Dell XPS 13 vs. Dell XPS 15: One Size Doesn’t Fit All

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It's not a stretch to say that Dell's XPS laptops are some of the best all-around laptops on the market today. The 13-inch Dell XPS 13 has remained our top consumer notebook recommendation for well over a year, thanks to its unbeatable combination of light weight, long battery life, vibrant screen and impeccable style.

dell_xps_13_design

However, one size doesn't fit all. The XPS 13's big brother, the Dell XPS 15, has a larger display that's available with a 4K resolution, optional Nvidia graphics and a quad-core processor. To help you decide which Dell XPS is right for you, we've pitted the two Ultrabooks against each other in a five-round battle, comparing their design, screen, battery life, performance and value.

Dell XPS 13 vs XPS 15: Key Specs
Spec Dell XPS 13 Dell XPS 15
Size  12 x 7.9 x 0.33-0.6 inches  14.06 x 9.27 x 0.66 inches
Weight  2.7 - 2.9 pounds 4.4 pounds 
Screen  13.3 inches (1920 x 1080 / 3200 x 1800)  15.6 inches (1920 x 1080 / 3840 x 2160)
CPU  Core i5-6200U / Core i7-6560U Core i3-6100H / Core i5-6300HQ /  Core i7-6700HQ
Graphics  Intel integrated Intel integrated / Nvidia 960M
RAM  4GB / 8GB / 16GB  8GB / 16GB
Storage  128GB / 256GB / 512GB (SSD)

 500GB / 1TB (HDD)

256GB / 512GB (SSD)

 

Design and Weight

Aesthetically speaking, the Dell XPS 13 and 15 are nearly identical. Both have the same silver-colored lid and bottom, black sides, and a luxurious soft-touch, carbon-fiber deck that has a subtle gray and black checkered pattern. The laptops also share Dell's nearly bezel-less InfinityEdge Display, which is their most impressive design flourish but also forces the webcam into an awkward position, right below the screen.

dell xps 13 design

MORE: Dell XPS 13 Review

The base model of the XPS 13 weighs just 2.7 pounds and is only 0.6 inches thick at its thickest point, but tapers down to 0.33 inches at the front lip. Adding a touch screen increases the weight to 2.9 pounds, which is still far lighter than some 13-inch laptops.

dell_xps_15_design

MORE:  Dell XPS 15 Review

Owing to its larger size, the XPS 15 is quite a bit heavier than its little brother, tipping the scales at 4.4 pounds. However, that weight is very light for a laptop with a 15-inch display; competitors such as the MacBook Pro (4.49 pounds) and the Asus ZenBook Pro UX501 (5 pounds) weigh more. The XPS 15 is just 0.66 inches thick at its thickest point, nearly identical to the XPS 13, and tapers down to 0.45 inches.

Winner: Dell XPS 13. If portability matters most to you, there's no doubt that you'll want the smaller laptop. However, the XPS 15 is impressively light for its size.

Screen

Though both XPS laptops feature Dell's nearly bezel-free InfinityEdge display panels, the quality of their output varies, depending on which model you choose and how you configure it. The Dell XPS 13 is available with two display options: a 1080p, nontouch panel, and a quad-HD+ (3200 x 1800) touch screen. A configuration with the higher-resolution panel costs at least $500 more than the best 1080p model.

Both of the XPS 13 displays are bright and colorful, though the quad-HD+ panel is noticeably sharper and more vibrant. The nontouch panel hit 318 nits on our light meter, compared with the quad-HD+ model's 336 nits. The 1920 x 1080 panel can reproduce an impressive 92 percent of the sRGB color gamut, which is far above the 80 percent category average for ultraportable laptops. However, the 3200 x 1800 screen was even better, reaching 104 percent.​

Dell XPS 13 / Dell XPS 15 Screens
Screen Brightness Gamut
Dell XPS 13 (1080p)  318 nits 92 percent 
Dell XPS 13 (QHD+)  336 nits  104 percent
Dell XPS 15 (1080p) 382 nits   72 percent
Dell XPS 15 (4K) 285 nits 191 percent

If you want a full 4K display, look no further than the XPS 15, which offers both a 1920 x 1080 nontouch screen and an ultra-HD (3180 x 2160) touch panel. You'll pay an extra $450 for a configuration with the higher-resolution screen.

