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MacBook Pro 15-inch 2016 vs Dell XPS 15: Which is best?

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XPS 15 vs MacBook Pro

MacBook Pro 15-inch 2016 vs Dell XPS 15: We take a look at two of the best laptops you can buy to determine which is the best.

Apple recently launched three new laptop models: two 13-inch MacBook Pros and a 15-inch model. After years of stagnation, the fight between Dell and Apple has finally got interesting.

We’ve already run the numbers on the Dell XPS 13 and the 13-inch MacBook Pro, but now it’s time for the two bigger models to face off.

Aside from the obvious operating system difference – you’ll have to make up your own mind whether you want macOS Sierra or Windows 10 – the two machines' technical specifications and build quality need a close look to understand what you’re getting for your money.

There are four specified Dell XPS 15s available and three 15-inch MacBook Pros. The table below shows you the differences between the base and top-spec models of each.

Related: 13-inch MacBook Pro 2016 vs Dell XPS 13

WATCH: Dell XPS 15 Review

MacBook Pro 15-inch 2016 vs Dell XPS 15 – Full specification comparison

(Based on Dell.com and Apple.com. Other retailers may vary)

Device

Dell XPS 15

MacBook Pro 15

Weight

1.78-2kg

1.83kg

Dimensions

H: 17mm W: 357mm D: 235mm

H: 15.5mm W: 349mm D: 240mm

Processor choices

Quad-core 6th-gen Intel Core i5 or i7, up to 3.5GHz

Quad-core 6th-gen Intel Core i7, up to 3.8GHz

Graphics

Intel HD Graphics 530 AND 2GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 960M

Intel HD Graphics 530 AND 2GB AMD Radeon Pro 450 OR 455 OR 4GB Radeon Pro 460

RAM

8-32GB DDR4

16GB DDR3

Storage

1TB hard disk to 1TBPCI-E SSD

256GB-2TB PCI-E SSD

Screen

15.6-inch 1,920x1,080 or 3,840x2,160

15.4-inch 2,880x1,800

Price

£1199-£2049

£1,899-£4,049

MacBook Pro 15-inch 2016 vs Dell XPS 15 – Design and build

Apple and Dell have adopted completely different philosophies in the building of their two laptops. While Apple has gone with a tried and tested aluminium unibody design, Dell has opted for an aluminium lid and carbon fibre-coated wrist rest and keyboard tray, with a metal base.

Both are exceptionally pretty and well-built machines so there’s no real loser here.

Related: What's new with the MacBook Pro?

Dell XPS 15 5

Physical specs tell a slightly different story, though. The MacBook is 50g heavier than the 1.78kg Dell XPS 15, although if you pick a top-end XPS 15 with a touch screen and larger battery, it goes up to a rather heavier 2kg, making the MacBook Pro the winner here when it comes to the top-spec model.

The MacBook Pro is a similar size to the Dell XPS 15 when it comes to width and depth, but more substantial in terms of depth – the MacBook Pro is slightly thinner at 15.5mm while the Dell XPS 15 makes do with a thickness of 17mm. This is because the MacBook uses a 15.4-inch screen, while the XPS 15 uses a 15.6-inch panel with a wafer-thin bezel.

The most obvious difference in hardware is the MacBook’s Touch Bar. Unique to the MacBook, Dell has no answer and retains a dedicated row of physical function keys. For more on the MacBook Pro Touch Bar, read our guide.

Related: Dell XPS 15 review

MacBook Pro 13 2016 2

In terms of the keyboard, the new MacBook Pros use Apple’s Butterfly key switches, which offer less travel and a slightly clickier feel than conventional laptop keys. They’re not for everyone, so we’d recommend visiting an Apple Store to try them out for yourself.

The MacBook has a gigantic touchpad, much bigger than that on the XPS 15, but the XPS 15's is one of the most responsive around, so what it lacks in size it makes up for in usefulness.

In terms of ports, the MacBook Pro 15-inch keeps things simple yet awkward. You get four USB-C connectors that double up as Thunderbolt 3 ports alongside a 3.5mm headphone jack. Any of the USB ports can be used for charging. The Dell, meanwhile, gets two full-size USB 3.0 ports, a USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 port, a headset jack and an SD card reader.

MacBook Pro 15-inch 2016 vs Dell XPS 15 – Performance

As ever, this is where things get messy. With a variety of different processors available on both devices, let’s keep it simple. The least powerful MacBook Pro gets a quad-core Intel Core i7 processor with a maximum Turbo Boost speed of 3.4GHz. This is only slightly slower than the fastest Dell XPS 15, whose Core i7 has a maximum Turbo Boost of 3.5GHz.

Beyond that, every upgrade to the MacBook Pro 15’s processor makes it faster than the Dell XPS 15. Still, both devices are highly capable and will have no problem editing Ultra HD video.

