Comparing the MacBook and the Dell XPS 13

Much ado about the announcement today from Apple of the all new MacBook. Not MacBook Air, not MacBook Pro, just “MacBook”. Okay, that’s not confusing, Mr. Cook. Still, as I’ve been spending a lot of time with the beautiful new Dell XPS 13 Windows laptop, I thought it would be interesting to compare the two as there are a lot of similarities between the devices.

First off, let’s start with device photos. Here’s the new 2015 MacBook:

2015 apple macbook

And here’s the 2015 Dell XPS 13:

dell xps 13

The Apple system is definitely thinner, but boy does it have one big bevel when compared to the lovely infinity screen of the XPS 13. That’s how Dell snuck a 13-inch screen into a unit with the dimensions of an 11-inch laptop.

With those photos as a basis, let’s compare…

The MacBook is powered by a 1.6 Ghz Intel Core i5 versus the XPS 13 being powered by the same 5th generation Intel Core i5 — or you can upgrade to an i7 if you want even more muscle.

The MacBook is billed as having a 9-hour battery life. Yeah, the Dell XPS 13 has a 15-hour battery life (depending hugely on what apps you’re running, of course). RAM? 8GB on the MacBook versus 4GB or 8GB on the XPS unit.

The display is really where Apple fancies itself as the industry leader with its “retina” screen tech. The new MacBook has a beautiful 12-inch Retina display offering 2340 x 1440 resolution. This is really where the Dell shines, though, because its infinity screen blows that out of the water with a resolution of 3200 x 1800 pizels on a slightly larger screen, which means that you’re getting a lot better resolution on the truly stunning Dell unit. And having used the Dell extensively, that bevel on the MacBook screen (the unused edge portion of the screen on the display) is lookin’ mighty big, Apple.

And ports. Oh yes, Apple, you have made a big decision for us customers by getting rid of every port on the new MacBook other than a USB-C connector and the audio jack. No HDMI. No older USB. No Ethernet. No nuthin’, man, and a completely new power adapter too. So you’ll be buying a $79 adapter de rigueur if you pick up the MacBook.

side view of the macbook with usb-c

The Dell XPS 13 has a bunch of really useful ports, by comparison, including mini display port, two USB 3.0 ports and an SD Card slot, along with, yes, an audio jack, most of which you can see in this illustration:

dell xps 13 side view ports

Now to be fair, the MacBook is a lovely piece of engineering and weighs in substantially lighter than the Dell unit, at 2.0 pounds instead of 2.8 pounds (for the touchscreen model. Oh, did I mention that the Dell XPS 13 has an integrated touch screen?)

Size-wise they’re really, really close. The MacBook is 13.1mm high, 280.5mm wide and 196.5mm deep, while the XPS 13 is 15mm high, 304mm wide and 200mm deep. The difference in size is negligible and on the Dell you’re getting more screen, more resolution, a touch screen, and a bunch of useful ports.

mac os x yosemite logo

But you’re also getting Windows 8.1 versus the Mac experience with Mac OS X Yosemite. And that’s the most important difference between the two computers at the end of the day. If you’re a Mac person, the Dell XPS 13 could be $79.99 on sale and you wouldn’t be interested, and if you’re a dyed-in-the-wool Windows person, then you couldn’t care less what Apple just introduced.

And perhaps that’s why this comparison isn’t really that important. If you’re an Apple person then your only question is “what’s the best Apple product for me”, and it matters not one whit what Dell and the Microsoft universe have in the pipeline.

Oh, and did I mention they’re both starting at $1299 for a decent configuration (e.g., with the touchscreen interface on the Dell unit)? So they’re even similarly priced. But whatever. If you’re Mac, you’re Mac.

With that in mind, go read what 9to5Mac, TechCrunch, Wired, Engadget and CNET have to say about the new Apple MacBook…

Disclaimer: I’m a member of the Dell Inside Circle and they sent me an XPS 13 to evaluate. Then again, I worked for Apple as a contractor “back in the day” and been a faithful Mac user since 1989. I also wrote this article on a Retina MacBook Pro (circa 2012). I think they might just balance out.

One comment on “Comparing the MacBook and the Dell XPS 13

  1. I think there is a mistake on the piece…

    The top of the line MacBook has a significantly worse processor than the Dell XPS 13:
    1.2GHz dual-core Intel Core M processor (Turbo Boost up to 2.6GHz) with 4MB shared L3 cache
    Configurable to 1.3GHz dual-core Intel Core M processor (Turbo Boost up to 2.9GHz) with 4MB shared L3 cache.

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