Head-To-Head: Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 Vs. Microsoft Surface Book 2
Dell is fully embracing the convertible laptop concept, with a 2-in-1 version of the XPS 15 as one of the latest examples. In January, the company launched the first convertible version of the XPS 15 in connection with CES 2018. The laptop enters a market with plenty of other choices for Windows 10 convertibles, however -- including with Microsoft's own offering, the Surface Book 2, which came out in November. Which of the two convertibles is a better fit for you? What follows is the CRN Test Center comparison of Dell's new XPS 15 2-in-1 vs. Microsoft's Surface Book 2 on price and specs.
First Things First
Microsoft's Surface Book 2 actually comes in two sizes -- one with a 13.5-inch display and the other with a 15-inch screen. For the purposes of our comparison, we're just going to look at the 15-inch Surface Book 2, since that is the model that's comparable in size to the XPS 15 2-in-1.
Additionally, one major difference to mention up front is that the Surface Book 2 is a detachable, meaning that its display can detach from the keyboard for use as a standalone slate tablet. The XPS 15 2-in-1, on the other hand, can fold its display part or all of the way back for use in different modes, but the display doesn't detach.
There's actually a slight difference on display size between the two convertibles. While the Surface Book 2 model in our comparison measures 15 inches, the XPS 15 2-in-1 actually features a slightly larger 15.6-inch screen. Both displays are touch screens due to the ability to use them as convertibles.
For the display, the XPS 15 2-in-1 comes with options for UHD (3,200 x 1,800) or FHD (1,920 x 1,080) resolution, with brightness of 400 nits. The Surface Book 2 display is on par with the higher-resolution model of the XPS 15 2-in-1, with resolution of 3,240 x 2,160 and brightness of about 400 nits.
Thickness & Weight
Due in part to the large screen sizes of the two convertibles in our comparison, they aren't two of the most portable laptops out there. The XPS 15 2-in-1 manages to rate better on thin-ness, though. The convertible measures 0.63 of an inch thick, versus the 0.9 of an thick of the Surface Book 2. The laptops are similar in terms of weight, with the XPS 15 2-in-1 just a tad heavier at 4.3 pounds. The Surface Book 2 weighs in at 4.2 pounds.
Even with that thin profile, Dell has managed to include quad-core Intel CPU options (eighth-gen Core i5-8305G or Core i7-8705G) that are integrated with discrete AMD graphics (Radeon RX Vega M GL) -- one of the first deployments of a processor integrating Intel CPUs and AMD GPUs. The XPS 15 2-in-1 CPUs can reach up to 4.1GHz. The Surface Book 2 CPU is ultra-speedy, as well: the notebook comes with the eighth-gen Core i7-8650U (quad-core, up to 4.2Ghz). Like the XPS 15 2-in-1, the Surface Book 2 packs in powerful graphics as well for creative work (and maybe even some gaming): the device features Nvidia's GeForce GTX 1060.
Dell promises up to 15 hours of battery life for the XPS 15 2-in-1, and the notebook also features GORE Thermal Insulation, which works to remove heat more effectively in order to support improved performance. Microsoft claims an even longer battery life for the Surface Book 2, however, with a promise of up to 17 hours of usage on a charge for the device.
Ports & Pens
Unlike many of the laptops now hitting the market, both of the notebooks in our comparison feature a good number of port options. The Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 comes with two USB-A ports, two USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 ports and a microSD card reader.
The Surface Book 2 just includes one USB-C port, but the device does offer two USB-A ports, as well as a full-size SD card reader and two Surface Connect ports for charging.
Both notebooks support digital pens -- the Dell Premium Active Pen for the XPS 15 2-in-1 and the Surface Pen for the Surface Book 2 -- but both digital pens are sold separately from the devices.
Memory & Storage
There are configuration options for the XPS 15 2-in-1 with either 8 GB or 16 GB of RAM. The 15-inch Surface Book 2 automatically comes with 16 GB.
In terms of storage, both the XPS 15 2-in-1 and Surface Book 2 come with PCIe solid-state drives. The two notebooks each have choices for 256 GB, 512 GB or 1 TB of storage -- while the XPS 15 2-in-1 also offers an entry-level configuration with 128 GB.
The Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 is the clear winner on affordability in our comparison, with the device available in an entry-level configuration (8 GB RAM, Core i5, 128 GB of storage) for $1,300. The Microsoft Surface Book 2 has a starting price that is nearly double that amount -- $2,499. However, that base-level model of the Surface Book 2 features Core i7, 16 GB of RAM and 256 GB of storage by default. A fairer comparison would be with the pricing for a similarly-equipped XPS 15 2-in-1 -- which would run $2,200, which is just $299 less than the base-level Surface Book 2.