Dell XPS 15 vs. MacBook Pro (15-inch): Which 2019 Powerhouse Is Best?

When I reviewed the new 15-inch MacBook Pro, I was surprised by how much it dominated competing laptops on performance, so I decided we needed to bring in a machine that could give it a run for its money. That competitor comes in the form of the latest Dell XPS 15.

Side-by-side, I compared how these beastly workstations match up, and found some surprising results. While the MacBook Pro's performance held up under scrutiny, Dell's new XPS 15 displays wowed my eyes while its comparable affordability made me wonder when Apple will make a MacBook Pro that doesn't cost an arm and a leg.  

Dell XPS 15 vs MacBook Pro 15-inch: Specs and Pricing

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Row 0 - Cell 0 Dell XPS 15Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch
Starting Price$1,099 $2,399
Price as Tested$2,649 (OLED, i9, GTX 1650, 32GB RAM, 1TB SSD)$6,549 (i9, Radeon Pro Vega 20, 32GB RAM, 4TB SSD)
Display15.6-inch 1920 x 1080; 3840 x 2160; 3840 x 2160 OLED15.4 inches (2880 x 1800)
CPU9th Gen Intel Core i5, i7, i99th Gen Intel Core i7, i9
RAM8GB, 16GB, 32GB16GB, 32GB
SSD256GB, 512GB, 1TB, 2TB256GB, 512GB, 1TB, 2TB, 4TB
GraphicsIntel UHD Graphics 630 (integrated), Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 GPU with 4GB of VRAM, Radeon Pro 555X (4GB GDDR5 memory), Radeon Pro 560X (4GB GDDR5 memory), Radeon Pro Vega 16 (4GB of HBM2 memory), Radeon Pro Vega 20 (4GB of HBM2 memory)
Ports1x Thunderbolt 3 port, 2x USB 3.1 Type-A ports, HDMI 2.0, headphone jack, fingerprint reader, power port4x Thunderbolt 3 ports, headphone jack, Touch ID fingerprint reader, Touch Bar
Size14.1 x 9.3 x 0.5~0.7 inches13.8 x 9.5 x 0.6 inches
Weight4.5 pounds4.02 pounds

Design: Shrinking bezels vs. lower weight

While the MacBook Pro's design has stayed still for too long, the Dell XPS 15 has the same problem, looking just like last year's model.

Both feature aluminum lids with chamfered edges, but they differ on their decks. The MacBook's is all-aluminum, while Dell offers a carbon fiber interior that's comfortable on your wrist and also creates a nice inverted ice cream-sandwich style two-tone aesthetic. 

The XPS 15's biggest design advantage comes from its InfinityEdge display's slim 0.2-inch thick bezels, which look especially svelte next to the MacBook Pro's 0.6-inch top bezel and 0.3-inch side bezels. 

That difference is so stark that it's enough to make me excuse the fact that the 4.5-pound XPS 15 is half a pound heavier than the MacBook Pro (4.02 pounds). In terms of overall dimensions, the XPS 15 (14.1 x 9.3 x 0.5~0.7 inches) is similar enough to the MacBook Pro's frame (13.8 x 9.5 x 0.6 inches)

Winner: Tie

Ports: Variety matters

Apple's MacBook Pro packs a set of 4 Thunderbolt 3 ports (and a headphone jack). That offers a lot of options for displays and connections, but it also demands you pack a USB-C hub whenever you go anywhere. Even for transferring a 4K movie onto the MacBook Pro for this test, I needed an adapter to connect our USB-A based hard drive. 

Meanwhile, the Dell XPS 15 checks all of our boxes, with 2 USB 3.1 ports, a Thunderbolt 3 port, HDMI 2, a security lock slot and an increasingly rare SD memory reader. Both laptops feature a fingerprint reader built into their power button, though Apple's is more powerful, as it works with Apple Pay.

Winner: Dell XPS 15

Display: Options make a difference

Apple's Retina MacBook Pro screens have always been nice, but Dell is taking things to the next level with its OLED and 4K displays. For this face-off, we tested both the 4K OLED and 4K non-OLED versions of the XPS 15 side-by-side-by-side the 15-inch MacBook Pro, which Apple doesn't make with an OLED screen.

Watching a Stranger Things Season 3 trailer, I was surprised by how the XPS 15's screens looked so much better than the MacBook Pro's. For instance, the pink and white neon lights and American flags festooned around the Fun Fair circus popped so much on the XPS 15 that it almost looked like some signs weren't turned on for the trailer on the MacBook Pro. This continued as the gang went to a room flooded with blue light, which looked electric on the XPS 15 and more subdued on the MacBook Pro. 

It's not that the MacBook Pro's screen is not good — in fact, it's one of the pros I brought up in my review — but that both of the XPS 15 4K screens simply outshine the MacBook's Retina TrueTone display. So, yes, while Apple automatically adjusts white balance to counter ambient lighting conditions (a big problem in our office that's flooded with warm fluorescent lights), that's not enough to compete. 

That experience is reflected in our in-house tests, which rated the MacBook Pro as producing 114% of the sRGB color spectrum and emitting 403 nits of brightness, numbers below both the OLED XPS 15 (239%; 626 nits) and the non-OLED XPS 15 (210%; 416 nits). That being said, the XPS 15's super-high color spectrum ratings suggest it's going into the over-saturated territory, while the MacBook Pro's got a rating that might make for more realistic color.

