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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  • Brett Howse - Monday, March 7, 2016 - link

    The extra half pound is the larger battery, which takes up the space of the 2.5" hard drive bay. If you get the large battery you can't get the HDD. Reply
  • doubledeej - Saturday, March 5, 2016 - link

    Dell lost me as a customer when they started removing the dedicated Home, End, PageUp, and PageDown keys from their keyboard. It makes their laptops next to impossible to use productively for writing code or documents, which is about all I do these days. Reply
  • arswihart - Saturday, March 5, 2016 - link

    I have this laptop, it's balls out, better display than Macbook Pro, light as a first-generation 13" ultrabook. Don't care about key travel, touch pad works great, beautiful to behold. Reply
  • nerd1 - Saturday, March 5, 2016 - link

    Key travel is clearly worse than older XPS series and thinkpads, but about the same as macbook retina (and way better than new apple wireless keyboard for DESKTOP)

    People seem to adapt to absolute miserable key travel of new macbook/ipad pro anyway.
    Reply
  • Notmyusualid - Sunday, March 6, 2016 - link

    Sorry if I missed it.

    Name the wireless card please...

    Much appreciated.
    Reply
  • Notmyusualid - Sunday, March 6, 2016 - link

    No worries, found it:

    BCM43602.

    Someone out there is reporting that the connector sizes do not match existing wifi cards.

    Pulled a 7260 from my AW18, and was hoping to finally find an upgrade to my trusty 6300N, which blows the newer .ac card out the window (for range).

    Oh well.
    Reply
  • Xajel - Sunday, March 6, 2016 - link

    Hmmmm, I was off-listing Dell from my list of laptop options mainly duo to their chargers ( that weak data pin+wire which tends to fail and stops the laptop from charging while the charger is still working )... but this laptop is good I see, I might live with that charger thing but I have two things...

    I believe the laptop can be configured with the 1080p panel, so it will be better in terms of battery life. but AFAIK the 4K panel is superior in terms of picture quality which I prefer over half hour battery life specially that the 4K panel will have some DPI issues also...

    But I would love to see a repetition of the display tests but for the 1080p panel to see the difference... the other thing I would like to know is the Type-C port, I believe the article mentioned it capable of power delivery also... does this mean that we can charge the laptop also ? if true then is the original charger 90W or 120W ? I'm asking this coz the Type-C spec. can handle up to 100W so if the laptop require a 90W charger then it won't be a problem, but if it requires 120W charger then charging will be a little slower ( unless the laptop was idle or turned off )

    In all cases -even with slower charging- I prefer a standard Type-C charging solution over proprietary one, specially the famous faulty Dell chargers...
    Reply
  • Brett Howse - Monday, March 7, 2016 - link

    Yes you can charge over the Type-C. The power adapter size is listed in the specs but it's a 130w version, so over Type-C it would charge a bit slower. Reply
  • Ryan Smith - Monday, March 7, 2016 - link

    Aye. If it can even accept 20V over Type-C, that still maxes out at 5A @ 20V, for 100W. Reply
  • Soac - Sunday, March 6, 2016 - link

    The CrystalDiskMark READ scores are not correct. The Laptop comes setup in RAID mode for some strange reason... When switched to AHCI mode, the Reads go up to 1.7Gbps. I have the 512GB PM951. I would advise checking this out. Reply

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