Dell XPS 13 vs. HP Spectre 13

The Dell XPS 13 vs. the HP Spectre 13: Laptops don't get better than this

Dell XPS 13 9370 review | Full laptop from directly in front
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

The 13-inch form factor is one of the most hotly contested in the laptop market because it’s the sweet spot between functionality and portability. Our favorite for the past few years has been the Dell XPS 13 and with good reason. But that doesn’t mean we aren’t interested in potential competitors.

In this head to head, we’ll pit the Dell XPS 13 vs. HP Spectre 13, to see which is the best mid-range laptop. We’ll look at everything from their style, to internal hardware, to display quality, and battery life, so you can make an informed choice when it comes to your next laptop buy.

Interested to see how the XPS 13 holds up against the Zenbook 13, or against its bigger brother, the XPS 15 2-in-1? Check out our other head to heads.

Specifications

Dell XPS 13

dell xps 13 vs asus zenbook white 225x150

HP Spectre 13

asus zenbook 13 vs hp spectre 200 x 150

Dimensions 11.9 x 7.8 x 0.46 inches (0.3 at thinnest) 12.03 x 8.83 x 0.41 inches
Weight  2.67 pounds 2.45 pounds
Processor 8th Generation Intel Core i5, i7 8th Generation Intel Core i5, i7
RAM 4GB, 8GB or 16GB 8GB, 16GB
Graphics Intel HD 620 Intel HD 620
Display 13.3-inch InfinityEdge 13.3-inch IPS display
Resolution 1080p or 4K 1080p or 4K
Storage 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB SSD (PCIe optional) 256GB, 512GB, 1TB SSD PCIe
Networking 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.2 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.2
Ports USB-C, 2 x Thunderbolt 3, Headset, microSD 2 x USB-C with Thunderbolt 3, 1 x USB-C 3.1, 3.5mm combo jack
Operating System Windows 10 Windows 10
Battery 52 watt-hours 43.7 watt-hours
Price $1,000+ $1,080+
Availability Now Now
Review Full Review: 9/10 Full Review: 8/10

Design

When HP released the Spectre 13 at the tail end of 2017, it touted it as the world’s thinnest touchscreen notebook. Although such claims are always a hard sell in such a competitive space, the Spectre 13 is certainly a streamlined laptop and the latest version is incredibly thin. If we’re looking at just the thinnest point on the laptop though, the XPS 13 does technically beat it by a fraction of an inch.

The XPS 13 is a little more svelte on the other dimensions too, but again by barely noticeable margins. Despite the Dell laptop’s new, trimmer physique though, it is certainly the heavier of the two, coming in at almost 10 percent weightier than its opponent. It’s not likely you’d notice it during casual use, but it all helps improve a laptop’s portability.

Both systems look great and offer more than their typical styling options alongside new, white and gold combinations — the XPS 13 sporting rose gold for its metallic look. It’s nice to see both manufacturers mix it up, considering how MacBook lookalikes are a dime-a-dozen in this price range now. Although looks are largely subjective, we think the XPS 13 is the slightly fancier looking of the two. Its slimmer bezels help that along.

In both our reviews of these laptops, we noted that the weight loss programs both have been on for their new renditions have left them a little weaker than their predecessors. Both exhibited a tiny bit more flex than we’d like, especially when opened, though it was more noticeable on the Spectre 13 — and could warrant some care when moving it with an open lid.

Neither laptop offers you USB connectivity in a format other than Type-C, so it’s worth making sure the retailer you buy from ships it with an adaptor — some do, some don’t. The XPS 13 does sport a microSD card reader though.

While both systems have similar layouts, great looks and trim designs, we still have to give the nod to the XPS 13. It just looks that little bit better, and with the added functionality of a microSD slot, it’s the slightly more functional design too.

Winner: XPS 13

Performance

It shows how competitive this mid-range space in the laptop market is, that both the XPS 13 and the Spectre 13 come with almost identical hardware offerings. Both systems have eighth generation Intel processors, with the choice of a Core i5-8250U or i7-8550U CPU. The XPS 13 offers a 4GB RAM configuration, though both come in 8GB and 16GB guises too.

That said, the Spectre 13’s memory has a default speed of 2,133MHz. While the XPS 13 does offer that in its 16GB configuration, its 8GB iterations only come with 1,866MHz RAM. That’s not going to make the Spectre dramatically more powerful, but it’s about the biggest differentiating factor in this entire category.

