference I ‘think’ I could see, I put down to the HP screen being a matte surface compared to the Dell screen being gloss.

I should point out I calibrated both screens to the same sRGB gamut target in the hope of similar results, but I think the fact that the X-rite system managed to make both screens look all but identical, speaks volumes on the abilities of the system. Plus, even though I have a background in colour calibration through my years working for a high-end pre-press graphics vendor in Asia, you do not really need that knowledge to achieve the results I obtained.

To wrap this up, if you own or are thinking of purchasing the Dell XPS15 with the 4K display, and intend to use it for photography, I urge you to take that $1,000 you saved by buying the Dell XPS15 instead of the Apple MacBook Pro and buy the X-rite i1 Display Pro. By doing so, you will have what I think is the very best laptop on the market for photographers.

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