Head-To-Head: New Dell XPS 13 Vs. Apple MacBook Pro

Face Off

For PC makers, it is sometimes hard to let go of a popular design. But Apple and Dell have both concluded of late that the designs on their flagship laptops -- the MacBook Pro and the XPS 13 -- needed a refresh. Apple launched the redesigned MacBook Pro a little over a year ago, while Dell released the new XPS 13 design earlier this month. The revamped XPS 13 is the first new form factor for the laptop since early 2015, while the MacBook Pro had gone four years before its latest big update.

Which of the two laptops is a better fit for you? In the following slides, the CRN Test Center compares Dell's new XPS 13 vs. Apple's newest MacBook Pro on price and specs.

First Things First

For this comparison, we're just going to look at the 13-inch models of the MacBook Pro, since those are the equivalent size to the XPS 13. While the MacBook Pro is available in a 15-inch model as well, Dell's XPS offering in that size is a different product line -- the XPS 15. So we'll save a comparison of the 15-inch MacBook Pro and XPS 15 for another day.

It's also worth noting upfront that the MacBook Pro comes in two variants. One model comes with the Touch Bar, which is a touch-sensitive display strip that takes the place of the function row of keys. There's also a model featuring lower-end specs (and a lower price) that doesn't have the Touch Bar.

Additionally, while this may go without saying, the two laptops run differing operating systems: the MacBook Pro runs macOS High Sierra (Apple's latest PC operating system), while the new XPS 13 runs Microsoft's Windows 10.


As mentioned, the laptops in our comparison feature 13-inch displays -- 13.3 inches, to be precise. While both laptops feature clamshell designs, only the XPS 13 has an option for a touchscreen display. Three different screen options are available for the XPS 13: a 4K/UHD (3,840 x 2,160) touch display, an FHD (1,920 x 1,080) touch display, and an FHD non-touch display. Thus at the top-end configuration, the XPS 13 features more pixels than the MacBook Pro with its 2,560 x 1,600 resolution.

The MacBook Pro compensates, however, with the use of Apple's colorful Retina display technology and 500 nits of brightness. That makes the MacBook Pro brighter than the XPS 13, which goes up to 400 nits.

Thickness & Weight

The XPS 13 already had a reputation for portability, but Dell has gone further with the latest design overhaul. The new XPS 13 measures just 0.46 of an inch thick, compared to the previous 0.6 of an inch thick -- and significantly slimmer than the MacBook Pro, which measures 0.59 of an inch thick.

There's less of a noticeable gap between the two laptops on weight. However, the XPS 13 is still lighter at 2.68 pounds. The MacBook Pro weighs 3.02 pounds.

Overall Size

The XPS 13 design stands out by having a minimal bezel around the display, which helps keep the total size of the laptop to a minimum. And Dell's redesign of the XPS 13 form factor has reduced the overall volume of the laptop by 24 percent, in fact -- enabling it to keep the title of smallest 13-inch laptop on the market. Along with having a thinner profile than the MacBook Pro, the XPS 13 is smaller on length and width as well; the laptop has a total volume of 42.7 square inches. That gives the new XPS 13 a roughly 28-percent smaller volume than the MacBook Pro, which measures 59 square inches.


Dell has the advantage of being newer to market with the revamped XPS 13 when it comes to processor options. The XPS 13 uses the latest processors from Intel -- the eighth-generation chips, aka Kaby Lake R. Significantly, even the Core i5 processors in the latest generation are quad-core for boosted performance. The new XPS 13 comes with options for the eighth-gen Core i5 (up to 3.4GHz) and Core i7 (up to 4GHz).

The MacBook Pro uses processors from the seventh generation of Intel Core processors -- and the chips are dual-core in all cases. The MacBook Pro with Touch Bar features options for seventh-gen Core i5 (either 3.1GHz or 3.3GHz) or Core i7 (up to 3.5GHz). The non-Touch Bar model of the MacBook Pro is a fair amount slower, with options for a 2.3GHz Core i5 or 2.5GHz Core i7.

Battery Life

Dell's new XPS 13 comes out well ahead in terms of battery life promises -- at least for the FHD model, which pledges up to 19 hours and 46 minutes on a charge. (Dell doesn't offer an estimate for the 4K XPS 13 model.) Apple wants to set more-modest expectations for the MacBook Pro, with a promise of up to 10 hours of battery life on a charge for the laptop.


With the new XPS 13, Dell has followed Apple's example by eliminating USB-A and going all-in on USB-C. The XPS 13 now features three USB-C ports, which require a converter for using USB-A or attaching to a display. The MacBook Pro, meanwhile, includes four USB-C ports on the Touch Bar model and two USB-C ports on the model without the Touch Bar.

Memory & Storage

Unlike the MacBook Pro, which starts out with 8 GB of RAM, the new XPS 13 has an entry-level model starting with a 4 GB of RAM. The XPS 13 also offers configurations with 8 GB or 16 GB, while the MacBook Pro goes up to 16 GB of RAM as well.

On storage, the new XPS 13 is configurable with 128 GB, 256 GB, 512 GB or 1 TB. The MacBook Pro Touch Bar models offer storage options for 256 GB, 512 GB or 1 TB. The non-Touch Bar model comes with either 128 GB or 256 GB of storage.

Special Features

Both the MacBook Pro and new XPS 13 include key elements that make them different from any other laptop on the market. For the MacBook Pro, it's the Touch Bar, which provides controls that adapt to whatever app is being used. And for the new XPS 13 (the rose gold model), it's the "alpine white" design option for the palm rest, keyboard, and display bezel. The palm rest is made from woven glass fiber, which was specially developed for the laptop so that it is UV-resistant and stain resistant. The palm rest, in fact, is cleanable; a recent demo showed that even a Sharpie smudge could be easily cleaned off.


At the entry level, Dell's new XPS 13 has a starting price of $1,000 for a model with 4 GB of RAM, 128 GB of storage and eighth-gen Core i5 processor. That puts it well below Apple's price for the base model MacBook Pro (non-Touch Bar) -- $1,299 -- which brings twice the RAM but the same amount of storage and a notably slower Core i5 (seventh-gen).

A better comparison is at the next rung up for both laptops. For an XPS 13 with eighth-gen Core i5, 256 GB of storage, 8 GB of RAM and an FHD display, you will pay $1,200. That's significantly less than the MacBook Pro with Touch Bar, which starts at $1,799 for a model with the same RAM and storage, along with a higher-res display but a slower, seventh-gen Core i5 processor.

Getting the 4K model of the XPS 13 will add a lot to the price, however: that model currently starts at $2,049. Still, if you can live without the 4K display (and are OK with Windows 10 over macOS), the XPS 13 appears to offer more for the money including a faster processor, longer battery life, better portability and unique interior design for the "alpine white" model.