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HP Spectre x360 vs. Dell XPS 13: Which 13-inch Ultrabook Wins?

On the hunt for a 13-inch laptop? You've probably come across the HP Spectre x360 and the Dell XPS 13 at some point. Not only are these among the most popular ultrabooks on the market, but they've received some of our highest review scores. The latest models are the best versions yet and both thoroughly deserved our Editor's Choice award for their sleek, portable designs, strong performance and very long battery life.

You're in good shape if you've already narrowed your search down to these two notebooks. However, now comes a tough decision: Do you go with the ultrasleek XPS 13, our current best laptop overall? Or do you opt for the convertible Spectre x360, the best 2-in-1 laptop? While it's hard to declare an outright winner, this face-off will help you decide which laptop is best for you.

HP Spectre x360 vs. Dell XPS 13: Specs Comparison

HP Spectre x360 (2019)Dell XPS 13 (2019)
Starting Price (reviewed at)$1,349$899  ($2,449)
ColorsDark Ash Silver; Poseidon BlueFrost or Rose Gold with Arctic White; Platinum Silver with Black Carbon Fiber
Display13.3-inch, 1080p or 4K13.3-inch, 1080p (non-touch) or 4K (touch)
CPUUp to Intel Core i7-8565UUp to Intel Core i7-8565U
RAMUp to 16GBUp to 16GB
SSDUp to 2TBUp to 2TB
Key Travel1.4mm1mm
PortsUSB 3.1, 2 Thunderbolt 3, microSD card, headphone2 Thunderbolt 3, USB-C, microSD card, headphone, lock slot
Webcam1080p720p
Size 12.2 x 8.6 x 0.6 inches11.9 x 7.8 x 0.5 inches
Geekbench 414,935 (i7)8,877 (i3); 14,936 (i7)
Battery Life (hrs:mins)12:07 (1080p)12:22 (1080p); 7:40 (4K)
Weight2.8 pounds2.7 pounds

 

Design

The XPS 13 is the slimmer of these two laptops, but you won't be able to take your eyes off the Spectre x360's breathtaking design.

The aluminum Spectre x360 has shiny golden chamfered corners and faceted edges, giving it the look of an expensive jewel. Chrome trim frames the deck and touchpad, while a triangle-patterned speaker grille sits above the keyboard. A modern HP logo, embossed in gold, is centered on the Spectre x360's lid. The attention to detail is outstanding, and all the little touches make the Spectre x360 one of the most luxurious laptops I've ever tested.

MORE: Best Dell and Alienware Laptops

Additionally, HP added a physical on/off switch that electronically cuts power to the webcam so you can have peace of mind that nobody is spying on you. The Spectre x360 comes in two distinctive color variants: Dark Ash Silver and Poseidon Blue.

Unlike the XPS 13, the Spectre x360 is a 2-in-1, which means you can flip its hinge backward and convert the machine into a tablet. This makes the Spectre a better option for those who prefer to sketch or take notes by hand. Dell sells a convertible version of the XPS 13, the XPS 13 2-in-1, but it hasn't been updated since 2017.

The 2019 edition of the XPS 13 looks a lot like its predecessors but Dell spiced things up this year with a new Frost Silver and Arctic White color scheme. That fresh coat of paint has a pure, clean appearance, though you should be careful not to get it dirty. With an anodized aluminum lid and glass-fiber weave on the deck, the XPS 13 looks and feels like a sturdy, premium machine. The XPS 13 is available in Rose Gold or with a traditional Platinum Silver lid and black, carbon-fiber deck.

The XPS 13's standout feature remains its extremely narrow display bezels, which no longer compromise the webcam. Yes, the nosecam is gone, having been relocated from the bottom to the top bezel.  

These are two very portable laptops, but the XPS 13 is thinner and lighter than the Spectre. At 2.7 pounds and 11.9 x 7.8 x 0.5 inches, the Dell notebook is easier to haul around than the 2.8-pound, 12.2 x 8.6 x 0.6-inch Spectre x360.

