Seeing that I was satisfied with the Dell XPS 13 Plus, it makes sense to give the regular Dell XPS 13 model a little attention too.
While the Plus model is more geared towards entertainment/business usage, it might seem a little overkill for the average user – especially with its higher cost. The standard XPS 13 9315 model of the 2022 generation still has some nice features to it that are shared with the Plus model: a 16:10 screen with minimal bezels, a thin and compact form factor, and a minimalist IO. You also have a similar clean look to the chassis.
But, as I’ll get into more detail, the cost savings had to go somewhere. So on the 9315 model, there’s a more traditional keyboard and trackpad that most people are used to. Additionally, there are fewer screen options to choose from, and this model uses the 12th-gen U processors from Intel, instead of the P28 processors on the Plus model.
That means the XPS 13 9315 is slower than the Plus model. But again, that’s probably ok for most people. So I bought myself a near-base model, which has the i5 processor and 16GB of RAM. I figure this will be the most popular configuration as it’s the most cost-effective one available (completely ignoring the 8GB RAM options). Check out what I think after using it for a couple of weeks.
Specs as reviewed – Dell XPS 13 9315
||Dell XPS 13 9315
||13.4 inch, 16:10 1920×1200, IPS, 60 Hz, matte
||12th Gen Intel Core i5-1230U, 12 core total, 4 perfomance+8 eco (4.4 Ghz turbo)
||Intel Iris Xe
||16 GB LPDDR5-5200Mhz soldered
||512GB M.2 PCIe 3.0 Micron
||Intel Wi-Fi AX211 + Bluetooth 5.2
||2x USB-C Thunderbolt 4(PD 3.0, DP 1.4)
||51 Wh, 45W charger
||295.4 mm or 11.63” (w) x 199.4 mm or 7.86” (d) x 13.99 mm or .55” (h)
||1.17 kg (2.59 lbs) + charger
||HD webcam with Windows Hello, fingerprint reader, stereo speakers, Sky and Umber color options
Design and ergonomics
As Andrei mentioned in his comparison article, Dell made a few significant changes to the design of the standard XPS 13 this year, including the thickness and weight of the device as well as changing up the IO that’s available. In general, we’re looking at a more minimalist approach than in the past, which is probably welcomed by most that are interested in this type of machine.
The device as a whole is very compact, with a small footprint and only .55” in thickness. It’s very light as well, weighing just over 2 and a half pounds. I found that the device is super easy to carry and handle. It even fits into the small pouch in my backpack, which was probably intended for large tablets.
The entire chassis is made of aluminum which has a matte finish and a very consistent look throughout the device. The only two color choices are Sky and Umber. I chose Sky, which is basically grey with a hint of blue. Umber is more of a charcoal color with a hint of brown. The blue looks nicer in my opinion as it doesn’t easily smudge or show fingerprints.
The lid is perfectly smooth with the exception of the embossed Dell logo in the center. I wish I could say lifting the lid with a single finger was possible, but it just wasn’t. If I did it really slow, I can make it happen, but 99% of the time I need to use two hands – the hinge is just barely too stiff.
In fact, it did get easier over time, because at first, I found it incredibly difficult to open with even two hands. Upon taking it out of the box, I had to pry my fingernail under the lid just to break the seal and get it cracked. Since then, it hasn’t been THAT bad, but it’s still annoying that there isn’t a built-in lip or crease for my finger to latch onto.
Once you get the thing open you get a good look at the screen, which is nearly bezel-less. There’s an HD shooter centered above the screen as well as an ambient light sensor. That camera also supports Windows Hello by the way. Flanking both sides of the camera are a pair of microphones.
The palm rest is also made of the same sky aluminum. The keys match the color perfectly and offer some contrast, however, it could have been better in my opinion, especially with the white backlighting. I’ll cover the keyboard and trackpad more in a later section though.
The bottom of the device is pretty tidy. There are two long footpads that are very small, which is normally worrisome. But since there are no vents in the middle, it doesn’t matter at all. On the sides, there are some speaker cutouts, which also allow some cool air to come into the laptop.
