Skip to main content

Apple MacBook Pro 15 vs. Dell XPS 15: Which Is Right for You?

Apple and Dell recently refreshed their 15-inch laptops, the MacBook Pro 15-inch and the XPS 15, with tremendous results. Both laptops earned Editors' Choice awards for their seamless combinations of style, performance and endurance. But which one of these notebooks is right for you?

Pursuing the workstation crowd, the MacBook Pro offers mighty impressive specs, including the fastest SSD we've ever tested. For its part, the Dell XPS 15 can handle just about everything you can throw at it, including multitasking and mid-level gaming.

We pitted these two laptops against each other, comparing performance, keyboard, display and battery life to see which 15-inch system truly rules the roost. Here's how the Dell XPS 15 and Apple MacBook Pro 15 stack up.

Apple MacBook Pro 15Dell XPS 15
DesignX
DisplayX
PortsX
KeyboardX
PerformanceX
GraphicsX
Battery LifeXX
ValueX
Total36

Design

It's a battle of the silver foxes. On one hand, you have the MacBook Pro and its iconic look that has launched a score of competing clones. The design is understated, elegant and looks good in any setting. The glowing white half-eaten fruit has become ubiquitous in coffee shops, work spaces and classrooms.

Just like its Apple counterpart, the XPS 15 is swathed in light-gray aluminum. However, Dell breaks up all that silver with a black soft-touch carbon-fiber interior. It's got a minimalist, industrial chic that we love. However, similar to its competitor, the XPS 15's design is getting rather long in the tooth, even with the near-bezel-less InfinityEdge display.

MORE: Laptops with the Best Display Brightness

Both laptops are surprisingly thin for 15-inchers. The XPS 15 measures 14.1 x 9.3 x 0.5~0.7 inches, while the MacBook Pro enjoys a slightly smaller profile at 13.8 x 9.5 x 0.6 inches. At 4 pounds even, the MacBook Pro is just a tad lighter than the 4.2-pound Dell XPS.

Winner: Apple MacBook Pro

Ports

The XPS 15 offers a fair amount of ports, including a pair of USB 3.1 Type-A ports, a Thunderbolt 3 port, a full-HDMI 2.0 port, an SD card reader, a headset jack and a Noble lock slot.

It's slim pickings for ports on the MacBook Pro, as it offers four Thunderbolt 3 ports and a headset jack.  

So if you were planning on using a mouse, an external hard drive or a USB stick, you'll have to get yourself acclimated to keeping a dongle or two.

Winner: Dell XPS 15

Display

Both the MacBook Pro and the XPS 15 are known for their captivating screens. The MacBook Pro's glossy 15.4-inch, 2880 x 1800 panel is one of the first to feature Apple's new TrueTone technology. TrueTone uses sensors to adjust color and intensity depending on the lighting in the environment. That means that when we watched movie trailers under fluorescent lighting, the sensors adjusted the color temperature, making the colors warmer than if they were in natural lighting.

The XPS 15's matte finish 15.6-inch panel doesn't have all that fancy tech, but the 1920 x 1080 screen looks good nonetheless. The4K version ups the resolution to 3840 x 2160. Colors just seemed to pop off the page, and details were nice and sharp. The matte finish also ensures your reflection won't mar the view.

As lovely as both laptop panels are, when we ran our tests, the XPS 15 reigned supreme. When we tested for color reproduction capabilities, the 4K XPS 15 measured 164.2 percent, while the 1080p iteration hit 115 percent. The MacBook Pro scored slightly better than the 1080 XPS 15 at 117 percent.

MORE: Best Dell and Alienware Laptops

The XPS 15s also shone on our brightness test, with the 4K model averaging 447 nits while the 1080p hit 371 nits. The MacBook Pro obtained 354 nits, which is above our 307-nit premium laptop average.

Winner: Dell XPS 15

Keyboard

Neither the XPS 15 nor the MacBook Pro has a keyboard that meets our typical key travel requirement (1.5 millimeters) with measurements of 0.8 and 0.7mm, respectively. As far as actuation force, the XPS 15 requires 70 grams of force to press a key, while the MacBook needs 63 grams.

In actual usage, we preferred the XPS 15's island-style keyboard, as it had more bounce and a nice click when typing. I reached 71 words per minute on the 10fastfingers typing test. Typing on the MacBook 15 took a bit of getting used to, since I hit the bottom of the key so quickly. After taking the typing test several times, I managed to reach 63 wpm.

Winner: Dell XPS 15

Performance

When it comes to performance, the MacBook Pro is a beast. Our review unit has a 2.9-GHz Intel Core i9-8950HK CPU and 32GB of RAM. The Dell XPS 15 systems we reviewed both had a 2.2-GHz Intel Core i7-8750H CPU with 16GB of RAM. Apple’s and Dell’s laptops juggle multiple tasks without slowing down. But the MacBook Pro asserted its dominance on our synthetic benchmark.

