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Shootouts

The flyweight championships: 13.3-inch ultrabook shootout

By Koh Wanzi - 27 Mar 2016

Performance Benchmarks

Performance Benchmarks

The launch of Intel’s latest sixth-generation processors means that various manufacturers have just now begun to roll out a slew of ultrabooks equipped with Intel’s newest processors. Skylake promises faster overall performance while offering improved power efficiency, which also translates into better battery life for the mobile road warrior. For this year’s Tech Awards, we narrowed our focus to 13.3-inch ultrabooks - both convertibles and more conventional form factors - featuring the latest Intel Skylake processors. However, we did not exclude Broadwell models entirely because certain brands did not have a Skylake-equipped Intel Core notebook available at the time of writing.

Here’s a list of our tested ultrabooks:

  • Acer Aspire R13
  • ASUS ZenBook UX305
  • Dell XPS 13
  • HP Envy 13
  • Lenovo Yoga 900

Test Ultrabooks Compared
  Acer Aspire R13 ASUS ZenBook UX305 (2015) Dell XPS 13 (2016) HP Envy 13 Lenovo Yoga 900
  Acer Aspire R13 ASUS ZenBook UX305 (2015) Dell XPS 13 (2016) HP Envy 13 Lenovo Yoga 900
Launch SRP
  • From S$1998
  • From S$1698
  • From S$2299
  • From S$1699
  • From S$2299
Processor and Chipset
  • Intel Core i7-6500U (2.5GHz, 4MB L3 cache)
  • Intel Core i7-5500U (2.4GHz, 4MB L3 cache)
  • Intel Core i7-6500U (2.5GHz, 4MB L3 cache)
  • Intel Core i7-6500U (2.5GHz, 4MB L3 cache)
  • Intel Core i7-6500U (2.5GHz, 4MB L3 cache)
Operating System
  • Windows 10 (64-bit)
  • Windows 10 (64-bit)
  • Windows 10 (64-bit)
  • Windows 10 (64-bit)
  • Windows 10 (64-bit)
System Memory
  • 8GB LPDDR3 SDRAM
  • 8GB LPDDR3 SDRAM
  • 8GB LPDDR3 SDRAM
  • 8GB LPDDR3 SDRAM
  • 8GB LPDDR3 SDRAM
Video & Display
  • 13.3-inch 1,920 x 1,080-pixel IPS touchscreen panel
  • Intel HD Graphics 520
  • 13.3-inch 3,200 x 1,800-pixel IPS panel
  • Intel HD Graphics 5500
  • 13.3-inch 3,200 x 1,800-pixel IPS touchscreen panel
  • Intel HD Graphics 520
  • 13.3-inch 3,200 x 1,800-pixel IPS panel
  • Intel HD Graphics 520
  • 13.3-inch 3,200 x 1,800-pixel IPS touchscreen panel
  • Intel HD Graphics 520
Storage
  • 512GB (Dual 256GB SSDs in RAID 0)
  • 256GB SSD
  • 256GB SSD
  • 256GB SSD
  • 256GB SSD
Optical Drive
  • None
  • None
  • None
  • None
  • None
Connectivity
  • Wireless 802.11ac/b/g/n
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • Wireless 802.11ac/b/g/n
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • Wireless 802.11ac/b/g/n
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • Wireless 802.11ac/b/g/n
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • Wireless 802.11ac/b/g/n
  • Bluetooth 4.0
Audio
  • Integrated speakers with Dolby Digital Plus Home Theater
  • ASUS SonicMaster audio system
  • Stereo speakers professionally tuned with Waves MaxxAudio®
  • Bang & Olufsen stereo speakers
  • JBL® Stereo Speakers with Dolby® DS 1.0 Home Theater® Certification
I/O Ports
  • 2x USB 3.0
  • 1x USB 2.0
  • 1x USB Type-C Thunderbolt 3
  • 1x HDMI port
  • Multi-format SD card reader
  • 1x audio combo jack
  • 2x USB 3.0
  • 1x Micro HDMI
  • SD/SDXC card reader
  • 1x audio combo jack
  • 2x USB 3.0
  • 1x USB Type-C Thunderbolt 3 port
  • 3-in-1 card reader
  • 1x audio combo jack
  • 3x USB 3.0
  • 1x HDMI port
  • Multi-format SD card reader
  • 1x audio combo jack
  • 2x USB 3.0
  • 1 x USB Type-C 3.0 with video-out
  • 1x DC-in with USB 2.0
  • 4-in-1 card reader
  • 1x audio combo jack
Miscellaneous
  • Bundled Acer Aspire Active Stylus
  • Built-in fingerprint reader
Battery Type
  • 48Wh
  • 56Wh
  • 56Wh
  • 45Wh
  • 66Wh
Dimensions
  • 343.8 x 230.4 x 18.5mm
  • 324 x 226 x 14.9mm
  • 304 x 200 x 15mm
  • 326.5 x 226 x 12.9mm
  • 324 x 225 x 14.9mm
Weight
  • 1.6kg
  • 1.3kg
  • 1.29kg
  • 1.27kg
  • 1.29kg

