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

DELL XPS 13 WITH TOSHIBA 1TB XG3 PERFORMANCE

Our initial testing of the Toshiba XG3 1TB NVMe SSD can be found here and resulted in transfer speeds of 2.6GB/s read and 1.6GB/s write, making it the fastest 1TB NVMe M.2 SSD in production.  Unfortunately, it is a client SSD and not available for purchase.  We believe that we may see a 1TB M.2 of similar performance released shortly but cannot confirm or elaborate.

Dell XPS 13 9350 SSD Swap

For our results, we followed our SSD Optimization Guide and we also checked off the write-cache buffer flushing option, as well as turning off Enhanced Intel SpeedStep Technology (EIST) and C States in our BIOS/UEFI.  We have never had problems with these optimizations on any of our machines but. once again, we reflect on our procedures for your information, not recommendations. So….let’s see the performance…

CRYSTAL DISK INFO VER. 6.8.1

Crystal Disk Info is a great tool for displaying the characteristics and health of storage devices. It displays everything from temperatures, to the number of hours the device has been powered, and even to the extent of informing you of the firmware of the device.

9350 1TB SSD Fresh System Crystal Disk Info

There have been many questions as to whether the NVMe SSDs have been working in 2 or 4 lane because of the low write performance.  As we can see here, our SSD is operating in X4 and is listing 100% health.

ATTO DISK BENCHMARK VER. 2.47

ATTO Disk Benchmark is perhaps one of the oldest benchmarks going and is definitely the main staple for manufacturer performance specifications. ATTO uses RAW or compressible data and, for our benchmarks, we use a set length of 256mb and test both the read and write performance of various transfer sizes ranging from 0.5 to 8192kb. Manufacturers prefer this method of testing as it deals with raw (compressible) data rather than random (includes incompressible data) which, although more realistic, results in lower performance results.

XPS 13 9350 Toshiba 1TB XG3 ATTO

Our initial ATTO performance displays write performance 5x better than the stock Dell XPS 13 which is incredible.  This is the best performance we have ever seen from a ultrabook, although it still doesn’t reach the full potential of this SSD.

CRYSTAL DISK BENCHMARK VER. 5.1.2 X64

Crystal Disk Benchmark is used to measure read and write performance through sampling of random data which is, for the most part, incompressible. Performance is virtually identical, regardless of data sample so we have included only that using random data samples.

Dell Max Power CDM1TB SSD Almost Tuned System Crystal

The result on the left displays the stock SSD performance, whereas that on the right is our newly installed Toshiba XG3 in the optimized system.  As much as we enjoy the performance gain, that low 4K write result of the stock SSD at 169Mb/s transfer speed is incredible.  We could not match that with the other SSDs.

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JosephAndrews
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JosephAndrews

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

Les@TheSSDReview
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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!!