Also on the bottom is a nice-looking XPS logo and some regulatory information. Unfortunately, that information is embossed and is not removable. Dell used to hide this info behind a plate, which I preferred, but I guess it could be worse. There’s also a regulatory label that literally says that it can be removed. So weird…
Overall, I could give this design some high praise, but it’s not quite perfect. My unit suffers from a slightly bent chassis which makes the front right footpad slightly raised, relative to the others. I noticed it right away the first time I went to type on it.
It’s clearly because of the thin chassis and the fact that it’s aluminum, but I wonder if what I have is just a rare defect or if it’s a problem with the overall design. Hopefully, this doesn’t get worse over time.
This defect aside, I really like the design of this XPS 13 2022-generation. It’s slim, lightweight, and has a very small footprint, just like all the previous models. The XPS 13 is still one of the few laptops that mimics a Macbook and does a good job at it. I just wish it wasn’t bent.
Keyboard and trackpad
It took a little bit, but I did eventually get used to the keyboard on this machine over time. The keyboard layout is just fine, but the keystroke depth is a little shallow for my taste. It doesn’t take a lot to make a keystroke either, but there is ample enough feedback that at least makes it feel like I’m accomplishing something.
I did type the bulk of my review on it and didn’t notice an alarming difference in my error rate at least. Compared to the XPS 13 Plus, I’d probably call them equal in accuracy and capability. But I found this keyboard far less annoying to use, particularly because of the absence of that touch bar.
The keyboard is backlit, which white lighting. At night this is nice to have, but during the day it gets in the way. With ample lighting, the backlight actually blends in with the key color and it becomes difficult to read. It’s easy to shut off with the hotkey, but I would have preferred an auto-brightness sensor that disables it automatically when the lighting is good.
The trackpad on this laptop is good, albeit small. It probably could have been a little taller, but it’s adequate as it is and probably fine for most people. It’s made of smooth glass and well constructed, with a color that looks exactly like the chassis.
Tracking and touchpad gestures worked very well when I needed them. I also used the clickpad features and didn’t see any issues with it at all. Overall, it’s a fine trackpad, which seems to be standard on laptops of this class these days.
I’m not sure if there are more options to come, but Dell really skimped on the screen choices this year. There were only two, both with FHD+ panels. I chose the cheaper of the two which is 400-nits and matte.
It’s a good enough screen for the average user. It covers 100% of the sRGB spectrum and is IPS, so the viewing angles are excellent. Where it stands out is how deep the blacks are, which makes for an above-average contrast ratio.
I used my X-rite i1 Display Pro sensor to verify all the specs. Here’s what I got:
- Panel HardwareID: Lenovo ATNA40YK01-1(Model SDC4152)
- Coverage: 96.0% sRGB, 66.1% AdobeRGB, 68.0% DCI-P3;
- Max brightness in the middle of the screen: 408 cd/m2 on power;
- Gamma: 2.2
- Contrast at max brightness: 2267:1
- Native white point: 6328 K;
- Black on max brightness: .18 cd/m2.
So not too bad on the specs really. What makes other panels stand out though are the faster screen choices and the plethora of 100% DCI-P3 panels out there. If you don’t know what I mean, you’re probably not missing much. But if something like that is important to you, the Dell XPS 13 9315 is not a viable option as both panel choices are 60Hz and only 100% sRGB.
Just to note, on paper, the only difference in the screen choices is one is matte and the other is glossy and touch. When I originally purchased this unit, I thought the cheaper option said 400-nits, but it now says 500-nits. Of course, my measurements don’t reflect that so take their advertisement with a grain of salt.
I’ll give Dell a slight pass with this screen though as it’s just fine for someone that uses this laptop for what it’s intended for. It also keeps the cost competitive, which is definitely important with all the other options out there. But I would have liked to at least see an option for something more – maybe not 4k, but at least QHD.
