The 13-inch laptop is a popular breed, and there are numerous excellent options from which to choose. The best 13-inch laptops are portable, fast and efficient, and well built, making them a staple for anyone who needs an excellent laptop that’s easy to carry around.
Dell’s XPS 13 has been our favorite 13-inch laptop for some time now and, in fact, tops our list of the best laptops, period. Apple’s MacBook Pro 13 M1 is getting a little long in the tooth, but it remains a top choice as well. Which of these two masterpieces is the better value?
|Apple MacBook Pro 13 M1||Dell XPS 13|
|Dimensions||11.97 inches x 8.36 inches x 0.61 inches||11.64 inches x 7.82 inches x 0.58 inches|
|Weight||3.0 pounds||2.8 pounds|
|Processor||Apple M1||Intel Core i3-1115G4
Intel Core i5-1135G7
Intel Core i7-1185G7
Intel Core i7-1195G7
|Graphics||Apple M1||Intel Iris Xe|
|Display||13.3-inch 16:10 IPS WQXGA (2,560 x 1,600)||13.4-inch 16:10 IPS Full HD+ (1,920 x 1,200)
13.4-inch 16:10 IPS Full HD+ touch
13.4-inch 16:10 OLED 3.5K (3,456 x 2,160) touch
13.4-inch 16:10 IPS UHD+ (3,840 x 2,400) touch
|Ports||2 x USB-C with Thunderbolt 4
3.5mm audio jack
|2 x USB-C with Thunderbolt 4
3.5mm audio jack
MicroSD card reader
|Wireless||Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0||Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1|
|Webcam||720p||720p, Windows Hello IR webcam|
|Operating system||Mac OS||Windows 10 or 11 Home or Pro|
|Battery||58.2 watt-hours||52 watt-hours|
|Rating||4 out of 5 stars||5 out of 5 stars|
The MacBook Pro 13 M1 hasn’t changed much since its introduction in 2020. That’s not necessarily bad, though, because it remains perhaps the best-built 13-inch laptop you can buy. It’s CNC machined from a block of aluminum and feels solid as a rock while sporting a simple and elegant design that many laptops try to emulate. Available in Space Gray or Silver, the MacBook Pro 13 M1 exudes quality. The XPS 13 is a little flashier, with a silver CNC machined aluminum lid and chassis bottom and a choice of black carbon fiber or white glass fiber in the keyboard deck. It also has a streamlined design, but it sports sharper angles and seems like a more modern laptop. It, too, is extremely well-built, rivaling the MacBook Pro 13 M1 and sitting at the top of the Windows laptop heap.
One area where the XPS 13 outdoes the MacBook Pro 13 M1 is in its display bezels, which are notably thinner and make for a laptop that feels smaller but with a bigger screen. We’ll talk about portability later, but in overall appearance, this slight difference significantly impacts the laptop’s identity. The XPS 13 just seems like a more modern device, and the fact that its display appears to float in midair contributes greatly. Certainly, Apple will catch up at some point, but for now, the MacBook Pro 13 M1 seems a bit dated in comparison. Also, the fiber palm rests gives the XPS 13 a warmer feel when typing compared to the MacBook Pro M1’s cold metal, and that makes the XPS 13 more inviting to use.
Apple’s Magic Keyboard, which is now utilized in all MacBooks, is a tour de force. It doesn’t have the most travel, but its switches are sublime with the perfect click, a light touch and bottoming action, and precise feedback that makes for an exceedingly comfortable keyboard for long typing sessions. The keycaps and key spacing are perfect, and it’s simply the best laptop keyboard around. The XPS 13’s keyboard is also very good, with its own precise switches, light touch, and crisp bottoming action, making it among the best Windows laptops in this regard. It just can’t quite live up to the MacBook Pro 13 M1’s overall typing feel.
The MacBook Pro 13 M1’s touchpad is also superior, being larger and using Apple Force Touch haptic feedback solution. It’s incredibly precise and its click is perfectly consistent across the entire surface, something the smaller mechanical touchpad in the XPS 13 simply can’t match. It stands out among Windows laptops, and it’s a Microsoft Precision touchpad so multitouch gestures support is excellent, but the Apple touchpad remains the standard.
Connectivity is almost a wash, with both laptops being limited to two USB-C ports with Thunderbolt 4 support and a 3.5mm audio jack. The XPS 13 does include a microSD card reader, which is a plus and something the MacBook Pro 13 M1 lacks. Both use Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0 or 5.1 for wireless connectivity.
Both webcams are 720p, putting them behind the curve as more laptops are including 1080p webcams to support hybrid workers. The XPS 13 has a fingerprint reader and an infrared camera for facial recognition, both supporting Windows 10 Hello password-less login quickly and reliably. The MacBook Pro 13 M1 utilizes Apple’s Touch ID support built into the power button, and it also works well.
We’ll note that the MacBook Pro 13 M1 still has the Touch Bar, which has been abandoned on every other MacBook. It’s an anachronism that we’re sure won’t make an appearance in the laptop’s next refresh.
