System Performance

The XPS 15 is offered with three processor choices. The base model is the 35-Watt Intel Core i3-6100H, which is a dual-core Skylake chip with a 2.7 GHz frequency and 3 MB of cache. While I’m sure that it’s fine for most tasks, the base model is also lacking a discrete GPU and means you are only going to be using the integrated graphics, which in this case is the HD 530. I would expect the bulk of Dell’s sales to be the Core i5 and i7 models, which also come with the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M graphics card. The Core i5-6300HQ is a quad-core, 45-Watt part, that runs between 2.3 and 3.2 GHz, and it has a 6 MB cache. The top option is the Core i7-6700HQ, which includes HyperThreading (the Core i5 lacks this but the Core i3 has it) and a base frequency of 2.6 GHz with a turbo frequency of 3.5 GHz. The Core i7 is the model that was provided to us for this review.

On the memory side, this device includes two SODIMM slots which is a nice bonus for upgradability. The base offering is 8 GB of DDR4-2133, and you can buy it with 16 GB as well, or if you want to add your own DIMMs you can put 32 GB in this machine. For storage, hybrid hard drives are at the low end of the device range, but Dell ramps up to PCIe based SSDs on the higher priced models. The review unit has a PM951 Samsung drive, which is the TLC version that we’ve already seen in many notebooks this year. Read speeds are generally great, but write speeds will be among the slower PCIe SSDs thanks to the TLC.

I’ve run the XPS 15 through our standard notebook suite, along with a couple of other tests as well. All laptops in the charts below are from our Notebook Bench, and if you’d like to compare the XPS 15 to any other device we’ve tested, please check it out here. The previous generation XPS 15 9530 in the charts has the Core i7-4702HQ processor, GTX 750M GPU, 3200x1800 display, and a 91 Wh battery. The Lenovo Y700 is a device that we just reviewed and has the same CPU and GPU as the XPS 15 9550, and I thought it would be interesting to also see the XPS 13 here as well, although this is the Broadwell version we reviewed last year. This is a Core i5-5200U CPU, 3200x1800 display, and 8 GB of memory.

PCMark

PCMark 8 - Home

PCMark 8 - Creative

PCMark 8 - Work

PCMark 7 (2013)

PCMark attempts to recreate actual workloads that people would use every day, and with version 8 they have several tests to focus on workloads for those tasks. Home includes web browsing, gaming, photo editing, and video chat. Creative has web browsing, photo editing, group video chat, transcoding, and some gaming, and Work has document editing, spreadsheets, and video chat. Pretty much all aspects of the device are tested, and even things like the display resolution can impact the score. The UHD resolution on the review unit impacts these scores quite a bit in fact, with the XPS 15 often quite low compared to the Lenovo Y700 which has the same CPU and GPU but a 1920x1080 display.

Cinebench

Cinebench R15 - Single-Threaded Benchmark

Cinebench R15 - Multi-Threaded Benchmark

Cinebench R11.5 - Single-Threaded Benchmark

Cinebench R11.5 - Multi-Threaded Benchmark

Cinebench is a CPU heavy workload which renders an image. It can use all cores and likes more MHz as well. Just like the Lenovo Y700, I found the XPS 15 wasn’t a big jump in performance with Skylake compared to Broadwell and even some of the later Haswell Core i7 parts. It is however a sizeable jump over the outgoing XPS 15 9530.

x264

x264 HD 5.x

x264 HD 5.x

This test does video transcoding, and much like Cinebench is strongly influenced by CPU performance. More cores and higher frequencies are the name of the game here. Just like Cinebench, there also isn’t an increase in performance with Skylake on these tests compared to Broadwell or later generation Haswell chips like the i7-4720HQ, which can turbo up to 3.6 GHz compared to 3.5 GHz on the i7-6700HQ. But it is still a big jump over the i7-4702HQ found in the XPS 15 9530.

Web Tests

Mozilla Kraken 1.1

Google Octane 2.0

WebXPRT 2015

WebXPRT 2013

I’ve mentioned this a few times already but its worth repeating. Since the launch of Windows 10, we’ve switched from using Google Chrome for web testing to Microsoft Edge. Edge has performance that is quite a bit closer to Chrome now, surpassing it in some tests and behind in others, but both are capable browsers. As such, I’ve labeled the older laptops to let you know which browser was used at the time they were tested.

With a quad-core Skylake processor, which now supports Intel’s Speed Shift technology, the XPS 15 scores very well in our web results. The bursty nature of the web tests really plays into the hands of Speed Shift and lets the processor quickly get up to maximum frequency to perform the task, and make for a more responsive browsing experience.

