I have to admit, the XPS 13 2015 9343 is one of the few ultraportables that
caught my attention at CES. And since it was one of the first Broadwell U laptops available to buy, I took the plunge and got one early, in January 2015.
Initially, I’ve ordered it so I could review one of the new-gen ultrabooks (at that time) as soon as possible and while there were some things that I liked about it, I did not intend to keep it, as I already had a portable laptop that satisfied my needs. But after actually using this XPS for a while, I’ve decided it is a good replacement for my veteran Lenovo ThinkPad X220. I still have a few gripes with it and there are aspects that will take some time to get used to, but even so, this little fellow managed to impress me. And that doesn’t happen often.
Just to be clear, I’m reviewing a Dell XPS 13 2015 edition here (model 9343, or Dell XPS with Infinity Display as it’s called on Dell’s website), a basic configuration that
sells at the time of this post for $899 and includes an Intel Core i5-5200U processor, 4 GB of RAM, a 128 GB SSD and a FHD matte non-touch display. I bought it from the Microsoft Store and that makes it a Signature Edition, with no bloatware at all and a few customized drivers, so it is somewhat different from the units you can buy from Dell directly, and we’ll talk about that in the article.
Update3: While I haven’t yet updated my XPS 13, I’ve covered all the XPS 13 follow-up models in our reviews, and you can find all our XPS 13 articles over here, up to the latest iteration, the 2019 XPS 13 9380.
This is the Dell XPS 13 2015, an ultraportable that actually managed to impress me
Stick with me throughout this review and you’ll find out all there is to know about the Dell XPS 13 2015.
The specs sheet
Dell XPS 13 2015 9343 Signature Edition
Screen 13.3 inch, 1920 x 1080 px resolution, IPS, matte
Processor Intel Broadwell Core i5-5200U CPU
Video integrated Intel 5500 HD
Memory 4 GB DDR3 (non-upgradeable)
Storage 128 GB SSD (M.2 80 mm – made by Lite ON)
Connectivity Wireless AC, Bluetooth 4.0
Ports 2xUSB 3.0, SD card reader, miniDP, Noble Lock
Battery 52 Wh
Operating system Windows 8.1
Size 304 mm or 11.98 in (L) x 200 mm or 7.88 in (W) x 15 mm or 0.6 in (H)
Weight about 1.17 kg (2.6 pounds)
Extras TPM, two stage white backlit keyboard, carbon-fiber body, battery indicator on the side
Retail units ship in several different configurations.
Aside from the Microsoft Store that offers Signature Edition models, like the one we have here, most other versions will include some preinstalled software on them. At the same time, Dell’s website does offer more models and there are coupon codes you could use, so there’s a fair chance you will get this cheaper from them or other third party stores like Amazon or Best Buy. Check the Prices and Availability section of the review for more details.
Design and exterior
Well, the previous XPS 13 was more compact than the pack. Many called it a 13 inch ultrabook in a 12.5 inch laptop’s body. This 2015 version is even smaller, it’s actually a 13.3 inch device in an 11.6 inch body and that’ actually one of its strong selling points.
You’ll notice this compact body the moment you first take the device out of the box. But you’ll acknowledge it more once you lift the screen cover, as the bezel around it is strikingly tiny. And I can’t help myself thinking that’s how all laptops should be made. The XPS has a small profile as well and it’s fairly light. The option I got, the one without a touchscreen, tips the scales at 2.6 lbs (1.17 kilos), while the touchscreen model is about 0.2 lbs heavier. That’s about 1 lbs less than my older X220 and sure makes a difference while on the road.
Despite the compact footprint though, there’s nothing really missing from this laptop. It offers a proper keyboard with full-sized keys, placed high enough on the body to allow room for a spacious trackpad and palm-rest area. And you do get pretty much all the needed ports on the sides, including an SD card-reader, something the previous XPS 13 lacked.
There is one downside though, if you can call it so. Because there is no room on top of the display for a webcam, Dell had to put in beneath it, in the lower-left corner, and had to cut off the illumination sensor from what I can tell. That’s hardly going to bother me at all though, since I do turn all the Auto-Brightness gimmicks OFF the moment I take a laptop out of the box and don’t really use that webcam much. If you do, well, you’ll probably have to lean back the screen a bit so it will catch your face properly, but really, that’s such a minor inconvenience I really doubt anyone would nag about it, especially when considering what we gain because Dell took this particular approach.
Anyway, let’s take a step back and have a better look at this thing.
It’s built like a tank and it’s beautiful at the same time. Machined aluminum is used for the entire outer-case, both for the lid cover and the belly and the case does not bulge or squeak at all, even when grabbing the device firmer. The metallic edges are chamfered, but even so, the front lip still feels a bit sharp and since there’s no knob to grab when lifting the screen, some might not really appreciate it.
In fact, I can add that lifting the screen on this XPS takes some effort and you’ll actually need two hands to do it (some other laptops, like the MBA or the Asus Zenbooks, allow the screen to be lifted with a single hand and the lower-body remains in place while you do it; that’s not the case here).