Hardware and performance
My model comes with an Alder Lake Intel Core i5-1230U processor which is a 12 Core design with 4 Performance cores and 8 Eco cores. This is my first time with the U processors of this generation and I can certainly see the difference in performance, especially having just reviewed the XPS 13 Plus which has a P28 processor instead.
It’s not a deal breaker by any means. Realistically speaking, the P processor in the XPS Plus was probably overkill for the average user anyway. But I did notice a little longer boot-up times and program responsiveness when using this laptop, and I can only attribute it to the CPU. You might get better performance in the i7, but it’s also a U processor with very similar specs, and the same sort of low power limits, so don’t expect this Dell XPS 13 9315 series to perform as well as the XPS Plus.
Still, it is what it is, and if you plan on using this purely for media consumption, web surfing, and casual multitasking, this CPU is absolutely fine for that. If you want to do some serious work though, you might want to consider a different model, unless they somehow add those more powerful CPUs as a config option in the future.
My unit comes with 16GB of RAM, but I had to configure it to get it that way. By default, it’s 8GB, which I don’t think is enough by today’s standards. That RAM is soldered, so choose carefully.
I also got a 512GB SSD which is a PCIe 3.0 drive by Micron. I took some benchmarks using Crystal disk mark and got some good speeds there. But this is also something that you need to consider carefully before you purchase.
What I mean here is that there’s literally nothing to upgrade on this laptop. Popping off the cover is a simple task that involves removing a bunch of Torx screws and using a guitar pic to release the clips. But when you remove that cover, you can clearly see that the RAM, SSD, and Wifi module are all soldered and not upgradeable. This was likely done to minimize the motherboard as much as possible and maximize the battery.
Let’s analyze the performance now.
Here’s how the laptop handles sustained CPU loads on the Optimized profile and how it compares to the higher-power i7 processor in the Dell XPS 13 Plus or the ZenBook 14, as well as mid-tier implementations of the previous 11th gen hardware available in the previous-year XPS 13 and most other 2021 ultrabooks. It’s interesting that the performance of this 12th-gen Core U is a little higher than of the previous-gen Core U processors, but at lower power and reduced noise levels. At the same time, this U implementation is not competition for the higher-tier Intel or AMD platforms.
I then took some synthetic benchmarks to get an idea of how well the CPU performs. Here’s what I got in Performance mode, which allows the CPU to start at 28W for a short burst and then eventually levels out at 20W:
- 3DMark 13 – Fire Strike: 3144 (Graphics – 3308, Physics – 16142);
- 3DMark 13 – Time Spy: 1100 (Graphics – 961, CPU – 6280);
- 3DMark 13 – CPU Profile: Max-3768, 16T-3179, 8T-2279, 4T-1704, 2T-1346, 1T-824
- Superposition: Medium: 1997
- GeekBench 5: Single-Core: 1657, Multi-core: 7241;
- CineBench R15: OpenGL 74.01 fps, CPU 1089 cb, CPU Single Core 208 cb;
- CineBench R23: CPU 7465 pts, CPU Single Core 1557 pts;
Next is “Optimized” mode. In this mode, the TDP starts at 28W but then quickly drops to 17W and then again to 12W sustained. Here were my test results:
- 3DMark 13 – Fire Strike: 2552 (Graphics – 2985, Physics – 8016);
- 3DMark 13 – Time Spy: 927 (Graphics – 831, CPU – 2740);
- 3DMark 13 – CPU Profile: Max-2646, 16T-2216, 8T-1729, 4T-1316, 2T-1048, 1T-699
- Superposition: Medium: 1997
- GeekBench 5: Single-Core: 1480, Multi-core: 4557;
- CineBench R15: OpenGL 63.32 fps, CPU 926 cb, CPU Single Core 203 cb;
- CineBench R23: CPU 4823 pts, CPU Single Core 1299 pts;
Finally, these are the results in “Quiet mode”. In this mode, the TDP is the same as optimized where it starts at 28W, drops to 17W, and again to 12W. The difference here is the fans are practically off in this mode, so things get warmer internally. Here were my results:
- 3DMark 13 – Fire Strike: 1488 (Graphics – 1708, Physics – 5355);
- 3DMark 13 – Time Spy: 610 (Graphics – 546, CPU – 1872);
- 3DMark 13 – CPU Profile: Max-1087, 16T-1185, 8T-1086, 4T-940, 2T-826, 1T-532
- Superposition: Medium: 1742
- GeekBench 5: Single-Core: 1374, Multi-core: 4480;
- CineBench R15: OpenGL 65.55 fps, CPU 617 cb, CPU Single Core 160 cb;
- CineBench R23: CPU 4076 pts, CPU Single Core 1237 pts;
I think if I used this device daily, I’d opt for Optimized mode. Sure, it’s quieter in Quiet mode, but the fans aren’t all that loud to begin with anyway. Plus I’d rather get a little more performance, all things considered.