While the 4K (3840 x 2160 pixels) screens in the XPS 15's 15.6-inch screen may pack more pixels than the 2880 x 1800-pixel Retina display in the MacBook Pro, that doesn't translate to increased sharpness to my eye. Watching a 4K version of the sci-fi movie Tears of Steel, I couldn't see any more details in a rocket ship's engine's or a beat-up mech's chassis, even when I paused to look closely. 

Winner: Dell XPS 15

Keyboard and Touchpad: This shouldn't be complicated

When we're talking about keyboards on laptops that cost over $1,000, both should be fantastic. That's sadly not the case for the MacBook Pro's Butterfly switch keyboard, which is currently in its fourth iteration, having gained a reputation for being prone to failure when dust and other small particles comes into play.

Through being forced to use a MacBook Pro with these keys at work, I've become used to their shallow travel (0.6 millimeters). So when I tested this model out on the 10fastfingers typing test, I click clacked my way to a rate of 70 words per minute (with 94% accuracy), which is a tad below my 80 wpm average. I needed no time at all to acclimate myself on the XPS 15, though, as I hit 74 words per minute (with 99% accuracy) on my first try on the test.

The XPS 15's 4.1 x 3.1-inch trackpad may be smaller than the MacBook Pro's massive 6.1 x 3.9-inch trackpad, but I still prefer the Dell's. First of all, a smaller surface is easier to avoid accidentally actuating, and the XPS 15's trackpad actually moves when you click it, unlike the MacBook Pro's, which uses haptic feedback to fake that sensation. 

Winner: Dell XPS 15

Performance and Graphics: Close, but not equal

This is a powerhouse workstation battle for the ages. Both the 15-inch MacBook Pro and XPS 15 we tested were armed for war, each packing an Intel Core i9-9980HK CPU with 32GB of RAM. The XPS 15 features an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 GPU with 4GB of VRAM while the MacBook Pro has a Radeon Pro Vega 20 graphics card with 4GB of HBM2 memory.

On the Geekbench 4 overall performance test, the XPS 15 scored 28,882, which comes close to the MacBook Pro's 31,012.

The MacBook Pro converted a 4K movie to 1080p in 8 minutes and 10 seconds, while the XPS 15 took a win by a small margin of victory, with a time of 8 minutes.

Apple's blazing-fast 4TB SSD posted a speedy write speed of 2,610.8 MBps on the Black Magic storage speed test, and the XPS 15 trailed behind at 2,224 MBps.

When it came to gaming, the MacBook Pro surprisingly took a win, running Dirt 3 at 120 frames per second, 50% faster than the XPS 15's 80 fps score.

We saw incredibly close scores on the Cinebench R20 benchmark, which measures graphics performance. The MacBook Pro scored a 3,211 while the XPS 15 notched a 3,234.

Winner: Apple MacBook Pro 

Battery Life: Apple goes the distance

For laptops with bright high-res displays and tons of power, the MacBook Pro and XPS 15 both boast respectable battery life. That said, the MacBook Pro takes this round in a clear decision, lasting 10 hours and 21 minutes on the Laptop Mag Battery Test (continuous web surfing at 150 nits). That beats both the 8:07 from the super-bright OLED XPS 15 and the 8:48 from the non-OLED XPS 15.

Winner: Apple MacBook Pro

Value and Configurations: Apple's stuck in the high end

Both of these machines can get pretty pricey, but one has a cheaper starting point while the other gets much more costly.  The starting model of the Dell XPS 15 costs $1,099 and comes with a 9th Generation Intel Core i5-9300H CPU, 8GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD, Integrated Intel UHD 620 graphics and a 1920 x 1080-pixel InfinityEdge screen. And if you're looking to save a few more bucks, check out our Dell Laptop Deals page. 

I wish the MacBook Pro had a model this affordable, as it starts at $2,399. However, that entry-level configuration is a bit beefier, with a 9th Gen Core i7, 16GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD, a Radeon Pro 555X GPU with 4GB of memory and a 2880 x 1880-pixel Retina display. The XPS 15 is also cheaper here, as you can customize it to match that MacBook Pro, and it costs $450 less, at $1,949.

The MacBook Pro we tested costs $6,549, and packs a Core i9 CPU, a Radeon Pro Vega 20 GPU, 32GB of RAM and a 4TB SSD. Again, the XPS 15 we tested is cheaper, packing a 4K OLED screen, a Core i9 CPU, a GeForce GTX 1650 GPU, 32GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD, for $2,649. Oh, and even if you lower the MacBook Pro's internal storage to 1TB, it's still, $1,500 more than the XPS 15, at $4,149.

Winner: Dell XPS 15

Bottom Line

If you're in the market for a premium 15-inch laptop, the XPS 15 beats the 15-inch MacBook Pro. Dell has not only caught up on design, but it's also winning in key categories, such as display quality, ports, keyboard and especially on value.

That's not to say the 2019 MacBook Pro is anything but a beast. It's got a slight edge on performance and more than an hour extra battery life.

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Row 0 - Cell 0 Dell XPS 15 (2019)MacBook Pro 15-inch (2019)
Design (10)88
Ports (10)97
Display (15)1511
Keyboard/Touchpad (15)1510
Performance (25)1719
Battery Life (20)1620
Value and Configs (10)107
Overall (100)9082

But overall, on the points, the XPS 15 is the winning powerhouse, and that price range is a huge deal for those who don't need to use a specific operating system.

Credit: Laptop Mag