The default, 1080p panel isn't nearly as colorful as the base panel on the XPS 13, reproducing a very modest 72 percent of the sRGB color gamut. However, the 4K panel is one of the most vibrant we've ever seen, offering 191 percent of the gamut — more than twice the mainstream category average. Most people will be amazed by the colors, but we noticed a slight bluish bias in our tests — a flaw that might annoy professional photo editors.

Surprisingly, the 1080p panel is quite a bit brighter, registering an eye-burning 382 nits on our light meter, compared with 285 nits for the 4K display.

Winner: Dell XPS 15. Though it's not perfect, the 4K panel is a real stunner that makes viewing movies a joy.

Performance

The XPS 13 offers excellent mainstream performance, but the XPS 15's higher-end specs make it a strong choice for graphics professionals who need to do photo and video editing. All configurations of the XPS 15 except for the $999 base model, which has a slow Core i3 CPU, come with Core i5 or i7 HQ quad-core processors and Nvidia GTX 960M graphics. In contrast, the XPS 13 has the same CPUs as most mainstream laptops, with a choice of Core i3, i5 or i7 dual-core processors and integrated Intel graphics.

A Core i7-6700HQ-enabled version of the XPS 15 scored an impressive 13,502 on Geekbench 3, a synthetic benchmark that measures overall performance. That's nearly double the mainstream category average (7,678) and the results from a Dell XPS 13 (7,219) with a Core i7-6500U CPU, its highest-end processor.

Benchmark Dell XPS 13 Dell XPS 15
Geekbench 3 7,219 13,503 
Spreadsheet Macro Test 4:28 3:36
File Transfer Test 231 MBps 254 MBps 
3DMark 57,102 114,482

No matter which XPS you choose, it will be quick to boot up, open apps and copy files. Both laptops come with blazing-fast PCIe SSDs (if you get them with 256GB or higher). Our XPS 15's 512GB SSD finished our file transfer test at a rate of 254 MBps, while an XPS 13 with 256GB drive got 231 MBps.

MORE: Best Dell and Alienware Laptops

Having an Nvidia GTX 960M card makes a huge difference in graphics performance. On 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited, a synthetic benchmark that measures overall graphics prowess, the XPS 13 scored just 57,102 (a little below the 53,781 category average), while the XPS 15 notched an impressive 114,482 — well above the mainstream category average (74,415).

Winner: Dell XPS 15. If you want to do serious graphics work, play some games or crunch huge spreadsheets, the more powerful CPU and GPU in the XPS 15 make all the difference.

Battery Life

If you want to take your laptop on the road but leave the power brick at home, the Dell XPS 13 is clearly the better choice. With the 1080p, nontouch screen on board, the XPS 13 lasted an impressive 11 hours and 54 minutes on the Laptop Mag Battery Test, which involves continuous web surfing over Wi-Fi. That time is one of the best you'll find on any sub-3-pound laptop, and 3 and a half hours longer than the ultraportable category average (8:10). Configuring the XPS 13 with the 3200 x 1800 touch screen drops its endurance to a still-respectable 8:08.

Laptop Battery Life (hh:mm)
Dell XPS 13 (1080p) 11:54 
Dell XPS 13 (QHD+)  8:08
Dell XPS 15 (1080p) 10:26
Dell XPS 15 (4K) 6:36

The XPS 15 lasted a strong 10 hours and 26 minutes with its 1080p screen, but that time fell to a modest 6 hours and 36 minutes on a unit with the 4K panel. Both times are still longer than the mainstream-laptop category average of 5:45.

Winner: Dell XPS 13. It lasts about an hour and a half longer.

Value

The Dell XPS starts at $799, but the base model has just 4GB of RAM and only a 128GB SSD. A model with more reasonable specs — including a Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD — goes for $1,099. A similarly configured MacBook Air 13-inch and HP Spectre cost $100 and $70 more, respectively.

To get the XPS 13 with a 3200 x 1800 touch screen, you have to pay $1,599 for a unit with a Core i7 CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD. For comparison, a Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon with similar specs but just a 2560 x 1440 screen goes for $1,619.

Dell XPS 13: Cost By Configuration
Config Screen CPU RAM / Storage Price
Base Model 1080p Core i5 4GB / 128GB  $799 
Mid-Range 1080p Core i5 8GB / 256GB $1,099 
Splurge QHD+ Core i7  8GB / 256GB  $1,599 

The Dell XPS 15 starts at $999, but we wouldn't recommend getting the base configuration that has a Core i3 processor, integrated graphics and 500GB hard drive. An $1,199 config improves the processor to Core i5 and adds the Nvidia GTX 960M GPU but still features a mechanical drive.

