It's hard to look at the XPS 13 and not want to draw comparisons to the MacBook Air - so that's exactly what we did. For our benchmark comparisons, we pitted the XPS 13 against a 2011 edition MacBook Air (the most recent hardware revision) , running Windows 7 Home Premium via Boot Camp, and we also threw in HP's Folio 13, which has identical system specs as the Dell XPS 13. Just to see how much difference a Core i7 processor makes, we also included ASUS's Zenbook UX31 for more variety.
|Specifications / Notebook||Dell XPS 13||Apple MacBook Air (Windows 7)||HP Folio 13||ASUS Zenbook UX31|
|Processor||Intel Core i5-2467M
|Intel Core i5-2557M
|Intel Core i5-2467M
|Intel Core i7-2677M
|Chipset||Intel HM65||Intel HM65||Intel HM65||Intel QS67|
|Memory||4GB DDR3||4GB DDR3||4GB DDR3||4GB DDR3|
|HDD||128GB SSD||128GB SSD||128GB SSD||256GB SSD|
|Video||Intel HD 3000||Intel HD 3000||Intel HD 3000||Intel HD 3000|
While none of the machines are performance powerhouses, PCMark 7 still gives a good indication of overall performance, testing common workload tasks such as website browsing and video playback, as well as more taxing operations like video encoding and graphics rendering.
On most suites, the Dell XPS 13 outperformed the HP Folio 13 and was level in performance to the MacBook Air which was helped by its slightly superior processor. The Zenbook UX31 was slightly better across the board thanks to its Core i7 processor (although, we should note, not by enough to justify its price increase).
One test that the XPS 13 did perform noticeably better on, compared to both the Folio 13 and MacBook Air, was the System Storage Suite. While all three machines are running 128GB solid-state drives, the XPS 13 uses the newer Samsung PM830 mSATA model which includes an improved SATA II controller for faster sequential read/write speeds. By comparison, the HP Folio 13 uses the older Samsung MZMPA128 model, while the Apple SSD is a Toshiba OEM unit.
All four Ultrabooks use integrated Intel graphics as there's just no space inside them for a discrete GPU (if you want an Ultrabook with a dedicated GPU you need to go all the way up to 15-inch with the recently announced Acer M3 Timeline Ultra). As such, there wasn't much to separate them, with the XPS 13, MacBook Air and Zenbook UX31 all posting similar scores and the Folio 13 falling slightly behind.
Ultrabooks aren't made for gaming, but we can understand that sometimes you get bored on the road. Can the XPS 13 play games? Just barely, if you don't mind turning down your graphics quality settings and suffering through the occasional slideshow-like frame rates. Surprisingly, the XPS 13 was the best performer on medium settings, with the Zenbook UX31 unable to fully utilize its i7 processor (perhaps due to older drivers) although its slightly faster clock speed did help it stutter its way to an extra frame rate with the settings turned to high (which didn't make it any less unplayable by the way). All said and done, we would rank these notebooks on a similar playing field as far as gaming is concerned. If you're really serious about gaming on notebooks, at least look out for multimedia class of laptops to give you the advantage you seek.