Apple's MacBook has long been a point of contact for students, designers and creative people. However, Dell's XPS product line doesn't lag far behind.
With the introduction of the XPS 17, the XPS range has its sights on Apple's high-end MacBooks. With the latest 10th generation processors from the H series from Intel and up to the RTX 2060 GPU from Nvidia, it is an extremely powerful laptop. Here's how XPS 17 stands out from the MacBook Pro 16-inch.
Price and design
Dell's XPS 17 starts at $ 1,500 and Apple's MacBook Pro 16-inch starts at $ 2,399. That sounds like a big difference, but these basic models cannot be compared from apple to apple. The XPS 17 starts with a screen with a resolution of 1,920 x 1,200, a 256 GB SSD, 8 GB RAM, a Core i5-10300H and integrated graphics. From there, up to 4K + screens, RTX 2060 graphics, a Core i9-10885H, 64 GB RAM and 8 TB storage can be configured. We'll learn more about the exact configuration options of the XPS 17 when it launches later this summer.
In the meantime, the MacBook Pro 16-inch starts with a higher resolution screen, discrete graphics, 512 GB SSD and 16 GB RAM.
Apart from the price differences, both laptops are made of high quality materials, but look and feel different in the end. This is because you will find carbon fiber wrist rests on the XPS and a full aluminum surface and design on the MacBook Pro.
The XPS 17 from Dell takes many design elements from the rest of the XPS product range. It is cut in two from an aluminum block and has diamond-cut side walls. There are also aerospace-inspired carbon fibers that are used to design the black palm rest. It comes in 0.77 inches in thickness and weighs 4.65 pounds. There is only one interior color option: classic black.
In terms of weight and thickness, Apple's MacBook is slimmer than Dell's XPS 17, mainly due to the smaller 16-inch screen. It comes in at 0.64 inches thick and 4.3 pounds. This is a subtle difference that you are unlikely to notice unless you are picky.
The XPS 17 has four Thunderbolt 3 ports, a full-size SD card reader and a 3.5mm headphone jack. It is a very well connected modern machine, although there is no USB-A like it was the case with previous XPS laptops. However, Dell is kind enough to include a USB-C to USB-A 3.0 cable and an HDMI dongle in the box. If you consider differences in ports when looking at the two laptops, there is only one. The MacBook has four Thunderbolt 3 USB-C ports and a headphone jack, but there is no SD card slot. That means you have to deal with the MacBook.
The MacBook has a touch bar that is not on the XPS 17. You can use this OLED strip to access function keys and other shortcuts in MacOS by touch. Both laptops have a fingerprint scanner in the top right of the keyboard layout.
The characteristic feature of the modern XPS laptops from Dell is the "Infinity Edge" display with its iconic ultra-thin bezels. If you only have space on the screen, the XPS 17 dominates the MacBook Pro. Both devices have slim displays, but the XPS 17 has a huge advantage over Apple, with a larger screen in a case that's only marginally larger.
Dell claims the display of the XPS 17 has a screen-to-body ratio of 93.7%. It also comes with the 16:10 aspect ratio, which allows a little more vertical space when multitasking. Screen options include a 4K Ultra HD + (3,840 x 2,400) touch panel or FHD + (1,920 x 1,200) resolution panel. The 4K option is best suited for content creation because it has an anti-reflective coating, a contrast ratio of 1,600: 1 and a brightness of 500 nits. The 4K model covers 100% of the Adobe RGB and 94% of the DCI-P3 color gamut.
If you look at the MacBook Pro 16-inch display, you won't be disappointed. It has thin bezels, but they're not as strong as that of the XPS 17. Compared to the older 15-inch MacBook models, the display takes up 0.6 inches more space, but the MacBook still has a thin stripe and a lower "chin" that you don't really notice on the XPS 17.
In terms of specifications, the MacBook Pro 16-inch offers a single option – a panel with a resolution of 3,072 x 1,920. This is a lower resolution than the 4K model of the XPS 17, but it is still very lively and bright, especially in office environments. However, there is no touchscreen option as Apple would rather buy an iPad if you're looking for a touch-based experience.
The Apple MacBook also has the same 500 nits of brightness as the XPS 17, but supports the P3 Wide color gamut and Apple's True Tone technology, which allows the color temperature of the screen to be adjusted depending on use. Both are fantastic devices for photography, graphic design and video editing thanks to their fantastic color accuracy.