On top of that, being used to a different coating on my ThinkPad, I fear this machine won’t look as nice as it does out of the box for long, as that aluminum might dent and scratch in time. Could be just my opinion, since I’m not used to aluminum made devices like this one, but I plan on getting a proper sleeve for it anyway, just for my mental comfort.
The metallic exterior is not extremely grippy either, but Dell’s design helps here. They stretched the rubber feet on the belly across the laptop’s entire length and that makes for a wedge for me to grab the laptop when needed, that goes along perfectly with the black rubbery plastic hinge. BTW, the device sits firmly on the desk with this kind of feet and I doubt they would peel-of in time, like it happens with other designs. The belly is fairly simple, with the feet, some cooling grills and that standard XPS cover that hides the laptop’s Service Tag and other details and keeps the design clean.
Speaking of that, I appreciated there was only one sticker on this laptop, on the palm rest, with the Intel processor type, and I peeled it off quickly. Now there nothing ruining this thing’s spartan beauty.
Outer aspect aside, I’m really happy with Dell’s material choice for the interior as well: it’s soft and black, with a patterned design over the palm-rest and the area around the keyboard, but without any texture that could grab dirt in time. It’s supposedly made from carbon-fiber, but just feels like a really smooth and good-quality plastic to me, pardon my ignorance. Still, it’s hard to put this finishing in words, you’d have to actually feel it (or be familiar with previous Dell XPS laptops), but I just simply love it. Will show fingerprints easy though, like all other smooth black finishes. The screen’s bezel is made from simple matte plastic and there’s a power button placed near the Dell key.
Now let’s turn our attention on the buttons and connectors placed around the edge. Most things are on the left: the DC-IN and the miniDP (hurray, fewer cables on the right), as well as one of the USB 3.0 slots, the headphone/mic jack and a small array of LEDs and a button meant to show the battery’s charge state. The other side houses what looks like a
Kensington Lock (careful, this is actually a Noble Lock and it’s not compatible with standard Kensington cables), another USB 3.0 slot and the card-reader, which is not very deep and won’t fit flush an SD card, but it’s a much awaited addition on the 13 inch XPS.
Keyboard and trackpad
I mostly like the keyboard on this ultrabook. It lacks the travel and overall precision of my ThinkPad X220, but that was expected, since it’s a lot thinner. Still, it comes fairly close: I’m averaging a similar typing speed, but with more errors. However, keep in mind that I’m still getting use to this keyboard’s feedback so I’m confident my typing accuracy will improve in time.
My major complain is with the short stroke though, but even so, the typing experience is superior to most other slim laptops I’ve tested lately. Superior to the Lenovo Yogas or the Asus Zenbooks and nearly on par with the newer Thinkpads with AccuType keyboards.
Update (8 months later): I never actually got used to the shallow stroke, not even after typing tens of thousands of words on this thing. I can type fast and mostly accurate, bu the feedback is still lacking.
The layout is OK, simple. Of course, there’s not enough room for all the secondary keys, but at least the important keys are proper sized, there’s a row of F keys on top and the arrow keys aren’t minuscule. Speaking of the top row of keys, out of the box those default at multimedia controls. I tend to use Functions quite often so I changed their behavior in BIOS, there’s an option that allows you to do so.
The keyboard is backlit and the white illumination glows evenly from below each key. You can manually choose between two intensity levels or switch it OFF completely. From what I can tell, there’s no light sensor that would know not to illuminate the keys outdoors, so you will have to do all the adjustments by hand.
The trackpad sits below the keyboard and it’s properly separated from the palm-rest area around. Is not as large as on a Macbook, but it’s large enough for me – 105 x 60 mm (if you’ve seen an X220, you’ll understand what I mean).
The hardware is a glass Synaptics surface, smooth and responsive, and Microsoft took the commitment to work on the drivers, in order to improve this critical element that always seems to be an issue on Windows machines. The result is what Microsoft calls a Precision Touchpad and to my surprise, it works well.
It handles properly every swipes, taps and most gestures. There’s not a large deal of those supported, but things like two finger zooming and scrolling are there and work alright most of the time. Scrolling can get laggy though (I’m using Firefox, BTW) and there are no Back/Forward gestures, so there’s still room for improvement. Chrome users report a more appalling experience though, especially with two finger scrolling.
Now, if you expect this to match the touchpads on a Macbook, you will end up disappointed. Adjust your expectations to a “Windows laptop” though, and you should be OK.
Update (8 months later): I find it terribly annoying that Dell were not able to launch a proper Touchpad driver after so many months. As a Firefox user, I don’t suffer that much, but attempting to use the touchpad in Chrome can be very irritating.
The trackpad is better than on other Windows laptops, but still not perfect
For the minor quirks, I could complain that the physical clicks are a bit noisy and stiff, but I use taps all the time, so that didn’t affect me much. I did however notice that if you’re used to keeping one finger on the trackpad all the time (to click) while navigating with another, the surface’s responsiveness drops significantly and you’ll actually have to perform many swipes to get the cursor where you need. That doesn’t happen on the Macbooks, but again, is not something I was personally bothered by, because I do not have this particular usage habit. Still, something to keep in mind.
