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New MacBook Pro 13-inch versus Dell XPS 13

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Updated 11th November 2016: Since this original article was published, we've written our full review of the base model 13-inch MacBook Pro, and begun testing our 2016 Dell XPS 13. This gives us a much better idea of how the two compare, but we haven't yet seen one of the more expensive models.

Things are slightly complicated here because there are two completely different versions of the 13-inch MacBook Pro: A base model and a top-end device with Apple’s funky new Touchbar, more powerful processors and more ports.

Watch: 13-inch MacBook Pro video review

Related: Best laptop

Full specification comparison

(Based on Dell.com and Apple.com. Other retailers may vary. A previous version of this article incorrectly listed the XPS 13 as topping out at 8GB and 256GB SSD)

Device

Dell XPS 13

Base MacBook Pro 13

Top MacBook Pro 13

Weight

1.2kg

1.37kg

1.37kg

Dimensions

W: 304mm D: 200mm H: 15mm

W: 304mm D: 212mm H: 15mm

W: 304mm D: 212mm H: 15mm

Processor choices

7th Gen Intel Core i5 and i7

6th Gen Intel Core i5 or Core i7

6th Gen Intel Core i5 or Core i7

Graphics

Intel HD Graphics 620

Intel Iris Graphics 540

Intel Iris Graphics 550

RAM

8-16GB DDR3

8GB-16GB DDR3

8-16GB DDR3

Storage

128GB-1TBB PCIE SSD

256GB-1TB PCIE SSD

512GB-1TB SSD

Screen

Full HD to 3,200x1,800

2560x1600

2560x1600

Price

£999-£1649

£1449-£2439

£1749-£2759

Design and build

One thing that’s mostly the same between the two new MacBooks is the physical design, so this is a good place to start.

MacBook Pro 13 2016 1

The Dell XPS 13 wins off the bat in terms of weight, coming in 170g lighter than both 13-inch MacBook Pro models. The MacBook is slightly larger in terms of overall footprint, and side-by-side the Dell looks significantly smaller.

Related: 5 things you need to know about the MacBook Pro

Rounded up to the nearest millimeter, both the XPS 13 and MacBook are the same thickness.

DEll XPS 13

The materials used are different, of course. Apple has continued to use the tried and tested aluminium unibody design, while Dell has a metal body and lid with a wrist rest coated in carbon fibre. The MacBook is also available in a Space Grey material, like the 12-inch MacBook.

The touchpad on the MacBook is substantially bigger than that on the XPS 13, which makes for much more comfortable gestures and swiping. The MacBook also gets Apple's Force Touch tech, which simulates a physical click using haptic feedback and allows for pressure-sensitive interactions.

Apple’s Butterfly keyboard design makes a return and has been improved over last year's model. It won't be for everyone, but its a comfortable, accurate and responsive keyboard that's hard to beat.

The more expensive 13-inch MacBook gets Apple’s clever Touch bar, which is a feature no other laptop on the planet has. We’ll go into more depth in a separate article, but based on our first impressions it looks incredibly useful.

MacBook Pro 13 2016 2

In terms of ports, the MacBook 13-inch gets four USB 3.1/Thunderbolt 3 ports for powering high-end peripherals such as monitors and storage arrays. No adapters are supplied in the box. You can plug the power adapter into any port and charge the device. It also has a 3.5mm headphone jack. Dell gives you two regular USB 3.0 ports along with a USB 3.1/Thunderbolt 3 ports and an SD card reader.

Performance

This is where things get a little complicated. The cheaper 13-inch MacBook gets a Core i5 processor with a base clock speed of 2GHz, which is less powerful than the 2.5GHz base clock speed on the Dell XPS 13. Both cheapest models boost up to 3.1GHz. Moving up the range, the Dell XPS 13 offers a Core i7 processor with a maximum speed of 3.5GHz. The maximum speed on the top-end Core i7 in the 13-inch MacBook is 3.6GHz, which makes it slightly more powerful, but for a much greater price.

