Recently I purchased a Dell XPS laptop featuring the new 7th generation i7 processor (Kaby Lake), 16GB of memory and a 512GB SSD drive. It’s a nice machine, lightweight and features a fantastic 4k resolution touch screen display. It also has decent battery life, although this is very much dependent on your system settings, use of network, screen brightness and processing intensity.
This was the machine I took on a trip to Germany this month and used it exclusively for two weeks for which I have to say I was very happy with it. Uploaded photos to Dropbox using the built in SDHC card slot and performed some minor processing with Adobe Lightroom. I did however notice that performance with filters such as Topaz Impression was painfully slow, as was the initial RAW (Fuji RAF files) to DNG conversion and preview generation. Still, the practicality of travelling with my larger Macbook Pro made the Dell an obvious choice for this short trip.
The Dell performance got me thinking. Was it just me or was this a rather poorly performing machine, in comparison? So I set out to draw some comparisons. Three systems are up for comparison here:
- Dell XPS 13 (October 2016), Intel i7-7500U Kaby Lake with 2 cores, 4 threads @2.7GHz and 16GB LPDDR3 memory, 512GB Solid State Drive (NVMe), Windows 10 Pro.
- Apple Macbook Pro (mid-2014), Intel i7-4870HQ Crystal Well with 4 cores, 8 threads @2.5GHz and 16GB DDR3 memory, 512GB Solid State Drive, Mac OSX Sierra.
- Dell Precision T7610 (2014), dual Intel E5-2660 v2 Xenon with 10 cores, 20 threads (per processor) @2.2GHz (40 threads), 64GB DDR3 memory, Seagate 3TB 7200 drive, Windows 10 Pro.
I used a test case of 130 raw image files and had Lightroom convert them to DNG and create smart previews – the results are rather stunning:
- Dell XPS 13 took 13 minutes, 30 seconds
- Apple Macbook Pro took 6 minutes, 7 seconds
- Dell Precision took 3 minutes, 50 seconds.
Of course, I’m not going to lug a Dell desktop around with me when I travel, but the difference between the XPS and the Macbook Pro (with a processor from almost two years ago) is rather startling, but not really surprising. Both laptops have the same amount of memory and almost equivalent storage capabilities. However it’s in the thread count that the Apple edges ahead.. Twice the threads does indeed improve performance dramatically even though the new 7th generation Intel Core i7 does have a slightly faster clock rate.
Whilst the Dell Precision’s performance time is impressive, it’s not entirely linear – with 5 times the thread count of the Apple and 10 times that of the XPS, it does suffer from a slow rotational (spinning rust) drive as its data source – and target. An SSD boot/data drive (on order) will resolve that.