Winner: Spectre 360

Buy on HP

Ports

The Spectre x360 has a better selection of ports than the XPS 13, thanks to the USB Type-A port on its left side for connecting legacy peripherals like mice and external webcams.  

On the other hand, the XPS 13 has three USB-C ports (two Thunderbolt 3, one USB 3.1) and a lock slot, while the Spectre x360 has only two Thunderbolt 3 inputs. Both laptops have a microSD card slot and headphone jack.

Winner: Spectre x360

Buy on Dell

Display

The XPS 13 and Spectre x360 have 13.3-inch displays available in both 1080p and 4K resolutions. We reviewed both XPS 13 models and the 1080p touch version of the Spectre x360. We expect to get a 4K review unit from HP later this year.

The 1080p displays on these laptops looked astonishingly similar when I watched the official trailer for Avengers: Endgame. I could easily make out subtle ridges on Ant Man's suit, and the armor's vivid red tone popped off both screens. However, I noticed a few subtle image quality differences upon closer inspection. The Spectre x360's glossy 1080p touch screen had better contrast and slightly punchier colors, while the XPS 13's matte, non-touch display was easier to see under our office lights.

Covering 150 percent of the sRGB color gamut, the 1080p touch screen on the Spectre x360 is more colorful than the 1080p and 4K display on the XPS 13, which covers a respectable 126 percent and 119 percent, respectively. Each of these panels topped the 118 percent premium laptop average.

MORE: Best HP Laptops

The Spectre x360 may have a more vivid display but the XPS 13 gets brighter. With a max luminance of 357 nits, the 1080p panel on the XPS 13 outshines the Spectre x360's display (287 nits) and the premium category average (328 nits). The XPS 13's 4K panel got even brighter, at 375 nits.

Winner: Draw

Keyboard and Touchpad

The Spectre x360 is the outright winner when it comes to keyboard quality.

At 1.4 millimeters, the Spectre x360's keys offer great travel for an ultrabook, and 70 grams of actuation force give the keys a weighty, tactile click. The backlit, chiclet-style keys are large, well-spaced and flaunt a modern font.

The XPS 13's keys are shallow in comparison, with just 1mm of travel. That's not to say the backlit keyboard is bad. Thanks to its 63 grams of actuation force, the XPS 13's undersize keys have a solid pop to them, and spacing is adequate, although it may feel cramped for those with large hands.

On the Spectre x360, I typed at 120 words per minute with an accuracy rate of 96 percent on the10FastFingers.com typing test. I didn't fare as well when using the XPS 13, netting a rate of 114 wpm and an accuracy of 92 percent.

The Spectre x360's 4.7 x 2.3-inch touchpad is wider than the XPS 13's 4.1 x 2.3-inch surface. I executed Windows 10 gestures, like pinch-to-zoom and three-finger swipe to switch between windows, without any hiccups on either device.

Winner: Spectre x360

Performance

We tested two versions of the XPS 13: a premium model with a Core i7-8565U CPU and 16GB of RAM, and a base model with a Core i3-8145U CPU and 4GB of RAM. Our Spectre x360 review unit came with a Core i7-8565U CPU and 8GB of RAM.

With a score of 14,935, our Spectre x360 review unit was one point away from matching the high-end XPS 13 (14,936) on the Geekbench 4 overall performance test. Both machines topped the premium laptop average (13,338) by a good margin. The low-end XPS 13, with its Core i3 CPU, scored a lowly 8,677.

MORE: The Best Laptops for Every Need

The 1TB PCIe SSD inside the 4K XPS 13 proved speedier than the Spectre x360's 256GB PCIe NVMe M.2 drive. The XPS 13 duplicated 4.97GB of mixed-media files in 9 seconds for a transfer rate of 565 megabytes per second. That's faster than the Spectre x360 (391.5 MBps) and narrowly tops the premium laptop average (542.8 MBps). However, the 128GB SSD inside the base XPS 13 runs at a lowly 154.2 MBps.

