Getting Cut on the Bleeding Edge: the Samsung 950 PRO NMVe M.2 SSD & the Dell XPS 13

One of the unfortunate side-effects of not being a “full time tech geek” any longer is that I’m not quite up to speed on certain aspects of technology. ┬áBack when I was a full-time tech writer, I spent every waking minute reading about tech, reviewing tech, testing tech…you get the idea. Since joining the corporate world I still use tech of course, but my immersion is in very specific slices of it; since joining AT&T I know far more about WordPress than I did two years ago for instance.

When I ordered my Dell XPS 13 (early 2015 edition) in May of this year, I purposefully bought it with a 256 GB drive knowing I’d be upgrading to 512 GB within a few months. Dell charged a huge premium for the 512 GB drive (like all OEMs do). I’d been reading about forthcoming NVMe drives since 2014, promising great performance gains because they finally broke away from the legacy AHCI standard. We’re talking over 2x less latency, much deeper queue depth, etc. So with great anticipation I pre-ordered the Samsung 950 PRO, one of the first commercially-available NMVe M.2 drives.

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The Best Value in Ultrabooks Ever: The Asus UX305F

asus-UX305F

After I returned the Dell XPS 13, I expected to wait until the Windows 10 time frame to try and find another product. I’m also keeping my eye on what Apple does with the MacBook Air, just in case I feel desperate enough to make THAT giant leap (can you tell I’m reluctant?). I’m hideously uncomfortable and slow using OS X because I’ve never done more than dabble on my Mac Mini – the OS makes little sense to me, I know virtually no shortcuts, and I find it utterly non-intuitive. But enough about that, back to the world of Windows laptops…

I was reading a very detailed review of the Dell XPS 13 – I’m always curious to read what reviewers say about hardware that I own(ed) – and I saw a review of the Asus UX305F. I frankly hadn’t paid much attention to Asus laptops since I bought their first Zenbook back in 2011 and the key travel was so short it missed 50% of what I typed. And their model naming scheme is so confusing (UX301LA, T1000TA, etc.) it’s hard to know what’s what. Seeing the specs on the UX305F, and the price, my jaw dropped.

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Sorry Dell, I Sent The XPS 13 Back To You

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This was not an easy decision, but I sent the XPS 13 back to Dell for a refund. I won’t be repetitive – all my reasons are in this previous blog post. The bottom line was that I felt it had too many compromises for a product cost over $1900. When I splash out that much money, I want to feel like my purchase is an improvement in all the important ways. That reasoning is why I bought, then returned both a Nikon D7100 and a Nikon D600. Both cameras had a lot going for them, but ultimately were not a full upgrade from my well-use D300. I had to wait for the D750 before the true successor was found.

The point being that when I’m upgrading a cornerstone of my technological world, I have high standards and will wait for the right product. The XPS 13 was so close in most ways; I may revisit a Core i5/256 GB PCIe SSD version late in the year after Windows 10 launches. Maybe Windows 10 will bring with it some battery life gains, and Dell will have a few months to mature their drivers. Back to my HP Envy Spectre 14 for now, though that may be short-lived as I have my eye on something else…something quite different from the XPS 13, but something that may tick the most important boxes (but not all of them).

Side note: the photo above is of a really cool owner’s welcome booklet that Dell sends you after you buy the XPS 13. It was customized with the model of my laptop, and even the service tag and specs of the product. It welcomed me to the Dell family, and was a nice touch. It felt personal and welcoming. Nice job whomever at Dell is responsible for it!

Dell XPS 13 SD Card Slot Sticks Out

How much does an SD card stick out of the SD card slot on the 2015 Dell XPS 13? This much:

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I’d have liked to have seen the card be completely flush – with my HP Envy Spectre 14 I leave a 128 GB SD card in the slot for extra storage – but given the small size of the XPS 13, I’m not very surprised by this. It’s similar to what Apple did with the Macbook Air. I wonder if one of these would fit in the Dell XPS 13? I’m just glad Dell put an SD card slot in there, unlike the other OEMs who think a microSD card slot is somehow good enough. It’s not, at least for us photographers…