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Can upgrading the SSD in the Dell XPS 13 save you money?

SSD
SSD (Image credit: Windows Central)

Upgrading laptops has always been more difficult than their desktop counterparts. Today's ultrabooks are the most difficult yet, with many parts becoming integrated in the pursuit of form factor. In the case of the Dell XPS 13 (opens in new tab), however, there is one upgrade you can do.

Changing out the SSD drive is a fairly simple process that requires only time and a being able to work a screwdriver. It's no secret you can usually find aftermarket parts cheaper than manufacturers would charge you for the same.

So is it worth saving money up front on the XPS 13 and adding more storage yourself?

Dell XPS 13

Unfortunately, it isn't just as simple as spending less money, getting less storage and doing the job yourself. Manufacturers use the internal storage as one of the specs it will use in its price tiers, and Dell is no exception. You don't just get different SSD sizes when choosing an XPS 13, they go with other specs you may care about.

Using the U.S. Dell store as the example, this is what we're currently looking at. There are four choices you might consider upgrading the storage in:

  • 128GB SSD with Core i3 and 4GB RAM ($799)
  • 128GB SSD with Core i5 and 8GB RAM ($999)
  • 256GB SSD with Core i5 and 8GB RAM ($1149)
  • 256GB SSD with Core i7 and 8GB RAM w/ QHD+ touch display ($1699)

Using Amazon U.S. as an easy example of where to find new SSD drives, we can see that you can pick up a Samsung 250GB m.2 SSD (opens in new tab) for $99. So on any of the 128GB models you can save yourself some money by doing it yourself. Whether $50 on a laptop costing upwards of $1000 is worth it is entirely up to you.

Things are a little more interesting when you look at the top tiers. The top spec, 512GB XPS 13 also has 16GB of RAM included for its $2129 price tag. So you're doubling up on both for an extra $529. The RAM isn't upgradeable on the XPS 13, so if you're looking for 16GB you will have to stump up the cash.

XPS 13

If, however, you just want the storage, you can definitely save a bundle. You can get a 500GB drive (opens in new tab), again from Samsung, for $170. A massive saving if that extra 8GB of RAM doesn't matter to you.

So, what's the verdict? Should you replace it yourself? At the higher tiers, definitely. You can save a lot of money if storage is all you want without having to pay for extra bits. At the lower end, you'll save a lot on the base model if that's all you need, with things being a little closer in the middle ground.

If you do decide to give it a go, we've got a handy guide that will help you on your way.

Richard Devine is an Editor at Windows Central. A former Project Manager and long-term tech addict, he joined Mobile Nations in 2011 and has been found on Android Central and iMore as well as Windows Central. Currently you'll find him covering all manner of PC hardware and gaming, and you can follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

25 Comments
  • Laptops in general are not that had to swap out a hard drive on. Dell and HP models (both I have worked on 100's through out the years, including new ones). Normally it's 2-4 screws to open the panel and then remove a screw or 4 to remove the drive, then reverse to put in the new drive. Of course there are SOME acceptions to this and most if not all Tablets are a diffeent stories. I know the Surface tablets alone need glue to be removed to get the display off and MOST tablets are like that. I've had 3 tablets, 2 HP and 1 Samsung, all of them required doing something that could damage the tablet to get the drive out (one had a SSD that failed so no choice)
  • Some HP laptop's HDDs are under the handrest and keyboard. I hope whomever thought of that got fired.
  • Acer laptops (well the Aspire V5 series) have hard drives under the keyboard so that's always fun to swap out...
     