Since neither laptop sports a dedicated graphics chip, unlike the Asus ZenBook 13, both systems are stuck with the Intel HD 620. That’s a perfectly capable on board graphics solution, but it’s not a patch on dedicated graphics hardware, or even something like AMD’s new Ryzen APUs.

The storage options are also pretty much the same, with both Dell and HP offering 256GB, 512GB, and 1TB PCIe solid-state storage to pick from. Again, the only real difference is that Dell offers a low-end 128GB solid-state drive (SSD) solution.

With a slight increase in its base memory speed and low-end configurations that are more powerful than the XPS 13’s admittedly broader range of hardware, so this category goes to the Spectre 13 by a hair.

Winner: Spectre 13

HP Spectre 13 2017 Review
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

Display

Although both the XPS 13 and Spectre 13 offer 1080P and 4K displays, there are some noticeable differences between the two. In the 1080P form factor the Spectre 13 lacked brightness, contrast and color accuracy in comparison to the XPS 13. We found it pleasant to use in our testing, but its contemporaries are better equipped in terms of overall display quality at that detail level.

We loved the XPS 13’s 1080P panel, even preferring it in our testing to the 4K version, which while a much crisper and more detailed display, lost out a little in contrast ratio and color accuracy. However, Dell has dropped the option of touch functionality from its 1080P versions, meaning you have to buy the most expensive configuration with a 4K panel to gain that functionality. You save on weight (slightly) and overall cost by purchasing a non-touch panel, but it seems like a pretty standard feature to lose from a modern laptop.

Ultimately the XPS 13 has the better display choices, but if you are looking for a laptop with touch functionality, the Spectre 13 may be a better choice for you.

Winner: XPS 13

Portability

Where the XPS 13 shed battery size in order to reduce its weight this time around, HP actually added a few watt-hours to the Spectre 13. That still brought it significantly under the XPS 13 though, which is why it falls behind in real-world battery tests. When we put these laptops through their paces the XPS 13 managed a full 13.5 hours in our video loop test, where the Spectre 13 didn’t quite make 10 hours.

As one of the market leaders for battery life in this range — nothing beats the Surface Book 2 — it should come as no surprise that the XPS 13 does so well in battery tests, even if this version is a little weaker in that regard than its predecessor.

It is important to note though that the slight weight difference does hold it back from clean sweeping this category. Although a little larger, the Spectre 13 is definitely the more lightweight device, so it certainly deserves a pat on its lid for offering stiff competition.

Winner: XPS 13

Pricing and availability

Although the XPS 13 actually starts at a lower price point than the Spectre 13 ($1,000 vs $1,080) its hardware configuration at that level is vastly inferior. A fairer comparison would be the $1,200 XPS 13, as both that and the base-level of Spectre sport a Core i5-8250U CPU, 8GB of RAM, and 256GB of storage. That makes the HP laptop the much cheaper option — and its RAM is a little bit faster too.

That disparity in price is even more apparent at the top end, where even the $1,900 reduced price tag for the XPS 13 with a Core i7 CPU, 16GB of RAM, 4K display, and 512GB of storage, is much more expensive than the Spectre 13. The HP laptop costs just $1,640 in comparison.

There is always the last-generation XPS 13 which starts at $800, but its hardware is older and weaker.

It’s important to note that these prices factor in the big sale HP is running at the time of writing; the original cost of that top-tier version of the Spectre 13 was $1,850. It’s been running long enough though, that we feel confident this price tag is effectively the standard one for now.

The only leg up Dell has in this category are delivery times. Although both systems are available to buy right now, the Spectre 13 can take up to two weeks to arrive in some configurations. With express shipping you can grab the XPS 13 in just a few days.

Winner: Spectre 13

Paying for portable privilege

Dell XPS 13 9370 review | Hero shot from the side of young woman using the laptop
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

The HP Spectre 13 is one of those laptops that makes it ever harder for us to outright recommend the Dell XPS 13 to everyone we know. It has comparable hardware, a near-enough overall design, and decent battery life. The fact that it’s cheaper makes it a perfectly viable alternative for those who don’t want to pay for the additional perks of our favorite Dell design.

However, the increased battery life and better keyboard/touchpad pairing push the XPS 13 over the top. Its better display quality and overall improved frame stability over the Spectre 13 are important factors too. You certainly have to pay a bit of a privilege of those benefits, but in our estimations, they’re worth it.

Overall winner: XPS 13