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.

3DMark

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

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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  • nerd1 - Monday, March 7, 2016 - link

    Installing linux on latest hardware is generally a nightmare... which distro are you using? Do they now (finally) support switchable graphics and hi-dpi display? Reply
  • cpoole - Monday, March 7, 2016 - link

    not sure about rstuart but I am running ubuntu-gnome 15.10 with kernel 4.4 built from intel DRM nightlies and I have almost 0 problems with the laptop. Hi-dpi works great and if you're running the nvidia proprietary drivers turning the gpu on and off with the nvidia tweak tool is a breeze... although I havent used it for anything other than a cuda demo. Reply
  • nils_ - Tuesday, March 8, 2016 - link

    Switchable graphics do work on a per-program basis but it's a hassle. Makes the NVidia chip pretty much a waste. Everything else is due to Intel being slow to get their drivers into the kernel and distributions running on outdated, sometimes self-maintained kernel versions.

    So yeah it now sucks a bit more than t used to.
    Reply
  • eightspancrow - Monday, March 7, 2016 - link

    There's a lot of complaints about the photo quality which I get but - why would you use a 4:3 wallpaper as your cover photo on a laptop specifically featuring an ultra small bezel? It's kind of mystifying because then the black fill..... looks like a huge bezel. This is currently the featured article on the front page and it makes something that honestly looks pretty futuristic/cool into what looks like somebody's office computer. Reply
  • dsumanik - Monday, March 7, 2016 - link

    I stand by my original statement, the readers around here are now more informed than the editorial/review staff. No amount of excuse making will change this. In the past Anand (the person) worked with manufacturers on a regular basis to identify and correct issues like the one pointed out with this machine. We will never hear of a resolution to this problem on this website, unless it is in the comment section. And yes, if you are in the business of reviewing products, it IS your responsibility to investigate the issue...a simple check on the forums and a warning paragraph would have sufficed, you'd think the reviewers would haver a checklist to follow by now lol. Reply
  • nils_ - Tuesday, March 8, 2016 - link

    I really like the infinity display, other than that I could do without the GTX960M (give me Iris Pro instead) and I don't need a touch screen. Would be great to have more BTO options. Reply
  • TraciR - Tuesday, March 8, 2016 - link

    Why put the XPS 13 keyboard in the bigger XPS15?

    This is design laziness from Dell. I have an XPS 13, and miss the proper key layout, but perhaps it wouldn't fit.

    PgUp, PgDn and bigger arrow keys are a must. Look at Lenovo for how to do a laptop keyboard.
    Reply
  • Valantar - Wednesday, March 9, 2016 - link

    Am I the only one who would want a dGPU-less (but preferably Iris/Iris Pro-powered) version of this? Slightly slimmer (if possible), same battery size, and a QHD display. And external GPU support through TB3, of course. Reply
  • nils_ - Wednesday, March 9, 2016 - link

    nope. I don't need dedicated graphics in a laptop. Reply
  • Valantar - Saturday, March 12, 2016 - link

    Exactly. Dedicated graphics add too much power draw for too little gain outside of humongous gaming "laptops." A good iGPU and the option of external graphics through TB3 (either with a desktop class chassis or a dock/slice/brick style mobile GPU with it's own battery) is all anyone would need in a device like this. Reply

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