Microsoft Surface Book versus Dell XPS 15 – which to get?

This week fans of Microsoft and Windows 10 had lots of new devices to drool over. Between Microsoft's massive event on Tuesday and Dell's release of the new XPS 15 with Infinity display, the one thing that is hurting is people's wallets. There is more to come from Lenovo and Acer this month too, so we're not done yet.

One question I see many users asking is which laptop should you get: Dell XPS 15 or the Microsoft Surface Book?

The question is some ways self-answering as I don't see these two devices necessarily in the same class. For once, the Surface Book "only" has a 13.5-inch display while the XPS 15 comes in at 15.6-inches. Those two inches matter a lot and if you want something big then XPS 15 – which now starts at $999 – is an easier choice.

Likewise, the Surface Book is also a tablet something the XPS 15 clearly cannot do. So, if you think you may need a pen and tablet capabilities, there is no choice here.

Besides those differentiators, we have just raw specs and pricing. Let's look.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
CategorySurface BookDell XPS 15
Display13.5-inch Pixel Sense displayContrast Ratio: 1800:115.6-inch InfinityEdge displayContrast Ratio: 1000:1
Display Resolution3000 x 2000 at 267ppi1920x1080 at 141 ppi (FHD)3840x2160 at 282 ppi (4K)
SoftwareWindows 10 ProWindows 10 Pro
Processor6th Gen Intel Core i5 or i76th Gen Intel Core i3, i5 or i7
Storage128GB, 256GB, 512GB Solid State Drive (SSD)500GB HDD + 32GB Flash or 1TB HDD + 32GB Flash256GB PCIe SSD, 512GB PCIe SSD, or 1TB PCIe SSD
Memory8GB or 16GB RAM8GB, 16GB or 32GB (2 x SoDIMMs)
GraphicsIntel HD Graphics 520i5/i7: NVIDIA GeForce graphics (custom GPU)Intel HD Graphics 530NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M 2GB GDDR5
Rear Camera8MP with autofocus, 1080P recordingNone
Front CameraFull HD (1080p)Widescreen HD (720p)
Windows HelloYes (Facial recognition)No
Precision TouchpadYesYes
PortsTwo full-size USB 3.0, Full-size SD card reader, Surface Connect, Headset jack, Mini DisplayPortHDMI, Two full-size USB 3.0, Headset Jack, SD card reader, Kensington Lock slot, Thunderbolt 3 
Battery Life12 hours10 hours (Core i7 4K UHD)17 hours (Core i7 FHD)
PenSurface Pen1,024 levels of pressure sensitivityMagnetic storageNone
WeightStarting at 3.4lbsNon-touch: Starting at 3.9 lbsTouch: Starting at 4.4 lbs
DimensionsLaptop: 232.1mm x 312.3mm x 13 -22.8 mm357mm x 235mm x 11-17mm
Full of Awesome SauceYesYes
Price$1,499 to $2,699$999 to $2,149

Tough choices are good choices

Putting aside the tablet and screen size differences you can see that Microsoft is certainly treating the Surface Book as premium. The Surface Book starts at $500 higher than the lowest Dell XPS 15 and goes $500 higher than the maxed out 4K XPS 15. Those are some serious markups especially when you consider that the maxed out Dell XPS 15 gets you a higher resolution display.

Still, the Surface Book has some fantastic options too including being a tablet and slightly longer battery life (than the 4K Dell XPS 15, but not the FHD version).

  • Dell XPS 15 Main Page
  • Microsoft Surface Book

The Bottom Line

Come on, folks. You know the answer here. This contest – on paper – is like choosing between a Ferrari and a Lamborgini. We can fight over details but in the end you are talking about two top-tier PCs that will garner looks and envy wherever you go.

If you are on a budget the XPS 15 – even maxed out – is still $500 cheaper than the Surface Book. You could buy a Surface 3 on the side for that cost difference. But in terms of all-around versatility the Surface Book stands in a class all its own.

Frankly, what is going to push either device into the winner category will be any show-stopping flaws. To find those out, we'll have to wait to get our hands on both devices for reviews. Stay tuned!

Putting money aside which PC would you want? The 13-inch category defying Surface Book or the A-bomb powerhouse – but traditional – Dell XPS 15? Let us know in comments!

Let's talk!

Want to debate and discuss more about these devices? Jump into our user forums and get started!

Daniel Rubino

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central. He is also the head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft since 2007, when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, laptops, next-gen computing, and watches. He has been reviewing laptops since 2015 and is particularly fond of 2-in-1 convertibles, ARM processors, new form factors, and thin-and-light PCs. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics, watched people sleep (for medical purposes!), and ran the projectors at movie theaters because it was fun.