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Dell vs. HP: Which laptop brand is best for your needs?

When it comes to computer brands, few names are as well-known and respected as Dell and HP. Both companies have been churning out popular laptops for decades, with their catalogs now filled with iconic lineups like the Dell XPS 15 and HP Pavilion. Both HP and Dell have a lot to offer — and because they sell so many products vying for the same niche, it can be difficult to determine which one is best for your lifestyle.

Contents

Whether you’re looking for a premium gaming laptop or something budget-friendly for a job or small business, you’ll find that both Dell and HP have a product that fit your needs. The two catalogs feature products with a variety of processors, graphics cards, and price tags, though there are some key differences you should know about the brands before making a purchase.

Here’s a look at Dell vs. HP to help you decide which is best.

Design

Drawing on the HP Spectre x360 13.5 inch model.
Arif Bacchus / Digital Trends

Laptop brands are defined by their flagships, so for HP in 2024, that’s its Elite Dragonfly Notebook G4 for business users and the Spectre x360 13.5 for consumers. The Dragonfly range of laptops are all exceedingly lightweight (the Elite Dragonfly G4 is just 2.2 pounds) with a solid magnesium alloy build and a display with a mix of thick and thin bezels. But you’ll also get a laptop that packs in a lot of interesting features in an ultra-portable package, such as a webcam cover, a dedicated keyboard button for the microphone, a high-resolution 5MP webcam, comfortably-sized keycaps, and a port selection that includes Thunderbolt 4 and HDMI 2.0.

The Spectre x360 line also has its own unique contributions to HP’s laptop design innovations. Looking at the HP Spectre x360 13.5, you’ll notice that the laptop is outfitted with features such as an easy-to-open yet firm dual-zone hinge, a display with a 3:2 aspect ratio, an infrared camera, and an OLED display.

But the Spectre x360 13.5 also shares features with the Dragonfly series, including a fingerprint reader, a spacious keyboard and touchpad, and dedicated buttons and shutter features to turn off microphones and cover webcams. Those 2-in-1 designs are also light and portable, facilitating their use as a tablet when needed.

Dell’s best-known laptops are the XPS line of laptops and its gaming laptop offerings, like its Alienware brand. With the XPS, you can generally expect to see a sleek and streamlined aluminum chassis, ultra-thin bezels on all four sides of its display, a backlit keyboard, a port selection that includes Thunderbolt 4 ports, and a 16:10 aspect ratio display. The XPS 13 Plus adds more advanced features than we’ve seen on XPS laptops before, including an edge-to-edge keyboard, LED function keys, and a hidden haptic touchpad. The XPS 13 9315, on the other hand, is now positioned as a budget laptop to undercut Apple’s MacBook Air. The XPS 13 Plus and XPS 13 9315 are the smallest XPS laptops. If you want to upsize, you’ll get excellent laptops in the XPS 15 and XPS 17.

Dell’s Alienware brand offers specialized, heavy-duty gaming laptops and comes with its own distinctive features to optimize your gaming experience. Features such as Nvidia G-SYNC technology, dual fan design for better cooling, a customizable lighting system called AlienFX, a wide variety of ports (including Thunderbolt 4, a headset jack, and HDMI 2.1), a magnesium alloy chassis, programmable keyboards (for gaming shortcuts), and eye tracking tools.

Use cases

Both brands have laptops that top some of our best-of lists, with Dell outperforming HP in certain categories and HP outshining Dell in others. In this sense, picking the right laptop for yourself really does come down to how you plan to use it.

There are all sorts of ways you might choose to use your new laptop, but let’s take a look at a few of the most common uses for them, namely: for business and work, for school, for content creation (like video editing), or gaming.

Business

HP Elite Dragonfly G3 front view showing display and keyboard deck.
Mark Coppock / Digital Trends

With HP, you have four great business laptop options, including the HP Elite Dragonfly, HP ZBook Studio, and the HP Envy x360. With Dell, the XPS range is a fantastic alternative, but there isn’t the same breadth of choice.

The HP Elite Dragonfly has been listed as the “best business laptop” in our Best Laptops list, a distinction that it currently doesn’t hold. Nevertheless, it’s perfect for remote workers and those who travel frequently for business. This laptop features a sleek, lightweight design, a high-res display, a privacy screen to help keep what you’re working on away from prying eyes, a quiet keyboard, a stylus, and an office-ready port selection that includes USB-A, HDMI, USB-C 3.1, and Thunderbolt 4.

If you need a beast of a workstation that can power through tasks like video editing and 3D modeling, then look no further than the

HP ZBook Studio

. If you still want the robustness of a Windows PC but still prefer the lightweight and easier-to-use Chrome OS, HP’s premier Chromebook offering, the Dragonfly Pro Chromebook, might be your best bet. And rounding out our HP business laptop picks is the HP Envy x360, which is best for those who need a 2-in-1 business laptop at a budget-friendly price. With a 13th-gen processor and 16GB of RAM, you’re not exactly sacrificing power and speed for a cheaper business laptop. You’re actually getting the best of both worlds.

