The Dell XPS 13 is one of the best laptops money can buy, but there's also two versions from the same year to consider before making your purchase.
The early-2015 Dell XPS 13 9343 looks identical to the 9350 refresh which arrived later the same year. And you can still buy both of them, which can be a little confusing. If you buy from Dell, you no longer have a choice, with the newer model the only one on the main storefront. There is still its Outlet, though, not to mention third-parties like Amazon that could still sell you one of the earlier models.
Let's break it down.
Since outward appearance isn't a factor at all — these two look identical — it's all under the skin where the differences happen. And what you go for here also has an effect on how much you're going to spend. Here's a quick breakdown of the main specs between the two:
|Category||Dell XPS 13 9343||Dell XPS 13 9350|
|Processor||Up to 5th-generation Core i7 (Broadwell)||Up to 6th-generation Core i7 (Skylake)|
|Internal Storage||Up to 512GB SSD||Up to 1TB SSD (Also with PCIe SSD options)|
|RAM||4GB or 8GB||4GB, 8GB or 16GB|
|Display||1080p non-touch or QHD+ full touch||1080p non-touch or QHD+ full touch|
|Graphics||Intel HD||Intel HD or Intel Iris|
|Ports||USB 3.0, 3.5mm headset, MiniDP, SD Card||USB 3.0, 3.5mm headset, SD Card, USB-C Thunderbolt 3|
One of the biggest changes is the processor. The XPS 13 9343 launched with the 5th-generation Broadwell Core i5 or Core i7 processors from Intel. The refreshed 9350 model switched this out for 6th-generation Skylake chips. If you want a nerdy description of the differences between the two, this passage from AnandTech should suffice:
"For Intel, the Skylake platform is their second swing at processors built on the 14nm process node, following the launch of Broadwell late in 2014. The main difference from Broadwell is that Skylake is marked as a substantial change in the underlying silicon, introducing new features and design paradigms to adjust to the requirements that now face computing platforms in 2015-2016, even though the design of Skylake started back in 2012."
In more layman's terms, newer should automatically mean better. But that's not to say the Broadwell-equipped 9343 variant automatically becomes slow and unsophisticated. It's not. Skylake is the next evolution in Intel's chips, just as there will be newer models to come after that. What is important is that you're seeing a decent price cut on the 9343 to the 9350. The Broadwell processor will do just fine for pretty much everything you'd want to do on an Ultrabook. But only if it saves you a decent chunk of change over the newer model.
The next big hardware change to the refreshed model is the inclusion of USB-C Thunderbolt 3. This allows you to take advantage of such things as super-fast data transfer and 4K display output. It replaces the mini-DisplayPort output that comes with the 9343, and is certainly a safer bet for the future. Display and data transfer from one output trumps a single display output in the long term.
Then, at the higher end, you've got options for more storage and more RAM, without the top-line price going up much over the earlier model. More is usually better.
Which should I buy?
The easy answer is to go for the newer, better equipped 9350. When it comes down to it, you're spending a lot of money on a laptop so you absolutely should get the most for it. And that means grabbing the newest processor technology from Intel, it means grabbing more RAM inside and yes, that USB-C Thunderbolt 3 port that's going to become pretty useful in the future. And you should get slightly better battery life, too.
However, there's absolutely nothing wrong with the only slightly older 9343. That is, so long as you can find one at a good price compared to the newer model. Unless there's a discount to be found somewhere, definitely stump for the newer one. Dell has officially now stopped selling the older model through its main store, but third-parties and its Outlet store may still have them available. But unless you're saving hundreds of dollars, go for the newest one.