There’s nothing wrong with the XPS 13’s performance, not compared to most 13-inch laptops. It can be configured with up to a Core i7-1195G7, which is a fast quad-core CPU, but it’s fallen behind as Intel’s 12th-gen chips start hitting the market. And it can’t hold a candle to the Apple M1 processor in the MacBook Pro 13 M1. This hybrid ARM chip has eight cores, four performance and four efficiency, with 16 GPU cores. It trounces Intel’s 11th-gen processors and likely competes strongly with the 12th-gen CPUs as well, although we’re awaiting more benchmarks to know for sure.
In Geekbench 5, for example, the XPS 13 with a Core i7-1165G7 scored 1,540 in the single-core test and 5,432 in the multi-core test. The MacBook Pro 13 M1 scored 1,707 and 7,337, respectively. In our Handbrake test that encodes a 420MB video as H.265, the XPS 13 took 201 seconds while the MacBook Pro 13 M1 finished in 156 seconds. Finally, in the CPU-intensive Cinebench R23 benchmark, the XPS 13 scored 1,449 single-core and 4,267 multi-core. The MacBook Pro 13 M1 managed 1,487 and 7,547. All these scores point to a 13-inch Apple laptop that’s significantly faster and can even handle some creative tasks, compared to the Dell that’s fine for demanding productivity apps but can’t compete with the MacBook Pro 13 M1.
Neither laptop is a real gaming machine, with the XPS 13 utilizing Intel’s integrated Iris Xe graphics and the MacBook Pro 13 M1 using the M1’s integrated graphics. But for getting work done, the MacBook Pro 13 M1 is the clear winner. We’ll note that it was also quieter, even under load, with its fans spinning up far less often than on the XPS 13. If a quiet laptop is important to you, then the MacBook Pro 13 M1 is a great choice.
Dell gives you plenty of options when it comes to displays, all of which are 13.4-inches in the productivity-friendly 16:10 aspect ratio. You can choose from a Full HD+ (1,920 x 1,200) IPS non-touch or touch panel, an IPS UHD+ (3,840 x 2,400) touchscreen, or a 3.5K (3,456 x 2,160) OLED touch display. The latter is particularly good, with dynamic and accurate colors and inky-black contrast. We couldn’t get our colorimeter to function with the MacBook Pro 13 M1 thanks to the newness of the CPU at the time, but Apple confirmed that the display is equivalent to the previous generation. That means it beats out the XPS 13’s 4K+ IPS display at 91% of AdobeRGB versus 79%, contrast at 1,470:1 compared to 1,360:1, and brightness at 485 nits versus 420 nits.
However, the XPS 13’s OLED display is even better, with wider colors and that deep contrast that only OLED can provide. That gives Dell a leg up for creative types who demand the widest and most accurate colors and for anyone else who wants a dynamic display capable of displaying true blacks.
While the XPS 13 appears smaller than the MacBook Pro M1 thanks to its smaller display bezels, these two laptops are actually close to the same size. The Dell is about half an inch shallower than the Apple and slightly narrower, but the difference isn’t striking. The XPS 13 is 0.58 inches thick and weighs 2.8 pounds, compared to the MacBook Pro M1 at 0.61 inches and 3.0 pounds. You won’t notice much difference between them when carrying them around in a backpack.
Battery life is where the MacBook Pro 13 M1 shines in its portability. While the XPS 13 4K+ managed just 6.3 hours in our web browsing test that cycles through a series of popular and complex websites, the MacBook Pro 13 M1 went for 16 hours, one of the best performances we’ve seen. In our video looping test that plays back a local Full HD Avengers trailer, the XPS 13 lasted 12 hours compared to the MacBook Pro 13 M1 at just over 21 hours.
Clearly, the Apple M1 is a very efficient processor and gives the MacBook Pro 13 M1 a real advantage. It can last for days of work, while the XPS 13 4K+ likely won’t make it through a single day. You can configure the XPS 13 with a Full HD+ display that will extend the battery life by several hours, but it still won’t come close.
There was a time recently when you could get an XPS 13 for $1,000 in its base configuration, but right now, the best you can do is $1,274 with a Core i3, 8GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD, and a UHD+ panel for some strange reason. The high-end configuration comes in at $1,833 for a Core i7, 16GB of RAM, a 1TB SSD, and the UHD+ display (with the OLED panel costing the same).
The MacBook Pro 13 M1 starts at $1,299 for the Apple M1, 8GB of RAM, and a 246GB SSD. The most expensive configuration with 16GB of RAM and a 2TB SSD comes in at $2,299.
The XPS 13 should be refreshed at some point with Intel’s 12th-gen CPUs that should compete more strongly with the Apple M1, and hopefully, its pricing will come down to where it was a couple of months ago. Until then, as we noted in comparing the MacBook Air M1 to the XPS 13, the MacBook Pro 13 M1 wins this shootout. It starts at about the same entry-level price and it’s not that much more expensive at the high end while delivering significantly better performance and battery life.
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