I also noticed on the forums that quite a few people are complaining about some sort of initial lag when using this trackpad, but from what I’ve seen, but I personally haven’t notice any significant delays or lag on this Signature Edition unit. Some users also reported that the trackpad is “horrible” with Windows 7, so you might want to think twice if you’ve got any plans in ditching the Windows 8.1 that comes by default with the laptop, at least till Dell releases more mature drivers.
The display on this unit is matte, lacks touch and uses an IPS panel. That’s what I had on the Lenovo and that’s what I appreciate on a laptop. Yes, touchscreens can be nice,
especially on 2-in-1s, but I’m more of a clamshell laptop kind of guy and hate glare. If you do want the touchscreen, Dell offers one on higher end configurations, but those aren’t cheap.
On the other hand, I’m a big fan of screens that can lean back flat to 180 degrees, and that’s not the case in here. The XPS’s display only leans back to about 150 degrees, which is fine for desk use, but not for those moments when I lie in bed with the laptop leaning on my legs. And that’s something I’m going to take a long time to get used to.
The 1920 x 1080 px resolution is sharp enough for me. I scaled fonts to 125% (by default they are scaled to 150%) and this way I get a spacious enough working area, with icons and elements large enough so I don’t have to struggle to find them. Most Windows 8.1 UI elements scale well, but there are some third party apps that don’t. Still, that’s not as much of a problem here as on a higher density panel.
I was happy with the contrast and the colors from the moment I got this thing out of the box. Viewing angles are stellar as well and I noticed no bleeding around the edges, something most IPS panels suffer from.
I do have a few complains though. First of all, the matte surface does add a slight graininess to the image, visible especially on whites, which was less pronounced on my older Lenovo. And second, there seems to be something wrong with my panel’s brightness and I can’t say whether it’s a software or a hardware issue. I tried watching a movie in a bright room the other day and although I had already pumped the brightness to max, that was still not enough for the darker scenes.
The issue was confirmed when I put the colorimeter on the panel (I’m using a Sypder4Elite): max brightness is just shy of 190 nits, which is way lower than the advertised 400 nits (or the 350 nits mentioned by some other reviews). I’ve yet to find the cause for this and to be frank but I’m still investigating. On the long term, it’s probably something I can live with, but will sure be annoying when taking the laptop outdoors. And in case you’re wondering if I disabled the Auto Brightness functions from the Power Options, yes, of course I did.
Anyway, here are the raw numbers on my unit:
Panel HardwareID: Sharp SPH1420;
Coverage: 100% sRGB, 73% NTSC, 78% Adobe RGB;
measured gamma: 2.2 ;
max brightness in the middle of the screen: 187 cd/m2;
contrast at max brightness: 850:1;
white point: 7300 K;
black on max brightness: 0.22 cd/m2;
average DeltaE: 0.81 uncalibrated, 2.61 calibrated (???).
There’s something wrong with the color report. The screen has a slight, yet visible blueish tint out of the box which is fixed by the calibration run, and despite that the sensor shows that the colors are more inaccurate after the calibration. Probably the Spyder4 sensor doesn’t work well with these Sharp panels. I’m going to have to dig deeper into this matter. For now, take those results with a grain of salt.
As a side note, many users on the forums are complaining about constant Contrast/Brightness auto adjustments when changing from a darker to a lighter image on this display, something that’s usually caused by Intel’s Display Power-Saving Technology. This option can be usually disabled from the Power tab in the Intel HD Graphics Control panel, but is missing on these XPSs, as Dell decided to cut of the option from the driver (and Intel’s default VGA driver cannot be installed).
Update (8 months later): I actually didn’t notice this aspect in the beginning and it never bothered me much ever since. This particular test posted by the user @tylerwatt2 on the notebookreview.com forums better exemplifies the problem. It takes maybe 1-2 seconds for that Dell Logo to become clearly visible, but that’s something I only occasionally notice in everyday use. Now, I’m not saying it’s not an issue, cause many are complaining about it, I’m saying it’s not something everyone will notice.
On the other hand, it would have been great if Dell would have actually released a driver update in order to address this aspect, but they just didn’t and probably never will.
Update2: The dynamic contrast is probably screwing up the brightness/colors readings, since the software alternates white and black images to measure brightness and contrast.
Hardware, performance and upgrade options
Like I mentioned before, I only got myself a mid-range configuration with an Intel Core i5-5200U, 4 GB of RAM and a 128 GB SSD.
But the truth is I do all my photo/video editing or coding on a powerful desktop these days, so the laptop is just something I occasionally type and browse on, while lying on the couch or in bed, as well as the computer I grab along when traveling and sometimes watch some videos on. And this configuration actually handles such tasks well enough, but also some other basic activities like listening to music and even playing some casual games (or some older PC titles).
In fact, the benchmarks proved that the Core i5-5200U is nearly on par with a Haswell i7 processors and not a lot slower than a Broadwell i7,
as proven by this post. Check out the numbers below.
3DMark 11: P1147;
3DMark 13: Ice Storm – 52611, Cloud Gate –5057, Sky Driver – 2731, Fire Strike – 713;
PCMark 08: Home Conventional – TBA;
CineBench 11.5: OpenGL 24.63 fps, CPU 2.84 pts, CPU Single Core 1.28 pts;
CineBench R15: OpenGL 30.22 fps, CPU 259 cb, CPU Single Core 100 cb;
X264 Benchmark 4.0: Pass 1 – 86.66 fps, Pass 2 – 16.23 fps.
