GPU Performance

Other than the base model Core i3 powered XPS 15, all of the other models feature a 2 GB NVIDIA GTX 960M graphics card. The outgoing XPS 15 that we last reviewed featured a GT 750M, so the move to a Maxwell card should offer a better overall experience and with a more efficient design, which may come into play with the smaller chassis on the new XPS 15 9550.

The laptop was run through our standard gaming workloads. Of note is the Lenovo Y700 which has the same CPU but a 4 GB version of the GTX 960M, compared to the 2 GB one offered by Dell. We’ll see if that comes into play in the games we have here. The higher memory capacity should help as the resolution increases, but the GTX 960M is not going to be sufficient to game at UHD resolutions unless the game is not very demanding.

As always, you can compare the XPS 15 to any other laptop we’ve tested using our Notebook Bench.


Futuremark 3DMark (2013)

Futuremark 3DMark (2013)

Futuremark 3DMark (2013)

Futuremark 3DMark (2013)

Futuremark 3DMark (2013)

Futuremark 3DMark (2013)

Futuremark 3DMark 11

Our first synthetic test is FutureMark’s 3DMark. The latest 3DMark has several subtests, which start with the most demanding, Fire Strike, and decrease in demand going to Sky Diver, Cloud Gate, and Ice Storm Unlimited. The GTX 960M in the XPS 15 is fairly close to the Y700, which isn’t a shock, and the performance is a good step up from the GT 750M in the older XPS 15.


GFXBench 3.0 Manhattan Offscreen 1080p

GFXBench 3.0 T-Rex Offscreen 1080p

On our second synthetic test, we see the XPS 15 slotting right in around the same performance level as the Y700. Pretty much any PC with a discrete GPU can handle this benchmark at well over 60 FPS.

Dota 2

Dota 2 Reborn - Enthusiast

This Multiplayer Online Battle Arena game was recently revamped with a new game engine, which offers better visuals, but one that can still be played on low end hardware. The XPS 15 can handle this game very well at our enthusiast settings.

Tomb Raider

Tomb Raider - Value

Tomb Raider - Mainstream

Tomb Raider - Enthusiast

The latest version of this franchise has recently been released, but the original version can still be punishing on laptop graphics, especially with TressFX enabled. The XPS 15 can handle this game fairly well until you enable TressFX at 1920x1080, and then it struggles. It’s still a big jump over the older GT 750M equipped XPS 15.

Bioshock Infinite

Bioshock Infinite - Value

Bioshock Infinite - Mainstream

Bioshock Infinite - Enthusiast

The XPS 15 can handle this game fairly well, but at the highest settings we test it will struggle. The performance is once again a big jump over the outgoing GT 750M, and the GTX 960M gives us over double the performance of the Surface Book’s GT 940M as well.

Dragon Age Inquisition

Dragon Age: Inquisition - Value

Dragon Age: Inquisition - Mainstream

Dragon Age: Inquisition - Enthusiast

Bioware crafted a great game with Dragon Age Inquisition, and with maximum settings it can be punishing to lower end GPUs. The draw distances are quite impressive. The XPS 15 struggles at 1920x1080 Ultra, and some tweaking using the GeForce Experience would be needed to get an acceptable frame rate on this game. You can see that the XPS 15 pretty much mirrors the Y700 here, despite the Lenovo GPU having double the RAM on the GPU.

Shadow of Mordor

Shadow of Mordor - Value

Shadow of Mordor - Mainstream

Shadow of Mordor - Enthusiast

The well received action-adventure game from Warner Brothers and Monolith Productions uses the LithTech game engine, and with everything set to maximum at 1080p, the GTX 960M barely keeps an average over 30 frames per second, so once again this test is a bit too demanding for this laptop, but again the limited VRAM on the GPU does not seem to be affecting it at the resolutions and frame rates that the lower powered GTX 960M can achieve.

GRID Autosport

GRID Autosport - Value

GRID Autosport - Mainstream

GRID Autosport - Enthusiast

The EGO 3.0 engine can be tweaked quite a bit to allow this game to play on a large range of hardware. Even on maximum settings, the XPS 15 does very well.

GPU Conclusion

It’s great that we just reviewed another GTX 960M powered laptop, but it had the 4 GB version of the graphics card rather than the 2 GB version that Dell is shipping in the XPS 15. Despite half the memory, the graphics performance is pretty much even. It doesn’t seem to be a huge disadvantage with the games that we tested in any case. With higher resolutions, such as gaming at UHD resolutions, it would likely make a bigger difference, but the GTX 960M is already showing its performance limits at 1920x1080 gaming, so asking it to draw four times the pixels is likely a bit much.

System Performance Compute and Storage Performance
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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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Notmyusualid - Sunday, March 6, 2016 - link

    Sorry if I missed it.

    Name the wireless card please...

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

    No worries, found it:


    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.
  • 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...
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

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