Microsoft’s Surface Laptop is probably the biggest rival to the Dell XPS 13. With both devices sporting similar internal specifications and super-attractive designs, the choice between Microsoft’s upstart laptop and what is arguably the best Ultrabook on the market is sure to be a tough one.
First up, here are the key differences – and similarities – between the Dell XPS 13 and Surface Laptop from 2017. Note that as of January 2018, Dell has upgraded the XPS 13 with Intel 8th-gen chips, a 4K display, and a new Rose Gold design, among other things. Learn more about the new Dell XPS 13 (2018).
We’ll update this comparison in full once we know the whole picture, but in the meantime, here’s how the two rivals stacked up last year. For what it’s worth, the old XPS 13 is now likely to plummet in price but remain an excellent machine for most people’s needs, so don’t rule it out just because there’s now something even shinier on the block.
|Surface Laptop||Dell XPS 13|
|Processors||Dual-core 7th-gen Core i5 or i7||Dual-core 7th-gen Core i5 or i7|
|Graphics||Intel HD 620 or 640||Intel HD 620|
|Storage||128-512GB SSD||256GB-1TB SSD|
|Screen||13.5-inch 2256×1504-pixel touch screen||13.3-inch Full HD display or 3200×1800-pixel touch screen|
|Ports||USB 3.0, 3.5mm audio, mini DisplayPort||2x USB 3.0, SD card, USB-C/ThunderBolt3, 3.mm audio|
Surface Laptop vs Dell XPS 13 – Design and features
Microsoft has done something a little different with the Surface Laptop. It uses a completely screwless design and comes with an Alcantara fabric wristrest with an all-aluminium outer shell. That shell is offered in four different colours: Platinum, Burgundy, Cobalt Blue, and Graphite Gold.
The XPS 13, for its part, uses its own unique take on the laptop design. Its aluminium lid comes in two colours – silver or Rose Gold – along with a carbon-fibre-composite wrist rest that looks superb. It also has the advantage of using an ultra-thin ‘InfinityEdge’ display, which means the bezel surrounding the screen is much smaller than any other laptop on the market. This means the device has a smaller overall footprint as well.
The two devices are roughly the same weight, with the Surface laptop tipping the scales at 1.25kg, while the non-touchscreen Dell XPS 13 comes in 50g lighter and the touch model 40g heavier. Thickness is very similar as well, with the Surface laptop just 0.5mm thinner at its thickest point. In other words, both laptops are exceptionally light and very thin.
However, the Surface Laptop is rather lacking in terms of wired connectivity. There’s just one USB 3 port on the Surface Laptop, while the Dell XPS 13 gets two, plus a third USB-C connector that also works as a high-speed ThunderBolt 3 adapter. It also gets an SD card reader, something the Surface Laptop lacks.
Surface Laptop vs Dell XPS 13 – Specs and performance
Both laptops are very similar here, coming with a choice of either dual-core Core i5 or i7 processors. They also get high-speed PCIe SSDs and up to 16GB of memory – though the base Surface Laptop model gets just 4GB of memory. We’d always recommend at least 8GB of RAM for such a high-end device.
With regards to graphics, some Surface Laptop models get slightly faster Intel Iris Plus Graphics 640, compared to the HD Graphics 620 found in the Dell XPS 13. The difference is very minor, however. It should also be noted that US specifications of the Dell XPS 13 now include 640 graphics alongside slightly better processors. If they come to the UK, we’ll update this piece.
Surface Laptop vs Dell XPS 13 – Screen
The Dell XPS 13 comes with a choice of screens: a non-touch Full HD model or a touch-enabled 3200 x 1800 pixel panel.
Both are excellent, as is the Surface Laptop’s 2256 x 1504 display, which is seriously bright, if not quite as pro-calibre as what Dell offers.
Surface Laptop vs Dell XPS 13 – Software
The key difference between the Surface Laptop and the XPS 13 is the version of Windows they’re running, with the Dell XPS 13 shipping with Windows 10 Home, and the Surface coming equipped with Windows 10 S.
Windows 10 S is limited to installing apps from the Windows Store, which means you’ll only have access to more basic programs. It looks like you’ll be able to upgrade from Windows 10 S to Windows 10 Pro for a fee, so that extra cost should be factored in if you know you’re going to want a less locked-down version of Windows 10.
Surface Laptop vs Dell XPS 13 – Price and release date
The Surface Laptop has a lower starting price than the Dell XPS 13, but that’s largely because Dell doesn’t sell an XPS 13 model with just 128GB of storage and 4GB of memory.
When the specs are equalised, at Dell’s base-tier and Microsoft’s second-tier, the Surface comes out cheaper by a small margin – a touchscreen XPS 13 with a Core i5 processor, 8GB RAM, and 256GB SSD will set you back £1299, while a Surface with the same configuration will cost £1249.
Don’t need or want a touchscreen? The Full HD model of the XPS 13 costs £1149 at the time of writing.
Climb up to the beefier configurations, however, and the Surface Laptop gets very expensive, very fast. A Core i7, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD configuration will cost £2149, while the equivalent Dell model costs just £1549. At this end of the market, we reckon the Dell XPS 13 is much better value.
Which laptop is right for you?
It might just come down to pricing. The base Surface Laptop with a Core i5 processor looks like a very decent buy for the money, but jump to the Core i7 variant and we have to admit we baulked at the MacBook-esque price – and would opt for the Dell XPS 13 as a result.