The big culprit is the RAM though, since it is soldered on the motherboard and cannot be upgraded. Microsoft did not offer an i5 configuration with 8 GB of RAM when I bought mine. Dell does offer one in the meantime, but you have to pay $100 extra for it, which is outrageous, but at the same time, it is a smart “investment” if you plan on keeping this laptop for a few years. 4 GB of RAM are barely enough today.
On the other hand, if you opt for the 128 GB SSD, you’ll probably run out of space quite fast, as about 92 GB are accessible for your content out of the box (on this Signature model, probably less on the models sold directly by Dell) and Windows will eat more in time with its updates. The good news is the SSD is easily upgradeable. My unit came with a fast LiteON M.2 80 mm stick (model LITEONIT L8T-128L9G-11), but from what I’ve seen other version are offered with much slower Samsung SSDs. If you plan on upgrading the storage that won’t really matter, if you don’t, it sure does, so another thing to keep in mind. BTW, a compatible 256 GB SSD sells for around $130 these days, while a 512 GB one sells for under $250 and performing the upgrade is not a big deal.
You’ll need a Torx screw driver to take care of all the screws holding the back panel in place (careful, there’s also a Philips screw hidden behind the XPS metallic flap) and an old credit card to help separate the metallic bottom from the laptop’s body. Once you take it apart, switching the existing SSD stick with another one will only take you a minute or two. And if you don’t know how to clone your old SSD onto the new one or how to install Windows from scratch on the new one,
this post will come in handy.
This complete dissasembly guide might also prove helpful.
The Core i5-5200U processor bundles Intel’s latest generation HD 5500 graphics chip and that proved to be a major step-up from the previous HD 4400 solution. That’s visible both in the benchmarks available above, but also in games.
13 x 7 Low
13 x 7 High
19 x 10 Low
Dirt 3 48 fps
Grid 2 44 fps
NFS Most Wanted 27 fps
Bioshock Infinite 29 fps
Metro Last Light 17 fps
Notice that even some titles released last year are playable on 13 x 7 resolutions with Very Low/ Low details, while slightly older titles will run well at native resolution. Of course, this is not a device designed to run games, so I doubt anyone will want to play Metro Last Light or Far Cry 4 on it, but it will handle well enough something like League of Legends, World of Tanks or WoW, which once again shows that the integrated graphics have come a long way generation over generation.
Some of you might also be interested how the laptop performs under heavy load. Again, the XPS 13 is not something you should buy if you need speed, and especially not this mid-level configuration, but in order to satisfy all of you, I’ve stressed it with Prime 95 and Furmark and the results are visible in the following pictures.
There’s no throttling as long as I only stressed either the CPU or the GPU. However, while running both Prime95 and Furmark at the same time, the CPU’s frequency quickly drops to around 1.1 GHz (in about 15 seconds from the start of the test) and then slowly goes up to 1.7 GHz and stays there. The GPU runs close to its max frequency during all this time. Because of that, nor the CPU or the GPU reach very high temperatures in this case, and neither does the laptop’s outer shell. When stressed individually they get hotter. But we’ll talk more about temperatures in the following chapter.
Noise, Heat, Connectivity, speakers and others
With daily use, the XPS 13 2015 remains mostly noiseless. There’s a fan inside, but it will be usually switched OFF if you don’t have many programs running at once. The laptop’s bottom and the upper interior, around the keyboard, get quickly warm even when performing casual activities like browsing or watching a movie, but not hot enough to actually pose a problem.
If you’ll push the laptop though, the fan will kick on. It’s not very loud at start, but it ramps from 3000 rpm at first to 6000 rpm (according to HWInfo), in which case I measured about 46 dB with my iPhone app, at 50 cm from the laptop. At the same time, heat will spread through the metallic back-shell and your hands will start feeling it as well on the keyboard area, especially when playing a game that requires you to use the WASD keys, as the internal cooler is placed in this region. The pictures below prove that the XPS 13’s body can actually get hot under serious load, but as long as you’re not pushing it too hard, temperatures will not be a major concern. Still, they are higher than on most other 13 inch ultraportables I’ve tested along the years.
The air is sucked in through the grills on the bottom, while the area behind the hinge is divided between air-intake grills towards the middle and right and the exhaust on the left. It’s important not to cover any of these grills, so you should try not to keep the laptop on a pillow or blanket when performing something that puts it to serious work.
*Daily Use – 1080p Youtube video in IE for 30 minutes;
*Gaming – Need For Speed: Most Wanted on High for 30 minutes
When playing games the laptop reaches higher temperatures than when stressing it with Prime95 and Furmark simultaneously, so that’s pretty much the hottest it will get in standard conditions.
The inner components stay withing normal thermal limits, and the pictures below show you what to expect while using the device lightly, while browsing, while watching video content or when gaming. Keep in mind that the fan remains mostly switched OFF in most cases, even when watching movies. However, once the temperatures rise and the fan ramps up, it’s going to take a long time for it to rest again.
