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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  • close - Tuesday, March 8, 2016 - link

    What I'm telling you is that if that is your honest opinion then you weren't reading Anandtech 5 years ago and that you lost the gamble when you assumed nobody will catch on to your BS.

    And because when I say something I like to make sure I have a sure way of showing it (not just BS) here it is: http://www.anandtech.com/show/4083/the-sandy-bridg...

    I would let you draw the conclusion all by yourself but I am confident now that you will be unable to. That is a review for a motherboard with the infamous P67 chipset that was recalled (!) just 4 weeks after the review was written. And yes, this article is 5 years old. And yes, it was written by Anand himself.
    http://www.anandtech.com/show/4142/intel-discovers...
    Reply
  • Nightwolf1 - Monday, March 14, 2016 - link

    Couldn’t be more true!

    Look here "Issues":
    http://www.ultrabookreview.com/10234-dell-xps-15-9...
    Reply
  • HurleyBird - Monday, March 7, 2016 - link

    Try selecting high performance power mode in Nvidia's drivers. That's how I eventually was able to fix the frequent crashes I was experiencing with the GTX 960m. Reply
  • milli - Monday, March 7, 2016 - link

    Yeah, the Dell driver and performance mode in nV-cp are the only way to get it running for more than 5 minutes. I also installed the beta Intel 4380 video drivers but I haven't yet tested Optimus again. Reply
  • euskalzabe - Friday, March 4, 2016 - link

    Guys, seriously. Shoot RAW pictures and process them. The distortion in many of the pictures you posted gives Anandtech an embarrassingly low-level image. This is not a blog ran on grandma's basement. Shoot RAW, process with PhotoShop or similar, get rid of those distortions. Many people would be so put off by the low quality of the image that they won't consider the product. It's just so unprofessional. Reply
  • rpg1966 - Friday, March 4, 2016 - link

    Which pictures are you referring to? But regardless, anyone who is put off a machinelike this based on a bit of distortion in a review image is probably in the wrong market. Reply
  • euskalzabe - Friday, March 4, 2016 - link

    For instance:
    http://images.anandtech.com/doci/10116/SizeCompari...
    http://images.anandtech.com/doci/10116/KeyboardB.j...
    http://images.anandtech.com/doci/10116/Bottom.JPG
    http://images.anandtech.com/doci/10116/Open_678x45...

    Don't give me that "wrong market" excuse. Correcting distortion takes 1 click, 2 seconds on Photoshop. Many cameras by now just do it automatically if you are shooting JPEG, all it takes is activating it. It takes minimal to zero effort. I don't know what field you work in, but any respected company that has any sort of visual (printed, digital, etc) presence would never accept the IQ I've been seeing in Anandtech since Anand left (which occurred occasionally before that too). It's such an easy fix. Not doing it is incredibly unprofessional.
    Reply
  • nathanddrews - Friday, March 4, 2016 - link

    I would argue that anyone that buys a product based upon how good it looks in pictures is the exact opposite of a professional. Also, it's not AT's responsibility to sell the products.

    I have noticed a marked increase in "straight from the hip" photography on AT as well, but I can't imagine a professional - to use your words - not buying a laptop based upon a review website's photos. If you were to order this laptop from Amazon, Newegg, Best Buy, or Dell, they would have plenty of stock, photoshopped photos or renders to make it look all pretty and shiny. If you go into a store to buy it, you can see it on the shelf.
    Reply
  • euskalzabe - Friday, March 4, 2016 - link

    Clearly you guys don't work with media materials. Most editors would not accept these standards. At the end of the day, that's what it's about: quality standards. Sure, we don't have to correct distortion, but what does it say to the world when you choose not to do something that takes 1 second of your life to improve your visual standards? Whatever your opinion, there is proof - just look online for articles on the matter - that these little details make a difference in people's perception.

    Frankly, I've long believed there's a reason The Verge has become so popular so fast and it mainly has to do with public image. Check, for example, how they showcase this XPS15 in their review:
    https://cdn3.vox-cdn.com/thumbor/-x0jfGXnaZuQRTbXG...
    Feel that difference. Accurate representation of the product. Not distorted. The editors interest in their visual presence has an impact not just on how readers view the product, but also how they view the website. You're careless in one glaringly obvious aspect, who knows what else you're being serious about? It's about professionalism. I respect your opinion that focusing on properly processed (not just good looking, there's more to this than subjective evaluation) pictures is not professional, but I can tell you, the market very clearly has decided otherwise.

    Don't forget AT is not just read by professionals that look for HW specs VS value. There are many consumers that give life to these ads. Consumers that are as influenced by visual presence as anybody else. It's not about convincing people, it's about aspiring to quality standards. When you can't be bothered to implement a dead-easy fix... that says very little of your interest/effort in other areas of your professional venue. In my professional experience, visual presence has proven to be very important and judged both consciously and unconsciously.
    Reply
  • shadarlo - Friday, March 4, 2016 - link

    If you think the link you just posted makes this laptop dramatically more appealing then you sir live in some alternate universe than the majority of the population. You might be insanely good in your field, but you have lost the forest for the trees.

    I honestly don't even like the picture you just linked to. As a non-designer I think the shot looks cheap and bland.
    Reply

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