The Dell XPS 13 and 15 Notebook Review: Raising the Bar
Introduction and Specifications
Dell's premium XPS notebook family includes both 15 inch and 13 inch variants, and ship with the latest 6th-generation Intel Skylake processors and all of the latest hardware. But the screens are what will grab your immediate attention; bright, rich, and with the narrowest bezels on any notebook courtesy of Dell's InfinityEdge displays.
Since Ryan’s review of the XPS 13, which is now his daily driver, Dell has added the XPS 15, which is the smallest 15-inch notebook design you will find anywhere. The XPS 13 is already "the smallest 13-inch laptop on the planet", according to Dell, giving their XPS series a significant advantage in the ultrabook market. The secret is in the bezel, or lack thereof, which allows Dell to squeeze these notebooks into much smaller physical dimensions than you might expect given their display sizes.
But you get more than just a compact size with these XPS notebooks, as the overall quality of the machines rivals that of anything else you will find; and may just be the best Windows notebooks you can buy right now. Is this simply bluster? Notebooks, like smartphones, are a personal thing. They need to conform to the user to provide a great experience, and there are obviously many different kinds of users to satisfy. Ultimately, however, Dell has produced what could easily be described as class leaders with these machines.
If you search around for the XPS 13 or 15, you'll find numerous configurations for these model names. The XPS 13 Ryan reviewed last year is actually the XPS 13 9343, and the new version in this review is the XPS 13 9350 (our XPS 15 is the 9550).
|Dell XPS 13 (9350)||Dell XPS 15 (9550)|
|Processor||Intel Core i5-6200U (Skylake)||Intel Core i7-6700HQ (Skylake)|
|Graphics||Intel HD Graphics 520||Intel HD Graphics 530
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M
|Memory||8GB LPDDR3-1866||16GB DDR4-2133|
|Screen||13.3-in QHD+ 3200x1800 InfinityEdge||15-in 4K UHD 3840x2160 InfinityEdge Touch|
|Storage||256GB Samsung PM951||512GB Samsung PM951|
|Camera||720p widescreen with dual-array digital mic||720p widescreen with dual-array digital mic|
|Audio||2 Watt Stereo Speakers||2 Watt Stereo Speakers|
|Wireless||802.11ac + BT 4.1 (Dual Band, 2x2)||802.11ac + BT 4.1 (Dual Band, 3x3)|
|Connection||2x USB 3.0
SDXC Card Reader
3.5 mm Headphone Jack
Noble Lock Slot
|2x USB 3.0
SDXC Card Reader
3.5 mm Headphone Jack
Kensington Lock Slot
|Battery||56 WHr||84 WHr|
|Dimensions||304 x 200 x 9-15 mm
(11.98 x 7.88 x 0.33-0.60 inches)
2.9 lbs. (1.29 kg)
|357 x 235 x 11-17 mm
(14.06 x 9.27 x 0.45-0.66 inches)
4.4 lbs. (2.0 kg)
|OS||Windows 10||Windows 10|
|Price||$1249 - Amazon.com||$2099 - Amazon.com|
While our XPS 13 is listed at $1499 (though it sells for less), the base model of this new 13-inch version starts at just $799. That entry-level version offers an Intel Core i3-6100U processor, 4GB of DDR3-1866 memory, a 128GB SSD, and the 1920x1080 InfinityEdge display. The XPS 15 starts at $999, though our review unit is the highest-end $2499 MSRP configuration (which also sells for less), with a Core i7-6700HQ, 16GB of DDR4-2133, 512GB SSD, and the 4K display option.
While on the subject of specifications, here's a look at the I/O of both models:
Along the left side both notebooks feature Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C connection), a USB 3.0 port, and 3.5 mm headset jack. The larger XPS 15 also includes a full-sized HDMI port, and the smaller XPS 13 has a battery indicator on this side.
Looking at the right side we see simply an SDXC card slot and another USB 3.0 port with both, and the XPS 15's battery indicator is on this side. Also notice the speaker on the XPS 13, which has its stereo speakers positioned along the sides of the lower chassis (the XPS 15's downward-firing speakers are on the bottom).
I can't help but compare these XPS notebooks to Apple's MacBook Pro lineup; premium notebook designs at the same price-points. The Dell machines start off at lower prices, but once similarly configured they sit dead even with MacBook Pro 13 and 15 at $1499 and $2499, respectively. Why does this matter? Dell has actually has a very compelling alternative for prospective MacBook Pro buyers here, with many of the same attributes and slightly better specs compared side-by-side.
Next we'll take a closer look at the design and build quality of these XPS notebooks, and spend some time on the keyboard and touchpad for each.