Design GPU Performance
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  • comomolo - Friday, March 04, 2016 - link

    I agree with you. It takes little time to make things right. Especially wrong is the picture comparing the size of the XPS 15 to a "regular" 15 incher. They haven't even taken care of a proper shooting point so the comparison is useless. Reply
  • Kristian Vättö - Friday, March 04, 2016 - link

    Comparing AnandTech to The Verge is not really fair. The Verge has millions of VC funds behind it, which is why they can have professional photographers and editors taking care of the visual side. They can also have a dedicated office, making it easy to pass devices to photographers and others.

    AT editors are practically freelancers as everyone works from their home. That means no fancy photo studio with +$10k of gear. Everyone takes their own photos and frankly the quality depends a lot on the equipment one has at hand and how experienced one is. I can speak from experience because I had major struggles with photos during my time at AT. Here's a few examples of the worst and best shots I took:

    http://www.anandtech.com/show/7947/micron-m500-dc-...
    http://www.anandtech.com/show/7594/samsung-ssd-840...
    http://www.anandtech.com/show/9023/the-samsung-ssd...
    http://www.anandtech.com/show/8979/samsung-sm951-5...

    If you aren't really interested in photography, I can tell you that taking photos is not easy. It's not something you learn overnight. Frankly, taking photos of electronics is even harder because a ton of light is needed, and without proper professional lighting you'll get all sorts of reflections and tints (most house lights are not pure white in my experience, there's a yellow tint to make it "warmer").

    All in all, I'm not saying that the photos can't be improve and I'm sure Brett will appreciate any and all tips. I just wanted to explain how AT operates as it's majorly different from The Verge for instance.
    Reply
  • nathanddrews - Friday, March 04, 2016 - link

    No disrespect to The Verge (and no attempt to brown nose AT), but their reviews are nowhere near the level of AT. It's such a massive divide as to be comical.

    If we're going to get picky about photography skills and not discuss the actual product, many of those linked Verge photos appear to be out of focus and the lightboxes used aren't exactly top of the line, so between the two reviews, I would say AT wins hands down.

    To each his own, then?
    Reply
  • pikatung - Friday, March 04, 2016 - link

    Probably the best photography I've seen on a tech review site, done on a budget, is from TechReport. They even made a (couple) of blog posts detailing how they do it:

    http://techreport.com/blog/16645/let-there-be-ligh...
    http://techreport.com/blog/22825/how-tr-gets-some-...

    (Loyal Reader of AnandTech and TechReport for years)
    Reply
  • pikatung - Friday, March 04, 2016 - link

    And just to show how good shots can be done on a budget:
    http://techreport.com/blog/15857/who-needs-a-prope...

    And I apologize, I don't mean to be whiny. I really do appreciate the in-depth reviews that you all do. Just hopefully some of these links will be helpful and encouraging.
    Reply
  • Brett Howse - Monday, March 07, 2016 - link

    Always appreciate tips and feedback. Thanks a lot! I'll check this out. Reply
  • Refuge - Friday, March 04, 2016 - link

    I don't come here for the photos, I come here for the raw, cold, hard data.

    If I want glam shots before I put it in my office, then i'll google around. If I want an in depth, and educational review, I come to Anand.
    Reply
  • Solandri - Friday, March 04, 2016 - link

    And hopefully that raw, cold, hard data has been transcribed correctly? The photos aren't merely glamour shots. They can give you detailed information about layouts, colors, fonts, etc. A lot of times it's easier to just look at the pictures to see what ports a laptop has, rather than read a list of ports and *hope* they got it right. Other qualities like keyboard layout, trackpad size position relative to keyboard, size of Fn and arrow keys, etc. are much better conveyed via (undistorted) photos rather than a written description.

    Yeah you can waste time searching for pictures elsewhere. That doesn't mean the site can't be improved by including decent pictures here. (And the problems I see aren't only distortion. Several of the photos are just plain blurry. If you can afford a $800 camera, you can afford a $100 tripod.)
    Reply
  • Zap - Friday, March 04, 2016 - link

    One possible workaround for objects closer to 2D such as those SSDs are to just put them on a flatbed scanner. No distortion and super clear images. Reply
  • euskalzabe - Friday, March 04, 2016 - link

    Here's a couple dead easy tips that improve electronics photography: 1) click the distortion correction checkbox on Photoshop or activate it in-camera. 2) Use bounce flash: if they can't spend lots of money on a decent flash, just use the regular one from camera, take business card, wrap it in tinfoil and place it in front of the flash at 45 degrees. That will bounce the forward light up at 90 degrees, effectively giving you a DIY bounce flash (there's tons of tutorials online).

    No need for professional photographers or tons of money. Just attention to detail and being a bit handy with DIY techniques. It's really not hard/costly, at all. I still appreciate the great analysis in AT... but I hold them to a higher standard, which shouldn't be regarded as a bad thing. I want them to be better at everything and succeed further in the future.
    Reply

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