Dell XPS 13 Gold Edition (2016) Review – Worlds Best Ultra Puts MBA In Its Place

SSD PERFORMANCE AND REPLACEMENT

Today’s quality ultrabooks will ship with an NVME SSD for storage; never accept anything less.  NVMe (Non-Volatile Memory Express) is a protocol built specifically for SSDs, whereas AHCI (Advanced Host Controller Interface) was created by Intel many years back and intended for hard drives.  SSDs are digital whereas hard drives are mechanical.  With an NVMe SSD, your system will run faster, cooler, can have much higher storage capacity and will last much longer.  Our Dell XPS 13 Gold Edition shipped with this Samsung  PM951 NVMe SSD:

Dell XPS 13 9350 Samsung 256GB NVMe SSD

We are going to replace this SSD with the Toshiba XG3 SSD we reviewed a short while back and it is easily done by removing the 8 torx screws, plus one more beneath the center hatch, and carefully pulling on the base plate.  This is a picture of the base plate removed; it is of a much higher resolution than our other pictures if you want to click on it:

Dell XPS 13 9350 Base Removed Full Res

This gives us a great shot of the 56wHR 4 cell battery, fan, SSD, and Dell XPS 1820 Intel WiFi 7260 WLAN and BT4.0 card.  RAM cannot be replaced as it is integrated.  The SSD swap is pretty easy with a single screw securing the SSD but we wanted to show this Crystal DiskMark result that depicts initial system storage performance:

Dell Max Power CDM

This is the result one sees when they purchase this system.  We were a bit disappointed as these match the listed specs of the PM951 SSD included with the system.  This SSD is an earlier iteration of NVMe and uses Samsungs 19nm TLC memory, void of many features of the newer memory.  In testing other SSDs, we found that similar results were obtained but improved drastically with a fresh install and a few minor adjustments described below.

The concern we have is the fact that NOBODY reviewed this system and thought this extremely low SSD write a bit odd.  It should be.  For many media professionals, this should be a huge red flag as it limits their ability to work on this laptop significantly.

Performance like this keeps people buying Apple products as even our MBA displays over 700MB/s write data transfers as shown in our report of the newest OWC 1TB Aura  SSD.  Our goal with the Dell XPS 13 was to do a fresh installation with the Toshiba 1TB XG3 NVMe SSD and to try to double that performance yet again, creating the world’s smallest and most powerful ultrabook.  Could we do it?

Dell XPS 13 9350 Toshiba 1TB XG3 SSD

WINDOWS WRITE CACHE BUFFER FLUSHING

New owners of the XPS 13 do not have to switch off the SSD as we did; we just wanted 1TB of storage in this ultra. There is not a person in the world that would be able to differentiate between the stock SSD or the Toshiba XG3 we are testing today, in typical everyday use.  The only time one might concern themselves with increasing speeds as we are doing here, is when they have specific media professional tasks in mind, such as media manipulation.

We also don’t recommend and/or take responsibility for anything that may happen in the event that you follow our lead, however knowledge is power and that is what we are helping you with.  In any case, the SSD write performance is very slow because Window’s write-cache buffer is enabled for this SSD and not checked as we see in this picture (second box):

Write cache Buffer Flushing

What this means is that, should a sudden power down occur, information will be flushed from the buffer before any is lost.  If you check ‘Turn off Windows write-cache buffer flushing on this device’, your performance will increase significantly. The next page will display our full performance results.  This option can be found in Control Panel/Device Manager/Disk Drives/ right-click on the Drive and select properties/Policies.

20
Leave a Reply

avatar
7 Comment threads
13 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
10 Comment authors
Alpaca_DeanFriso GorterRLYammy_FanQuix Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
JosephAndrews
Guest
JosephAndrews

My decision to purchase the XPS 13 has not yet been finalized–I want a matte touch screen!

Les@TheSSDReview
Guest

I don’t think we will ever see the matte screen with that Gorilla Glass. Personally, this was well worth the trade off in knowing that, short of a drop and break, there will not eventually be marks from the keyboard. This glass will likely look brand new for years to come.

Alpaca_Dean
Guest
Alpaca_Dean

Just a suggestion, but what about going with one of those matte-ish screen protector overlays? A couple of faculty have them on really reflective touch screen laptops at the University I work at and they really help a lot..

Quix
Guest
Quix

It’s a choice between the two and will likely remain that way. Unless you can come up with a way to make Gorilla Glass matte. I’d go touch screen on this because the matte screen option isn’t as good. I have the glossy-screen XPS 15 and it’s not a problem except in direct sunlight.

