Dell XPS 13 9350 review: The Windows ultraportable, perfected

Price when reviewed

Dell XPS 13 (late 2015) review: Performance

The XPS 13 feels like every high-end Windows device should – seriously quick. The combination of dual-core Skylake processors and high-speed NVMe SSD storage make for a laptop that flies along in everyday use.

Take it to task with Photoshop CC and a huge pile of open Google Chrome tabs and it simply shrugs and gets on with it. The fans do spin up under heavy load, and the mid-toned whirr they emit is noticeable, but they’re not half as whiny and annoying as on the previous model. You can thank the cooler-running Skylake chip for that.


In our suite of really-very-demanding benchmarks, which includes 36-megapixel image editing and 4K video transcoding, the Core i7-6500U of our review model racked up some very respectable numbers. With an overall score of 46, it’s 12% faster overall than the Broadwell Core i7 in the previous XPS 13, about 5% quicker than the Skylake Core i5 in the Surface Pro 4, and 18% behind the Broadwell Core i5 in the 13in Apple MacBook Pro with Retina display. Plenty quick enough for pretty much anything you can throw at it, basically.

Raw performance is admittedly no better than its peers, but it’s the new NVMe SSD that has the most impact on how fast the XPS 13 feels. In raw benchmarks, it puts in the kind of numbers I’ve previously only seen from Apple’s flash storage-equipped laptops.

Read speeds top out at 1,390MB/sec, and while write speeds are a touch sluggish, maxing out at only 154MB/sec, those read speeds will have a far greater impact on day-to-day use. It boots up in a matter of seconds, and restarts in only a handful more. This is a quick SSD by any measure.

Dell XPS 13 (late 2015) review: Gaming and battery life

So, gaming. Skylake brings with it a dramatically improved GPU, and while it still doesn’t come anywhere near Nvidia’s discrete chips for raw power, it’s still a welcome step forward from the Broadwell generation.

Let’s get one thing straight, though: you will not be playing games at Full HD resolution nor anything approaching high detail settings unless, like me, your main gaming thrills consist of slow-paced strategy titles such as Civilization V. Set your sights on 720p gaming with the detail settings dialled right back, however, and the XPS 13 will do its best to churn out playable frame rates.

Dell XPS 13 review: Right side

I fired up my current go-to shooter, BioShock Infinite, and the Dell XPS 13 handled the action admirably. With the resolution set to 1,280 x 720 and detail settings dropped down to Low, I saw frame rates stay around the 30fps mark. In the in-game benchmark, the XPS 13 managed an average frame rate of 30.3fps, and that tallied pretty well with my hands-on experiences. Gaming is firmly on the agenda, as long as you don’t push the XPS 13 too hard.

You’d expect extra gaming power to come at the expense of battery life, but here there’s a pleasant surprise. With the screen brightness dimmed down to around halfway (it’s impossible to get the display at a set brightness due to the dynamic contrast) and Wi-Fi off, the XPS 13 kept plugging away in our light-use test for 11hrs 31mins, which is 66 minutes longer than last year’s model. An hour extra battery life and better performance. That’ll do nicely.

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