Both are thin, light and fairly expensive. So which deserves your money?

At the launch event for the Dell XPS 13 back at CES 2015 in Las Vegas, the MacBook Air was used on stage to demonstrate just how innovative Dell's design was. The executive presenting grabbed a 13-inch MacBook Air from the gathered press and held both up side by side. And you know the rest.

Previously we've compared the XPS 13 to the Retina MacBook Pro, mostly because the hardware on offer from Dell is more akin to that of Apple's 'Pro' laptops. But you can't look at the XPS 13 and not imagine it also as a MacBook Air competitor.

So, in the battle of the ultralights, which comes out on top?

For the purposes of this comparison, we're going with the 13-inch MacBook Air. Let's start at the top and break out the hardware specs first.

Category Dell XPS 13 MacBook Air
Operating System Windows 10 OS X
Display 13.3-inch 1920 x 1080 (non-touch)
3200 x 1800 (touch)
13.3-inch 1440 x 900 (non-touch)
Processor Intel Core i3/i5/i7 {6th generation) Intel Core i5/i7 (5th generation)
Graphics Intel HD/Iris Intel HD 6000
Storage 128GB SSD, 256/512GB PCIe SSD 128/256GB SSD
RAM 4/8/16GB 8GB
Battery 56 Wh 54Wh
Dimensions 304 x 200 x 15 mm 325 x 227 x 30-170mm
Weight 1.29kg (2.8lbs) 1.35kg (2.96lbs)
Price From $799 From $999

Design has traditionally been Apple's strong suit, with a long history of aesthetically-pleasing products that stand out from the crowd. But while the MacBook Air has stayed the same for a number of years, Windows laptops have quickly caught up, and in some cases have surpassed Apple's design prowess.

The XPS 13 is one such contender, and there's no denying it's one of the finest looking laptops money can buy. The almost bezel-free InfinityEdge display has a lot to do with that, as does the Aluminum and Carbon Fiber body. It's not as ultimately slim as the MacBook Air, but there's more hardware squeezed inside.

It's also squeezed inside a smaller body. One of the crowning design features of the XPS 13 is that you're getting a 13.3-inch notebook in the form factor of something like Apple's 11-inch MacBook Air. Which is crazy.

MacBok Air

Inside is where the two start to separate. The MacBook Air has a lower resolution, non-touch display, a fixed 8GB RAM option and a last generation processor. The XPS 13 has options for a glorious QHD+ touch display, up to 16GB of RAM and has been refreshed with Intel's latest, Skylake processors. You also get up to 512GB of lightning fast PCIe SSD storage in the XPS 13, though it's easy enough to buy a smaller drive and upgrade it down the line. You can also upgrade the MacBook Air SSD should you wish, but out of the box you get a maximum of 256GB.

The pricing is where things split fairly evenly. Strictly speaking, the XPS 13 is a better match for the MacBook Pro, or at least it is towards the higher end of its spec list. The lower spec models are a more event match in hardware and price.

The XPS 13 starts at $799 in the U.S. while the MacBook Air will cost from $999. You can spend much more on an XPS 13, but you'll get a lot more laptop for that money as well. But it'd be fair to call it a mostly even playing field. If the MacBook Air had some of the options the XPS 13 does, you can imagine it would at least match Dell's price, if not go above.

All the hardware, design and price considerations mean little though if you're set on one particular operating system. Windows 10 or OS X are your choices, and which one you prefer may have a bigger influence in your overall buying choice.

However, unless you're invested in Apple services, OS X isn't necessarily a winning choice, though Microsoft's major products like Office and OneDrive all work on OS X, and there are a host of third-party cross platform software solutions like Adobe Creative Cloud.

OS X does, however, have one advantage that Windows 10 does not. And that's that you can run Windows on OS X, either by setting up a dual-boot or using a VM solution such as Parallels. On Windows 10 that's all you get; Apple doesn't just let people download OS X to use on their own machines.

Both have app stores, both have content ecosystems, and both have access to iTunes. You can also sync iCloud to Windows if you're also an iPad or iPhone owner.

Ultimately it will come down to which experience you prefer and what you're going to be using on your laptop. But Windows 10 is less divisive than Windows 8 before it, while OS X hasn't gone through a significant UX change in some time. Unless you need Apple apps, Windows 10 has at least as much to offer. And in most cases, you'll be better served finding an alternative to Apple's apps, anyway.

XPS 13

Neither of these two are bad choices. Lots of people buy MacBooks Air and are very happy with them. But right now, in 2016, there's not a strong case to buy one. If you're absolutely set on an Apple laptop, the MacBook Pro is a better option all-round. The MacBook Air is starting to show its age. And if you're really looking for the cutting edge, there is always the new MacBook.

But if you're not drawn like a moth to the glowing emblem on the lid, the Windows ecosystem has a lot to offer. The Dell XPS 13 is probably the best laptop you can buy right now, regardless of operating system. It's a glowing reference point of what can be done in a current notebook, melding design, hardware and a range of prices that don't just include those spending the most. And it's not doing this through a senseless race to be the thinnest, either. As we've said before, if the XPS 13 is an indicator of the future of Ultrabooks, Apple has some serious competition.

Which of these two should you buy?: The Dell XPS 13.

See XPS 13 at Dell See MacBook Air at Apple