The Dell XPS 13 has been a fantastic laptop since it’s relaunch in 2015, but every design gets a little old every few years.
At CES 2018, Dell unveiled a complete revamp of the laptop with an emphasis on design finesse, which just happens to be what attracts a lot of people to the MacBook Pro. But when you compare the Dell XPS 13 vs. MacBook Pro 13, does the Dell do enough to win over Apple fans?
Design will always have a subjective aspect to it, but these laptops are both at the top of their respective games. In particular, the design of the MacBook Pro has become iconic. It’s been iterated upon over the years, but the silver, aluminum, unibody look has remained largely the same — and it’s not anything people complain about.
One of the great things about the Dell XPS 13 is that it never attempted to clone anything the MacBook Pro did. It’s got it’s own sense of style, and it’s only gotten better in 2018. The new XPS 13’s ultra-thin bezels have gotten even smaller this time around, resulting in a laptop with a tiny footprint on the table. The MacBook Pro isn’t bad in this regard either, but the XPS is definitely a trimmer machine. What really sets it apart are the option of a white and rose gold color scheme, or the black carbon-fiber texture in the palm rests.
Apple’s improvements to the keyboard and input methods on the MacBook Pro are a mixed bag. We were a big fan of the old keyboard, but weren’t so hot on the Butterfly key switches found in the new MacBook, which have now made their way to the MacBook Pro. The XPS 13’s keyboard and touchpad are comfortable and run-of-the-mill, where the MacBook Pro’s new Touch Bar has the possibility of setting it apart from the pack, or frustrating users. The latter component is an OLED multitouch display that’s meant to replace the MacBook’s top row of function keys — it also adapts based on whatever software you’re using. The technology sounds promising, but it turned out to be completely forgettable, and even inconvenient at times.
As expected, the new MacBook Pro features four Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports and a single 3.5-millimeter headphone jack, or two Thunderbolt 3 ports if you opt for the non-Touch Bar version. While USB-C support continues to grow, a lot of users may still be put off by the lack of standard ports. Regardless of how you feel, Dell has followed Apple’s lead, trading out USB-A ports for a thinner chassis and three USB-C ports. So while you won’t get USB-A ports either way, the overall design win has to go to Dell.
Winner: Dell XPS 13
APPLE IS STILL STUCK ON INTEL’S 7TH-GEN
Both laptops feature options for both Core i5 and Core i7 CPUs, but the MacBook Pro’s is still behind a generation. The new XPS 13 uses the 8th-gen Core processors, which is a component we tested in the 2017 XPS 13 and saw some pretty impressive results with.
The advantage is a slimmer in terms of RAM. For the Apple, 8GB of RAM is the standard, but the system also starts $300 higher, and the $1,000 XPS 13 includes a Core i5, 8GB of RAM, and 256GB of storage. Both systems have SSD options ranging from 128GB to 1TB, though neither of them have discrete graphics cards. Don’t expect to play games on either of these laptops — but if you want more power in a smaller package, the XPS 13 is where you should look.
Winner: Dell XPS 13
TWO GREAT DISPLAYS, BUT ONE WINNER
The MacBook’s display previously held this title, but Dell’s InfinityEdge redesign introduced a fantastic display — and it’s a masterpiece in the new model as well. With the introduction of a 4K model, Dell has really taken its display to the next level. Dell still offers the HD version, but the 4K display sounds out of this world, claiming a 1,500:1 contrast ratio and 400 nit brightness. Dell is also boasts that its display shows 100 percent of the colors in the AdobeRGB scale, which should please photographers and video editors.
It’s not that the Apple’s display isn’t great, though. Against the XPS 13’s HD version, the MacBook Pro would have won out with its high resolution, contrast, brightness, and gamut readings. However, Dell’s 4K model easily one-ups the MacBook Pro, making it the better choice for display.
Winner: Dell XPS 13
The MacBook Pro used to be the thinnest and lightest laptop in town, but those days are long gone. The new XPS 13 is both lighter and thinner, making it super easy to throw it in your bag or hold it in your hand.
As for battery life, that’s another area Apple has fallen behind in. The battery in the older MacBook Pro was 74.5 watt-hours (Wh), while the 2016 model without a Touch Bar is just 54.5, and the Touch Bar version is just 49.2. Even with the improvements to energy efficiency in MacOS High Sierra, that’s not a great sign for the Pro’s battery life. The MacBook Pro lost some of it’s battery life pedigree.
The 2018 Dell XPS 13 actually pulls a trick similar to the newest MacBook Pro 13, reducing battery size from 60 watt-hours to 52 watt-hours. That’s a smaller step back, and the newer Intel 8th-gen Core processor is more efficient, so it may be a wash in real-world use. Dell is quoting over 19 hours of battery life, but we think that’ll prove optimistic when we bring it in for a full review.
Winner: Dell XPS 13
DELL SETTLES INTO THE THRONE
The redesigned Dell XPS 13 steals the crown from the MacBook in most areas. Not only does it beat it out or compete closely in nearly every area, it does it with a sense of confidence in its aesthetics that’s a bit rarer from Windows laptops. On top of that, going with the XPS 13 will save you a solid $300, making it a bit easier to recommend to the laptop buyer.
That doesn’t mean the MacBook sucks — it’s just not for everyone. MacOS diehards will be more than happy to overlook some of the laptop’s quirks. A lot of people will make their decision based on the operating system they prefer, be it MacOS, or Windows. If you’re comfortable with both, however, the XPS 13 does lead the Mac, especially with the laptop’s 2018 update.