Babies r Gross
Guest
Babies r Gross

Bought one then returned it and bought an MBP. While on paper it looks nice, somehow the performance is not up to par with the MBP. Further, it had this issue where the screen would suddenly turn black and only a hard restart could fix this. Obviously, all work would be lost. This made the computer unusable, and after 12 hours and 4 sessions with Dell customer support I was done. This issue is a known issue and common enough that Reddit has a page on it.

Les@TheSSDReview
Guest

Thanks for jumping in and sorry for your experience. I personally love this laptop and, of course, will adjust that view in the report should anything change that view in the future. I haven’t experience ANY BSOD or black screen issues, but then again, I always install my own fresh OS and choose not to rely on manufacturer configurations.

RL
Guest
RL

Les, I appreciate your work. I use OS X at home and Windows at work. I will say that that the OS X 8GB and Windows 16GB (Memory) are comparable. Otherwise, I am settling w/ Windows 8GB. If you are going to dispute this, I’ll label you a fanboy who has lost objectivity. I’m not a Windoze hater, just a knowelegeable user trying to get work done.

Felix
Guest
Felix

Very interesting article. “New owners of the XPS 13 do not have to switch off the SSD as we did; we just wanted 1TB of storage in this ultra.” Does this mean, that even the stock SSD would deliver similarly fast (or at least much faster) benchmark results if software settings would be been set as you did with with the Toshiba XG3? How would the stock SSD compare to the XG3 with the same optimized settings in the OS/bios? At the moment you can get the Samsung PM951 1tb version for less than half the price of the retail… Read more »

Les@TheSSDReview
Guest

I apologize for the misrepresentation as what was written did not read as we intended. We have added this to that para: “There is not a person in the world that would be able to differentiate between the stock SSD or the Toshiba XG3 we are testing today, in typical everyday use.” We were able to push the stock SSD only slightly with a fresh install but not come anywhere near the others. The PM951 uses Samsung’s older 19nm TLC NAND flash memory which is slower than the other SSDs we are seeing today. We dug up this PM951 spec… Read more »

Grigore
Guest
Grigore

Les, if you ended up complaining about the “slow” Samsung 951 SSD in this ultrabook, then something’s really wrong. With you, not with the laptop or the SSD. This is an ultrabook, not a desktop replacement. I’d understand if you’d complain about SM951 being chosen instead of the new OCZ (or the SM961 that just went on sale) in a powerful machine that’s designed to take advantage of such fast storage. But this Dell, with its “U” processor, its soldered, slow and small RAM, its lame graphics and such, this is not a workstation but an average laptop in a… Read more »

Les@TheSSDReview
Guest

My first impression reading this is that you have misunderstood what I wrote, but more importantly, failed to even gain an understanding of the hardware in this laptop. This ‘U” processor is the Intel 6650U which runs at a base frequency of 2.2GHz with a Turbo max of 3.4GHz. The memory attached to this is 8GB DDR3-1866MHz and, together, they are paired with Intel’s newest Iris 540 HD Graphics which most definityely can be used for gaming. Look around because there are very current examples. This is more power than many have in their desktop. Next up, I never complained… Read more »

Grigore
Guest
Grigore

“failed to even gain an understanding of the hardware in this laptop” – No, sorry, you failed to understand what this whole laptop is. It’s an ultrabook, not a desktop replacement. You are very picky about its storage not being the fastest ever but only the world’s 3rd or 4th. I know very well that this is an ultrabook, and a very fast one, but you expect workstation-like performance from it. As it doesn’t have workstation-like CPU, cooling, memory and anything else, of course it doesn’t have workstation-like storage. – “with a Turbo max of 3.4GHz” – a “U” proc… Read more »

Les@TheSSDReview
Guest

I am going to guess you sit behind a workstation extensively as that is your comparable. The problem with that is you cannot fold up and throw that workstation into your bag when you travel. Comparing an ultra to a workstation doesn’t make much sense. As for editing all media and publishing it on the road, I see it all the time when people attend tech events and must get stuff up fast, and by companies much larger than our small website. They manipulate all types of media right then and there….and typically on their Mac. This was the comparison… Read more »

Grigore
Guest
Grigore

Well, my bad then. If editing an SLR-captured video (a single track) and uploading it to an FTP from an expo is what media professionals usually do, then sorry but I had a very wrong impression of that profession. Or maybe your impression is based on the people you see at tech events… A workstation can’t be folded, of course, but an ultrabook is not exactly the answer to an unfoldable workstation. No matter what, an ultrabook can’t hold a candle to a solid workstation. As you asked what portable I’m using… Yeah, it’s a workstation but not a very… Read more »

Yammy_Fan
Guest
Yammy_Fan

For the record, my XPS 13 (Gold edition) shipped with a Toshiba XG3 (THNSN5256GPU7 NV) from the factory. I received it on June 15th. Typical write speeds are over 1000 MB/s when benchmarked. The XPS is a fantastic machine!!

SSD QUICK SEARCH