In my tests, I’ve played some games for almost an hour and then left the laptop idle. The CPU’s temperature drops fast, the GPU takes a bit longer to cool and the laptop’s case takes even longer. However, the fan will only switch OFF again nearly half an hour later (gradually slows down during this time to barely audible levels). Of course, playing games is one of the most demanding things you could actually do on this computer, so in everyday use the fan will settle down quicker, if it ever becomes active. But that’s something you should know anyway.
Connectivity wise, the XPS 13 2015 offers Bluetooth and Wi-Fi AC. There’s a Broadcom Wi-Fi AC module on my configuration, which you can upgrade if it won’t satisfy you, but I don’t see why you’d want that. It was able to easily max my Internet connection near the router and the signal strength remains strong, with almost similar download speeds, at 30 feet away with 2 walls in between.
As for the speakers, Dell went for two of them, hidden behind some narrow cuts on the edges. They are surprisingly loud for a device of this size and the audio coming out of them isn’t bad. It’s not spectacular either, so just about what you should expect from a decent audio solution on an ultrabook these days. As a side note, you’ll feel some vibrations getting through the palm-rest at high volumes, but I for one kept it at around 40-50% max while listening to music or watching a video, and even lower when working on the computer and sitting closer to the speakers.
Last but not least there’s that webcam I was mentioning earlier. You’ll need a bit of time to get used to its position and angle and there’s a fair chance the people on the other end will get accustomed to your chin and ceiling, but you’ll be alright in the end. The camera relies on a 720p sensor and quality wise it produces poor and extremely grainy shots, even in a proper lit room.
Dell went for a 52 Wh battery on this laptop and their ads mention up to 15 hours of life on a single charge for the configuration I got. Well, it’s no surprise (to me at least) that’s not what I’m getting in real life (except for the case when the computer sits idle, but who cares about that). Check out the numbers below (screen at 70% equals ~120 nits).
3 W (~17 h of use) – idle, Power Saving Mode, screen at 0%, keyboard illumination OFF, Wi-Fi OFF;
5 W (~10 h of use) – very light browsing and text editing in Google Drive, Balanced Mode, keyboard illumination LVL1, screen at 70%, Wi-Fi ON;
5.5 W (~9 h 20 minutes of use) – 1080p fullscreen video on Youtube in Internet Explorer, Balanced Mode, keyboard illumination OFF, screen at 70%, Wi-Fi ON;
6.5 W (~8 h of use) – 1080p fullscreen .mkv video in VLC Player, Balanced Mode, keyboard illumination OFF, screen at 70%, Wi-Fi OFF;
9 W (~6 h of use) – heavy browsing in Internet Explorer, Balanced Mode, keyboard illumination LVL1, screen at 70%, Wi-Fi ON;
10 W (~5 h of use) – 1080p fullscreen video on Youtube in Chrome, Balanced Mode, keyboard illumination OFF, screen at 70%, Wi-Fi ON;
7.5 W (~7 h of use) – 1080p fullscreen video on Youtube in Firefox, Balanced Mode, keyboard illumination OFF, screen at 70%, Wi-Fi ON.
These results might improve a bit with more mature drivers, but I wouldn’t hold my breath for it. Still, even so, 7 to 10 hours of use from a device of this size is good enough for me, since I wasn’t expecting 15h in the first place :P.
I will dig deeper on those differences between running the same Youtube 1080p clip on three different browsers and getting different battery life results in each case. With regular browsing, the differences aren’t as big, but with Youtube video, Chrome seems to be a lot more demanding than IE and even Firefox. So look for an updated post on this matter in a few days.
Now, a few words about the charger. Dell bundles the XPS 13 with an interesting two-part charger. There’s an included US wall adapter that you can attach to the brick, if you’re OK with a 6 feet cable, or you can add an extension cable if you’re not. The brick itself is quite small, with a capacity of only 45W, and the laptop charges at a maximum rate of 25 Wh, which means a full charge will take about 2 hours and 20 minutes (with the trickle charging at the end). However, if you actually use the laptop during all this time, that can get beyond 3 hours, which is a bit annoying and could have been solved with a larger capacity brick.
On top of that, there’s a small white LED on the charger tip as well as another LED on the laptop’s front lip, just beneath the trackpad, and I found the latter extremely annoying at times. When watching a movie in a dark room while the laptop is charging, the damn annoying LED is always in my eyes. And it’s not like it’s small or dim, not at all. Might not seem like much in a well lit room, like in the picture included, but it sure is in the dark. To this moment I haven’t found a way to disable it, but I sure wish there would be one.
Price and availability
The XPS 13 2015 is available at the time of this review in the US in a bunch of configurations.
Microsoft Store sells a few Signature Edition models, like the unit I got, with no bloatware preinstalled and what looks like less glitchy trackpads and displays. They don’t have many options listed though, and only some are actually in stock:
Core i5-5200U, 4 GB of RAM, 128 GB SSD, FHD matte display – $899;
Core i5-5200U, 8 GB of RAM, 256 GB SSD, QHD+ touchscreen – $1299;
Core i7-5500U, 8 GB of RAM, 256 GB SSD, QHD+ touchscreen – $1599;
Dell’s website offers more versions and customization options (
check them out here) and there are coupons available online that should shave off a few tens of bucks from the list prices, as well as occasional sales. There’s also a fair chance you’ll find these machine discounted over at Amazon.
