The Dell XPS 13 has been a fantastic laptop since relaunching in 2015, but each design gets old after a few years. In 2019, Dell presented a revision of the laptop with the webcam again, which now makes it even more comparable to the.
Now, Dell is back with an even better XPS 13 in 2020, improving its display and portability. Can Apple's acclaimed MacBook Pro still keep up? In this guide, we've pitted design, performance, and more against each other to determine which is best for you.
Design will always be subjective, but these two laptops are at the forefront of their respective games. In particular, the design of the MacBook Pro is simply iconic. It's been repeated over the years, but the aluminum unibody look largely stays the same – and it's not something people complain about.
One of the great things about the Dell XPS 13 is that it never tried to clone anything the MacBook Pro did. It had its own sense of style, which got better in 2019 with new Frost color options and a lighter, whiter interior. Although the webcam is moved upwards, the XPS 13's ultra-thin bezels remain thin, resulting in a laptop with a small footprint on the table.
For 2020, Dell has significantly reduced the bezels on the display and on all four sides of the screen, especially the bottom. It now comes with a four-sided 13.4-inch InfinityEdge display that Dell calls it. For laypeople, this means that Dell can squeeze a larger display the size of an 11-inch laptop. That all means a screen-to-body ratio of 91.5%.
The MacBook Pro isn't bad in this regard, however, but the XPS is definitely a trimmer machine. What really sets the Dell laptop apart are the two color schemes: platinum silver with a black interior or Frost with an arctic white interior. The weight is now 2.8 pounds and 0.58 inches. That's roughly the thickness of the MacBook at 0.61 inches, but is definitely easier to carry around considering the MacBook's 3.1 pound weight.
Apple's improvements to the keyboard and input methods on the MacBook Pro are a welcome change. The company swapped its pesky butterfly key switches for scissor switches, offering a better experience than in previous years. They are provided with rubber domes and offer a full millimeter of suspension travel. The MacBook Pro's large Force Touch trackpad is really excellent – we rate it as the best in the business, bar none.
The XPS 13's keyboard and touchpad are comfortable, with smooth key travel and less slippery keycaps. In fact, in 2020 Dell redesigned the keyboard on the XPS 13 to be more edge-to-edge, with keycaps 9% larger. Even the trackpad got bigger, now 19% bigger than the last generation.
At the other end of the range, the MacBook Pro swapped the XPS 13's larger keyboard and trackpad for a touch bar. It's a multi-touch OLED display that replaces the top row of function keys on the MacBook and adapts to the software you are using. The technology sounded promising at first, but it turned out to be utterly memorable and urgently needs further development to realize its potential. You may love it or find it redundant.
As expected, the latest MacBook Pro has two or four Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports (depending on the model) and a single 3.5-millimeter headphone jack. As USB-C support continues to grow, many users may still be put off by the lack of standard USB-A ports. The new 2020 XPS 13 is similar and only offers two Thunderbolt 3 ports, although it comes with a USB dongle. It also includes a microSD slot.
Dell has struck a good middle ground with its new XPS 13, and we believe it strikes a good balance between powerful, future-proof ports and accessibility with legacy accessories.
Both laptops offer options for Intel Core i5 and Core i7 CPUs. However, Dell has a small upside in that it offers a third budget-friendly Core i3 option. In addition, the current CPU range includes both 10th generation Ice Lake processors and 11th generation Tiger Lake processors.
Apple takes a different approach. The two models in the lower price range are based on Core i5 and i7 processors of the 8th generation, while the two high-end models use Core i5 and i7 chips of the 10th generation. One of the problems we have with the MacBook Pro 13 in 2020 is that Apple is selling old hardware at a premium price.
The cheapest model of the Dell XPS 13 starts at $ 800. It's a 2-in-1 device with a 10th generation Intel Core i3-10110U dual-core processor, 8 GB of storage and a super-fast 256 GB PCIe NVMe solid-state drive. Newer configurations extend up to the Core i7-1165G7 processor with 16 GB memory and 512 GB memory. The Core i5 and Core i7 options offer more core numbers than the base model and offer better integrated graphics support for games than in years past.
