It was roughly a year ago that we had a chance to review Dell’s XPS 13, which was the first laptop from Dell to feature the Infinity Edge display. In addition to making the laptop look as much like a bezel-less display as possible, it also let Dell squeeze a 13-inch laptop into a much smaller chassis. The XPS 13 is still, to this day, unparalleled in the PC space in this context. So the obvious question at the time was when or if Dell was going to do the same to the rest of the XPS lineup? That question was answered in October  2015,  when Dell launched the updated XPS 15 with Skylake and Infinity Edge. Just like the XPS 13 before it, the laptop was bezel-less and the larger 15.6-inch model fits into a laptop chassis that would normally house a 14-inch display. Smaller, lighter, and with the same styling as the XPS 13, Dell has the potential to set the bar higher in the larger laptop segment as well.

With the updated chassis also came an update in the internals. Dell moved to Skylake for the 9550 model, with Core i3, i5, and i7 models based on Intel’s H Series chips. The Core i3-6100H is a dual-core 35-Watt CPU, and the Core i5 and i7 are both quad-core 45-Watt processors. The base RAM option is 8 GB of DDR4, and you can order up to 16 GB from Dell, although this laptop does have SODIMM slots so you can add up to 32 GB if needed. Graphics on the Core i3 model is just the base integrated solution, but all other models come with a 2 GB GeForce GTX 960M graphics card, which has 640 CUDA cores, 1096 MHz frequency plus boost, and a 128-bit GDDR5 memory subsystem.

Dell offers two display choices. The standard model is a 1920x1080 15.6-inch model, or you can opt for the $350 upgrade to a 3840x2106 touch display which has a backlight which can cover the Adobe RGB color space.

Dell XPS 15 9550 Configurations
  Core i3 Core i5 Core i7
(Model Tested)
GPU Intel HD 530 Intel HD 530 +
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M w/2GB GDDR5
CPU Intel Core i3-6100H (35w)
Dual-Core w/HyperThreading 2.7 GHz
Intel Core i5-6300HQ (45w)
Quad-Core 2.3-3.2 GHz
Intel Core i7-6700HQ (45w)
Quad-Core w/HyperThreading 2.6-3.5 GHz
Memory 8-16GB DDR4-2133 RAM
Two SODIMM slots, 32GB Max
Display 15.6" IPS 1920x1080 sRGB 15.6" IPS 1920x1080 sRGB
Optional 3840x2160 IGZO IPS w/Adobe RGB color space and touch
Storage 500GB 7200 RPM Hybrid w/32GB NAND 1TB 5400 RPM Hybrid w/32GB NAND 256/512/1024 GB PCIe NVMe SSD (PM951)
I/O USB 3.0 x 2 w/Powershare
SD Card reader
1 x USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C w/Thunderbolt 3
Headset Jack
HDMI
Dimensions (mm) : 357 x 235 x 11-17
(inches) : 14.06 x 9.27 x 0.45-0.66
Weight With 56 Wh Battery
1.78 kg / 3.9 lbs
With 84 Wh Battery
2 kg / 4.4 lbs
Battery 56 Wh 56/84 Wh
Price $999+ $1199+ $1499+

Dell offers a 500 GB hybrid hard drive as the base offering, and a 1 TB hybrid upgrade, or you can get rid of the spinning disk altogether and choose PCIe based solid state drives, with 256 and 512 GB options. If you elect for an SSD, you also have the option of getting an 84 Wh battery instead of the standard 56 Wh version. The 84 Wh battery takes up the space where the 2.5-inch hard drive would have been, which is a smart idea.

Wireless options are interesting as well. The base model comes with a 2x2 802.11ac wireless card, but the upgraded models feature a 3x3 802.11ac offering, which is rare indeed on a Windows PC. This gives a maximum connection rate of 1.3 Gbps, assuming you have a router that can support 3x3 connections. This should, in theory, give a lot better throughput than the more common 2x2 implementations we see on most notebooks, but this is certainly something we’ll test later on.

We also see Dell continue to support Thunderbolt 3 ports, which is coupled with a USB Type-C connector. This port provides 40 Gbps of bandwidth when in Thunderbolt mode and can be used for various peripherals including Dell’s own Thunderbolt dock which gives a single cable docking solution. The dock adds Gigabit Ethernet, HDMI, two DisplayPort connections, VGA, three USB 3.0 connectors, two USB 2.0 connectors, headset, and even a speaker output. The laptop itself also has two more USB 3.0 ports, HDMI, and a SD card reader.

Overall this is a pretty compelling package. Dell is offering a 15.6-inch notebook which is about the same size as a 14-inch model, but at the same time they’ve found enough space to pack in plenty of performance, along with Thunderbolt 3 and one of the few 3x3 wireless implementation to date.