Regardless, make sure to check out the links above at the time you’re reading this post for the updated models and prices. The ones I mentioned were available when I published this review, but things might have changed in the meantime.
The XPS 13 2015 starts at $799 and can go up to $1899 for the higher end configurations
The laptop is also available in a few other countries, including Canada, Germany, UK, Italy, France, etc, but also Australia and some regions in Asia and South America. However, from what I’m seeing right now, only the higher end models with the QHD+ touchscreen are sold outside the States and I don’t know for sure when and even if the versions with the FHD matte screen will be available in any other country. You should ask your local Dell representatives about that, they should be able to offer more details.
Update: You should also read this post if you want to know what I think about the laptop after using it daily for 15 months, and this article if you’re interested in my opinion about the XPS 9350, the updated model with Skylake hardware.
Ok, this was not a short post, but I felt the need to get more in depth than I usually do, since this is a laptop I came to appreciate and like I said in the title, I actually decided to keep. There are plenty of things I like about it: the build quality and the aesthetics, the performance and mostly noiseless everyday experience, the bloatware-free software install, the speakers and the battery life.
And there are other aspects that are to the most part superior to what’s offered by other ultrabooks, like the keyboard, trackpad and screen, but still need improvement.
The keyboard isn’t bad for a device as thin as this one, but I will need some time to get used to its shallow keys. It’s obviously a downgrade from the Lenovo X220. The trackpad is good enough for my taste and my usage habits, but for some of you it might not be, as I’ve told you in the dedicated section. And the screen could have been ideal for a 13 incher, if not for the poor brightness, but hopefully I’ll be able to do something about that in due time. Still digging.
While not without some minor flaws, the Dell XPS 13 is one of the best 13 inch ultrabooks of the moment
All these wouldn’t mean much if the pricing wasn’t right as well though. My configuration sells for $899, but imo the ideal option right now is the i5 / 8 GB RAM / 128 GB SSD model sold by Dell for $999, since the memory cannot be upgraded and 4GB aren’t going to cut it on the long run. That if you want the matte non-touch panel. If you want the touchscreen, you’ll have to pay extra, as this one is only bundled with some higher-end specs and the cheapest starts at $1300 (i5 with 8 GB of RAM and 256 GB SSD; the i7s start at $1500).
Update: You might also want to read this other post, a collection of impressions gathered after using the XPS 13 for 8 months. It will shed light on a few other aspects you should have in mind when deciding to go for this thing or rather look somewhere else.
In the end, when I draw the line, the reviewed Dell XPS 13 is a good buy. For me is a lighter, smaller, faster and longer lasting computer than my old ThinkPad. I’m loosing on ports and typing experience, but I’m gaining plenty, so I’m happy to make the switch. For everyone else, I believe the XPS 13 can be a solid option if you need a compact, well built and fast computer for everyday activities. It’s not without rivals, and I’m looking here and
the Acer Aspire S7-393 , the HP Spectre x360 and even the Core M Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro and Asus Zenbook UX305, plus the other devices that will be released in the future, including the 12 inch Macbook and other Broadwell powered ultrabooks. But it should face them all head-high.
With that in mind, it’s time to wrap this up. If you have any questions about the Dell XPS 13 2015 9343 reviewed here and other ultrabooks, or anything to add to the post, the comments section is open and I’m around to reply.
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Navigation: Ultrabookreview.com » 13 inch
Andrei Girbea Andrei Girbea, Editor-in-Chief
. I've a Bachelor's in Computer Engineering and I've been covering mobile technology since the 2000s. You'll mostly find reviews and thorough guides written by me here on the site, as well as some occasional first-impression articles.
June 16, 2015 at 2:17 pm
can you please comment on the key difference between this “as tested” 9343 model and the XPS 13ULT-4289sLV listed on Amazon. I know the XPS 13ULT-4289sLV has the touch screen, but is it otherwise the same?? In particular, are the physical dimensions the same? Thanks for your trouble
June 16, 2015 at 4:39 pm
That’s last year’s model, the 9333. It’s a different machine, larger, heavier, without an SD-card-reader and so on. It’s not bad, just make sure you know what you’d be getting.
June 27, 2015 at 10:55 pm
have you found out what was the problem with low brightness. I was in a shop today and screen on FHD model looks dimmer then other laptops like ux303 FHD and some Lenovo laptops as well.
June 29, 2015 at 11:15 am
Well yes, it’s the Intel Contrast dimming feature, can’t remember how it’s called but it can be turned OFF on other laptops and it cannot on this XPS 13, because Dell decided to take that option out of the driver. It hasn’t been fixed from what I know.
July 1, 2015 at 12:18 am
Too bad, I really liked this laptop concept, but sometime ago I decided not to buy products with obvious flaws, counting on manufacturers to fix them.