The basic Apple model MacBook Pro 13 is equipped with the eighth generation Intel Core i5-8257U quad-core processor (1.4 GHz base, maximum 3.9 GHz Turbo), 8 GB of memory and a fast 256 GB PCIe SSD equipped. This configuration will bring you back $ 1,300. If you need more, you can upgrade to an Intel Core i7-1068NG7 processor, 32GB of memory, and a whopping 4TB SSD.
Neither of them come with a discrete graphics chip. So don't expect to play AAA games on these laptops unless you're willing to pay an additional cost for an external graphics card (eGPU). Since both laptops support Thunderbolt 3, this is an option if you don't mind the added cost.
So which laptop has better performance?
This is a simple answer. Although both are well suited for multitasking, the XPS 13 wins because it has modern 10th and 11th generation Intel processors.
The XPS 13 has three display options: Ultra HD + touch, FHD + touch, and FHD + touchless. With Ultra HD +, you essentially get a resolution of 3,840 x 2,400, while the FHD + panel is 1,920 x 1,200. This terminology seems strange, but it's because of the new aspect ratio.
Thanks to the slimmer four-sided Infinity Edge display, the XPS 13 has an aspect ratio of 16:10 to maximize the space on the screen. Similar to the MacBook range, this aspect ratio now means you should feel like there is more space on the screen for your content when you browse the internet. You also get a bigger screen-to-body ratio with the XPS 13 as it is rated at 91.5%.
The Ultra HD + model also claims HDR 400 certification with 500 nits of brightness, a contrast ratio of 1,500: 1 and 100% of the sRGB color space. However, this model results in a noticeable reduction in battery life, which makes FHD + a better option. So if you don't want to compromise on battery performance, you'll have to settle for a resolution lower than the 2560×1600 on the MacBook Pro. Even so, the XPS 13's screen remains one of the best displays you can buy in a laptop, despite the fact that it still lags far behind the MacBook Pro.
Display quality has long been one of the MacBook Pro's strengths. The Retina display isn't 4K, but it is sharper than 1080p. The MacBook is known for its excellent color accuracy, color gamut, and significantly better brightness. The 0.72 chromatic error rate is one of the lowest we've seen, while the superb 1200: 1 contrast ratio provides deep blacks and brilliant colors.
In the meantime, the Dell XPS 13 uses the same display as the 2-in-1 version released in 2019. As we described in detail in our review of the new XPS 13, in addition to excellent color accuracy, it offers one of the best contrasts to date. The apparent lack of side panels gives a wider feel.
Both the MacBook Pro and XPS 13 are slim laptops that offer plenty of portability, but the XPS definitely has the edge here. It's both lighter and thinner than the MacBook Pro, so you can easily toss it in your pocket or hold it in your hand. Battery life is a different story.
Our tests in 2019 showed worrying behavior for the XPS 13 in terms of battery life. When testing the 4K model, despite the same display and battery, we noticed a 25% to 30% decrease in light web browsing and local video loop playback compared to the 2018 4K model.
In our tests with the model from early 2020, the FHD + configuration ran 11.5 hours of light web surfing and 14.5 hours of local video playback. However, heavy work drained the battery in about five hours. Expect these battery life to decrease with the screen configured on Ultra HD +.
The MacBook Pro has also taken a step back in terms of battery performance. The 2020 model's 58.2 watt hour battery is significantly smaller than the 2018 version's 74.9 watt hour battery. Our video loop test drained the battery in 10 hours and 24 minutes. The MacBook Pro will last a day of normal use. However, if you want better battery performance, the 1080p XPS 13 should last longer.
Dell sits on the throne
Even so, we still think that the XPS 13 has the edge in this comparison. It offers better portability, a more impressive screen, a newer and better processor, and great value for money. You also get an attractive laptop that creates its own style and doesn't mimic Apple's metallic finish or the sea of black laptops in the Windows world. It's a laptop to be seen on, and for good reason.
Ultimately, we think you'll be happy with both laptops, but a large part of your choices will depend on which operating system you prefer the most. However, if you are open to both the Apple and Windows worlds, the Dell XPS 13 is a fantastic option.