MacBook Pro 14 vs. Dell XPS 13: Which premium laptop should you buy

MacBook Pro 14 vs. Dell XPS 13: Which premium laptop should you buy
(Image credit: Apple/ Laptop Mag)

The new MacBook Pro 14 fixes just about everything that its predecessors got wrong. It comes with Apple’s first in-house pro chips, ample ports for creators and professionals, a standard function row instead of the Touchbar, and a high-res webcam housed under a notch. But can it beat the Dell XPS 13, which has surpassed the MacBook as the gold standard for laptops in recent years?

The Dell XPS 13 offers all the hardware you’d expect from a high-end laptop in a portable body that’s about a pound lighter than the MacBook Pro 14. On top of that, it’s much more affordable despite boasting features absent from the MacBook Pro, such as facial unlock. So which one should you buy?

MacBook Pro 14 vs Dell XPS 13: Price and configurations 

The MacBook Pro 14 starts at $1999 for the base option with an 8-core M1 Pro chip, 16GB RAM, and 512GB SSD storage. It goes up from there depending on the amount of memory, storage, and processing power you want. Swapping out the 8-core processor for a 10-core M1 Pro, for instance, will set you back an additional $200. If you double the RAM, that’s an extra $400. 

The Dell XPS 13’s base variant offers a 1080p screen, an Intel Core i3 processor, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD, and costs $1,069. The cost increases as you add more premium components. A 1080p touchscreen, for example, adds at least $100. If you select the 4K option, the price goes up to $1470. The cheapest XPS 13 model with a Core i7 chip costs about $1,600, and it also includes a range of other upgrades, such as 16GB RAM, 512GB RAM, and a 4K OLED screen.

MacBook Pro 14 vs Dell XPS 13: Design 

The MacBook Pro 14 flaunts a familiar all-aluminum exterior you can find on nearly every MacBook in the last decade. However, the company has made a few alterations this time that, in a lot of ways, make the new machine look like the original MacBook Pro from 2009. 

(Image credit: Apple)

Instead of the sharp edges of recent MacBook Pro models, the new one has curved corners on the bottom that have been likely put in place to accommodate the extra ports. There’s little to complain about, and if you’re a fan of the traditional metallic and sturdy looks of the MacBook, you won’t be disappointed here either. If there is one area getting flack, it's the notch at the top of the display. Yes, it's awkward you're getting extra real estate anyway thanks to the 14.2-inch display with a 16:10 aspect ratio.

The Dell XPS 13, on the other hand, stands out with a unique design. Its biggest highlight is simply how small it is for a 13.4-inch notebook. At 2.6 pounds, it’s remarkably lighter than the MacBook Pro 14 (3.5 pounds). It’s also an inch thinner, which is especially ideal if you’re someone who often carries around their computer in a backpack. 

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

Another highlight of the XPS 13 is its edge-to-edge screen for an immersive experience. Although it’s made out of aluminum, it has a glass fiber palm rest that’s much more comfortable for prolonged sessions than metal. 

Winner: Dell XPS 13 

MacBook Pro 14 vs Dell XPS 13: Display

The MacBook Pro 14 and the Dell XPS 13 go almost toe-to-toe when it comes to the display tech. The former has a QHD screen, while the latter’s base model is equipped with a 1080p one, which can be configured up to 4K OLED. Both are capable of producing vivid and punchy colors whether you’re watching a movie or playing a game. 

(Image credit: Apple)

The MacBook Pro 14, however, has the upper hand in two areas: its display supports a higher 120Hz refresh rate, and at up to 1,000 nits, it’s much brighter than the Dell XPS 13’s 500 nits (400 nits on OLED). In most use cases, you won’t be able to tell the difference, but for outdoor environments, the MacBook is a better option. 

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

The Dell XPS 13 outclasses the MacBook in two specific categories: its screen is compatible with touch input, and it stretches to the lid’s edges without forcing you to live with a distracting notch. 