Macbook 1

If you want something a little cheaper, the bottom-spec Dell XPS 13 gets a quad-core Intel Core i5 processor instead, which reduces its capacity as a video-editing workstation. It’s still a capable photo editor and gaming machine, though.

Related: Intel Core i processors explained

In the graphics department, things are less clear cut. The MacBook Pro 15 debuts AMD’s Radeon Pro graphics brand, with a choice of three chips on board. There are a pair of 2GB GPUs and a third 4GB model called the 460, but this is an upgrade you’ll have to pay for. The Dell XPS 15, meanwhile, gets a 2GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 960M in all models.

The Radeon Pro is geared towards 3D work and other creative applications but will also have the capacity to play some games, although quite what it will entail in the real world remains to be seen. Still, if you’re only looking for a boost to creative performance, these chips will suit you just fine.

Macbook

The 960M in the Dell is a known quantity, and can play most modern games at reduced graphics settings and resolution.

Apple is claiming 10 hours of battery life on the Pro, and while it probably won’t reach that in most moderate work situations, it’ll almost certainly beat the XPS 15 that barely reaches beyond five to six hours in most work situations – one of its biggest failings.

Dell also manages to squeeze 32GB of RAM into its top-end model, which will make 4K video editing a much more promising prospect. Apple

MacBook Pro 15-inch 2016 vs Dell XPS 15 – Screen

You get a choice of screens with the Dell XPS 15. The three cheaper models get Full HD panels while the top spec gets an Ultra HD panel. Both are capable of displaying the full Adobe RGB colour gamut, which makes them great for photo editors and videographers.

Related: MacBook Pro 2016 vs Surface Book i7

Macbook 2

The MacBook Pro gets a 2,880 x 1,800 pixel panel that’s capable of displaying the full DCI P3 colour gamut used in film making. It’s ridiculously bright at 500 nits, which is beyond anything we’ve ever seen in a laptop and puts it up there with the brightest smartphones and some pretty fancy TVs to boot. We’ve not seen it in the flesh yet, though, so we’ll wait before giving a final judgement.

MacBook Pro 15-inch 2016 vs Dell XPS 15 – Pricing and final thoughts

The cheapest MacBook Pro 15-inch is more expensive that the second-from-top-end Dell XPS 15, which is slightly more powerful than its Apple-made rival, so at that end of the market the Dell would seem to be better value.

Buy Now: Dell XPS 15 at Amazon.com from $942

Best Deals for Dell XPS 15

  • amazon
  • ebay

However, as you move beyond the bottom-spec MacBook, the additional 8GB of RAM, faster processors and super-bright screen start to become more attractive.

Without having reviewed the MacBook Pro, a final judgement call is hard. Both the Dell XPS 15 and MacBook Pro 15 are capable video and photo editing workstations, and spending more on the MacBook gets you the clever Touch Bar, a thinner and (at the top-end) lighter design. Right at the very top of the range, the Dell once again seems better value with its huge 32GB of RAM, which will be very helpful for a lot of people.

WATCH: MacBook Pro 2016 first look

MacBook Pro 15-inch or Dell XPS 15? Let us know which you think comes out on top in the comments.

Ruturaj

November 2, 2016, 5:03 am

Macbook has better
SSD because of speed.
Processor has more powerful options.
Speakers macbook wins with front facing stereo.
Best non touch screen.

Xps has better
More Configurations
RAM since you have options and its ddr4.
Battery, xps has bigger battery
Graphics
Ports
Value for money
Upgradability, you can put more/newer ssd, ram, battery, screen easily.
Touchscreen is better than touch strip.

Look and feel, tie, I prefer macbook thought.

Edit: I think dell precision 15 is more relevant than XPS for this comparison.

sdfu

November 2, 2016, 12:29 pm

Except xps 15 model 2nd from the highest priced comes with a 256 SSD as well too... And still priced lower and with that extra like 500 dollars you could go out and buy a even bigger SSD drive....

And u can disable the touchscreen..easily.

The mac rlly has its looks to fall back on.

mothergoose85

November 2, 2016, 5:14 pm

Something worth mentioning on the trackpad front is (and I know this is partly down to the OS), the gestures on OSX are incredible. They are actually what converted me.

Steven Stephen

November 4, 2016, 10:48 am

I agree and not only that the Force touch trackpad I would say in my opinion is one of the best trackpads out there, and is unique to apple.

Patten Williams

November 17, 2016, 1:10 pm

I'm stressing over this decision myself. Traditionally I've gone with value and upgradability, so the Dell should be a slam dunk. BUT, I've recently gotten into the Apple world with an iPhone 6 and a iPad Air2. With the change from the Android world I've had the chance to experience Apple support services...outstanding doesn't quite cover it. Also weighing on my choice is the better compatibility of all my devices vs. the real cost savings of the Dell. While I'm still sweating out the choice my leaning towards a MBP 15. Very difficult for me as I would clearly be paying a premium to use this the Apple system at the expense of some performance, losing the ability to upgrade and spending considerably more money. This offends my Scottish heritage. What to do, what to do?

