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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  • BillyONeal - Friday, March 4, 2016 - link

    Erm, at least the one I have isn't matte. Reply
  • Daniel Egger - Friday, March 4, 2016 - link

    Multi-touch? I believe all multi-touch screens are glare out of necessity, with Dell XPS the non-touch types should be non-glare. Reply
  • DanNeely - Friday, March 4, 2016 - link

    There's no reason they need to be, the OEM could directly apply the same anti-glare coating you can get in a screen protector to the glass at the factory. They don't because a majority of people seem to prefer the smoother feel of glass to the slightly rougher surface of an matte surface. Hopefully as highdpi screens become more common market volumes will be large enough to support both types of screens at reasonable costs. Alternately, install a matte protector in the factory where cleanroom facilities can be made available to avoid dust headaches that make installing larger protectors a PITA.

    I'm indifferent to the feel and prefer the matte appearance. However I have a protector on my phone but not my tablet or laptop; although that's primarily driven by the difficulty of getting a dustfree install on larger screens. I know other people swear by it, but I'm 0/2 with large protectors in a shower fogged bathroom.
    Reply
  • nerd1 - Friday, March 4, 2016 - link

    Why are you looking after inferior OS with fewer applications? Reply
  • Daniel Egger - Saturday, March 5, 2016 - link

    OS X is the most productive platform (of the many I use daily), plain and simple. Linux is nice and quick for command line interaction and running server applications but seriously lacks in the day to day job desktop area. Windows is great for gaming but sucks balls in pretty much any other department. "Inferior" is very much in the eye of the beholder; from a technical standpoint it certainly is not but clearly not everyone is capable being the judge of that.

    The *only* Windows application I *need* to use for work every now and then for which there is no good native Linux or Mac equivalent is XenCenter but for that I do have a sufficiently working Wine Bottle; for everything else I do have very capable applications, some of which are not even available for Windows...
    Reply
  • nerd1 - Saturday, March 5, 2016 - link

    I run all three OSes (windows, OSX and linux) on different machines and OSX has the worst file and windows management among three, even with EC (which seems to cause more harm than good) Reply
  • Daniel Egger - Sunday, March 6, 2016 - link

    Nonsense, it has the best windows management (without tinkering) and either best or second best file organisation (with Linux) depending on what features you need and filesystem you're using on Linux; the legacy file organisation from Win 3.1 times is totally bogus and maybe you don't happen to have noticed but in non-English languages they're basically the only OS using translated names in the file system for some system directories making Windows essentially the only OS where you can't switch languages after the fact and causing lots of funnies when writing software. The only thing that truly sucks on OS X is fork performance (compared to Linux): A complex script run on OS X is usually executed a magnitude and some slower than on Linux, so if you compile a lot of cross-platform software (like me) you're loosing lots of wall time there...

    The things that bother me most about Windows are:
    - It provides horrible privacy even after manually adjusting all of the 80 (partially hidden!) settings
    - It is still quite unsecure, you'll have to install and maintain lots of tools to make sure you don't pick up any malware
    - It comes with pretty much no usable tools, so just to get the bare minimum onto a fresh installation you'll have to spend a full weekend with chocolatey and/or portableapps just to make it usable
    - Commandline is pretty much unusable, doing most of the work with a UI is a magnitude slower than on Unixish OSes
    - Keeping all applications up-to-date is *the* *horror* and chocolatey unfortunately doesn't help much lately
    - Weekly security updates, in Windows 10 even enforced, enforce a reboot completely disrupting the workflow. On OS X is usually have an uptime of many *months* before an update forces me to do a reboot and even then the state of my environment is preserved so I can basically ACK the reboot, pick up a coffee and continue where I left off. In Linux only Kernel updates require a reboot and those necessary for security usually only occur every other year or so.

    Enough ranting for me on this topic. Just the view from a single IT and software development pro, YMMV.
    Reply
  • ESC2000 - Sunday, March 6, 2016 - link

    I can't speak to a lot of that but I can't believe you're claiming that OSX has a better file system or window management system. Even diehard OSX fans generally seem to admit that those are weaknesses of OSX. Can you even "snap" windows into place on OSX like you can on windows? My mom switched to OSX 3 years ago and still complains that she sometimes can't find files which is one of the reasons her next computer will be a PC. Malware or the lack thereof is admittedly a plus in the OSX column. Reply
  • sphigel - Friday, March 4, 2016 - link

    These storage options are infuriating. You have to get the i7 model just to get an SSD?! That's ridiculous. SSDs benefit everyone regardless of how much processing power they need. They should be offered on every configuration. Reply
  • osxandwindows - Friday, March 4, 2016 - link

    So true Reply

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