I also took some benchmarks with a few games. See below for my results:
|Skyrim (Ultra, FHD+)
||31 fps avg, 29 fps low
|The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (FHD+, low Preset, Hairworks Off)
||20 fps avg, 16 fps low
|Portal Reloaded (4k+)
I don’t think anyone should plan on using this kind of laptop for serious gaming. But just in case you do, note that you won’t get good framerates on any of the newer titles. Older titles will still play decently, but even Witcher 3 is practically unplayable at its lowest settings and that game is pushing 8 years old.
Noise, Heat, Connectivity, speakers, and others
This XPS 13 laptop has a pretty small cooling module, but it does a very good job of keeping the CPU under control.
Throughout my testing, it didn’t even come close to overheating. A lot of this has to do with the modest power limit on the CPU though.
Dell uses thermal modes instead of power modes to control the TDP. These power limits were described in the previous section, but note that each mode is distinguished by the fan activity each mode presents. Performance, Optimized and Quiet are the modes that I tested primarily.
You’ll get the most out of your machine in Performance mode. Even under the heaviest of loads, the fan noise I measured only hit 38dB(A). It was a high-pitched whoosh noise, but I didn’t find it annoying at all. And temperatures only maxed out at 70C and averaged in the low 60s, which is great.
In Optimized mode, the fan noise was slightly lower. It still gets around 35dB(A) under heavier loads, but under normal circumstances, the fans were pretty much inaudible. Temperatures were generally stable in this mode too, which makes sense considering the power limit only peaks during triggered loads and then tapers off to lower powers that barely need the fan and heat sink.
Normally Quiet mode is much quieter than the other modes, but on this machine, it’s very similar to Optimized mode. The average temps end up being a few degrees higher in this mode, probably because the fan curve stays off until temps creep to higher levels. But in general, the fans are inaudible in Optimized mode, so why not just use that? Regardless, the Quiet mode is there if you want it.
The only thing I don’t like about these modes is how annoying it is to change them. It’s in the My Dell software, but you have to navigate to the power manager and then the thermal tab to get to them. Not intuitive and too many clicks if you ask me.
I did take some measurements of those surface temps. Once while watching Netflix on battery in Quiet mode. A second time was in Performance mode while playing Witcher 3. Overall, not bad as far as surface temps go.
The Intel AX211 Wifi 6E module in this unit is soldered onboard. I had good connection for the time I used it and got download speeds as high as 600Mbps from 25ft away from my router.
The Bluetooth 5.2 also worked just fine. And I needed it a lot too since there’s no USB-A for my mouse and no headphone jack. I didn’t have any trouble using my Airpods and Bluetooth mouse during my time with this laptop though.
The speakers are pretty good on this device. There are only two of them, and they are downward-facing, but they still pack a pretty decent punch. I used my typical test song and only got a max amplitude of 76dB(A) – good enough for most people I think. The mids and highs sounded balanced and provided a pretty full sound. The bass was decent too, audible at levels as low as 60Hz at max volume,
The webcam is decent. It’s only HD but the image looked good in well-lit rooms and was pretty OK in low lighting too. Low light lacked color of course, but it wasn’t overly grainy like I’ve seen from other laptops lately.
