Dell has just released the latest version of their hit laptop, the XPS 13. The version this article is talking about has an 8th generation quad-core i7 processor, 16GB of RAM, and a 256 SSD. It can be purchased for $1,649 to $1,799. The 2017 MacBook Pro version this is being compared to is priced the same and comes with a 7th-generation dual-core Intel i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, and a 256 SSD.
When Dell released the XPS 13 in 2015, it was revolutionary. It was the first laptop of its type to come with a display that practically had no bezel. CNET called it the first great laptop of 2015.
“Dell’s revamped XPS 13 was one of the standout products at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show, and in real life, it’s practical and easy to use, even beyond the smart-looking redesign.”
The higher-end version came with a 3,200 x 1,800 pixel resolution touchscreen. There were issues with the screen, such as brightness levels changing without notice, but Dell fixed the problems by the end of the year. For a while, it seemed that Dell had created the PC equivalent of the MacBook Air or even MacBook Pro. However, even though there are things to criticize about the 2016 and 2017 versions of the MacBook Pro (they are really updated versions of the MacBook Air), the XPS 13 is inferior in many ways, despite the extra specs.
Dell’s 13.3-inch screen may pack more pixels than the same-size screen on the MacBook Pro (276 PPI vs. 227 PPI), but the MacBook Pro’s screen is more vibrant, has a much better contrast ratio, and has better viewing angles. Its 227 PPI is more than enough for a 13.3-inch screen, and Apple has saved battery life by not including extra pixels.
While the XPS 13 screen might have seemed groundbreaking in early 2015, it appears slightly washed out in late 2017. Besides Apple, even Microsoft and Lenovo have improved their screens. Dell has maintained the same screen, which is good but not great.
Dell may have packed in a quad-core i7 processor in the new XPS 13, but it takes its toll on the laptop. When using processor-heavy programs, the XPS 13 turns from a laptop into an electric heater. It becomes uncomfortable to put on your lap. Luckily, the keys and the touchpad don’t get as hot as the bottom of the unit, but you’ll still feel tingles in your fingers from the heat.
Apple realizes its 13-inch MacBook Pro is too thin for an i7 quad-core processor and can last on your lap for hours. The speedy Intel Core i5 processor is more than enough for most tasks.
Dell’s XPS 13 (and XPS 15 to a certain extent) is famous for being noisy when usage is high, especially when the fan kicks in. The problem is that the fan also produces an annoying screeching sound referred to as “coil whine.” The XPS 13 certainly doesn’t produce as much coil whine as other PC products such as last year’s Lenovo Yoga 720, but you won’t hear the whine on the MacBook Pro no matter how close your ears are to the unit.
Dell has done a good job fitting a decent keyboard into the very small computer, but it also feels cramped. The key travel is also low. While the MacBook Pro’s butterfly keys have no travel, they feel firm and produce a comfortable “crunch” when you press them.They are also spread apart evenly and don’t tire your fingers as easily as the keyboard on the XPS 13 does.
With heavy use, Dell’s latest XPS 13 is not an all-day laptop. This author was able to get about five hours of use streaming movies over Netflix with the brightness level set at about 80 percent. This is pretty good for such a powerful laptop, but not fantastic. Other sites such as Laptop Mag have claimed the battery life is much better, but this author didn’t experience that with his unit.
The 2017 MacBook Pro’s battery life is fantastic, and this author tested seven hours and 10 minutes streaming Netflix movies with the brightness set at about 80 percent. The late 2016 version of the same MacBook Pro provided about six hours.
Dell’s updated XPS 13 is certainly a more powerful computer when compared to the 2017 version of the 13-inch MacBook Pro, but the latter is a much better computer with more than enough power for most tasks. As Apple has proven once again, quality is more important than quantity.
[Featured Image by Daryl Deino]