The Dell XPS 13 Touch (2016 Gold Edition) ($1,749.99 as tested) is a repackaging of the excellent 2016 Dell XPS 13 Touch, with some faster guts to go along with the spiffy gold exterior. This laptop includes a Core i7 processor rather than an i5, and Intel Iris graphics replace the Intel HD graphics present in the other unit. These upgrades cost $300 extra, but the gains in performance weren’t huge, making the system best suited for those who do a lot of processing work and need the extra juice. The more demanding CPU also reduced battery life by about 2 hours on our test. The XPS 13 Gold Edition maintains the build quality and useful feature set of the i5 model, but the increased price relative to the change in performance and decreased battery life means the 2016 XPS 13 Touch remains our Editors’ Choice high-end ultraportable laptop.
Other than its gold color, this version of the XPS 13 Touch shares all the physical features and connectivity options of the silver 2016 model. The gold is understated, and actually looks silver in some lighting. You can really see the difference when you put the two laptops side by side, though. The keyboard deck is made of a nice carbon fiber, which is becoming fairly uniform on some of Dell’s laptops, such as the Dell Precision 15 5000 Series (5510). That material, along with the machined aluminum exterior, gives the system a premium look and feel.
The 13.3-inch, 3,200-by-1,800-resolution (QHD+) touch screen looks stellar, with an InfinityEdge design making for an extremely thin bezel that accentuates the display. QHD+ is short of the 4K resolution seen on some systems, including the Razer Blade Stealth (4K UHD), but the nearly-edge-to-edge screen helps to make up for it. The laptop boasts USB-C with Thunderbolt 3 alongside several other USB ports, as well as dual-band Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 It also has a 256GB solid-state drive on board for storage and 8GB of memory, as does the silver 2016 model. For more in-depth details on the design, ports, and features of this system, head over to the Dell XPS 13 Touch (2016) review.
Although their physical designs are nearly identical, the two 2016 XPS 13 laptops diverge on internal hardware, which led to different performance results on our benchmark tests. The 2016 Gold Edition features a 2.2GHz sixth-generation Intel Core i7-6560U, instead of the 2.3GHz Core i5-6200U found in the silver model. The graphics, still integrated and not a discrete card, are also different—an Intel Iris 540 pushes the visuals, offering a bit more power than the Intel HD Graphics 520 of the other unit. The Gold Edition scored 2,612 points on the PCMark 8 Work Conventional productivity test, beating the silver 2016 XPS 13 (2,450 points) and the Razer Blade Stealth (2,411 points) but falling short of the Lenovo LaVie Z HZ550 (2,709 points) and LG gram-14Z950 (2,706 points), both of which have slightly faster i7 processors.
The XPS 13 Gold Edition fared better on multimedia tests, compared with these other systems. It finished Handbrake in 2 minutes 18 seconds and Photoshop in 4:08, and it scored 298 on CineBench, which is at or near the top of the pack for every test. The Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch, Retina Display (2015), Blade Stealth, and Toshiba Satellite Radius 12 P25W-C2300-4K scored higher on CineBench among high-end ultraportables, but the XPS 13 Gold Edition finished ahead of all three on the other tests, making it a solid pick for completing media projects quickly.
Integrated graphics are not ideal for substantial 3D gaming, but the system fared well for an ultraportable. It scored 6,940 points on the 3DMark Cloud Gate test, beating the silver XPS 13 (5,606 points) and the Radius 12 4K (5,903), and its Fire Strike Extreme score (531) came in just behind those two. On graphics tests Heaven and Valley, at Medium Quality settings, the XPS 13 Gold Edition scored 25 frames per second (fps) and 32fps, respectively. 30 is considered playable, so scoring slightly higher than that number means this laptop can play less-demanding games on Medium settings smoothly. Given that it scored 2fps on both Heaven and Valley set to Ultra Quality, though, you’ll want to avoid cranking up the visual effects beyond Medium.
Battery life on the XPS 13 Gold Edition dropped compared with that of the silver 2016 XPS 13, mainly because of the power-hungry Core i7 processor. The latter system lasted 9 hours 2 minutes on our rundown test, while the Gold Edition lasted 7:07 on the same test. That’s still a decent result, but it falls behind most systems in the category by at least half an hour and well behind the 13-inch MacBook Pro’s 11:10. The UHD Razer Blade Stealth lasted only 6:25, but its demanding 4K display is, understandably, responsible for that battery-life result.
The Dell XPS 13 Touch (2016 Gold Edition) shares all the high-end features of the Core i5 XPS 13 Touch from earlier this year but adds in some extra power. This lets the system chew through media projects and day-to-day tasks a little quicker, which is appealing for those who want to do serious work. It’s a very portable system with a premium design, and the gold color is appealing. The faster processor took about 2 hours off the battery life, though, and the jump in performance isn’t significant enough to make the extra $300 a no-brainer. If you do a lot of processor-intensive work on your system, the i7 CPU may be worthwhile for you. But if not, the less expensive i5 version is more than capable, meaning the Dell XPS 13 Touch (2016) remains our Editors’ Choice for high-end ultraportable laptops.