The camera also supports Windows Hello. Combined with the auto-on feature when you lift the lid, it makes unlocking the PC very simple. If only the lid didn’t take two hands to open, this would be perfect.
There’s also a fingerprint sensor that is integrated into the power button on the upper right. I didn’t use this as much, but I did test it and it works just fine. Strangely, it’s the only button that isn’t backlit and it has no markings indicating that it is indeed a power button or that it is a fingerprint scanner. How mystifying…
This model only contains a 51 Whr battery. It’s a small laptop which is probably why, but it’s still a small battery. I took a series of battery life tests with the brightness at 30%, which is about 140 nits. Here were my results:
- 3.0 W (~17 h 0 min of use)– idle, Quiet mode, screen at 0%, Wi-Fi ON, backlighting off;
- 10.1 W (5 h 3 min of use)– text editing in Word with light internet use, Quiet mode, screen at 30%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 5.0 W (~10 h 12 min of use)–1080p 60Hz Youtube fullscreen in Chrome, Quiet mode, screen at 30%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 7.2 W (~7 h 5 min of use)– 1080p Hulu fullscreen video in Chrome, Quiet mode, screen at 30%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 16.5 W (~3 h 5 min of use)– heavy browsing in Chrome, Optimized mode, screen at 30%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 19.2 W (~2 h 39 min of use)– Gaming – Witcher 3, Optimized mode, 60fps cap, screen at 50%, Wi-Fi ON.
As you can see, you can get some pretty decent battery life out of this laptop. But there are limitations to the efficiency, particularly once you start applying heavier loads. Still though, if you’re not doing constant work on the machine and it’s allowed to idle here or there, you can get a full day out of this.
Price and availability- Dell XPS 13
The model I have is available on Dell’s website for $1149. At the time of this review, this model is not available on Amazon yet, but here’s a link to check on in case it becomes available.
The configuration options are decent, allowing you to bump the CPU to an i7, increase the RAM to 32GB and add a 1TB SSD. You can even add a touchscreen.
What’s missing though is a better screen option. There’s only the FHD+ panel, which is unfortunate if you ask me. Previous XPS 13 models have offered up to a 4k panel, so I’m not sure why they decided against it this time around.
Final thoughts- Dell XPS 13 9315 review
The Dell XPS 13 9315 model is the ideal minimalist laptop for those that primarily use their computer to perform light tasks or consume media. It has a sleek, familiar design, is lightweight, and has a decent amount of power under the hood. It’s definitely a good contender as long as you don’t care about some of the minor setbacks.
What I mean is primarily the lack of IO. All you get is the two USB-C ports and that’s it. They didn’t even include the headphone jack or MicroSD that they had in the same chassis last year. A big missed opportunity if you ask me, because there’s certainly space for at least those.
But Dell is probably just following in Apple’s footsteps in the mission to rid everyone of wired peripherals. You can, after all, use Bluetooth headphones and a mouse and use cloud storage. It’s really going to come down to whether or not this is important to you and Dell’s assumption is you’ll adapt.
If you do decide to make this your next purchase, I urge you to think carefully about what model you choose. The RAM and SSD are soldered, so there’s no changing them after you buy. On top of that, if you want to get better performance, perhaps that i7 processor is worth the extra money.
But this is where it gets tricky. Because when you price out the i7 model of the XPS 13, it ends up being exactly the same price as the i7 model for the XPS 13 Plus, which should be considerably faster considering it’s using a P processor instead. And the SSD in that model is at least upgradable.
Perhaps this is Dell’s plan for the future, to push power users towards their new XPS model and to use this one more as a budget model. Performance aside, they certainly skimped on the screen choices for the regular XPS 13 and the Plus model has more in that department as well. It’ll be interesting to see which model everyone favors and what they offer in the future.
But it is what it is, and for what they are charging for the base model, I’d say this XPS 13 9315 is a pretty competitive machine. Looking forward to hearing your comments on what you all think.
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