 

PCMark 8

Note: We were unable to obtain a score for the ASUS notebook in the Microsoft Office benchmark, which is why the value for that particular test is nil.

With the exception of the ASUS ZenBook UX305 that used an older Broadwell chip, all the other Skylake-equipped ultrabooks feature nearly identical specifications, which is why there was little to differentiate their performance in PCMark 8. Nevertheless, it looks like the Acer Aspire R13’s RAID 0 storage array may have helped it take the lead here. However, this lead in synthetic benchmarks isn’t likely to translate into any tangible difference in daily use, which was why the Acer didn’t really earn bonus points for its performance here.

 

3DMark (2013)

Other than the ASUS ZenBook UX305, all our tested ultrabooks were powered by an Intel Core i7-6500U processor and Intel HD Graphics 520. On the other hand, the ZenBook UX305 features a weaker Intel HD Graphics 5500, which explains its overall weaker performance. That being said, like its CPU performance, we expect the updated UX305 with Intel Core i7-6500U to have performance levels in the same ballpark as the other i7-6500U-equipped ultrabooks.

One interesting to note is that there is actually a fair bit of variation among the Skylake-equipped notebooks, even if they ostensibly feature the exact same graphics hardware. For instance, the HP Envy 13 was just under 10% faster than the Dell XPS 13 in Cloud Gate, even if it ended up losing out to the Dell in the more demanding Fire Strike test.

While these differences might be due to variations at the firmware level, we’re not inclined to set much stock by these differences in a synthetic benchmark like 3DMark. As we’ll see later, performance turned out to be a lot more consistent in our real-world gaming tests. Of course, there’s also the fact that gaming performance is simply not a priority for anyone looking for an ultrabook.

 

Far Cry 2

As expected, all the ultrabooks turned out very similar performance numbers because of their nearly identical hardware. The lone exception was again the Broadwell-equipped ASUS ZenBook UX305, which was on average around 14% slower than its Skylake counterparts.

The aging Far Cry 2 isn’t considered a demanding game to run anymore, and all the notebooks actually managed to eek out more or less playable frame rates at even “Very High” settings.

 

Tomb Raider

Things were different when it came to Tomb Raider, which exposed the limitations of using any of these notebooks for gaming. Even on “Normal” settings, the average frame rates achieved were barely playable and far from ideal. Nevertheless, performance among the Skylake notebooks was likewise consistent here. Clearly, gaming and graphics performance is not going to be a major differentiating factor when it comes to choosing a winner in this shootout.

 

Battery life & power consumption

Battery life is one of the most important factors when it comes to portable ultrabooks. All the Skylake machines benefited from the improved power efficiency, which caused the ASUS ZenBook UX305 - the sole Broadwell notebook - to fall behind. As expected, the Lenovo Yoga 900’s larger 66Wh battery helped it take the lead, while the Dell XPS 13 was a close second.

When it came to power consumption, the HP Envy 13 managed to edge ahead by a small margin, although the other Skylake notebooks weren’t that far behind. However, the Lenovo Yoga 900 failed to impress here because its power consumption figure was actually closer to that of the ASUS ZenBook UX305, which features a less efficient Broadwell processor.

 

Portability Index

Our portability index attempts to provide an objective measure of how portable the different ultrabooks are relative to each other by taking into account things like size, weight, and battery life. The Dell XPS 13 came ahead here, thanks to its comparatively large 56Wh battery, exceedingly compact size, and light weight. The Lenovo Yoga 900’s larger 66Wh battery pack also helped it do well in this test because of the longer battery life. Unsurprisingly, the Acer Aspire R13 didn’t fare as well because of its smaller battery pack and the fact that it is the largest and heaviest of them all.

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