If you’re in the market for an ultraportable-yet-portable machine, chances are the Apple Macbook 12-inch and Dell XPS 13 have both caught your eye. Yet, which should you buy? If you’re device agnostic and have no particular preference over brand or platform, which of these two is worthy of your money? Let’s find out in this Dell XPS 13 vs Apple Macbook 12 ultraportable showdown!
Dell XPS 13 vs Apple Macbook 12: Spec Showdown
In this showdown, we’ve got the Intel Core i7-powered Dell XPS 13 up against the Core m5-powered Apple Macbook. Sounds like a mismatch, right? Well you’d be correct looking at the specs, except both devices retail around the same price tag and target the same consumers. Here’s the spec breakdown between these two devices:
|Model:||Apple Macbook 12||Dell XPS 13|
|Screen Size / Type:||12-inch Retina Display||13.3 inch Infinity Edge+ IPS|
|Screen resolution||2304 x 1440 pixels||QHD+, 3200 x 1800 pixels|
|Screen density||226 pixels per inch||276 pixels per inch|
|Processor:||Dual-core 1.2GHz Intel Core m5-6Y54||Dual-core 2.5GHz Intel Core i7-6500U|
|Dimensions||11.98 x 7.88 x 0.6 inches||11 x 7.7 x 0.52 inches|
|RAM||8GB DDR4||8GB DDR4|
|GPU||Integrated Intel HD Graphics 515||Integrated Intel HD Graphics 5500|
|Storage||512GB SSD||256GB SSD|
So which is worthy of your money? Let’s find out as Dell’s mightiest true ultraportable – the larger Dell XPS 15 doesn’t really count as an ultraportable – takes on the most portable machine that Apple has to offer. We’ve reviewed both of these machines so check out our Apple Macbook 12 review and Dell XPS 13 review if you need further info not contained below.
When it comes to design, it’s hard to deny that Apple makes some of the most stylish computers on the market. From the Air to the Pro, the Macbook line has an iconic design which is further enhanced by the ultra slim Macbook 12. Weighing in at just 2 pounds, the MacBook is remarkably sturdy and, better yet, comes in four colors: Space Gray, Rose Gold, Silver and Gold.
Looking at the XPS 13, there’s nothing quite remarkable about it, that is, until you turn on the display. Dell’s excellence in design shows through with the InfinityEdge display, which strikes you like no other laptop display does. Display aside, the rest of the finish is actually quite nice with an aluminium chassis, carbon-fiber style and soft-touch finish.
The XPS 13 is slightly heavier at 2.6 pounds but around the same size at 11 x 7.7 x 0.52 inches versus the Macbook (11.98 x 7.88 x 0.6 inches). Picking a winner is definitely hard but the only downside to the XPS 13 is its awkward and somewhat-ridiculous webcam placement in the lower left corner of the screen, which renders it mostly useless for web conferencing and typing at the same time.
Winner: Apple Macbook 12
A really tough call but Apple’s machine shades it thanks to its lower weight and multiple color options.
Ports & Features
If there’s a shut and closed comparison point between these two, it’s in the I/O included with each machine: simply put, the Macbook fails miserably. With just a single USB Type-C port and a headphone jack, the Macbook isn’t made for those who need to connect more than the bare essential peripherals.
By way of comparison, the Dell XPS 13 packs a lot of punch for the money, including two USB 3.1 ports, a charging port, a Thunderbolt 3-compatible USB-C port and an SD card slot. No contest really.
Winner: Dell XPS 13
As simple a decision as there ever was.
On paper, the XPS 13 has the upper edge here thanks to its superior resolution, larger size and touch capabilities, but as we’ve historically found with Apple’s product range, you can’t judge it by its specs. Consuming the same media on each machine side-by-side, it’s certainly difficult to immediately call a winner as both machines have their pros and cons.
For a start, the XPS 13’s greater size and superior resolution do translate into a great viewing experience, but the Macbook does hold its own here. Both displays are very colourful but the Macbook display is less reflective, resulting in much wider viewing angles.
Dell’s touch panel is the closest a PC display has ever come to Apple’s Retina Display but the greater viewing angles give this round to the Macbook.
Keyboard & Trackpad
In attempting to deliver a supremely thin machine, Apple had to develop a new butterfly mechanism for the layout and this, in turn, vastly reduced the travel compared to other laptops. The Dell XPS 13’s thicker body means it offers a very respectful travel distance of 1.2mm versus just 0.5mm on the Macbook, but the overall typing experience is very similar on both. While the XPS 13 is more comfortable to use, both machines are perfectly suitable for hammering out long emails and articles (in my case).
Where Apple steals a march on its rival is the trackpad; rather than offer a physical click, the Force Touch trackpad uses haptic vibrations, which has allowed Apple to make a thinner machine. The trackpad also brings timesaving features such as hard pressing to preview websites in Safari or adding a contact with a force-click on a phone number or email address.