To get the XPS 15 with an SSD — something we wouldn't buy it without — you have to pay $1,399 for a configuration with a Core i7-6700HQ CPU, 8GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD and a 1080p screen. Samsung's Notebook 9 offers the same specs in a 2.7-pound body for just $1,197.

Dell XPS 15: Cost By Configuration
Config Screen CPU RAM / Storage Price
Base Model 1080p Core i3 8GB / 500GB HDD  $999
Mid-Range 1080p Core i7 8GB / 256GB SSD  $1,399
Splurge  4K Core i7  16GB / 512GB  $2,049 

But really, if you're getting the XPS 15, you should probably avoid its dull 1080p screen and get a model with the 4K panel, which costs a pricey $2,049. For the money, Asus' ZenBook Pro UX501VW is a better deal, giving you identical specs, albeit in a heavier chassis, for $1,489. However, a 15-inch MacBook Pro with similar specs (Core i7 CPU, 16GB of RAM, 512GB SSD, discrete graphics) goes for $2,499.

Winner: Dell XPS 13. The 13-inch XPS series is not only more affordable but is a better deal when compared to its direct competitors.

Bottom Line

dell xps 15 13 chart

The Dell XPS 13 wins three out of five rounds by virtue of its lighter weight, longer battery life and better value. However, if you need enough graphics power to do professional-level video editing or play real PC games, the XPS 15 is your best choice.

 

$799
Dell

 

$999
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Author Bio
Avram Piltch
Avram Piltch, LAPTOP Online Editorial Director
The official Geeks Geek, as his weekly column is titled, Avram Piltch has guided the editorial and production of Laptopmag.com since 2007. With his technical knowledge and passion for testing, Avram programmed several of LAPTOP's real-world benchmarks, including the LAPTOP Battery Test. He holds a master’s degree in English from NYU.
Avram Piltch, LAPTOP Online Editorial Director on
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6 comments
  • CM Kevin Says:

    @Sheldon

    Thanks for your concern! Business News Daily is actually owned and operated by Purch, the parent company for LaptopMag. It's very likely that image resources were shared. It's not something that should elicit concern, but we appreciate the heads up!

  • Paul jill Says:

    My XPS 9550 comes with 8GB RAM, I want to upgrade to 16GB or 24GB, from this teardown guide http://www.laptopmain.com/dell-xps-15-9550-disassembly/, Dell XPS 9550 have two RAM slots, I just want to know does it support up to 24GB?

  • Pawel Says:

    What I don't like about XPS 13 is that it doesn't have a normal processor but that ultra low voltage shit like all my previous Toshiba Porteges. That's why I've chosen XPS 15 to have a portable workstation.

  • Sheldon Says:

    I have recently read an article regarding information from your review of your Dell Inspiron 13 7000 (2016). Images (without watermark), paragraphs and basic benchmarks have been copied directly from your website. Article:

    http://www.businessnewsdaily.com/8872-dell-inspiron-13-7000-business.html

    I suggest that you guys should take appropriate action. Please update on situation. I am unsure if the writer/website has any affiliation with LaptopMag. Writer for that post is Brett Nuckles.
    I wanted to post this on the review page itself but I couldn't.

  • JoshL Says:

    I just picked up a 2016 model of the XPS 13 (after dumping my ThinkPad T460s whose e-hour battery life was abysmal).

    There is so much to like - build quality is top-notch, materials are excellent, screen is super bright, and Iris graphics are noticeably faster than other machines.

    As an aside, Costco is selling the i7/touch/16/512 version for $1399, which is a pretty good deal.

    However, a couple things concern me:

    1. It gets hot - VERY hot.
    2. Wi-Fi signal is very weak - next to a five year old MacBook Pro, the 2.4 and 5.4 signal strength is 1/4 of the Mac on both channels.
    3. While Dell has done a great job to actually make it thicker - so it doesn't suffer from "wrists on the desk" syndrome, it's still a small machine. The 13" screen 'feels' smaller and I can sense myself crouching down (I don't have this sensation on my 14" and 15" machines)

  • shea1 Says:

    Great article! Very thorough and pithy at the same time. I went to BestBuy and held the XPS 13 and I was amazed at the quality. By far a step above the competition. Now if they could just make a 2 in 1 with the fit and finish of the XPS 13 now that would something!

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