I wanted something with nice build quality, reasonably light and with 5xxxU CPU and with very good battery life
XPS 13 has this adaptive brightness, poor brightness problem,
ASUS UX303 have problem with hinges and in my country, company that repair it for Asus claims that broken hinge is user fault.
I’ve considered other brands models but most of interesting laptops cost around $1500 here or have glossy screens which is big no-no for me.
I decided to go little bigger and bought Latitude E7450.
i5-5300U, 256GB SSD (got with Samsung SM841N, which is 840 PRO made for OEM), Samsung LCD which has quite good color accuracy and only minor backlight bleed on the bottom of the screen, 8GB RAM – for around $1000. Can get up to 8 hours of web use and if it will not be enough then additional battery is small and easy to swap (click-click).
July 1, 2015 at 8:23 am
IS that an IPS panel on the Dell? If yes, then it sounds like a great deal. I got to play with some E7450 and E7250s a couple of weeks ago and they seemed solid options, except that they bundled TN panels which for me are a total NO-NO.
July 2, 2015 at 2:10 am
It is SDC4C48 (HWiNFO) it’s either IPS or PLS, but for sure it’s not TN.
I know some 15″ SDC4C48 displays were used in Alienwares and 13,3 in 2in1 Inspirons.
July 13, 2015 at 2:28 pm
Can anyone comment on coding with it?
August 3, 2015 at 12:41 pm
I was wondering if you had issues with the charger being too hot. I had it plugged for about 30 minutes and the little brick was so hot that I couldn’t touch it without burning my hand! The fan was also on for about 40 minutes, pretty loud, and I was only checking my email and social media. I just got it yesterday and its refurbished. Just wanted to know if it was a common problem?
August 12, 2015 at 12:51 pm
Well, no, these don’t happen to me. If you just got the laptop, there’s a fair chance it might be performing updates in the background. Try to see if those are interfering with your activities.
August 4, 2015 at 4:23 pm
Hi I have a quick question/concern. Does your Dell XPS 13 blur out certain parts of the screen at times? Mine is a matte screen and I believe it is also the same model as yours. However, the screen is blurry at some points of the screen. Is there a way to fix this issue?
August 12, 2015 at 12:54 pm
Hmmm, could you be more specific. Which parts of the screen? Perhaps certain applications or windows look blurry? That’s caused by the fact that some 3rd party apps do not scale properly, and if you set up font-size to anything but 100% , you might encounter blurry elements from time to time.
August 13, 2015 at 10:50 pm
Certain icons on the screen are blurry.. for example the Spotify icon would be blurred out. I’ve tried updating drivers and windows but it doesnt seem to fix the issue. As for the font-size its at 100% as well.
August 5, 2015 at 12:29 pm
I’m don’t know wether I should get this Dell XPS 13 or the Asus UX303LN. I won’t use it for any gaming, mostly for university stuff.
Any advise? The Asus’s sreen isn’t apperently that good, but looks like the Dell’s has some issues too. So at the end, wich one of those two has the best screen? I don’t like screens that aren’t bright, but mustard-looking yellows aren’t that good to.
Looking at the pictures, the Dell, despite the excellent construction quality, looks a bit “plastic” to me compared to the Asus. Does it feel more “plastic” than the Asus when you hold it ?
My heart would go for the Asus, but my brain isn’t that sure.
August 12, 2015 at 1:00 pm
The UX303LN shouldn’t be on your list if you don’t plan to play games, especially since the 3200 x 1800 px screen has major color issues.
You could however look at the UX303LA, cheaper and with a FHD touchscreen.
Personally, I’d go for the Dell between the two. The XPS 13 is definitely not perfect, but having used it for the last 6 months now, I think it’s worth what I payed for it.
August 28, 2015 at 11:24 am
Hi (sorry for my english)
I’m thinking about buying this XPS13, but I’m just a little undecided because of the keyboard “problem”… I have allways had 15″ laptops, and I write all the time in it. I write quite fast and I would like to know … Do you think it is possible to get used to this keyboard and finally write as fast and correctly as in my ussual 15″laps? Now I prefer one of theese 13” because I bring it with me all the time because of my work and my back has warned me twice to change the size and the weigth of it. ;)
what other options (in case you see a problem here) do you recomend, if I need a lap for a daily use and I ussually work with WORD, EXCELL, POWER POINT and internet research?
Thanks so much!
August 28, 2015 at 12:37 pm
It depends which 15 inch laptop you’re used to. I’m used to THinkpads, which have slightly higher keys with deeper travel and more precise feedback, that’s why I’m having troubles adapting to this keyboard, even after using it for 8 Months. Now, don’t get me wrong, you can definitely find worse on these thin laptops, but it’s just not what I would want.
Perhaps you can see the laptop in some stores? That would be the ebst way to know you’ll be fine with this one or not.
August 28, 2015 at 4:50 pm
my lap now is a 15″ TOSHIBA Satellite L500-128 (Which is 5 yo)
I have no way to see any lap of DELL, I’m from Spain and there isn’t any intel store. I only can order a DELL lap by by internet. I don’t care if if the keyboard is like others 13″ but I wouldn’t like it if it is specially small.
