Best Alternatives to Dell XPS 13 Windows Central 2021
Dell's XPS 13 is an impressive 13-inch notebook, but if it's not quite what you're looking for, HP's Spectre x360 13t will make an outstanding alternative. It costs less for similar performance hardware, it's built to a high standard, and its convertible design makes it quite versatile. There are plenty of customization options to help you get exactly what you need. If it's not exactly the alternative you had in mind, there are plenty of other options available that we've rounded up here.
- Best Overall: HP Spectre x360 13t
- Also Great: Dell XPS 13 2-in-1
- Best Gaming: Razer Blade Stealth
- Best Design: Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 13.5
- Best Business: Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon
- Best for Media: Lenovo Yoga C940
- Best 2-in-1: Microsoft Surface Pro 7
Best Overall: HP Spectre x360 13t
The latest refresh of the HP Spectre x360 is nearly perfect, bringing in a Precision touchpad for improved pointing and a bezel that has been shrunk down by about 66% from its former size. Along with the gem-cut chassis, this laptop looks like a million bucks but doesn't cost nearly as much as you might think.
This is a convertible laptop, meaning you'll be able to rotate the display around 360 degrees for tent, stand, and tablet modes. It's a lot more versatile than the standard XPS 13, and it's a better pick if you're interested in using an active pen. The 13.3-inch touch display is available in either FHD or 4K AMOLED, the latter with anti-reflective glass and unbelievable color.
A webcam sits above the display (including IR facial recognition), and there's a comfortable keyboard and touchpad. The entire chassis has been shrunk down since the previous generation, but there's still a 60Wh battery for long life. Get inside up to 10th Gen Intel Core processors (CPU), 16GB of RAM, and a 2TB M.2 PCIe solid-state drive (SSD). Wi-Fi 6 is also included for speedy wireless connections.
- 4K AMOLED touch display with a thin bezel
- Precision touchpad
- 10th Gen Intel Core CPUs
- Wi-Fi 6 and optional LTE connectivity
- Excellent value for what you're getting
- Speakers moved to bottom of chassis
Also Great: Dell XPS 13 2-in-1
The official convertible counterpart to the XPS 13 is the XPS 13 2-in-1, featuring 10th Gen Intel Core CPUs, up to 32GB of DDR4 RAM, and a 1TB PCIe SSD. This is enough performance to easily cut through a day's work, and the new CPUs will extend battery life. Ports include two Thunderbolt 3, a microSD card reader, and a 3.5mm audio jack.
The 13.4-inch touch display has a 16:10 aspect ratio and works with an active pen for inking. It's available with either a 1920x1200 or 3840x2400 resolution, and with either option, you're getting excellent color reproduction. There's hardly any bezel around the display, adding to the overall thin look of the PC.
A unibody aluminum design adds durability and improved thermals keep the laptop cool under load, and for some added security, you can add a fingerprint reader to the power button. The Precision touchpad is large for easy productivity, and the MagLev keyboard is only that you'll either love or hate due to its MagLev design. Best to try it out before making a final decision. In any case, if you adore the XPS line and need a convertible, definitely consider this laptop.
- Beautiful unibody design
- 10th Gen Intel Core CPUs
- Superb touch display options
- Fingerprint reader
- All-day battery life
- Active pen not included
- MagLev keyboard is contentious
Best Gaming: Razer Blade Stealth
The XPS 13 9300 isn't precisely cut out for much more than light gaming, both in design and performance, but the Razer Blade Stealth makes a great alternative. It was recently updated to an early-2020 model, complete with 120Hz FHD display, NVIDIA GTX 1650 Ti Max-Q graphics card (GPU), 25W Intel Core i7-1065G7 CPU option, and 16GB of LPDDR4x-3733MHz RAM. For storage, there's a 512GB SSD.
A decked-out model is going to be able to easily handle smooth framerates at 1080p, plus you can up it to 4K touch if you want a higher resolution. Above the display is an IR camera for Windows Hello, and it includes Wi-Fi 6 for breakneck wireless speeds.
The Precision touchpad is large, and the keyboard (now with a larger Shift key) has customizable RGB backlight. Four top-mounted speakers offer excellent audio and make a suitable alternative to a gaming headset. Altogether, the Blade Stealth isn't as powerful as a full-on gaming PC, but it's certainly a more powerful alternative to the XPS 13 if you'd like to partake in some quality gaming.
- FHD or 4K touch display
- Long battery life
- Premium build
- 25W 10th Gen Intel Core i7-1065G7
- Dedicated NVIDIA GTX 1650 Ti GPU
- High-end models are expensive
Best Design: Surface Laptop 3 13.5
Microsoft made numerous small changes to the updated 13.5-inch Surface Laptop 3 that total up to a beautiful Ultrabook. It's available with 10th Gen Intel Core CPUs, up to 16GB of RAM, and it includes Wi-Fi 6 connectivity for fast wireless speeds. The SSD is much faster than the previous generation, and it can be upgraded after purchase. Perhaps the biggest addition is a USB-C port to go along with the USB-A, Surface Connect, and 3.5mm audio.
