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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  • DanNeely - Friday, March 4, 2016 - link



    I think what you're seeing is partly that the RMBP was previously a good candidate for smallest 15.x" laptop and comparing against an outlier instead of the norm. (Not sure if it was the smallest; but it was close), and partly the difference in screen dimensions from the aspect ratio and dinging the dell's 16:9 for being wider while letting the RMBP off the hook for its 16x10 being taller. The LCD dimensions are 345.4mm × 194.3mm (dell) vs 331.7mm × 2073mm (RMBP). Dell's managed to trim 16mm of side bezel off vs Apple's offering.

    For direct comparison, here are the dimensions of Dells 14/15" Latitude laptops ('traditional' business class machines). It's not quite as narrow as conventional 14" laptops; but it's total area (LxW) is only 5% larger than the 14" model while being 13% smaller than the old 15.6.

    E6440 338x232x31.8
    E6540 379x250x33.4
    Reply
  • boskone - Friday, March 4, 2016 - link

    You can charge the XPS 13 via a suitable USB type C charger, like one for the Pixel 2. Any chance of verifying that with the 15? Reply
  • BillyONeal - Friday, March 4, 2016 - link

    I have one and can verify that it works well with the TB15 dock -- the dock's drivers are still flaky as hell though. Reply
  • DanNeely - Friday, March 4, 2016 - link

    Do you have all the latest drivers installed? Poking around on reddit suggests that manually downloading and installing the latest from Dell's site, (plus a USB3 hub driver from elsewhere?), fixed the bulk of the issues. The ASmedia driver that post recommends is slightly older than Dell's current driver; I don't know if it's more stable, or just that Dell had an even older one up at the time the post was made.

    https://www.reddit.com/r/Dell/comments/440olx/if_y...
    Reply
  • lazarpandar - Friday, March 4, 2016 - link

    My stupid questions are famous Reply
  • BillyONeal - Friday, March 4, 2016 - link

    Yes, installing that USB 3 driver made the dock not completely useless; but still seems flaky occasionally. Reply
  • willis936 - Friday, March 4, 2016 - link

    Would you guys consider adding csgo to the graphics testbench? The number of players has been steadily rising in the past few years and it is relatively demanding for a simple game. The hard part is the prospect of a moving target since they plan on moving from havok to source 2 this year and occasionally update resources such as player model reskins. I think it'd be a good metric at 1080p minimum settings nonetheless. Reply
  • Shadowmaster625 - Friday, March 4, 2016 - link

    The battery is clearly done charging at 107 minutes. Reply
  • Brett Howse - Monday, March 7, 2016 - link

    Many laptops charge to 99% much faster than the last 1%. That's why I always include the charge graph. But our test is from dead to 100%, not 99%. Reply
  • Daniel Egger - Friday, March 4, 2016 - link

    If that thing was running OS X natively I'd buy it right away. Apple, please have a look how *matte* displays are done right and deliver. Thank you. Reply

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