Kaby Lake Core i7-7500U Versus Skylake Core i7-6500U on Dell XPS 13

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Looking At Intel Kaby Lake Performance

We recently got our hands on the Dell XPS 13 9360 laptop with a 7th Generation Intel Core i7-7500U Kaby Lake processor that is the direct replacement for last years Dell XPS 13 9350 laptop with the 6th Generation Intel Core i7-6500U Skylake processor. Both laptops have 8GB of LPDDR3 1866MHz memory and 256GB PCIe NVMe SSDs, so it gave us a great opportunity to compare the performance of Kaby Lake versus Skylake on a laptop!

Dell XPS 13 Notebook

The Dell XPS 13 9360 as we have configured is $1,459.99 shipped while you can still buy last years Dell XPS 13 9350 as we have configured for $1,289.98 shipped.  We loaded up the latest drivers on both the Dell XPS 13 9360 (BIOS 1.2.3) and the Dell XPS 13 9350 (BIOS 1.4.10) and ran over 15 performance tests on them to see what the performance differences were.

Core i7-7500U Core i7-6500U
Intel Series 7th Generation 6th Generation
Architecture Kaby Lake Skylake
Process Tech 14nm+ 14nm
Cores/Threads 2/4 2/4
Base Clock 2.7 GHz 2.5 GHz
Max Turbo Clock 3.5 GHz 3.1 GHz
Cache 4MB 4MB
TDP 15 watt 15 watt
Max. Memory 32GB 32GB
Graphics HD Graphics 620 HD Graphics 520
Graphics Compute Units 24 24
Graphics Clocks 300 – 1050 MHz 300 – 1050 MHz
Tray Price $393 $393

The big difference between the on the Intel Core i7-7500U Kaby Lake processor and the Intel Core i7-6500U Skylake processor is that the new Kaby Lake processors are built using the improved 14nm+ FinFET process and that is critical as those process technology refinements have allowed Intel to get higher clock frequencies without increasing power. That has allowed Intel to gain 200MHz on the base clock and an impressive 400MHz max turbo frequency on the Core i7-7500U over the Core i7-6500U.

Kaby Lake Media Engine

The other big addition inside Intel’s 7th Generation Core series processors is the addition of a new media engine for HEVC 10-bit (H.265) and VP9 hardware accelerated decoding for improved media performance. Having a dedicated media engine handling video decode is a big deal as it helps ensure media playback is smooth and will improve power efficiency for the latest video formats.

Dell XPS 13 9350 Versus Dell XPS 13 9360

Since that is pretty much the only difference between the Dell XPS 13 9350 and the Dell XPS 13 9360 that we have in-house (other than the 802.11ac wireless card and SSD) it gives us the ability to look the performance differences between the two systems. This makes for a great apples to apples comparison of the processors. And for that reason in this article we’ll be focusing on CPU performance and not the other subsystem components.

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  • Alfred Zanini

    I have an option for an i7 6500u model for 940$ us. Worth it?

  • YOUDIEMOFO

    Not sure if I’m just seeing it wrong, but would these scores not be the same if core “clock speeds” were the same…!? I get that there is more performance to be had on the kaby, but this would not be enough for me to jump ship for such a small incremental performance increase.

  • Spineman

    Great review. Thanks. Intel should have just waited on this one. Not enough to warrant an upgrade. They need to acquire Nvidia and get some real graphics pros on board. Yawn! It will hopefully lower the Surface Pro 4 pricing even more as rich boys upgrade to this “power” processor. lol.

    • AdamBoy64

      True, if you’re already using an i7-6500u there’s not much of a jump.

      It’s good for those in the market though to be able to compare. I was considering a 6500u as it didn’t seem much different, but it seems like there’s more of a jump than I expected.

  • Greg Zeng

    Running on battery makes the upgrade very worthwhile. These improvements should also be visible on other products with the new CPU.

  • Patrick DuChene

    Great article. Its not very often we see such thorough information. Thanks for that. Helps clarify a bit more of the true benefits on Kaby Lake over Skylake.
    Nice work

  • anon

    10% more performance for 10% higher clock speed? If scores are not normalized its difficult to compare when products are sooo similar.
    The performance boost could be alleged to a higher absolute performance, but its not.

    Also in the power comsumption chart, HEV (page 8) decoding power use seems missleading. You cannot use a line graph to compare different usages of power because the lines between the points mean a progression which is non existant. Should be a bar chart as well.

    I like very much legit, and I think you should pay attention to this kind of details.

    • anon

      The claim is the 14nm+ process achieves a higher clock with equivalent TDP.

    • Nathan Kirsch

      I get your point on the chart, so I updated it! Thanks for the feedback and we always strive to make the reviews as good as possible!

      • anon

        This kind of feedback is what makes legit what it is. Kudos for you.

  • Earl Keim

    Excellent article, Nathan. Nice to see one can have a long flight overseas, etc. and never run out of battery.