Dell XPS 13 9343 review

Dell XPS 9343 review: Options 

At time of writing, Dell UK is offering four different models with either Intel Core i5-5200U (2.2 GHz) , Core i7-5500U (2.4 GHz) or Core i7-5600U (2.6 GHz) processors. Each of these chips has integrated Intel HD Graphics 5500, with 300-900 MHz clock speed. Note that all these ultra-low power mobile chips are dual-core only, regardless of i5 or i7 designation. 

Memory is fixed at 8 GB, with no option at present for more or less. And since it’s soldered to the motherboard, it’s 8 GB for life. That ought to be enough for typical users of an ultraportable laptop, unless you run more memory intensive programs like virtual machinery or creative graphics. 

Storage can be any size you like, so long as you like either 256 or 512 GB. Our sample had a 256 GB M.2 drive from Samsung, albeit still only SATA-connected so some way behind the state of the art. 

The keyboard and trackpad both worked mostly well, excepting an issue with the apostrophe/double-quote key. This would sometimes fail to print a character, or else double print when pressed harder to make any mark at all. Quality control could be an issue here. 

The trackpad was better than those found on many Windows laptops, if still short of the precise steering and control you’ll find a MacBook. The touchscreen worked as a touchscreen, with usual flex and wobbles in use. 

Dell XPS 9343 review: Lab report 

Simple synthetic benchmark tests quickly established the new Dell XPS 13 to be a fast mover. In fact perhaps too fast, given the limited cooling strategies available to the design team with such a thin slice of a chassis.  

Whether it was the integrated graphics working overtime to drive a higher number of pixels or just the intrinsic thermal envelope of the chip in too tight a space, we don’t know. But the XPS 13’s single fan was wont to rev into audibility for no apparent reason other than sitting on a desktop with the lid open. And that’s with the laptop set to its default Dell power saving mode in Windows Power Options. 

If you work in a noisy office or are not troubled by fan noise, you can safely skip to the next paragraph. If you’re like us and are driven to distraction by unnecessary whining, be aware that thermal management is literally disturbing issue with this 2.4 GHz product; perhaps even more so in the 2.6 GHz processor model. 

Dell XPS 9343 review: Processor and memory 

Geekbench 3 scored the XPS 13 with 3081 points single-core, and 6302 points multi-core, giving a nominal single/multi speed-up of 2.05 x. 

Cinebench 11.5 returned 1.39 points and 3.13 points, while Cinebench 15 gave 122 and 283 points, for single-core and multi-core processing. This puts the Dell XPS 13 in the same territory as Apple’s entry-level 13-inch MacBook Pro from last summer, which scored 1.31 and 3.15 points; and 113 and 280 points in Cinebench 15, respectively. But here we see the Dell clearly excelled in single-core performance. 

One doesn’t normally expect to report any good news when it comes to Windows gaming on an ultraportable-class laptop. But applying Intel’s new tech, the Dell XPS 13 may be the first ultraportable where we can be satisfied that gaming is possible, and beyond the usual the lowest res/lowest detail caveat too. 

You can forget about playing at native resolution, so the 5.76-megapixel panel is again wasted here. (We had to try anyway though, and saw almost laudable figures of 7-9 fps). But the Batman: Arkham City game showed that framerates of 40 fps were possible, and at High detail, playing at 1280 x 720 resolution.  

Moving up gradually to 1366 x 768, we averaged 35 and 39 fps at High and Medium detail settings. So we ratcheted the resolution even higher, to 1600 x 900 and then 1920 x 1080, where we saw frames flying at the rate of 31 and then 23 per second (Medium detail). 

Tomb Raider 2013 averaged 24.5 fps at 1600 x 900 (Normal detail), although we had issues going up and down from here. At 1920 x 1080, it could only play at sub-usable 17.9 fps. And when we reduced resolution to 1366 x 768 and lower, the game would only appear in a small letterboxed windows, an unwanted side effect of Windows ultra-res downscaling that we couldn’t defeat. 

Next: Dell XPS 9343 review - Display