Surface Laptop Go vs. Dell XPS 13: Which is a better buy?

Surface Laptop Go Hero3 Logo
Surface Laptop Go Hero3 Logo (Image credit: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

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Ordinarily, Surface products would compete directly with the Dell XPS 13, but the Surface Laptop Go is a little different. It's a budget device that starts at almost half the price of the XPS 13, and that lower entry point isn't without compromise. The XPS 13 remains the best Ultrabook you can buy, and even though both of these are extremely compact computers, they're really for different people.

Surface Laptop Go vs. Dell XPS 13 tech specs

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Header Cell - Column 0 Surface Laptop GoDell XPS 13
CPUIntel Core i5-1035G111th Gen Intel Core i3-1115G4
11th Gen Intel Core i5-1135G7
11th Gen Intel Core i7-1165G7
RAM4GB, 8GB, 16GB8GB 4267MHz LPDDR4x
16GB 4267MHz LPDDR4x
Storage64GB eMMC
128GB or 256GB SSD
256GB PCIe SSD
512GB PCIe SSD
Display12.45-inch
1536x1024 touchscreen
13.3 inches UltraSharp 4K (3840x2400)
FHD+ (1920 x 1200) non-touch display
GraphicsIntel® UHD GraphicsIntel UHD 620
SecurityWindows Hello fingerprintWindows Hello
Pen SupportNoNo
Ports1x USB-A, 1x USB-C, 3.5mm headphone jack, Surface Connect2x Thunderbolt 4 with PowerShare
Headset jack
OSWindows 10 Home in S modeWindows 10 Home

Which should you buy?

The specs list doesn't tell the whole story, but it does paint a picture of why the Dell is twice the price of the most affordable Surface Laptop Go. Dell is using the latest 11th Gen Intel processors, PCIe SSDs, and Thunderbolt 4 while also having higher resolution displays at every price point.

The Surface Laptop Go only has a single CPU option. Still, it's commendable that Microsoft has gone for something capable rather than relying on a Core m or even Pentium in this budget notebook. But it could also be partly responsible for other corners having been cut, like a pretty low-resolution display and only eMMC storage and no Windows Hello at all on the entry model.

The Surface Laptop Go is an Ultrabook for mid-range money

And since both are extremely compact laptops, the biggest factor in the decision-making process should be price. If you were leaning towards an XPS 13 anyway and the price tag isn't an issue, then it's still going to be the laptop to get. It's more powerful, has a larger, better-looking display, more up to date connectivity in the form of USB-C and Thunderbolt 4, and it's still small enough to toss in any bag and travel light.

By contrast, the Surface Laptop Go is for the folks who would love something like an XPS 13 but want something much more affordable. By all accounts, it's an Ultrabook, and it looks just as classy as the other Surface products. It's far from perfect and has many compromises, but it's also an awful lot cheaper than the XPS 13. So the compromises might well be worth it to you. So long as you're not looking for something to handle more intensive workloads.