The keyboard has been improved to make less noise, and the overall typing is excellent. The Precision touchpad has also been expanded by about 20% for easier pointing. The palmrest is available with and without an Alcantara fabric finish, the alternate option being standard aluminum finish.
The touch display (compatible with a Surface Pen) has a 3:2 aspect ratio and 2256x1504 resolution. It's a beautiful display with excellent color, and there's an IR camera above it for extra security through Windows Hello.
- Gorgeous design and craftsmanship
- Now with USB-C
- Superb keyboard and touchpad
- Intel 10th Gen hardware
- Some parts can be upgraded
- No Thunderbolt 3
- No Dolby Vision or anti-glare display
Best Business: Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon
The ThinkPad X1 Carbon is now in its seventh generation, but it's still built into the same durable black chassis with soft-touch paint. Thanks to the option for LTE connectivity, it's an excellent laptop for staying in touch even when working in the field.
The 14-inch display offers extra real estate over the XPS 13, and it comes in a few different flavors depending on your needs. Low-watt FHD keeps battery use down, QHD is a great mid-range choice, while stunning 4K with Dolby Vision HDR400 delivers the best picture. For extra security, a PrivacyGuard feature can be added to prevent unwanted spying.
Get up to a 10th Gen Intel Core i7 CPU, 16GB of RAM, and 1TB M.2 PCIe SSD for reliable performance with most tasks. Other notable security features include an IR camera, webcam shutter, and fingerprint reader.
- 10th Gen Intel Core CPU options
- FHD, QHD, 4K displays
- Comfortable keyboard and touchpad
- Varied port selection
- Durable ThinkPad build
- No Wi-Fi 6
- Gets expensive fast
Best for Media: Lenovo Yoga C940 14
Lenovo overhauled its Yoga C940 with a slimmer display bezel, updated soundbar hinge, and built-in active pen for the touch display. If you're looking for a great convertible laptop for watching TV and movies, this one should be a top choice. The hinge delivers robust audio no matter if you're using the laptop in notebook, tent, stand, or tablet modes, and the display offers excellent color and contrast, especially if you opt for 4K.
Get up to a 10th Gen Intel Core i7-1065G7 CPU, 16GB of LPDDR4x-3733MHz RAM, and a 2TB M.2 PCIe SSD for excellent performance with integrated Iris Plus Graphics. It's not ideal for gaming due to the lack of dedicated GPU, but it should handle just about anything else you throw its way.
Ports include two Thunderbolt 3, a single USB-A 3.1, and a 3.5mm audio jack. Plus, you get a fingerprint reader and webcam shutter for extra security and privacy.
- Premium convertible design
- 4K touch display with HDR
- Soundbar hinge with great audio
- 10th Gen Intel Core CPUs
- Included active pen
- Prices climb quickly
Best 2-in-1: Microsoft Surface Pro 7
Microsoft updated the Surface Pro 7 with a USB-C port (replacing the old Mini DisplayPort), Wi-Fi 6 connectivity, Instant On, and 10th Gen Intel hardware. Altogether it's an outstanding 2-in-1 and a great alternative to the XPS 13 if you like the idea of a tablet that can turn into a notebook.
Included with the 10th Gen Intel hardware are integrated Iris Plus graphics for better performance, up to 16GB of LPDDR4x RAM, and a 1TB SSD. Rounding out the ports are USB-A, a microSD card reader, Surface Connect, and a 3.5mm audio jack.
The 12.3-inch display remains unchanged from the Pro 6, but that doesn't make it any less impressive. It has a 3:2 aspect ratio and 2736x1824 resolution, and it works with the Surface Pen for an outstanding inking experience. For some extra security, an IR camera for Windows Hello is included.
- Excellent performance from 10th Gen Intel CPUs
- USB-C port included
- Eight hours of battery life
- Instant On and resume
- Premium build quality
- No Thunderbolt 3
- No LTE
If you're looking for a well-rounded alternative to Dell's XPS 13 (9300), we recommend checking out the HP Spectre x360 13. This is a convertible laptop that can be used in tent, stand, and tablet modes, making it more versatile than the standard XPS 13. However, it's going to be able to handle the same workload thanks to powerful 10th Gen Intel hardware and up to a 4K touch display with beautiful color and contrast. Those who like using an active pen with their PC can do so with the Spectre x360.
HP did a great job ridding the Spectre x360 of most flaws, including a move to a Precision touchpad and slimming down the display bezel by about 66%. It's all built into a premium gem-cut chassis that includes a comfortable keyboard, Wi-Fi 6 connectivity, and an IR camera for Windows Hello.
Credits — The team that worked on this guide
Cale Hunt is a staff writer at Windows Central. He focuses mainly on PC, laptop, and accessory coverage, as well as the emerging world of VR. He is an avid PC gamer and multi-platform user and spends most of his time either tinkering with or writing about tech.
Daniel Rubino is the executive editor of Windows Central. He has been covering Microsoft since 2009 back when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Surface, HoloLens, Xbox, and future computing visions. Follow him on Twitter: @daniel_rubino.
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