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

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A decade after Apple kicked off the era of highly portable laptop designs with the MacBook Air, Dell is looking to define the next era of laptop portability with its redesign of the XPS 13. Dell launched the new XPS 13 in January with an emphasis on reducing the overall size of the laptop. Meanwhile, Apple released its latest update to the MacBook Air last June. Which of the two laptops is the best choice for you? What follows is our comparison of Dell's new XPS 13 vs. Apple's latest MacBook Air on price and specs.


The first thing to know when comparing the sizes of the MacBook Air and XPS 13 is that, yes, it is a pretty fair comparison: both have the same display size at 13.3 inches. While we're talking display, though, the XPS 13 has a lot more options and a lot more pixels to offer than the MacBook Air. The new XPS 13 provides three choices for its display: an FHD (1,920 x 1,080 resolution) touch display, an FHD non-touch display, and a 4K/UHD (3,840 x 2,160) touch display. The MacBook Air, on the other hand, doesn't have any touchscreen options and includes display resolution that feels a bit dated at this point, with 1,440 by 900 pixels. Also worth noting: the MacBook Air display uses standard LCD technology rather than Apple's much-loved Retina display technology, which is found in all other Mac laptops.

Size & Weight

A standout feature on the MacBook Air originally was its thin form factor. At present, the laptop measures 0.68 inches thick. But with the latest redesign of the XPS 13, there's a major gulf between the two laptops on thickness; the XPS 13 now measures just 0.46 inches thick. The XPS 13 is also lighter at 2.68 pounds, versus the MacBook Air at 2.98 pounds.

But perhaps the most noticeable difference between the two laptops is on the overall size. Thanks in part to Dell's "InfinityEdge" display on the XPS 13, which places a minimal bezel around the screen, the new XPS 13 has a much smaller size all-around. The MacBook Air is an inch wider and an inch deeper than XPS 13, along with being thicker. The result is that the new XPS 13 has a total volume of 42.7 square inches, an amazing 45 percent smaller in total volume than the MacBook Air, which is 77.8 square inches overall.

Battery Life

Another main advantage of the MacBook Air over the years has been its battery life. For the current MacBook Air model, Apple promises 12 hours of usage on a charge. That's respectable compared to many laptops on the market, including the MacBook Pro, which promises just 10 hours. But again, the XPS 13 comes out ahead by a wide margin, at least for the model with an FHD display. Dell promises up to 19 hours and 46 minutes on a charge for the FHD model of the new XPS 13. If you want the 4K model of the XPS 13 though, you can expect to get less battery life than the MacBook Air, with Dell promising up to 11 hours and 12 minutes on a charge for the 4K XPS 13.


The XPS 13 features the latest processors from Intel -- the eighth-generation chips. 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).

Apple's update to the MacBook Air last June was focused on upgrading the processor. But rather than updating to the latest generation of Intel processors, Apple just included a faster processor from the same fifth-generation line of chips that the MacBook Air has used for several years. The standard MacBook Air now sports a 1.8GHz Core i5 processor from Intel's fifth generation, rather than the previous 1.6GHz Core i5 chip. Apple also lets you configure the MacBook Air with a 2.2GHz Core i7 processor from the fifth generation. But no matter what you do, the MacBook Air at this point is going to offer a lot less horsepower than the XPS 13.

Body & Ports

Both the XPS 13 and MacBook Air feature aluminum enclosures, but only the XPS 13 comes in multiple colors, with choices between silver and rose gold. For the rose gold model, the XPS 13 features an "alpine white" design 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's UV-resistant and stain resistant.

On ports, Dell has followed Apple's example with the MacBook Pro by eliminating USB-A and fully relying 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. Ironically, because it's been a while since Apple updated the MacBook Air design, the MacBook Air doesn't offer any USB-C but does have two USB-A ports. The MacBook Air also comes with a Thunderbolt 2 port and an SDXC card slot, while the XPS 13 includes a microSD card reader.

Memory & Storage

Dell's new XPS 13 has an entry-level model starting with 4 GB of RAM, while also offering 8 GB or 16 GB configurations. By contrast, the MacBook Air is stuck with 8 GB of RAM in all configurations.

On storage, there are differences between the two laptops as well. The XPS is configurable at the entry level with 128 GB of SATA storage, and from there is available with three amounts of PCIe storage--256 GB, 512 GB or 1 TB. The MacBook Air uses PCIe in all storage configurations, and there are three to choose from: 128GB, 256GB or 512GB.


At the entry level, Apple's MacBook Air and Dell's new XPS 13 go with the same pricing of $999. However, that pricing for the XPS 13 gets you a much faster Core i5 processor and a higher-res display, though it also gets you 8 GB of RAM on the MacBook Air versus 4 GB on the XPS 13. The starting price gets you 128 GB of storage on both laptops.

At the next level up, $1,199 is the price for either laptop with 8 GB of RAM and 256 GB of storage--though again, you'll be getting a much faster Core i5 chip and higher-res screen by picking the XPS 13. Ultimately, while the pricing between the laptops is comparable, the new XPS 13 appears to offer a lot more value for the money (so long as you're OK with Windows 10 rather than macOS).

One final note: if you want the 4K model of the XPS 13, be ready for a substantially higher price, with that model currently starting at $1,600.