Plenty of PC OEMs have attempted to replicate the fluidity of the Macbook trackpad and while Dell does come close with the trackpad on the XPS 13, the Force Touch features offer the added edge for Apple.
Both machines offer excellent typing experiences and while the keyboard is better on the XPS 13, the trackpad is better on the Macbook.
When testing battery life, it’s easy to draw conclusions from benchmarks but these often don’t tell the full story. Instead, we like to draw our conclusions after using each machine during an average work day, which includes photo editing, running 20 chrome tabs and having multiple applications open including Slack, Skype and Excel.
Like the Macbook Air, one of the key selling points of the Apple Macbook 12 is its purported long battery life and it mostly doesn’t fail to deliver in our testing. Lasting anywhere from 5 to 7 hours with average usage, it’s more than capable of getting a day’s worth of work done.
Likewise, the XPS 13 is no slouch in the battery department either. With roughly the same usage as with the Macbook, the touch-screen XPS 13 delivers between 4 and 6 hours battery life, although it can be pushed a little higher by reducing screen brightness.
However, the non-touch screen version of the XPS 13 is purported at offering up to 4 hours’ additional battery life, which should translate into around 2 to 2.5 hours extra usage per day with my typical usage.
The Macbook 12 battery life is better than the touchscreen-equipped XPS 13 but the non-touch XPS 13 outweighs it considerably.
Like the Ports & Features section, this is almost a shut-and-closed decision: the XPS 13 simply offers more powerful configuration options. Yet, the Macbook’s arguably superior filesystem means it’s often quicker at loading tasks, copying files and looking up data.
Our Macbook 12 comes armed with a 1.2GHz Intel Core m5 processor, 8GB of RAM and 256GB of flash storage, our XPS 13 is powered by a 2.3GHz Intel Core i5-6200U processor, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD. Both have integrated Intel HD Graphics; the Macbook shipped with the 515 variant and the XPS 13 in the 5500 range.
On GeekBench 3 – which measures overall performance – the Dell XPS 13 scores 3301 in the single core test and 6932 in the multi-core test, while the Macbook 12 scores 2834 and 5790 respectively. The XPS 13 certainly beats the Macbook 12 but the difference is somewhat relative to actual day-to-day performance; while the Macbook is certainly more than capable for most tasks, the XPS 13 is certainly the more reliable when it comes to the heavy stuff.
Both machines have configurable options, but the crux is that while the Macbook is available in Core m3, m5 and m7 variants (with varying storage sizes), the XPS 13 offers Core i3, i5 or i7 models, up to 1TB storage and an option to upgrade to 16GB RAM. When it comes down to it, a Core i5 processor is more powerful than a Core m5, and this is the same with the i3 and i7 variants versus their m3 and m7 siblings as well.
Winner: XPS 13
More options, more configurations and the Core ‘i’ series is simply more powerful than the Core ‘m’ series.
Buying an Apple product definitely requires spending a premium, but the Macbook 12 might be where Apple stretches the boundaries of consumer brand loyalty. At a starting price of $1,299 for the Macbook powered by a 1.1GHz Core m3 CPU, 8GB of RAM and 256GB of flash storage, the Macbook certainly isn’t cheap.
If you need the faster processor and more storage, an upgrade to the 1.2GHz Core m5 model (which has 512GB of storage) will cost you $1,599. For the really power hungry – such as those who edit videos – the Core m7 will cost you a further $150 (that’s $250 more than the base m3 configuration).
By way of comparison, the XPS 13 has a much lower starting price of $799, which gets you a Full HD non-touch display, a Core i3 processor with 4GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. Need a touchscreen or better processor? The XPS 13 touch starts at $1,499 with 8GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD and a Core i5 processor while the Core i7 version will set you back a further $150.
Of course, there’s options to upgrade the RAM even from the base standard, so if you need the absolute best battery life and performance, consider getting a non-touch, Full HD model, then upgraded to the Core i7 processor and 16GB of RAM, should you need them. Whatever you choose, the XPS 13 definitely offers better value for money, but Apple machines have never been known for offering the best bang-for-your-buck!
Winner: XPS 13.
A much lower starting price, more configuration options and better upgrades make the XPS 13 better value for money.
Overall winner: Dell XPS 13
It’s a close run battle here and both machines have their advantages and disadvantages, but the XPS 13 wins through overall. Considering the gulf in difference with the pricing and the comparative better value for money that the XPS 13 offers, it’s no surprise.
We encourage you to let your platform experience and preferences to help you decide between these ultrabooks. Both run very different OS; the Macbook obviously runs Apple’s latest versions of OS X – and will run MacOS Sierra when it’s released next month – while the XPS 13 is a jewel of the windows world and runs the latest Windows 10 anniversary update with nary a worry.
Which of these two machines would you buy and why? Is there another ultrabook that takes your fancy instead? Let us know your views in the comments below!