The Microsoft Surface Laptop 2 is back in black, and with its newly revamped hardware, it's ready to take on the competition — including the Dell XPS 13. While we haven't reviewed the Surface Laptop 2 just yet, it's interesting to see how Microsoft's claims of improved battery life and a deeper-travel keyboard fare against Dell's flagship, which is currently our favorite laptop overall.
Here's how these two premium ultraportables stack up.
Both laptops ooze style with multiple colors and compact frames. The Surface Laptop 2 has a new, sleek black-matte finish, but it also comes in the Platinum, Burgundy and Cobalt Blue options from last generation.
The XPS 13 has only two color choices (Platinum Silver/Black, Rose Gold/Alpine White), but its two-toned design has a certain stylish aesthetic that the Surface Laptop 2 lacks.
Both laptops' lids are made of aluminum, but their interiors are radically different. The XPS 13 has a solid carbon-fiber base, and the Surface Laptop 2 is lathered in Alcantara fabric. The Surface Laptop 2 looks stunning in that fabric, and while I like how the carbon fiber feels on the XPS 13, it just looks a little out of place on both the white and black.
MORE: Microsoft Surface Laptop Review
The Surface Laptop 2 and the XPS 13 are incredibly close in size, as the Surface Laptop 2 weights 2.76 pounds and measures 12.1 x 8.8 x 0.39-0.6 inches, while the XPS 13 comes in at 2.67-2.68 pounds and 11.9 x 7.8 x 0.3-0.5 inches. Although the XPS 13 is technically lighter and thinner, the Surface Laptop 2 does have a slightly bigger display. However, the XPS 13's InfinityEdge display makes its bezels practically nonexistent, and that's worth more than a 0.2-inch larger panel.
Surface Laptop 2 vs. XPS 13: Specs Compared
|Microsoft Surface Laptop 2 (opens in new tab)||Dell XPS 13|
|Display||13.5-inch touch screen (2256 x 1504)||13.3 inches (1920 x 1080), 13.3-inch touch screen (3840 x 2160)|
|CPU||8th Gen Intel Core i5, i7||8th Gen Core i3, Core i5, Core i7|
|RAM||8GB, 16GB||4GB, 8GB, 16GB|
|Storage||128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB||128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB, 2TB|
|Ports||USB 3.0, headphone, Mini DisplayPort, Surface Connect||2 Thunderbolt 3, USB-C 3.1, microSD card, headphone, lock slot|
|Colors||Black, Platinum, Burgundy, Cobalt Blue||Platinum Silver/Black, Rose Gold/Alpine White|
|Size||12.1 x 8.8 x 0.39-0.57 inches||11.9 x 7.8 x 0.3-0.46 inches|
|Weight||2.76 pounds||2.67 pounds (non-touch), 2.68 pounds (touch)|
Pricing and Configuration Options
The XPS 13 starts at a cheaper price than the Surface Laptop 2, and is a better overall value on the premium end. The Surface Laptop 2 starts at $999 with a 2256 x 1504 touch-screen display and is outfitted with a Core i5, 8GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD. If you want to save $150 and go with the XPS 13, you get dropped down to a Core i3, 4GB of RAM and a plain, old 1080p non-touch display.
However, by maxing out the XPS 13 ($2,519), you get a gorgeous 4K touch-screen panel and some beefy components, including a Core i7, 16GB of RAM and a 2TB SSD. At $2,699, the Surface Laptop 2 matches the XPS 13’s processor and RAM, but it can't keep up with its upgraded display or SSD storage.
When you break it down, the XPS 13 offers a lower RAM option, a higher resolution panel and more SSD storage. The Surface Laptop 2 starts with a 1504p panel, but that's the only advantage it has. The XPS 13 wins here due to its variety of specs and better overall value.
Keyboard and Pen
Microsoft promises that the Surface Laptop 2's keyboard will have 1.5 millimeters of travel, which is great for such a thin design. Key travel is something that the XPS 13 can improve upon, as it measured 1.2mm, but it did make up for it with its 72 grams of actuation force (we suggest a minimum of 60g). We did get our hands on the Surface Laptop 2 and found the keyboard to be comfortable to type on, but we'll have to see how it does side by side with the XPS 13 when we get it in our lab.
The Surface Laptop 2 has another leg up on the XPS 13 with its Surface Pen, which offers 4096 levels of pressure sensitivity along with tilt functionality for shading. The Surface Pen also comes in the same colors as the Surface Laptop 2 does, but unfortunately, it's sold separately and will cost you an extra $99. The XPS 13 comes in an optional touchscreen configuration but has no proprietary pen.
While the XPS 13's 13.3-inch InfinityEdge display practically reduces the bezels to nothing, the Surface Laptop 2 has a little more real estate with 13.5 inches.
The Surface Laptop 2 also has a better starting resolution (2256 x 1504), compared with the XPS 13’s 1920 x 1080. However, the XPS 13 does offer a 4K (3840 x 2160) configuration, while all versions of the Surface Laptop 2 have the same resolution.
When we put the XPS 13 to the test, its 1080p panel covered 117 percent of the sRGB color gamut, while the 4K panel covered 130 percent, which surpasses the 127 percent ultraportable notebook average. If the Surface Laptop 2 is anything like the original, then the XPS 13 has its work cut out for it, as the Surface Laptop covered a solid 135 percent of the sRGB.
Regarding brightness, the XPS 13's 1080p and 4K panel hit 372 nits and 415 nits, respectively. Meanwhile, the original Surface Laptop hit 361 nits, but we expect better from the Surface Laptop 2.
The biggest strike against the Surface Laptop 2 is the lack of USB Type-C. That means you can't connect to many docks and newer USB-C peripherals on the market. You get one USB 3.0 port, a headphone jack, a Mini DisplayPort and a Surface Connect port.
The XPS 13 has more connections, including two Thunderbolt 3 ports, one USB Type-C port, a microSD card slot, a headphone jack and a lock slot, but it lacks a USB Type-A port.
Microsoft claims that the Surface Laptop 2 will have a battery that can last up to 14 hours and 30 minutes, which would be quite the impressive feat considering the previous one lasted 9:02 on our Laptop Mag Battery test.
After continuously surfing the web over Wi-Fi at 150 nits of brightness, the XPS 13 lasted 11 hours and 59 minutes with its 1080p panel, while the 4K config lasted 8:23.
We'll have to test the Surface Laptop 2 to see how close it gets to Microsoft's claim.
The XPS 13 and Surface Laptop 2 run a real tight race against each other. When you compare the specs, the XPS 13 offers more value for its upgraded components and diverse set of ports. And it's tough to beat that 4K InfinityEdge display, for those willing to splurge.
However, we can't scoff at the potential of the Surface Laptop 2’s battery life, deeper travel keyboard and Surface Pen support. The Surface Laptop 2 launches on Oct. 16, so be on the lookout for our full review and benchmarks. We will update this face-off once we have the final results.
Credit: Laptop Mag