The performance gap widened on our Handbrake test, in which the XPS 13 (Core i7, 16GB) converted a 4K video into 1080p resolution in just 19 minutes and 20 seconds. It took the Spectre x360 22 minutes and 30 seconds to complete the task, which is slower than the premium laptop average (21:45) and even the Core i3, 4GB of RAM version of the XPS 13 (20:47).

Relying on integrated Intel UHD 620 GPUs, these ultrabooks offer similarly middling graphics performance. The Spectre x360 scored 88,453 on our 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited Graphics test, falling short of the XPS 13's 90,977 (Core i7, 16GB of RAM). The XPS 13 also did better in our real-world test, playing the racing game Dirt 3 at 88 frames per seconds, compared with the Spectre x360, which mustered only 53 fps.

Winner: XPS 13

Battery Life

The Spectre x360 lasted 12 hours and 7 minutes on our Laptop Mag battery test, which involves continuous web surfing over Wi-Fi at 150 nits of screen brightness. Despite packing a more powerful quad-core Core i7 CPU, the Spectre nearly matches the dual-core Core i3 XPS 13's (1080p) 12 hours and 22 minutes runtime.

The 4K XPS 13 lasted only 7 hours and 50 minutes on a charge, and we expect the 4K Spectre x360 to power down long before its 1080p counterpart.

Overall, both laptops will last longer than a day on a charge, and their runtimes are so close that any changes to your workload or battery settings could tip the balance.

Winner: Draw

Value and Price

To its credit, Dell sells a Core i3 version ($899) of the XPS 13 that's more affordable than the least expensive Spectre x360.

Available only on HP.com at the time of writing, the Spectre x360 base model costs $1,149 and comes equipped with an Intel Core i5-8265U CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD. Our $1,359 midtier review unit packed an Intel Core i7-8565U CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD. For about $100 more, you can opt for a SureView display, double RAM and storage capacities to 16GB and 512GB. For $1,549, the top-of-the-line Spectre x360 has the same specs but a 4K display.

Dell offers a wider range of configuration on the XPS 13, but comparable SKUs cost more than the Spectre x360. For example, an XPS 13 with a Core i7-8565U CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD goes for $1,459, compared with the $1,359 Spectre.

MORE: The Best Laptops for Business and Productivity

A decked-out XPS 13 costs $1,859 (currently on sale for $1,659) and comes with a 4K touch-screen display along with Core i7-8565U CPU, 16GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD.

Winner: Draw

 Overall Winner: Spectre x360

HP Spectre x360 (2019)Dell XPS 13
Design (10)98
Ports (10)87
Display (15)1414
Keyboard/Touchpad (15)1412
Performance (20)1819
Battery Life (20)1919
Value (10)88
Overall (100)9087

Overall, the HP Spectre x360 wins this very close contest. The Spectre x360's excellent keyboard and full-size USB port give it an edge over the XPS 13, but it's important to consider what you want in a laptop before you spend this kind of money.

If you want a portable 2-in-1 that you can use as a tablet or notebook, then there is none better than the Spectre x360 (although the Lenovo Yoga C930 comes close). On the other hand, if you desire the slimmest, most compact 13-inch notebook and you want the option of spending less than $1,000 go with the XPS 13.  

Credit: Laptop Mag

Phillip Tracy is a senior writer at Tom's Guide and Laptop Mag, where he reviews laptops and covers the latest industry news. After graduating with a journalism degree from the University of Texas at Austin, Phillip became a tech reporter at the Daily Dot. There, he wrote reviews for a range of gadgets and covered everything from social media trends to cybersecurity. Prior to that, he wrote for RCR Wireless News and NewBay Media. When he's not tinkering with devices, you can find Phillip playing video games, reading, listening to indie music or watching soccer.