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

Listing any product as the worlds best is just asking for trouble.  I did just that a few years back when I made the switch from PC to the Apple MacBook Air. The MBA achieved those accolades thanks to Samsung who supplied Apple with their PCIe SSD, even before equipping their own ultrabooks.  The industry has since forgotten to educate the public on the importance of SSDs; this should be front and center when choosing any system.  The retrieval of information, and speed of that retrieval, is the beginning of everything we do on a PC or Mac.

Dell XPS 13 9350 Gold Edition Angle I  made the switch from my much-loved Apple MacBook Air to the new Dell XPS 13 this last week, the MBA having had more use and done more travelling than any might see. It even recently survived a 6.2 level earthquake during Computex 2016 in Taiwan. Still, there is much amiss in that transition from PC to MBA and the most important aspect seems to be our loss of control over what we can do, and how we do it.

With the XPS 13, I have that control back.  I downloaded my complete music and video collection without fear of losing it through syncing with iTunes.  I upgraded the SSD from 256GB to 1TB myself and it was quick and easy.  I created folders, moved things around, and I even downloaded software without being required to supply my Apple ID and password. I really missed that.

The Office

That would be the MBA behind the XPS 13 on my desk that never looks this clean, but for the interest of this picture.  Let’s be honest though.  As much as I can whine about OSX and IOS, this ultrabook switch would never have occurred if the XPS wasn’t that much better than the MBA.  I am a hardware nut who travels alot, and admittedly, the ultrabook is my lifeline to success; the MBA was that lifeline.

This XPS 13 is the smallest, lightest, most powerful, highest storage capacity ultra in the world…and it is a stunning shade of gold. It has more RAM, better graphics, Thunderbolt 3, a Gorilla Glass IPS screen, has a silent soft touch illuminated keyboard,  USB Type C, an SD card slot and guess what else?  It is a touch screen and I have been searching for a touch screen ultra that doesn’t bend backwards or come apart for what seems like forever.

Dell XPS 13 9350 Gold Edition on Table

A WARNING BEFORE READING FURTHER

This is a SSD website and, as such, our reports follow just that tag line.  Although this XPS 13 Gold Edition ultrabook is shown and described in detail, the only true analysis you will see is that of the SSD and our methodology of extracting the performance we have.  To be frank, the entire review community has given this ultra glowing reviews, even though their SSD performance was a result of very slow 300MB/s write data transfer speeds. They have done it with others as well. We would NEVER RECOMMEND a ultrabook with such low SSD speeds, unless of course we could boost that performance by more than 5x.  We did.  The performance we achieved is industry leading.

XPS 13 SIZE AND MATERIALS

The XPS 13 measures 11.98″ long, 7.88″ wide and .6″ thick, weighing in at up to 2.9lbs, or 2.7lbs without the touch screen.  It is the worlds smallest 13.3″ ultrabook and fits the screen of a 13″ into the body of a 12″ ultra. Its screen is larger than that of the MBA, yet its just as compact as the newest MacBook.  It is constructed of CNC machined aluminum and carbon fiber  with a Gorilla Glass Screen, and has a full size backlit keyboard that is chiclet style yet silent. The keyboard surface is finished in a soft touch paint which carries on to the palm rests.

Dell XPS 13 9350 Keyboard CloseUp

Dell has taken the extra step to create a small magnetic cover for all the literature we might normally see on the laptop bottom, maintained that gorgeous gold coloring, and also gone with two full lengths of plastic for supports, rather than four smaller feet.

Dell XPS 13 9350 BaseThe bottom is secured by 8 torx screws which provide for very easy removal of the base plate, and access to the SSD and WiFi card.

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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!!

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