Performance – Competitors, Processor, General, Hard Drive
Even in base form the Dell XPS 15z, which is standard with a Core i5 processor and GT 525M discrete GPU, looks set to offer excellent performance. Our review unit’s upgrades to a Core i7-2640M and 8GB of RAM (up from 6GB) further underline the laptop’s performance intent. None of this hardware is exotic, but it’s actually superior to what many competitors in the high-end laptop market offer. A similar HP Envy 15 is priced at $1449. The Sony Vaio S 15.5” is nearly the same price, but this is offset by a significantly smaller battery.
For comparison we will be using the Lenovo ThinkPad T420, the Alienware M14x and the Acer Aspire Timeline Ultra M3. This provides us with a broad range of modern processor performance as well as a broad range of modern mobile discrete graphics performance. All of these laptops are roughly similar in price, as well – the Acer Aspire Timeline Ultra M3 being the outlier with its MSRP of $799. Here are the specifications of the competitive systems.
Our old pal SiSoft Sandra starts off our look at performance. It’s good at teasing out the maximum potential of a processor, so let’s see how the Core i7 dual-core fairs.
The higher clock speed of the Core i7 is obviously paying off, providing a small but measurable leap in performance over the Core i5 powered ThinkPad T420 in both of these tests. Of course, the quad-core Core i7 in the Alienware runs away with the crown, which is exactly what you’d expect to see in a highly optimized benchmark like SiSoft.
Now let’s have a look at 7-Zip and Peacekeeper.
7-Zip is probably the most multi-core friendly benchmark we have in our testing suite, so it’s no surprise to see that the Core i7 quad-core in the M14x runs away from the crowd. What’s more surprising is just how large of a gap we see between the XPS 15z and the ThinkPad T420. Upgrading to the Core i7 does seem to offer a significant improvement over a base Core i5.
Peacekeeper, on the other hand, favors clock speed above all else. As a result the Core i7 dual-core takes the crown. This laptop will scream ahead of anything else on the market if you’re using software that is poorly optimized for multiple threads.
General Performance Benchmarks
To help gauge performance in everyday usage scenarios we put our laptops through some common tasks. The first is saving a 1080p video via Windows Live Movie Maker, the free program from Microsoft. It’s a simple but informative test that shows how the laptop handles heavy lifting in a real-world scenario.
It turns out that the XPS 15z handles the lifting just fine, offering a score that’s about 40 seconds behind the M14x and much quicker than the dual-core competition. It would be nice if Dell had managed to place a Core i7 quad in this laptop, but it does seem to get by.
Now let’s take a look at BatchBlitz, a freeware program that performs batch photo editing.
This time around the XPS 15z is actually the winner. BatchBlitz seems to have problems handling multiple threads – which, to be honest, is why I include it. Many freeware programs have this flaw, so while quad-core processors are great, there are real-world scenarios where a fast dual-core can claim victory.
Let’s wrap up this section with boot and resume times.
Hard Drive Benchmarks
The performance of a hard drive can drag down a system if it’s not in line with the competition, or make it feel unusually spry if it’s better than average. Our hard drive benchmarks help us understand performance. Let’s look at ATTO first.
All of the competitive computers offer similar performance in this benchmark. That’s no huge surprise, as they all rely on mechanical hard drive (the Acer Aspire Timeline Ultra M3 has a solid state drive, but it’s used for instant-on).
We also use HD Tune to provide another point of data when gauging hard drives. Let’s see if it has anything different to tell us.
We do see that the Acer Aspire M3 and ThinkPad T420 stand out from the crowd due to higher burst rates, but otherwise the performance is similar. Dell’s XPS 15z is actually one of the better examples – it is tied for the lowest access times and has the highest average transfer rate.