Performance and battery life
Of course, performance is critical for laptops, and this is where the MacBook and XPS 17 converge a little. Both laptops are quite powerful and it is difficult to choose a winner in this category as we have not yet tested the XPS 17. Your choice may depend on the operating system settings, as the XPS 17 is supported by Windows 10 and the MacBook by Apple's MacOS.
With the XPS 17, Dell has opted for the latest 10th generation processors from the H series from Intel. There are options for 4-core, 6-core or 8-core processors. These include the Core i5-10300H, the Core i7-10750H, the Core i7-10875H and the Core i9-10885H. RAM options start at 8 GB and go up to 64 GB. The SSD starts at 256 GB and can be configured up to 2 TB.
Apple opts for a 6-core Intel Core i7 processor with 2.6 GHz or an 8-core Intel Core i9 processor with 2.3 GHz. Configurations can be transmitted up to 2.4 GHz 8-core Intel Core i9 with Turbo Boost up to 5.0 GHz.
Storage starts at 512 GB, but can be increased up to 8 TB if necessary. RAM options start at 16 GB and reach up to 64 GB. Apple is more aggressive with the storage options compared to Dell, hence the higher price.
In the GPU section, Apple offers options for the AMD Radeon Pro 5500M with 4 GB or 8 GB GDDR6 memory. These AMD parts are all custom chips developed for Apple devices. Based on AMD's next generation Zen 2 7nm graphics architecture, we found that these GPUs make the MacBook a workhorse for video editing and can finish a video in 4 minutes, twice as fast as last year's 15-inch MacBook Pro .
With the XPS, Dell chose Nvidia, which offers a much larger selection. Base models offer options for UHD graphics from Intel. There is also the GTX 1660 Ti with 4 GB GDDR6 memory as a mid-range option or the powerful RTX 2060 graphics card with 6 GB GDDR6 memory.
We haven't tested it yet, but the RTX graphics model can also be a workhorse. It will be able to do ray tracing and dedicated A.I. Cores. Dell also says it optimized the thermals to make sure the laptop can keep up. It delivers 90 watts of power in a thin form factor.
On models with Nvidia graphics, the XPS 17 has two opposite exhaust fans to increase the fan air flow by approx. 30% and to control the cooling air flow in both directions. There's also a massive steam chamber that spans the entire width of the laptop to keep the processor cool.
The battery life of the XPS 17 is currently unknown. Apple's MacBook took about five and a half hours of general use. This is thanks to the 16% larger 100 watt-hour battery. The Dell XPS 17 offers options for a 97-watt-hour or 56-watt-hour battery.
Keyboard, touchpad and audio
The keyboard, the touchpad and the audio experience are important aspects of every laptop. The XPS 17 and MacBook Pro don't disappoint in these areas. Apple makes up for its past problem with its Magic keyboard, and Dell has oversized its keyboard to improve the XPS range.
If you look at the XPS 17 keyboard, it has something that its younger sibling, the XPS 13, doesn't do. Instead of using an edge-to-edge keyboard, the keyboard is in the middle of the XPS 17's laptop, surrounded by speaker grilles. The keycaps are also much larger than before, and additional left and right arrow keys are added. The touchpad is much larger than that of the XPS 13 and XPS 15. It is also centered exactly in the middle to facilitate access and prevent accidental clicks when you place your hands on the palm rest.
Like the Apple MacBook, the speakers of the XPS 17 face upwards and are optimized by the Waves Nx 3D audio experience. There are also two tweeters in the base for a really impressive quad speaker setup.
As already mentioned, you will find the newly improved "Magic Keyboard" on the MacBook Pro 16. Instead, this keyboard changes from Apple's controversial butterfly switch mechanism to the classic scissor mechanism. It also has an inverted T-arrangement for the arrow keys and a physical escape key. We found it to be one of the best ever released, with bigger keycaps and a faster feel.
This keyboard is of course flanked by Apple's Force Touch trackpad on the bottom. This differs from the XPS 17 in that there is no separate area to click. The entire surface enables clicking anywhere and offers haptic feedback that gives a responsive and uniform feeling.
The Apple MacBook also has impressive speakers. It has a high-fidelity system with six speakers and power-suppressing woofers. It has two speakers more than the XPS 17 and supports a wide stereo sound. If audio is important to you, the MacBook may be the way to go. Until we test the XPS 17, however, we cannot say for sure.
The XPS wins – on paper
With only the technical specs, the XPS 17 is the winner of this battle of laptops. The RTX 2060 offers a lot of performance that the MacBook Pro 16-inch can't keep up with. The slim display also makes it a better buy than Apple. Until we can fully test the XPS 17, the MacBook Pro 16-inch remains the only option you can buy today.