Winner: Depends on which specs you prioritize for your laptop screen 

MacBook Pro 14 vs Dell XPS 13: Ports and webcam 

This is where the MacBook Pro 14’s thicker design works to its advantage. It has three Thunderbolt 4 USB-C ports, a traditional HDMI, a headphone jack, and a full-size SD card reader. 

(Image credit: Apple)

The Dell XPS 13 features only a pair of Thunderbolt 4 USB-C slots and a microSD card reader. On top of that, the MacBook Pro 14 sports a sharper 1080p webcam, while the Dell XPS 13’s is restricted to 720p. 

Winner: MacBook Pro 14

MacBook Pro 14 vs Dell XPS 13: Keyboard and touchpad

Another aspect where the MacBook Pro 14’s larger size comes in handy is the keyboard. It’s spacious with enough separation between the keys, which are tactile and have plenty of travel. The Dell XPS 13’s keyboard, while by no means a downside, has softer keys and is a bit cramped due to the limited room. Both of their backlit keyboards, though, and have a fingerprint sensor embedded in the top-right corner. 

(Image credit: Apple)

Recent MacBook models are known for their giant touchpads, and the MacBook Pro 14 is no exception. Objectively, the Dell XPS 13’s glass trackpad is smaller in size, but in reality, we had no issues with it, and it was large and responsive enough for daily use. 

Winner: MacBook Pro 14

MacBook Pro 14 vs Dell XPS 13: Performance

What truly separates these two ultrabooks is the processors they run on. Under the hood, the MacBook Pro is powered by Apple’s latest M1 Pro chip, which houses eight and six performance cores and two efficiency cores. There’s also a 14-core or 16-core GPU, a 16-core dedicated engine for machine learning tasks, and up to 32GB of RAM and 8TB SSD. 

You also configure the MacBook Pro 14 with the more powerful M1 Max chip for a couple of hundred dollars more. It has a 10-core CPU, a 24-core or 32-core GPU, and a maximum of 64GB of memory. 

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

The Dell XPS 13 is an Intel computer. Its top variant has an Intel 11th-Gen Core i7-1195G7 4-core CPU, the Intel Iris Xe Max discrete GPU, and up to 32GB of LPDDR4X memory and 2TB SSD. 

On paper, the MacBook Pro 14 likely outperforms the Dell XPS 13, but we won’t know that for sure until we test them out ourselves. In reality, however, neither of them will stumble in most tasks. 

Winner: TBD

MacBook Pro 14 vs Dell XPS 13: Battery life 

The Dell XPS 13’s 1080p model lasts about 11 hours on a single charge. That number drops to 7 hours if you pick the 4K or OLED models. The MacBook Pro 14 is rated to go on for about 11 hours if you spend most of your time in the browser. We’ve yet to put the MacBook Pro 14 to its paces, so it’s hard to tell how power-efficient the new M1 Pro and M1 Max chips are. 

(Image credit: Apple)

In the box, the MacBook Pro 14 comes bundled with a MagSafe magnetic charger, while the Dell XPS 13 tops up via a regular USB-C cable. 

The MacBook Pro 14 also supports a 96-watt fast charger, but you’ll have to buy the adapter separately -- unless you opt for the 10-core processor, in which case Apple throws in for free. 

Winner: TBD 

MacBook Pro 14 vs Dell XPS 13: Which one should you buy? 

The MacBook Pro 14 and Dell XPS 13 are built for different sets of buyers. While the former is suited more for professional creators who need all the power they can get their hands on, the latter is ideal for people who mostly use the browser and productivity apps to work and need a slim, portable machine. 

While the Dell XPS 13 wins in aspects like price, portability, and features like Windows Hello, the MacBook Pro 14 has a more capable processing unit that can take anything you throw at it. 

We'll update this face-off after we've posted our MacBook Pro 14 review. 

Shubham Agarwal is a freelance technology journalist from Ahmedabad, India. His work has previously appeared in Business Insider, Fast Company, HuffPost, and more. You can reach out to him on Twitter