It was roughly a year ago that we had a chance to review Dell’s XPS 13, which was the first laptop from Dell to feature the Infinity Edge display. In addition to making the laptop look as much like a bezel-less display as possible, it also let Dell squeeze a 13-inch laptop into a much smaller chassis. The XPS 13 is still, to this day, unparalleled in the PC space in this context. So the obvious question at the time was when or if Dell was going to do the same to the rest of the XPS lineup? That question was answered in October  2015,  when Dell launched the updated XPS 15 with Skylake and Infinity Edge. Just like the XPS 13 before it, the laptop was bezel-less and the larger 15.6-inch model fits into a laptop chassis that would normally house a 14-inch display. Smaller, lighter, and with the same styling as the XPS 13, Dell has the potential to set the bar higher in the larger laptop segment as well.

With the updated chassis also came an update in the internals. Dell moved to Skylake for the 9550 model, with Core i3, i5, and i7 models based on Intel’s H Series chips. The Core i3-6100H is a dual-core 35-Watt CPU, and the Core i5 and i7 are both quad-core 45-Watt processors. The base RAM option is 8 GB of DDR4, and you can order up to 16 GB from Dell, although this laptop does have SODIMM slots so you can add up to 32 GB if needed. Graphics on the Core i3 model is just the base integrated solution, but all other models come with a 2 GB GeForce GTX 960M graphics card, which has 640 CUDA cores, 1096 MHz frequency plus boost, and a 128-bit GDDR5 memory subsystem.

Dell offers two display choices. The standard model is a 1920x1080 15.6-inch model, or you can opt for the $350 upgrade to a 3840x2106 touch display which has a backlight which can cover the Adobe RGB color space.

Dell XPS 15 9550 Configurations
  Core i3 Core i5 Core i7
(Model Tested)
GPU Intel HD 530 Intel HD 530 +
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M w/2GB GDDR5
CPU Intel Core i3-6100H (35w)
Dual-Core w/HyperThreading 2.7 GHz
Intel Core i5-6300HQ (45w)
Quad-Core 2.3-3.2 GHz
Intel Core i7-6700HQ (45w)
Quad-Core w/HyperThreading 2.6-3.5 GHz
Memory 8-16GB DDR4-2133 RAM
Two SODIMM slots, 32GB Max
Display 15.6" IPS 1920x1080 sRGB 15.6" IPS 1920x1080 sRGB
Optional 3840x2160 IGZO IPS w/Adobe RGB color space and touch
Storage 500GB 7200 RPM Hybrid w/32GB NAND 1TB 5400 RPM Hybrid w/32GB NAND 256/512/1024 GB PCIe NVMe SSD (PM951)
I/O USB 3.0 x 2 w/Powershare
SD Card reader
1 x USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C w/Thunderbolt 3
Headset Jack
HDMI
Dimensions (mm) : 357 x 235 x 11-17
(inches) : 14.06 x 9.27 x 0.45-0.66
Weight With 56 Wh Battery
1.78 kg / 3.9 lbs
With 84 Wh Battery
2 kg / 4.4 lbs
Battery 56 Wh 56/84 Wh
Price $999+ $1199+ $1499+

Dell offers a 500 GB hybrid hard drive as the base offering, and a 1 TB hybrid upgrade, or you can get rid of the spinning disk altogether and choose PCIe based solid state drives, with 256 and 512 GB options. If you elect for an SSD, you also have the option of getting an 84 Wh battery instead of the standard 56 Wh version. The 84 Wh battery takes up the space where the 2.5-inch hard drive would have been, which is a smart idea.

Wireless options are interesting as well. The base model comes with a 2x2 802.11ac wireless card, but the upgraded models feature a 3x3 802.11ac offering, which is rare indeed on a Windows PC. This gives a maximum connection rate of 1.3 Gbps, assuming you have a router that can support 3x3 connections. This should, in theory, give a lot better throughput than the more common 2x2 implementations we see on most notebooks, but this is certainly something we’ll test later on.

We also see Dell continue to support Thunderbolt 3 ports, which is coupled with a USB Type-C connector. This port provides 40 Gbps of bandwidth when in Thunderbolt mode and can be used for various peripherals including Dell’s own Thunderbolt dock which gives a single cable docking solution. The dock adds Gigabit Ethernet, HDMI, two DisplayPort connections, VGA, three USB 3.0 connectors, two USB 2.0 connectors, headset, and even a speaker output. The laptop itself also has two more USB 3.0 ports, HDMI, and a SD card reader.

Overall this is a pretty compelling package. Dell is offering a 15.6-inch notebook which is about the same size as a 14-inch model, but at the same time they’ve found enough space to pack in plenty of performance, along with Thunderbolt 3 and one of the few 3x3 wireless implementation to date.

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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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