October 10, 2015 at 10:38 pm
please refer me slim light weight Laptop…
Processor: 5th Generation Intel® Core™ i5 or i7
Memory: 8 GB or higher
Hard Drive: 256GB Solid State Drive
Screen Size:13″,14″ or 15″
Color : Black or Silver
Perfect for working on software like Visual Studio 2013, Matlab r2014, Photoshop ,Unreal Engine .
which is perfect for intense programming (Graphics(openGL),Video/image processing,game programming)
I like DELL XPS 13 alot but confused , should i buy this one???
Or refer me any other according to my requirements.
October 10, 2015 at 10:48 pm
As i am already fed up of my DEll inspiron n4010, it heats up very fast that u can even use it as a heater in winters.
and stuck on small Matlab image processing tasks . have to wait longer to see simple results.
October 11, 2015 at 11:12 am
What’s you max budget? The XPS 13 is a good option in the 13-inch segment, but you can get faster processors and more RAM with 14 and 15 inchers.
October 11, 2015 at 12:00 pm
if its a best option then i’ll manage to buy this one because I like this one a lot.
otherwise my budge is maximum 70K Rs… that is 670.5951 US Dollar….
October 11, 2015 at 12:10 pm
and i don’t like to use desktop computers so I don’t have one.
therefore, i use my laptop for all of my projects. so need powerful one…
Using DELL Inspiron n4010 i3 ,500GB, 4GB ram,i bought this one 5 years back.
October 11, 2015 at 8:43 pm
And yeah please give me suggestions about this laptop too according to my requirements and work
October 11, 2015 at 8:51 pm
if XPS13 with infinity display is a best option then i’ll manage to buy this one because I like this one a lot.
This is the price offering in my area.
otherwise my budge is maximum 70K-80k Rs… that is 670.5951 US Dollar….
and i don’t like to use desktop computers so I don’t have one.
therefore, i use my laptop for all of my projects.
so need powerful one…
Currently I’m Using DELL Inspiron n4010 i3 ,500GB, 4GB ram,Windows 8.1,i bought this one 5 years back.
December 4, 2015 at 5:37 am
Andrei… Hi there. Thanks for the review. I am not a techy but I just purchased this Dell laptop model xps 9350 400 I am searching to try to find a compatible monitor as I find the screen way too small and need a big one for my vision and the work that I do. Best Buy reps were not able to find me a compatible monitor with out $$adaptable cords… and the cost was too much. Can you suggest something? Thanks, Kris
December 4, 2015 at 6:00 pm
Any monitor that support miniDP (mini DisplayPort) input will work. You might need a MiniDP to Display – Port adapter
May 1, 2016 at 4:37 am
Hi, I’m just still confused whether to buy dell xps 13 or asus zenbook ux305la. The main reason why I want to buy new laptop because for my study at university and I will also used it for watching movies. My heart said dell xps 13, I don’t think I will concerned about the touch pad issue. But from what I read from other reviews, they said that the battery of dell xps 13 is not that long and some other said that their battery drop from 52 wh to 44 wh after ten month they used it. Is it true? Cause basically I just want a laptop that is light, long battery life (maybe at least 6 to 7 hours). Please help me, which one do you think I should buy?
August 5, 2017 at 12:40 pm
My headset jack not detecting the mic. Did you experience any problems like that? I want to be able to use both my headphones/mic in one jack.
October 31, 2017 at 4:01 pm
I know it's an older model, but you state that the display cover 100% of sRgb. A popular competitor of yours for the same display states 81%. How is that possible? Would you consider the possibility that the 100% is inaccurate because of the mishbehaving of the spider? I'm considering as a second hand machine for photo editing. Thank you
October 31, 2017 at 5:20 pm
Yes, for some reason the Spyder readings differ from those of the XRite sensor that notebookcheck use (I'd reckon they're the competition you mention). I didn't get to look into why this happens exactly though, it's not misbehaving, there's a difference on all the results returned by the Spyder/Xrite when it comes to gamut coverage. As far as I can tell the Spyder readings are closer to what OEms advertise for their panels (for example, around 70% NTSC for a mid-range IPS panel like this one)
I'm happy with this screen and I do use the laptop for minor Photoshop and Lightroom edits as well. It's not the best out there, but it's good enough nonetheless.
October 31, 2017 at 5:37 pm
Thank you for your answer Andrei. And also about adaptive brightness, as far as I can tell from several forums, there is no patch available for 9343 FHD model, and never will be?
November 1, 2017 at 4:52 am
There isn't a patch for the adaptive contrast (that's what you mean, right?) as far as I know, but to be frank, I almost never notice it so I never further looked into this matter. Perhaps there is one for the newer models, but I just don't know.
November 9, 2018 at 6:52 pm
I've downloaded the Sharp LCD firmware from Dell's site that says that it's for the XPS 13 9360 but also contains firmware for the 9350 and 9343 QHD+ displays.
It successfully turns off DBC and the screen -overall- is now much brighter:
There are folders created in c:\dell\ that have folders containing all of the models the updater ACTUALLY supports.
Dell says to call their tech support line to get a link…I'll save you some time. Dell wanted $120 just to even talk to me about an out of warranty system.