13-inch Ultrabook

Dell XPS 13 (7390)

Microsoft's notebook

Surface Laptop 2

Dell's premium 13-inch Ultrabook does a lot right, including its beautiful 4K touch display option with Dolby Vision HDR. You get a more modern port selection, including two Thunderbolt 3 and one USB-C, and 10th Gen Intel processor (CPU) options offer excellent performance. Unfortunately, hardware options are currently limited, and there's no pen support for inking.

From $1,000 at Dell

Pros

  • Beautiful 4K display option
  • Two Thunderbolt 3 ports
  • 10th Gen Intel Core CPU options
  • Fingerprint reader
  • Comfortable keyboard and Precision touchpad

Cons

  • No pen support
  • Configurations currently limited to Core i5 CPU, 256GB SSD

The Surface Laptop 2 is beginning to show its age, especially when up against 10th Gen Intel CPUs. It's still undeniably a premium device, with smooth lines and a high-res touch display with pen support, though limited port selection is irksome. Choose from four colors and enjoy Alcantara fabric palmrests for extra comfort.

From $899 at Microsoft

Pros

  • Four different colors
  • Compatible with Surface Pen for inking
  • Alcantara fabric palmrests
  • IR camera for Windows Hello
  • Beautiful display with 3:2 aspect ratio

Cons

  • No USB-C or Thunderbolt 3
  • Using 8th Gen Intel CPUs

These two clamshell Ultrabooks have a lot in common, but there are some discerning differences that will no doubt sway you one way or the other. Let's break it down.

Dell XPS 13 (7390) vs. Surface Laptop 2 tech specs

Dell XPS 13 (7390) Surface Laptop 2
Processor 10th Gen
Intel Core i3-10110U
Intel Core i5-10210U
8th Gen
Intel Core i5-8250U
Intel Core i7-8650U
RAM 4GB, 8GB 8GB, 16GB
Storage 256GB PCIe SSD 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB
PCIe SSD
Display size 13.3 inches 13.5 inches
Resolution 1920x1080 (touch and non-touch)
3840x2160 (touch)
2256x1504 (touch)
Aspect ratio 16:9 3:2
Graphics Intel UHD Graphics Intel UHD Graphics
Ports Two Thunderbolt 3
USB-C 3.1
microSD card reader
3.5mm audio
USB-A 3.0
Mini DisplayPort
Surface Connect
3.5mm audio
Biometrics Fingerprint reader IR camera
Battery 52Wh 45.2 Wh
Dimensions 11.9 x 7.8 x 0.3 inches
(302mm x 199mm x 7.8 - 11.6mm)
12.13 x 8.79 x 0.57 inches
(308.1mm x 223.37mm x 14.48mm)
Weight From 2.7 pounds (1.23kg) From 2.76 pounds (1.25kg)

Design and features

Whether you choose the Surface Laptop 2 or Dell XPS 13 (7390), know that you're getting a premium Ultrabook with a clamshell design, slim build, and excellent display. Either one can fit easily into a backpack, and both have their perks and downsides.

A major standout with the XPS 13 is its port selection, which includes USB-C and two Thunderbolt 3 with 4x lanes of PCIe each, allowing you to connect peripherals like a performance docking station for added connectivity. The Surface Laptop 2 does have a USB-A port, which the XPS 13 doesn't include, but thereafter you're stuck with Mini DisplayPort and Surface Connect. Both laptops will likely have you reaching for a dongle or adapter eventually, but at least the XPS 13 is looking to the future.

The Surface Laptop 2 is available in four color options — black, platinum, burgundy, and cobalt blue — with accessories to match, whereas the XPS 13 currently only comes in platinum silver (more colors expected sometime in 2019). With the XPS 13, models have a carbon-fiber palmrest construction that holds up to use quite well, but it's rather regular. For some extra style and comfort, the Surface Laptop 2 comes with Alcantara fabric to match the rest of the laptop. It holds up to use and abuse as well, and you can even clean it if it becomes stained.

Camera location was a big issue with older models of XPS 13, but the 7390 moved it back above the display for a natural angle. The thin bezel doesn't have space for an IR camera, but there is a fingerprint reader built into the power button for secure sign-ins. The Surface Laptop 2 does have an IR camera for Windows Hello, and it's located in the normal spot above the display for a more direct angle.

Display

The Surface Laptop 2 comes with a single 13.5-inch touch display option. It has a 3:2 aspect ratio, 2256x1504 resolution, and it's compatible with the Surface Pen and off-screen Surface Dial interactions. If you want to draw, sketch, or take notes, the Surface Laptop 2 is really your only choice since the XPS 13 doesn't have pen support no matter the configuration.

What the XPS 13 does have is three different 13.3-inch screen options, all with a more conventional 16:9 aspect ratio. Go with a non-touch 1920x1080 (FHD) display for better battery life and a cheaper price, touch FHD, or opt for the touch 3840x2160 (4K) model if you like the extra resolution. The XPS 13's displays have almost no bezel around them for a picture that seems to stretch edge to edge, whereas the Surface Laptop 2 holds onto more bezel.

Performance

XPS 13 (7390) configurations are slightly limited at the moment, though there are more expected to come. Currently, you can get up to a 10th Gen Intel Core i5-10210U CPU, 8GB of RAM, and a 256GB PCIe solid-state drive (SSD). Baseline configurations start at about $1,000 and come with a Core i3-10110U CPU, 4GB of RAM, 256GB SSD, and non-touch FHD display. All models do include a Killer AX1650 wireless adapter, compatible with Wi-Fi 6 for future networking.

The Surface Laptop 2 starts at about $899, making it cheaper than the XPS 13 if you're on a tight budget. The baseline model includes an 8th Gen Intel Core i5 CPU, 8GB of RAM, 128GB SSD, and touch display with higher resolution. You won't get the same 10th Gen Intel CPUs, but you will pay less for a Core i5, twice as much RAM, and a touch display.

If you'd like the latest hardware from Intel, you'll have to go with the XPS 13 (7390), though 8th Gen Core i5 and Core i7 options in the Surface Laptop 2 still hold up well today. Overall, you're going to be able to get better performance for less from the Surface Laptop 2, and the touch display with 3:2 aspect ratio is stunning.

The XPS 13 (7390) has better port selection and latest Intel hardware

Dell's XPS 13 (7390) is one of our favorite laptops for good reason. It's built incredibly well, it looks great, and it has configurations available with 10th Gen Intel Core CPUs. Get up to a 4K touch display and take advantage of ports that are ready for the future.

13-inch Ultrabook

Dell XPS 13 (7390)

An outstanding laptop with quality build and smart features

Choose from 10th Gen Intel Core i3 or i5 CPUs, and grab either an FHD or 4K display with perfect color. Two Thunderbolt 3 ports round out superior selection, and the keyboard and touchpad are ideal for productivity.

Stick with Surface Laptop 2 for pen support and 3:2 aspect ratio

The Surface Laptop 2 has Surface Pen and Dial support for an excellent inking experience, and it's also built to high Surface standards. Choose from four colors and enjoy Alcantara fabric finish for extra comfort.

Microsoft's notebook

Surface Laptop 2

3:2 aspect ratio and pen support

With 8th Gen Intel Core i5 and i7 CPUs, high-res touch display with pen support, and a premium build that includes Alcantara fabric on the palmrests, the Surface Laptop 2 is a great choice for anyone who needs a clamshell notebook.

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