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.

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  • DanNeely - Friday, March 4, 2016 - link



    I think what you're seeing is partly that the RMBP was previously a good candidate for smallest 15.x" laptop and comparing against an outlier instead of the norm. (Not sure if it was the smallest; but it was close), and partly the difference in screen dimensions from the aspect ratio and dinging the dell's 16:9 for being wider while letting the RMBP off the hook for its 16x10 being taller. The LCD dimensions are 345.4mm × 194.3mm (dell) vs 331.7mm × 2073mm (RMBP). Dell's managed to trim 16mm of side bezel off vs Apple's offering.

    For direct comparison, here are the dimensions of Dells 14/15" Latitude laptops ('traditional' business class machines). It's not quite as narrow as conventional 14" laptops; but it's total area (LxW) is only 5% larger than the 14" model while being 13% smaller than the old 15.6.

    E6440 338x232x31.8
    E6540 379x250x33.4
    Reply
  • boskone - Friday, March 4, 2016 - link

    You can charge the XPS 13 via a suitable USB type C charger, like one for the Pixel 2. Any chance of verifying that with the 15? Reply
  • BillyONeal - Friday, March 4, 2016 - link

    I have one and can verify that it works well with the TB15 dock -- the dock's drivers are still flaky as hell though. Reply
  • DanNeely - Friday, March 4, 2016 - link

    Do you have all the latest drivers installed? Poking around on reddit suggests that manually downloading and installing the latest from Dell's site, (plus a USB3 hub driver from elsewhere?), fixed the bulk of the issues. The ASmedia driver that post recommends is slightly older than Dell's current driver; I don't know if it's more stable, or just that Dell had an even older one up at the time the post was made.

    https://www.reddit.com/r/Dell/comments/440olx/if_y...
    Reply
  • lazarpandar - Friday, March 4, 2016 - link

    My stupid questions are famous Reply
  • BillyONeal - Friday, March 4, 2016 - link

    Yes, installing that USB 3 driver made the dock not completely useless; but still seems flaky occasionally. Reply
  • willis936 - Friday, March 4, 2016 - link

    Would you guys consider adding csgo to the graphics testbench? The number of players has been steadily rising in the past few years and it is relatively demanding for a simple game. The hard part is the prospect of a moving target since they plan on moving from havok to source 2 this year and occasionally update resources such as player model reskins. I think it'd be a good metric at 1080p minimum settings nonetheless. Reply
  • Shadowmaster625 - Friday, March 4, 2016 - link

    The battery is clearly done charging at 107 minutes. Reply
  • Brett Howse - Monday, March 7, 2016 - link

    Many laptops charge to 99% much faster than the last 1%. That's why I always include the charge graph. But our test is from dead to 100%, not 99%. Reply
  • Daniel Egger - Friday, March 4, 2016 - link

    If that thing was running OS X natively I'd buy it right away. Apple, please have a look how *matte* displays are done right and deliver. Thank you. Reply

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