The MacBook Pro achieved a score of 23,138 on Geekbench 4.1, which measures overall performance, while the XPS 15 reached 21,201. The Dell XPS 15 edged the MacBook Pro on our productivity test, which matches 65,000 names in an Excel spreadsheet, completing the task in 44 seconds and 0:52, respectively.

Thanks to its 2TB SSD, the MacBook Pro delivered the fastest file transfer speeds we've ever seen on a laptop. While duplicating 4.97GB of multimedia files, the MacBook Pro hit an unbelievable 2,599.6 megabytes per second. The 1080p XPS 15 with its 256GB M.2 PCI SSD posted a result of 221.3MBps, which is a fairly respectable score, but still below the 475.9MBps average. The 4K XPS 15's 512GB M.2 PCIe SSD gave a better performance of 391 MBps.

MORE: Best Apple Laptops

On our video transcoding test, the XPS 15 transcoded a 4K video into 1080p in 10 minutes and 14 seconds, which was slightly faster than the MacBook Pro's 10:16.

Winner: Apple MacBook Pro

Graphics

You won't be playing the most graphically taxing games on either the XPS 15 or the MacBook Pro, but it's nice to know you can play most games on medium settings. Outfitted with a Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 GPU with 4GB of VRAM and an Intel UHD Graphics 630 GPU, the XPS 15 notched a whopping 189 frames per second on the Dirt 3 benchmark. The MacBook Pro's AMD Radeon RX Vega M GL GPU posted 83 fps.

On our other gaming benchmarks (Rise of the Tomb Raider, Grand Theft Auto V and Metro: Last Light), the XPS 15 scored 22, 27 and 27 fps, respectively. That's several frames below our 30-fps playability threshold. However, the system achieved 60 fps on Hitman, which was pretty impressive. Although most of our gaming benchmarks don't run on Macs, the MacBook Pro managed to complete the Tomb Raider benchmark, hitting 21 fps.

Winner: Dell XPS 15

Battery Life

When it comes to battery life, it seems that 1080p has a leg up over super-high-resolution displays. The 1080p version of the XPS 15 lasted 11 hours and 53 minutes, compared with the 10:21 time posted by the MacBook Pro. The 4K model of the XPS 15 tapped out after 8:28.

Winner: Draw

Value

Dell offers consumers four flavors of the XPS 15. The $999 base model has a 2.3-GHz Intel Core i5-8300H chip with 8GB of RAM, a 1TB 5,400-rpm hard drive, an Intel UHD Graphics 630 GPU and a 1920 x 1080 display. Our $1,499 review unit features a 2.2-GHz Intel Core i7-8750H processor with 16GB of RAM, a 256GB M.2 PCIe SSD, an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti GPU with 4GB of VRAM, an Intel UHD Graphics 630 GPU and a 1920 x 1080 panel. An extra $300 will get you a 4K touch screen, while the $1,999 model bumps up the RAM and storage  to 32GB and 512GB, but ditches the 4K panel.

As our review of the MacBook Pro states: "Bring money." This laptop doesn't come cheap. Our review unit was configured within an inch of its life. For $4,699, we got a bona fide powerhouse complete with an 8th Gen Intel Core i9-8950HK CPU, 32GB of RAM, a 2TB SSD and a discrete AMD Radeon 560X GPU with 4GB of memory.

MORE: Best Laptops Under $500

But even the $2,399 base model (2.2-GHz Intel Core i7 processor, 16GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD and an AMD Radeon Pro 555X with 4GB of VRAM) is more expensive than the top-tier XPS 15. For $400 more, you get a 512GB SSD and a Radeon 560X GPU with 4GB of VRAM.

Winner: Dell XPS 15

Bottom Line

Apple did a lot of things right with the latest MacBook Pro 15. The laptop is immensely powerful, sporting the fastest SSD we've ever tested, combined with a kick-ass processor and an intelligent, beautiful display — all in that iconic chassis. It's an ideal laptop for users searching for workstation-grade power in a slim, aesthetically pleasing chassis. But, man, oh man, that price will be a major pain point for all but the most deep-pocketed shoppers.

Then you have the Dell XPS 15 — a powerhouse in its own right. With its great performance, long battery life, comfortable keyboard and pretty screen, the XPS 15 can go toe-to-toe with the MacBook Pro and still come out smelling like a rose. It's a true jack-of-all-trades, able to juggle productivity, gaming and multimedia tasks with ease. And best of all, it's hundreds less than its Apple counterpart.

Overall, if you yearn for an unmitigated powerhouse and can afford it, you should go for the 15-inch MacBook Pro. If you're looking for a system with endurance, power and speed that will be kinder to your budget, the Dell XPS 15 is the way to go.

Credit: Laptop Mag 

Sherri L. Smith has been cranking out product reviews for Laptopmag.com since 2011. In that time, she's reviewed more than her share of laptops, tablets, smartphones and everything in between. The resident gamer and audio junkie, Sherri was previously a managing editor for Black Web 2.0 and contributed to BET.Com and Popgadget.