Apple has the upper hand in terms of graphics. Intel's Iris brand of graphics is generally much better at 3D work and video playback than regular HD graphics, although we’ll have to run some benchmarks to make proper comparisons here.MacBook Pro 13 2016

One thing to note is that the processors available with the Dell XPS 13 are newer, and part of Dell's 7th-gen 'Kaby Lake' line-up. But because Apple normally chooses bespoke Intel chips, direct comparisons are hard.

We've tested the Core i7 XPS 13 and the base model i5 MacBook Pro, with a price difference of £150. Running an identical 3-minute video rendering task in Adobe Premier, the MacBook took seven minutes while the XPS 13 polished it off in a little over five. The difference is significant, and if raw processing performance is priority the XPS 13 is the better choice.

All three devices come with a minimum of 8GB of RAM, while the most expensive specification of the MacBook gets a full 16GB. Models higher up the Dell XPS 13 range get 16GB of RAM.

The cheapest 13-inch MacBook gets 128GB of PCI-E SSD storage, which is the same as the Dell XPS 13. From there, you can go up to 1TB depending on the model, but this increases the price substantially. The same applies to the Dell XPS 13, the most expensive version of which tops out at 1TB.

Buy Now: Dell XPS 13 at Amazon.com from $1,070

Best Deals for Dell XPS 13 9350

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Screen

The cheapest Dell XPS 13 gets a 1,920x1,080-pixel Full HD display, while all the MacBooks get ‘Retina’ 2,560x1,600 screens. The top-end XPS 13 goes well beyond that with a 3,200x1,800-pixel panel that also gets a glossy touch layer.Dell XPS 13 2015

Pricing and conclusion

Dell's XPS 13 starts out cheaper than the MacBook Pro and tops out at £1649 with the top-of-the-range model. The MacBook Pro goes well beyond that as you continue up the range, thanks to the more expensive storage and memory options at the top-end. This is in addition to the more powerful top-end processors that manage higher peak clock speeds than the processor available in the Dell XPS 13.

At the bottom end, the XPS 13 is better value, but as you go up the MacBook range and gain access to the Touchbar and higher performance, the MacBook's price premium starts to make more sense.

In the base model stakes, the XPS 13 holds the advantage, but we'll wait for our high-end MacBook Pro review before coming to a firm conclusion about the rest of the range.

Nicholas Fulton

October 28, 2016, 1:21 am

The specs are wrong. The MacBook has DDR3. Also the XPS can get to 16 GB RAM, and a 1TB PCIe SSD. If you live in a different country that might be different. I'm in America, so that might be why it gets more powerful

Gertjan

October 28, 2016, 5:06 am

I'm in Europe and i have an XPS 13 with 16gb of ram and 1tb ssd... So guess Nicolas is right in his comment... Also if i'm not mistaking the mac doesn't come with a touch screen while the uhd screen on the XPS does.

Lars Jeppesen

October 28, 2016, 8:00 am

What a awful article.
The Xps clearly kills the Mac in everything: battery, cpu, display, weight, price, ram

What is wrong with you, author?

Felipe Meyer

October 28, 2016, 8:53 am

How can we trust in TrustedReviews? So many errors!!!

addicted4444

October 28, 2016, 10:17 am

Intel's Skylake integrated graphics are not faster than their Kaby Lake graphics, irrespective of branding.

Ahkey

October 28, 2016, 10:44 pm

The price of the base MacBook Pro 2016 is £1449 not £1249 - that price is for the 2014/15 model.

Marco Lorenzo

October 29, 2016, 4:26 am

The top end XPS 13 with an i7 processor also comes with Iris graphics and 16GB RAM. Surprised you guys missed that.

Rann Xeroxx

October 31, 2016, 1:22 am

Kinda just glossed over the fact that the XPS can come with a touch screen with Gorilla Glass. I mean who cares about some strip in place of the F keys when the who damn screen can be interacted with? And apps do not been special programing to work with this.

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