Benchmarked: Dell XPS 13 with 8th Gen Core CPU is 60 Percent Faster Than Predecessor

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Laptops with Intel's 8th Generation "Kaby Lake Refresh" processors are just staring to hit the market and the early returns are impressive. In our tests, the new Dell XPS 13 with an 8th-Gen Core i7-8550U CPU was often 60 percent faster than an identically-configured XPS 13 with the 7th-Gen Core i7-7500U CPU. Even better, we saw a battery life increase by about an hour.

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Announced in August, Intel's 8th-Gen Core Series chips double the number of CPU cores from two to four on mainstream laptops like the XPS 13, while also increasing the maximum turbo clock speed these processors can achieve. Both 7th and 8th-Gen Core processors support Intel's Hyper-Threading feature, which effectively gives you two independent threads for each available Core, so with the new chips, the number of threads goes from four to eight. The company claims that users will see a performance bump of as much as 40 percent going from 2016's Kaby Lake to 2017's Kaby Lake Refresh, but our results were even more promising.

Test Results

When we ran Geekbench 4, a synthetic test which measures overall performance, the XPS 13 with 8th-Gen Core scored an impressive mark of 14,158, a 62-percent improvement over the 7th-Gen model (8,735). The laptops both had 1920 x 1080 nontouch screens, 8GB of RAM and 256GB PCIe SSDs so the processor was the only difference. 

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A good Geekbench score is one thing, but great real-world performance is what really matters. To see how the 8th-Gen Core-powered XPS 13 handles video editing, I used Handbrake, a popular video transcoding app, to convert a 12-minute, 4K movie into 1080p resolution. The 7th-Generation-powered XPS completed this task in 31 minutes and 36 seconds while the new, XPS 13 and its Core i7-8550U processor powered through in just 19 minutes and 35 seconds, which is a 62-percent performance gain.

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You don't need to work with videos in order to benefit from having an 8th-Gen Core processor. When I ran a spreadsheet macro in Excel 2016 that matches 65,000 names with their email addresses, the old XPS 13 finished in 2 minutes and 30 seconds while the new one finished 120 percent faster with a time of 1:08. 

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Excel tasks work so much better on the new 8th-Gen Core-powered XPS 13, because Microsoft's spreadsheet program uses all eight available CPU threads. When we ran our spreadsheet macro test, using OpenOffice Calc, a spreadsheet application that can only use a single thread, the new XPS 13 finished in 3 minutes and 9 seconds which is 20 seconds quicker than the old model. That's an improvement of 10 percent, which is a noticeable difference, if not an impressive one.

Battery Life

Considering that the new CPU has more cores and runs at higher turbo speeds, you might expect it to offer worse endurance. However, the opposite is true. 

When we ran Laptop Battery Test 2.0, which involves continuous surfing over Wi-Fi at 150 nits of brightness, the 8th-Gen Core-powered XPS 13 lasted for 14 hours and 52 minutes while the old model tapped out after 13 hours and 58 minutes. That's a 54-minute or 6.1 percent improvement from one generation to the next. 

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MORE: Longest Battery Life Laptops

The Bottom Line

Even though 8th-Gen Core processors are the future, Dell continues selling some configurations of the XPS 13 with the 7th-Gen Core processor inside.  At publication time, Dell was selling the XPS 13 with a Core i7-8550U CPU, 8GB of RAM, a 1080p screen and a 256GB SSD for $1,249 while one with similar specs and a 7th Gen Core i5-7200U processor went for $1,099. 

With a huge gulf in performance and battery life between 7th and 8th Gen Core, it's clear that you should try to get a laptop with Kaby Lake Refresh, whether you're purchasing an XPS 13 or something else.

Laptop Guide

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
  • Vivian Says:

    So I just bought the XPS 7th Gen recently for school and found out about the 8th Gen now. Do you think I should return the 7th Gen for the 8th for a price difference of ~300$? Or just keep the 7th Gen? It's mainly just a laptop for school, so I'm a little bit conflicted about what to do.

  • Nicole Says:

    So when do you think is a good time to buy? I'll be in the states Dec-Jan but can get at anytime. However I'm not sure which sales will be better; now, Black Friday or after Xmas???

    Thinking the XPS 13. Not sure if touch is worth it. Same thing about 16G RAM vs. 8G. Don't know what is more than I need.

  • Diego Says:

    JuanSoto, i agree, on the other hand I love the 3:2 aspect ratio of surface devices and the Surface Book with 8th gen i7 makes me want to sell my first gen device

  • Peter Says:

    Chris, you could run XP inside a virtual machine if you really needed it (and you wouldn't need this laptop to be able to pull it off). But Window's compatibility stuff is usually pretty good

  • JuanSoto Says:

    I don't think there's ever been a NextGen chip with this kind of improvement before. From what I can recall, it's always been 10% here, 15% there. Love the raw numbers you provided - really puts things in perspective.

    A shame about Dell's decision to virtually abandon a work-centric, document-friendly screen aspect ratio. I'll have to look elsewhere for an 8th Gen laptop.

  • Chris Says:

    Can a laptop still come with XP operating system for legacy programs etc.

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