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Dell XPS 13 vs. MacBook Pro 13: Which should you buy?

Xps 13 9310 Oled
Xps 13 9310 Oled (Image credit: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

Dell XPS 13 vs. MacBook Pro tech specs

CategoryDell XPS 13MacBook Pro
Processor11th Gen Intel Core
i3-1115G4 (4.10 GHz)
i5-1135G7 (4.20 GHz)
i7-1165G7 (4.70 GHz)
i7-1185G7 (4.80GHz)
Apple M1
8 cores
4 performance cores and 4 efficiency cores
16-core Neural Engine
Display resolution13.4 inches (16:10)
Full HD, non-touch, anti-glare (matte)
Full HD, touch, anti-reflective
4K, touch, anti-reflective
4K OLED, touch, anti-reflective
Dolby Vision, 500 nits
Retina 2560x1600 non-touch
500 nits
Wide color (P3)
RAM8GB, 16GB, or 32GB LPDDR4X (4267MHz)8GB or 16GB
GraphicsIntel UHD (i3)
Intel Iris Xe (i5, i7)
8-core GPU
Storage56GB, 512GB, 1TB, or 2TB PCIe NVMe SSDUp to 2TB SSD
Ports2x Thunderbolt 4
1x 3.5mm headphone
Type-C to Type-A converter included
2x Thunderbolt 4 USB-C

The case for the MacBook Pro

Macbook Pro With M1 Chip

Source: iMore (Image credit: Source: iMore)

The case for buying a MacBook Pro essentially hinges around Apple's software and ecosystem. If it's something you're already invested in, then switching away might not be for you.

Apple also now has its custom M1 processor available inside the MacBook Pro, an ARM chip that by all accounts is excellent. Apple's total control over the hardware and software results in performance and battery life and without any price premium over previous Intel versions.

Apps like Final Cut Pro alone can still be the reason to get a MacBook Pro.

But while the hardware is good (truly it is), you're buying a MacBook Pro less for this and more for what Apple gives you on top. Something like Final Cut Pro, for example, if you're into video editing, may well be reason enough to get a Mac. If you're into coding iOS apps, a Mac is absolutely essential. Apple's ecosystem lock-in is much discussed, but hey, it works. If you're in it, it's almost impossible to leave, and in most cases, it wouldn't be worth your while to switch, anyway.

It's disappointing that in a "pro" laptop, you're limited to integrated graphics, though obviously with the M1, it's still clearly a work in progress for Apple. Still, despite moving away from Intel you do at least still get Thunderbolt ports on the MacBook Pro. That not only allows for connecting docks, high-resolution displays, and such, but also eGPUs which can at least give you the additional graphics horsepower should you need it. But only when you're at home or in the office.

It's worth pointing out as well that Apple still sells the old model MacBook Pro powered by 10th Gen Intel. These are more expensive than the M1 versions, despite being older, and unless you have a really, truly committed reason as to needing Intel over the M1, avoid buying these ones.

The best Ultrabook in town

The Dell XPS 13 has been a tough act to beat for several years now, but with the latest revision, the 9300, Dell nailed it. The 16:10 aspect ratio display now has super skinny bezels around all sizes, the keyboard is the best it's ever been, and you still have a powerful, stylish, highly compact Ultrabook.

Dell has created a near-perfect Ultrabook in the XPS 13.

There's plenty of choice in the range for different spec requirements and budgets, but at the higher end, you'll be spending similar money to a tricked-out MacBook Pro. On the latest refresh, Dell has brought OLED into the mix, and while this does have an effect on battery life, it looks sensational.

The entry-level model is best left alone if you can avoid it. While it's attractive in price, it's a little underwhelming in hardware. But you get 10th Gen processors from Intel at every tier, at least, and Dell does have a good list of options including 1080p and 4K displays, touch and non-touch options, more RAM, and more storage.

It'd be possible to talk about how good the XPS 13 is for hours and hours; it really is that good. There's absolutely no reason not to consider it if you're looking for an Ultrabook.

The Mac is still good for Apple fans

When looking at the MacBook Pro, the biggest reason to get one over the XPS 13 is that you're already a Mac fan, and you've invested in Apple's ecosystem.

There's nothing wrong with that, apps like Final Cut Pro are tremendous, and the MacBook Pro continues to be a good laptop. But take the Apple software experience out of the equation, and you're not necessarily getting more for your money. Generally speaking, Windows laptops like the XPS 13 will win out on overall value.

The king of the Ultrabooks

The new XPS 13 is a near-perfect Ultrabook. The hardware, the design, the build quality, and the overall value are all excellent.

The XPS 13 is the best Ultrabook on the market today, and platform differences aside, it goes toe-to-toe with the MacBook Pro at a similar cost. Unless you need macOS or anything offered through it in your life, give the XPS 13 a try, you won't regret it.

Richard Devine is an Editor at Windows Central. A former Project Manager and long-term tech addict, he joined Mobile Nations in 2011 and has been found on Android Central and iMore as well as Windows Central. Currently you'll find him covering all manner of PC hardware and gaming, and you can follow him on Twitter and Instagram.