Dell XPS 13 (2015) review

A revolution in laptop design

Dell XPS 13 review
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On top of being one of the most portable laptops in the world, the Dell XPS 13 is a reliable little machine for everyday use. Equipped with an Intel Core i5 processor, I was able to use it for everything from basic internet browsing to heavy image editing, all without it breaking a single sweat.

Since the XPS 13's Broadwell debut in early 2015, it has seen a few upgrades in this iteration, including Skylake processors, faster M.2 PCIe SSDs up to 1TB and the battery capacity has been increased slightly – going from 52 to 56 watt hours. Overall, the new model is faster and marginally longer lasting, which we'll soon see in the benchmark results.

Dell XPS 13 review

Benchmark scores

Here's how the Dell XPS 13 (late 2015) performed in our suite of benchmark tests:

  • 3DMark: Cloud Gate: 5,484; Sky Diver: 3,462; Fire Strike: 809
  • Cinebench CPU: 284 points; Graphics: 26 fps,
  • GeekBench: 2,983 (single-core); 6,288 (multi-core)
  • PCMark 8 (Home Test): 2,276 points
  • PCMark 8 Battery Life: 4 hours and 44 minutes

Let's just remind ourselves how that compares to the Broadwell (early 2015) model's scores:

  • 3DMark: Cloud Gate: 4935; Sky Diver: 2745; Fire Strike: 739
  • Cinebench CPU: 258 points; Graphics: 29 fps,
  • PCMark 8 (Home Test): 2,104 points
  • PCMark 8 Battery Life: 4 hours and 21 minutes

Thanks to upgrading from Broadwell to Skylake, there's a positive, but tiny, increase in the XPS 13's performance scores across the board. There aren't any remarkable improvements to behold and, in fact, I'm almost a bit disappointed that the new model only ran for 23 minutes more while completing the PCMark 8 battery test.

Overall, the new XPS 13 is a better machine, but there's nothing significant enough to make owners of the early 2015 model shell out for this latest one.

While Dell's latest Ultrabook doesn't blow away its predecessor, it performed well and has the most processing power compared to its competitors. Its PCMark 8 benchmark score of 2,983 is more than a few ticks above the Lenovo hybrid's 2,104 point performance. Likewise, the 13-inch MacBook Air trailed behind with a GeekBench multi-core score of 5,768 compared to the XPS 13's 6,228 points.

Interestingly, the Lenovo convertible lead the charge on the graphical front, consistently putting up better scores on every 3DMark test. You'll be able to easily play Hearthstone on high settings on both systems, but you might run into more framerate hitches on Dell's 13-inch wonder.

Dell XPS 13 review

Battery life

The XPS 13's battery lasted 4 hours and 21 minutes during the PCMark 8 Battery Life test, which performs a wide range of tasks simultaneously, including video editing, web browsing and gaming. In another test, I was able to crank out 8 solid hours (20 minutes more than the Broadwell XPS 13) of Netflix streaming while lowering the screen brightness and audio volume to 50%.

Compared to the Lenovo Yoga 900 and the MacBook Air, however, the XPS 13 underperforms. The MacBook Air lasted for 13 hours and 24 minutes while streaming online video. With regular usage, including word processing and internet browsing, I can squeeze about five hours out of the XPS 13, and the Yoga 900 ran for over seven hours despite utilizing a more power hungry Core i7 processor.

Dell XPS 13 review

That said, you could easily extend the Ultrabook's run time to six hours by lowering the screen brightness and turning off features, such as Bluetooth and the backlit keyboard.

If you're a fan of the XPS 13's design, but you absolutely require a longer-lasting battery, you may want to consider the full HD version rather than the quad HD+ model. The high-res screen adds additional pixels and touchscreen functionality – both of which will drain the battery three hours faster than the standard model, according to Dell's estimates.

Kevin Lee

Kevin Lee was a former computing reporter at TechRadar. Kevin is now the SEO Updates Editor at IGN based in New York. He handles all of the best of tech buying guides while also dipping his hand in the entertainment and games evergreen content. Kevin has over eight years of experience in the tech and games publications with previous bylines at Polygon, PC World, and more. Outside of work, Kevin is major movie buff of cult and bad films. He also regularly plays flight & space sim and racing games. IRL he's a fan of archery, axe throwing, and board games.