Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook Review

SiSoft SANDRA and ATTO Disk Tests

Test Methodology: As you'll note in the following pages of benchmarks, we've compared the Dell XPS 13 versus a few different machines, both standard notebooks and ultrabook class products.  In every test case, we tried to leave each notebok as delivered to us from the manufacturers.  This meant, after any pending Windows updates were installed, we disabled Windows update and also disabled any virus scanning software that may have been installed, so it wouldn't kick in during any benchmark runs.  That said, it's virtually impossible to ensure identical system configurations between notebooks; so we'll caution that reference scores from the various test systems are listed in order to give you a general feel for performance between these similar class of machines and not for direct, apples-to-apples comparisons.

All of the scores reported moving forward were taken with the XPS 13 running at its default settings with full performance mode enabled and the notebook plugged into AC power.

Synthetic Benchmark Testing

We began our testing with SiSoftware's SANDRA 2011, the System ANalyzer, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant. We ran four of the built-in subsystem tests that partially comprise the SANDRA 2011 suite (CPU Arithmetic, Multimedia, Memory Bandwidth and Physical Disk Performance).

SANDRA Processor Arithmetic and Multimedia Performance

SANDRA Memory Bandwidth and Physical Disk Performance

The XPS 13's SANDRA scores didn't offer anything out of the ordinary in terms of CPU or memory bandwidth numbers.  This ultrabook comes with a fairly standard low power Core i7 dual core, along with 4GB of dual channel DDR3-1333 system memory. The new Dell ultralight puts up a solid 16.3GB/s of memory bandwidth, however, which is about where we've seen the likes of the Asus Zenbook and Toshiba's ultrabook as well.  However, what did stand out a little bit was the XPS 13's Physical Disk score of 503MB/s.  This is right in line with the fastest scores we've seen from the Asus Zenbook UX21, which has one of the fastest storage subsystems we've tested to date in a mobile machine, courtesy of its 128GB ADATA SSD.

So we dug a bit deeper with Dell's new machine and fired up ATTO to see what the SSD Dell chose really had going on.
ATTO Disk Benchmark
Storage Subsystem Read/Write Throughput

If you were paying attention in that SANDRA screen shot above, you would have noted the XPS 13 employs a Samsung PM830 mSATA SSD for its storage solution. 

ATTO tells a pretty good story of what this SSD is capable of and why the system is so responsive in general.

Dell XPS 13 - ATTO Test

Asus Zenbook UX21

Toshiba Portégé Z835-P330

So the first thing you'll note is that there are some dramatic differences in performance between ultrabook Solid State Drives that are currently on the market.  Toshiba's SSD specifically is about the slowest we've seen yet, while the ADATA SSD that Asus went with for the Zenbook is the fastest we've seen thus far, both in terms of read and write bandwidth.  The Samsung SSD that Dell chose for the XPS 13 is pretty much on par in terms of read performance but only manages a little over 50% of the write performance of the ADATA drive in the Zenbook. 

However, ATTO measures single sequential transfers from very small to large sizes.  Simultaneous random read/write requests could be handled differently, so the real proof in the pudding will be how the XPS 13 and its Samsung SSD manage in some of the more standard benchmark applications, which we'll be looking at next.

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