Luky

November 30, 2016, 6:27 pm

I use the XPS 15 9550 in linux and I have to say the tracking is a lot better than on windows!
I just think they need to focus more on software touchpad drivers on windows 10

whistleblower_eire

December 1, 2016, 4:08 pm

The dell xps 15" will become allot cheaper as time goes by , not so for the Macbook Pro 15" which seems to get more expensive due to currency fluctuations.

K Mac

December 8, 2016, 8:34 am

Did you make a choice? I too have an Air 2 and an iPhone 6s Plus (skipping the 7 and waiting for the iPhone 8). I have the XPS 15 9550 (4K, 16GB RAM, 1TB SSD) and I do like it. I also have the Samsung ATIV Book 9 Spin and the HP Spectre X360 15. I am not 100% sure what I'll keep and what I'll sell. I like the looks and the sleek size of the 15-inch X360 but it gets hot and is not as powerful as the XPS. I am waiting, hoping that HP will update the x360 15 with a new design (that has thinner bezels) like they just did the x360 13-inch.

I do like the new Macbook Pro but I also really like Windows 10 and have a lot of legacy apps. My problem with the XPS is that as much as most people like the design, I find it to be a bit bland. I don't care much for the sandwich body though it is built very well and feels solid as can be.

If you have any specific questions, let me know. I have never been able to get iTunes to work over Wi-Fi with Windows and my iPhones and iPads. So I always have to connect via USB. Other than that issues, my iPad and iPhone work well with the XPS and my Beats Wireless Studio headphones also play nice with the XPS.

Patten Williams

December 8, 2016, 1:25 pm

I swallowed hard and bought the MBP 15. In the end the quality of Apple support and compatibility with my iPad and iPhone were the deciders; I'm also impressed with the cooling system and the low draw on fans during all but the most power intensive operations. I have never had issues using iTunes on my current computer, a Lonovo Thinkpad. Unlike you I have concerns about the Windows world ( I currently use Windows 7) and don't like what I've heard about Windows 10. I admit part of my choice was the security issue. From what I read the MAC OS is more secure and less prone to attracting mischief makers. It was a lot of money to buy my new beast but I'm looking forward to using it with PhotoShop and LightRoom. I hope it's as good as I expect. Good luck with your choice.

moopoo

December 9, 2016, 6:42 am

I'm stressing over this decision too. I'm a long time mac owner and there are a lot of things I like in the Apple realm- keychain, the OS, garageband, the app store, force touch, battery life etc. That said the 2016 model is turning me right off. The price, the decreased battery life, the lack of RAM, the dongles the fact that the 2015 model beats it bloody in terms of actual productive processing power.

There was a 2012 or 2013 Apple advertisement about how every design should touch the user and make using the product a joy and I always felt like that really encapsulated my experience with them. Lately though they've lost touch with that and headed off on this track of "thinner, thinner, thinner no matter what, it MUST be THINNER" so they do stuff like cut 25% of the battery capacity, remove all of the regular USB ports, mag safe, card reader and leave you with an insufficient number of USB C ports but still increase the price. That's not touching the user. That's

They haven't updated the Mac Pro line in 3 years. What was a really cool, heat efficient design has missed out on HUGE GPU advancements and can't even compete with the most basic entry level GPU's today, yet they still ask 8-12 grand for one. If I could pinpoint the last Apple innovation aimed at pros, that would be it. The 2013 mac pro. Since then they've become a luxury fashion company more than a tech company. All of the changes they've made lately have been around aesthetic with very little or even negative moves on performance. I don't know. Maybe I'm just salty that I have to give up all the things I really love about Apple if I want a machine that will do what i need for work.

K Mac

December 9, 2016, 8:51 am

I just test drove the MBP 15 today at Best Buy. I really do like the size and design of the unit. I'm a very tech-savvy person and so although there are still more threats Windows, I've not had a security issue in many years.

I considered the MBP again today. Spent a good 30min talking with a Best Buy sales guy (he knew a lot unlike most of their staff). He told me that if he were me, he would wait on the MBP because based on Apple's patent filing pattern and what his Apple guy explained; Apple may very well release a 7th gen i7 (Kaby Lake) CPU option in or around January 2017. It makes sense because they are the only brand that has not announced or released 7th gen CPU's. The new MBP 15 right now has the same 6th gen i7 quad-core family CPU as my year-old XPS.

I've decided to just keep my XPS and wait and see what I think about an updated XPS and MBP with Kaby Lake option in a few months. The thing about the MBP is that for me to do what I always do (get the max specs) I'd have to spend 5K on the top spec model. You're not able to upgrade anything in it. Not even the SSD. Had I bought the one I saw today at Best Buy, I would be stuck with 512GB SSD and for my needs, I can't do less than 1TB.

I'm glad you found what is best for you and your needs. I'm sure you will be very happy with it for a long time.

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