The Microsoft Surface Laptop is the cool, new 13-inch laptop that’s garnering rave reviews, but how does it stack up to Dell’s excellent XPS 13?
Microsoft’s ultraportable offers a sleek design with Alcantara fabric, a brilliant touch display and solid performance. But the XPS 13 has long been our top overall laptop for a reason, featuring a stunning Infinity Display of its own along with a plethora of ports and your choice of non-touch and touchscreen. So which one is right for you?
|Surface Laptop||Dell XPS 13|
|Intel Processors||7th Gen Kaby Lake Core i5, Core i7||7th Gen Kaby Lake Core i3, Core i5, Core i7|
|Starting Price||$999||$799 ($TK with touch)|
|Battery Life||9:03||9:11 (touch), 13:49 (non-touch)|
|Display||13.5 inches (2256 x 1504)||13.3 inches (non-touch: 1920 x 1080, touch: 3200 x 1800)|
|Ports||1xUSB 3.0, Mini DisplayPort, Surface Connect, Headphone Jack||2xUSB 3.0, SD memory reader, headphone jack, 1xThunderbolt 3|
|Thickness||0.6 inches||0.6 inches|
|Weight||2.7 pounds (non-touch), 2.9 pounds (touch)||2.8 pounds|
The XPS 13 is a well-designed machine, thanks to its practically bezel-free screen and optional rose gold ($50-extra) aluminum shell. We also like its soft-touch carbon fiber deck.
However, the Surface Laptop’s deck feels even better. It’s covered in Alcantara, a suede-like microfibre. Plus, the Surface Laptop comes in more (four) colors: Platinum Silver, Graphite Gold, Cobalt Blue and Burgundy Red (our favorite), though only the $1,299 model comes with all of those options.
The XPS 13 measures 0.6 inches thick and its weight differs depending on which model you get: the non-touch is 2.7 pounds, the touch-screen version is 2.9 pounds. The Surface Laptop (0.6 inches, 2.8 pounds) is just as thin and its weight falls smack-dab in the middle of the XPS 13 models.
Lastly, the XPS places its webcam (inconveniently) on the bottom left corner of the screen, forcing you to work around it for proper conference calls. The Surface Laptop, like a normal laptop, places its webcam at the middle of the top bezel.
Winner: The Surface Laptop, which feels new and unique.
Both of these 13-inch notebooks feature excellent screens, but Dell gives you more of a choice.
While the $999 (and up) Surface Laptop locks you into a 2256 x 1504-pixel touch-screen display, you’ve got two options for the XPS 13. You can either go with the 1920 x 1080-pixel, non-touch matte-finish screen (available in models starting at $799) or its 3200 x 1800-pixel glossy touch-screen display ($1,299 and up).
No matter which XPS 13 you get, the Surface Laptop’s panel will be brighter, as it emits up to 361 nits. That outshines the 305-nit touch-screen XPS 13 and its 302-nit non-touch sibling. The Surface Laptop’s panel is is also more colorful, producing 135 percent of the sRGB color spectrum, while the touch-screen XPS 13 covers 105.7 percent and the non-touch model provides 93.6 percent.
Winner: The Surface Laptop, which offers touch at all prices, more brightness and more color.
Both of these notebooks feature good backlit keyboards, but one is a little bit better than the other. That’s the Surface Laptop, which sports keys that offer 1.4 millimeters of travel, which made for “one of the best typing experiences on a laptop yet” according to our review. Meanwhile, the 1.2-mm keys on the XPS 13 merely provided a “fairly comfortable” experience for our reviewer.
Winner: The Surface Laptop is simply more of a pleasure to type on.
The Surface Laptop is brand-new for 2017, but somehow doesn’t include a USB Type-C port, the connector of tomorrow that allows for power drawing, data transfer and display extending. Instead, it’s got a USB 3.0 port, a headphone jack, a Mini DisplayPort and a proprietary (non-universal) Surface Connector for power and docking.
That set of ports may be OK for some, but it’s a paltry set compared to what the XPS 13 packs. The Dell gives you two USB 3.0 ports, an SD card reader, a headphone jack and a Thunderbolt 3 port (which also provides USB Type-C)
Winner: The XPS 13, which is ready for today and tomorrow.
The Surface Laptop and XPS 13 both offer solid, speedy performance, but each has its own strong suit. We tested nearly identical configurations, each packing a Core i5-7200U CPU, 8GB of RAM and 256GB SSD storage, which got nearly the same scores on the Geekbench 4 general performance test (XPS 13: 7,159; Surface Laptop: 7,157).
The XPS’s SSD storage earned it a victory in our testing, copying a DVD’s worth of multimedia files at a rate of 339.3 MBps. The Surface Laptop trailed behind at a slow 110.6 MBps.
The two systems were neck and neck in our spreadsheet test, which involves matching 20,000 names and addresses. The Surface Laptop completed the task in 4 minutes and 1 second, compared to 3:55 for the XPS 13.
Gamers may be interested to learn that the Surface Laptop demonstrated far smoother frame-rates, running Dirt 3 (set to Medium, 1080p) at 68 fps, while the XPS 13 didn’t cross our 30 fps playability threshold, hitting 28 fps.
Verdict: The faster SSD in the XPS 13 gives the notebook the edge here.
Sometimes, touch-screens aren’t worth it.The Laptop Mag Battery Test (constant web browsing at 100 nits of brightness) drained the Surface Laptop and touch-screen XPS 13 in a little over 9 hours. That’s similar to the touch version of the XPS 13 (9:11), but the non-touch XPS 13 turned in a time of 13:49 on the same test.
Verdict: The XPS 13, with the option to last nearly 5 hours longer with its non-touch version.
First of all, the XPS 13 is available to more people, with its non-touch model starting (on Dell.com) at $799, a cut below the $999 entry-level Surface Laptop. While both models sport 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD, the XPS 13 is more affordable, thanks to its Core i3 processor. The baseline Surface features a faster Core i5 CPU and a touch-screen display.
The XPS 13 also takes the win when it comes to similarly-priced models. Dell sells a $999 version of the XPS 13 with a Core i5 CPU, 128GB of storage and 8GB of RAM, while Microsoft charges the same for a Surface Laptop with the same processor and storage, but half as much memory. To be fair, though, the Surface Laptop comes with a touch-screen standard.
Over at Best Buy, you can get the touch-screen XPS 13 with a Core i7 CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD for $1,299. Spending that much on a Surface Laptop gets you nearly the same machine, but one with a slower Core i5 processor.
Verdict: The XPS 13 gives you more bang for your buck.
|Surface Laptop||Dell XPS 13|
At 4 rounds to 3, this was a close contest. The Dell XPS 13 and Microsoft Surface Laptop both make compelling cases to be your next notebook. We prefer the design, display and keyboard on Microsoft’s machine, as well as the fact that the webcam is in the right place. But Dell’s ultraportable pulls out the win because of its snappier performance, longer battery life and extra ports. Plus, it’s a better value overall.