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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  • milli - Friday, March 04, 2016 - link

    I'm having huge stability problems with this laptop. The problem is Optimus.
    The only way I've gotten it to be stable, is to use the Dell provided drivers and disable Optimus.

    I'm not the only one with this problem:
    https://www.reddit.com/r/Dell/comments/41erin/blue...

    This laptop badly needs a BIOS update to fix this issue.
    Reply
  • smilingcrow - Friday, March 04, 2016 - link

    I give leeway for photos as I know it's not easy photographing electronics at home if you have no experience but these would look bad even on eBay. Don’t recall feeling that way about any other photo shoot on any IT web review so this is a stand out.
    Is it too much to expect Anandtech to issue guidelines and tips for newbie photographers? I don’t think so. Amateur hour.
    Reply
  • theduckofdeath - Saturday, March 05, 2016 - link

    Hehe, that was my thoughts, too. "Dell sticks to their proven design ideas from the XPS 13" (paraphrased). Too bad we'll never know what that is. Reply
  • close - Monday, March 07, 2016 - link

    Were you just piggy backing on a BIOS/performance related comment with a remark about photography just to get attention? I would say you give no leeway for photos which is why probably you've run out of people who's vacation photos you can criticize and ended up here :).

    On a related note, I wonder if the battery performance is strictly related to the choice of LCD panel. And since we're on the battery topic, I'm really impressed with the WiFi speed. It's starting to look like we're closer to moving away from wired connections completely.
    Reply
  • milkod2001 - Monday, March 07, 2016 - link

    I presume guys who write articles here are paid by amount of words/articles written and not by hours spent with camera and Photoshop.

    By looking at mostly poor quality of images it does not look like PURCH has given each writer a few grand for camera, lenses, accessories and guys probably just use their own crappy stuff.

    Since Anand and others have left it looks like there is still big afford to write good quality articles. But other stuff coming with it goes down to hill and there is a very little improvements if any.

    Just to name a few: the endless and never responded request for EDIT button for comments, some amateurish never fixed website 'features' like galleries -you click on some images, it will bring user to new tab(unnecessary) , click on some image, it will display large image and nothing else, no X or back button etc.
    Reply
  • dsumanik - Sunday, March 06, 2016 - link

    5 years ago anandtech would have tested and caught a bios issue like that, now the readers are more informed lol Reply
  • close - Monday, March 07, 2016 - link

    You have 3 available CPUs, 2 GPU configurations, 2 LCD panels, and different software configuration possibilities but you instantly assume that all laptops exhibit the exact same issues and they will be visible on a demo unit in the days or weeks it's available for testing.

    The link to the discussion about this issue includes a handful of comments and if you had the common sense to read them you would have seen that plenty of them suggest that it was fixed by using the Nvidia driver provided by Dell. Since this is a review, not a troubleshooting article I suggest you should not confuse it with a manufacturer support page.

    And people could tell the difference 5 years ago.
    Reply
  • milli - Monday, March 07, 2016 - link

    No Close, all models exhibit BIOS problems. Optimus is just the latest. Before BIOS 19, there were a bunch of other issues.

    http://bit.ly/21gI00Z
    http://bit.ly/1QZFIO8

    After spending close to $3000 on a laptop, I'm very disappointed in Dell as they can't get even something like Optimus running stable.
    Reply
  • close - Monday, March 07, 2016 - link

    What I was saying was directed to the person claiming Anandtech should have reported this in the product review when clearly it doesn't affect every laptop and also I'm quite sure reviewers only have a narrow time slot to play with the device before it goes on to the next reviewer.

    And I maintain my suggestion for him since he appears to think such issues should be reported in a product review: the manufacturer's support site is the place to go if you're wondering how a product behaves in the long run.
    Anandtech is the place to read reviews about a product, standardized tests run on every piece of hardware and some numbers that you can't find on the leaflet.

    A review isn't made to showcase beautiful photos like some people seem to think (that's the job of the product marketing team) nor to listing a long line of potential issues compiled from support sites and other forums.

    So I understand *you* were just cautioning potential buyers reading this review, the comment from "dsumanik" (just above) is plain ignorant to put it delicately.
    Reply
  • dsumanik - Monday, March 07, 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

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