Design
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  • comomolo - Friday, March 4, 2016 - link

    I agree with you. It takes little time to make things right. Especially wrong is the picture comparing the size of the XPS 15 to a "regular" 15 incher. They haven't even taken care of a proper shooting point so the comparison is useless. Reply
  • Kristian Vättö - Friday, March 4, 2016 - link

    Comparing AnandTech to The Verge is not really fair. The Verge has millions of VC funds behind it, which is why they can have professional photographers and editors taking care of the visual side. They can also have a dedicated office, making it easy to pass devices to photographers and others.

    AT editors are practically freelancers as everyone works from their home. That means no fancy photo studio with +$10k of gear. Everyone takes their own photos and frankly the quality depends a lot on the equipment one has at hand and how experienced one is. I can speak from experience because I had major struggles with photos during my time at AT. Here's a few examples of the worst and best shots I took:

    http://www.anandtech.com/show/7947/micron-m500-dc-...
    http://www.anandtech.com/show/7594/samsung-ssd-840...
    http://www.anandtech.com/show/9023/the-samsung-ssd...
    http://www.anandtech.com/show/8979/samsung-sm951-5...

    If you aren't really interested in photography, I can tell you that taking photos is not easy. It's not something you learn overnight. Frankly, taking photos of electronics is even harder because a ton of light is needed, and without proper professional lighting you'll get all sorts of reflections and tints (most house lights are not pure white in my experience, there's a yellow tint to make it "warmer").

    All in all, I'm not saying that the photos can't be improve and I'm sure Brett will appreciate any and all tips. I just wanted to explain how AT operates as it's majorly different from The Verge for instance.
    Reply
  • nathanddrews - Friday, March 4, 2016 - link

    No disrespect to The Verge (and no attempt to brown nose AT), but their reviews are nowhere near the level of AT. It's such a massive divide as to be comical.

    If we're going to get picky about photography skills and not discuss the actual product, many of those linked Verge photos appear to be out of focus and the lightboxes used aren't exactly top of the line, so between the two reviews, I would say AT wins hands down.

    To each his own, then?
    Reply
  • pikatung - Friday, March 4, 2016 - link

    Probably the best photography I've seen on a tech review site, done on a budget, is from TechReport. They even made a (couple) of blog posts detailing how they do it:

    http://techreport.com/blog/16645/let-there-be-ligh...
    http://techreport.com/blog/22825/how-tr-gets-some-...

    (Loyal Reader of AnandTech and TechReport for years)
    Reply
  • pikatung - Friday, March 4, 2016 - link

    And just to show how good shots can be done on a budget:
    http://techreport.com/blog/15857/who-needs-a-prope...

    And I apologize, I don't mean to be whiny. I really do appreciate the in-depth reviews that you all do. Just hopefully some of these links will be helpful and encouraging.
    Reply
  • Brett Howse - Monday, March 7, 2016 - link

    Always appreciate tips and feedback. Thanks a lot! I'll check this out. Reply
  • Refuge - Friday, March 4, 2016 - link

    I don't come here for the photos, I come here for the raw, cold, hard data.

    If I want glam shots before I put it in my office, then i'll google around. If I want an in depth, and educational review, I come to Anand.
    Reply
  • Solandri - Friday, March 4, 2016 - link

    And hopefully that raw, cold, hard data has been transcribed correctly? The photos aren't merely glamour shots. They can give you detailed information about layouts, colors, fonts, etc. A lot of times it's easier to just look at the pictures to see what ports a laptop has, rather than read a list of ports and *hope* they got it right. Other qualities like keyboard layout, trackpad size position relative to keyboard, size of Fn and arrow keys, etc. are much better conveyed via (undistorted) photos rather than a written description.

    Yeah you can waste time searching for pictures elsewhere. That doesn't mean the site can't be improved by including decent pictures here. (And the problems I see aren't only distortion. Several of the photos are just plain blurry. If you can afford a $800 camera, you can afford a $100 tripod.)
    Reply
  • Zap - Friday, March 4, 2016 - link

    One possible workaround for objects closer to 2D such as those SSDs are to just put them on a flatbed scanner. No distortion and super clear images. Reply
  • euskalzabe - Friday, March 4, 2016 - link

    Here's a couple dead easy tips that improve electronics photography: 1) click the distortion correction checkbox on Photoshop or activate it in-camera. 2) Use bounce flash: if they can't spend lots of money on a decent flash, just use the regular one from camera, take business card, wrap it in tinfoil and place it in front of the flash at 45 degrees. That will bounce the forward light up at 90 degrees, effectively giving you a DIY bounce flash (there's tons of tutorials online).

    No need for professional photographers or tons of money. Just attention to detail and being a bit handy with DIY techniques. It's really not hard/costly, at all. I still appreciate the great analysis in AT... but I hold them to a higher standard, which shouldn't be regarded as a bad thing. I want them to be better at everything and succeed further in the future.
    Reply

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