If you’re still keen on getting a Dell for your work setup, there are some excellent choices in the Latitude lineup. These machines span a range from 14- and 15.6-inch clamshell laptops to convertible 2-in-1s, all of which are packed full of the features business users need. If you want a more mainstream choice, then we do have one recommendation: the Dell XPS 13 Plus. It’s not a true “business laptop,” but it is a fantastic all-purpose laptop that’s perfect for those who need portability above all else. Plus, because it’s designed for general use, it can easily be the laptop that enhances your productivity and helps you relax when the work day is done. (Especially when you have a display that features Dolby Vision.)

School

Side angle of the HP 14-inch Chromebook.
HP

Like business, school laptops can be varied, depending on the type of work you want to do on them. Both HP and Dell have excellent laptops for all sorts of ages and abilities.

For college students, our favorite Dell laptop is the G15 Gaming Laptop. It’s an affordable and powerful machine that can handle homework without a problem while keeping a student entertained during downtime. For around $1,000, the college student in your life will get a laptop with a 45-watt 12th generation Intel Core processor, plenty of RAM and storage, up to an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 Ti GPU, Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1 connectivity, and a wide variety of ports. The Dell Inspiron 14 is another option, and while it isn’t the most powerful laptop, it does have everything you need for school assignments, browsing the internet, and streaming your favorite shows and movies.

For high school students, HP has a great option with its Chromebook 14. It’s an exceedingly affordable, lightweight, and easy-to-use laptop thanks to the simplicity of Chrome OS. If your high school student doesn’t require any non-Chrome OS and non-Android apps to complete their assignments, access their online classes, or collaborate with their peers, then the HP Chromebook 14 is a solid option. For just $300, your high schooler will get a laptop with a 14-inch non-touch HD display, an Intel Celeron N4000 processor, 4GB of RAM, 32GB of eMMC storage, an HP Wide Vision HD webcam, and Wi-Fi 5 and Bluetooth 5 connectivity.

Video Editing

Dell XPS 17 9370 front angled view showing display and keyboard deck.
Mark Coppock / Digital Trends

Video editing is an intensive task, so the Dell XPS 17 is our top pick overall because it pairs a huge display with high-end hardware. This laptop has a jumbo-sized display at 17 inches and features 45-watt 13th-generation Intel Core processors, 16GB of RAM (it can be upgraded up to 64GB), a roomy 512GB of SSD storage (which can also be upgraded to 8TB), and up to an Nvidia GeForce RTX 4080 video card. It also sports a fingerprint reader, four Thunderbolt 4 ports, a full-size SD card reader, and Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.2 connectivity.

When we reviewed the XPS 17, we were particularly impressed with its “incredible” performance, its “nearly perfect screen,” and its “spacious and responsive touchpad.” We even went so far as to say that the XPS 17 competes with Apple’s MacBook Pro.

If you still need a powerful laptop for video editing but would rather stick with HP, a comparable pick would be the HP Envy 15. The Envy 15 is great for those who need strong performance at a lower price point. When reviewing the HP Envy 16, our review unit was configured with a 13th-generation Intel Core i9 processor, 1TBGB of SSD storage, 16GB of RAM, a WQXGA IPS display, and an RTX 4060. Overall, this laptop received a glowing review from us as we praised its performance, its build quality, and its excellent keyboard and touchpad. The main drawbacks we saw were that it was on the heavy side and that its battery life was below average.

Gaming

Forza Horizon 5 running on the Alienware x14 R2.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

Our current list of the Best Gaming Laptops includes the HP Victus 16, a solid 1080p gaming machine for less than $1,500. The machine offers fast components and a solid build quality, making it a good budget gaming choice.

The Dell G15 gaming laptop may not be the best gaming laptop you can buy (that honor goes to the Lenovo Legion Pro 5), but it’s a solid entry-level option for beginner gamers and gamers on a budget. What it lacks in style, it makes up for in value. The Dell G15 gaming laptop has an Intel Core processor, 8GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD, and up to an RTX 4060 GPU, with a starting price of $730.

If you have a bigger budget to work with, Dell’s Alienware x14 R2 is worth a look. It features an Intel Core i7-13620H CPU, 16GB of RAM, a 1TB SSD, a 14-inch WQXGA display running at up to 165Hz, and an RTX 4060 graphics card. It’s a relatively portable gaming laptop in every sense of the word, including its actual weight: a little over 4 pounds. Think of it as a highly mobile replacement for a desktop setup.

Editors' Recommendations

Anita George
Anita has been a technology reporter since 2013 and currently writes for the Computing section at Digital Trends. She began…
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