  • Dell dell dell.
    Maybe mention other brands sometime?
  • We just reviewed the Huawei MateBook and cover Asus, HP, and reviewed a few Lenovos as well. Where are you on those articles? As I have noted time and again: we cover what we use and make no apologies for that. Either way, there are more polite ways to request coverage of specific devices that would encourage us, not complain. A simple "hey, could you guys look at this..." would suffice.
  • Hey Dan. Didn't get a reply from Abhishek. Wanted a good in depth review of the new Notion Ink Able just launched in India. Would you please ask him ? :)
    It looks like a great device for the price but Intel Cherry Trail is something I've never used before. In fact I've always used the Core series.
    Wanted something good for my dad that's not too expensive but wont become sluggish after 1-2 years.. :)))
  • He went to the event, so yes, he should be able to do something assuming he has one for review.
  • Thanks for the reply man !
  • Speanking of what could be looked at, can you guys please consider doing an article on the longer term 3+ years driver support offered by OEMs especially on the more expensive $1k+ laptops. Would be really useful to know where OEMs stand on this as I was screwed in the past by the likes of Sony (when they still had VAIO) and HP who were the worst by not releasing a single GPU driver update for their $1.8k+ Pavillion DV7 notebook.  
  • Interesting.
    But most of the high end laptops just work perfectly fine with W10. As fir driver updates, Windows gives them automatically. :)
  • M.2!!!! Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • Wish I could find SOLID PROOF that a M.2 drive is a WORTHY upgrade to a SATAIII SSD (Evo 950, etc)....and so far, no proof, although they are a little faster but, not worth the price difference...
  • Isn't most of the counter-argument that they're not as amazing tied to their supposed lack of driver optimization for Windows? I thought I heard a few people say that before especially on the write times.
  • This is a niche case, but sustained read speed for uncompressed image sequences far surpasses the likes of the 850 EVO. On my XPS 15 9550 I can read 7200x2160 TGAs at 30fps without dropping frames. The 850 EVO or even Pro line drop frames on a single 1920x1080@ 60fps TGA clip because they can't sustain reads as well of many files in quick succession. This is very useful for anyone working in digital video. Also, this is specifically ultra m.2 nVME vs. SATA
  • Kind of important to point out that M.2 is a formfactor for the drives.  Some are apparently PCI-e based, some SATA, while others are NVME which is something else as well. (Feel free to correct me.)   So... @DavidinCT M.2 drive is worthy over a 3.5/2.5 drive for the space saved.  Less cable mess, and overall cleaner look.  For many, that is a worthy upgrade, and I wish my motherboard had an M.2 of any variety for that very reason. 
  • I can't seem to find the RAM modules. Are they user replaceable on the XPS models?
  • No.
  • maybe dell uses faster ssd? some companies use ssd that is 2x faster than 850evo
  • Unfortunately, that's probably not the case. The SSD on the XPS 13 is relatively slow (as compared to other modern SSDs like the ones on Surface, Mac, etc.)
  • Does the original XPS (9343) support the M.2 drives? If I am going to do this I would like to get the best performance possible.
  • Sometimes, depending on who you talk to, Dell and other first party manufacturers, are willing to price match an upgrade like this.  I have seen them drop an extra $100 off the price of an upgraded system, which makes going with them a better deal.  It doesn't hurt to ask.
  • You can always sell the original drive as well to make it even more worth your while. I'm just disappointed when a laptop doesn't have user-replaceable RAM, but I realize it allows them to make the laptop smaller.
  • How easy it is to add dedicated graphics nvidia/amd to laptops?
    As far I know,you cant use the one used for pcs like GTX series,for laptops there is something different right?
  • Correct.  Most laptops out today cannot be upgraded since the GPU chip is soldered onto the motherboard.  Granted a new idea initially introduced on the MSI series of laptops allows for user upgraded GPUs thanks to the new MXM form factor.  Too bad it's horrifically expensive. 
  • I upgraded my 256GB drive to a 1TB drive, not to save money, but my xps was getting tight on space. I also purchased an external usb 3.0 M2 enclosure and installed the 256GB drive in it. I was not going to replace the laptop to get more hard drive space. I would do the same on my Surface Book, but I don't think that it is as easily upgradable on the Surface Book as it is on the xps 13.