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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  • Ryan Smith - Monday, March 7, 2016 - link

    We've checked, and there's only a single drive (and not a RAID device) present in the Windows device manager. Reply
  • Soac - Wednesday, March 9, 2016 - link

    I don`t think I have explained correctly. The Laptop came setup in RAID mode on the BIOS, from the forums I saw that it happened to everyone, and yes this is for the 1 single drive 512 samsung m.2. Hence why I said it didn`t make sense. However, if you change the BIOS setting to AHCI the read speeds go up to 1.7Gbps.

    -----------------------------------------------------------------------
    CrystalDiskMark 5.0.3 x64 (C) 2007-2015 hiyohiyo
    Crystal Dew World : http://crystalmark.info/
    -----------------------------------------------------------------------
    * MB/s = 1,000,000 bytes/s [SATA/600 = 600,000,000 bytes/s]
    * KB = 1000 bytes, KiB = 1024 bytes

    Sequential Read (Q= 32,T= 1) : 1723.554 MB/s
    Sequential Write (Q= 32,T= 1) : 600.373 MB/s
    Random Read 4KiB (Q= 32,T= 1) : 0.000 MB/s [ 0.0 IOPS]
    Random Write 4KiB (Q= 32,T= 1) : 0.000 MB/s [ 0.0 IOPS]
    Sequential Read (T= 1) : 0.000 MB/s
    Sequential Write (T= 1) : 0.000 MB/s
    Random Read 4KiB (Q= 1,T= 1) : 0.000 MB/s [ 0.0 IOPS]
    Random Write 4KiB (Q= 1,T= 1) : 0.000 MB/s [ 0.0 IOPS]

    Test : 1024 MiB [C: 21.6% (102.8/476.4 GiB)] (x5) [Interval=5 sec]
    Date : 2016/03/09 23:13:32
    OS : Windows 10 [10.0 Build 10586] (x64)

    Funny enough, someone was saying that in RAID mode the drive felt faster... so it would be cool if you could test it.
    Reply
  • medi03 - Sunday, March 6, 2016 - link

    Would be interesting to see how it fares at gaming vs amd's carrizo notebooks. Reply
  • iks - Sunday, March 6, 2016 - link

    While this is surely a great piece of tech, with a superb screen, capable hardware, and decent, cooling I still wonder, what is the target audience of this and other similar devices? Have the guys over at Dell and other companies actually tried to do productive work that involves a lot of typing on this so-called "keyboard"? Especially programming? Using impossible to hit buttons with no proper spacing, a short F row, minuscule arrows and no dedicated page up / page down / home / end. Sorry, but a keyboard like that is just dumb, and a torture to use. Reply
  • nerd1 - Sunday, March 6, 2016 - link

    Say that to millions of mac users. Apple's DESKTOP keyboard is even worse than this. Reply
  • BPB - Monday, March 7, 2016 - link

    I am a developer, and I use a company issued Dell at work (decent specs). The keyboard doesn't matter to me since I dock it at work. At home I leave it closed and plug a monitor/keyboard/mouse into it. So why should I care? I do occasionally use it by itself, but I don't mind since it's not very often. I guess what I'm saying is, how many developers use a notebook without plugging in peripherals? Reply
  • iks - Thursday, March 10, 2016 - link

    Well, I'm learning to use Vim to overcome button limitations on the different keyboards I may get to work on in future. People work on 60% boards after all.
    As far as plugging peripherals in / out, aren't you afraid of the ports coming loose over time?
    Reply
  • jasonelmore - Monday, March 7, 2016 - link

    I wanted to point out that the laptop on this article has different materials depending on if you get the 1080p version vs the 4k version.

    The 1080p version has a lot more plastic vs the 4k one.
    Reply
  • nerd1 - Monday, March 7, 2016 - link

    1080p version lacks the glossy glass (which I hate), but it is identical elsewhere. Reply
  • rstuart - Monday, March 7, 2016 - link

    I own one of these, but I run Linux. Typical Linux issues - if enable the NVidia card it doesn't boot, and it will be because NVidia hasn't released drivers for it yet. I'm mostly a command line user, so that doesn't worry me overly. The Intel drivers causing the kernel to crash 2 out of 3 boots on the other hand drove me nuts. The latest kernel has fixed that thank god, so it's rock solid now. I was surprised to read people running Windows are having the similar issues - here I was putting it down to Intel's poor support for Linux. It's more of a case of Intel not having good drivers, at all, on anything. Be patient, and be forgiving of Dell - it's Intel's problem, not Dell's.

    Apart from the display, it works extraordinarily well out of the box. As a Linux user, this is not something I'm used to. On the down side, there is not much in the box as Dell hasn't got their act together yet accessories - mostly because of the change to USB-C.

    The one thing I do question myself about is going with the UHD display. It is gorgeous. But according to Dell the HD display roughly doubles the battery life, and in reality eye candy fade but not having to worry about charging during the day would have been appreciated for a long, long time.

    One other feature not mentioned in the review is everything (battery, WiFi card, DIMM's, HDD/SSD, fans for cleaning) is accessible with the removal of 8 or so easy to find screws on the back. Unlike some other makes, Dell laptops have been getting better in this regard over the years.
    Reply

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