Dell’s XPS 13 has long been our favorite 13-inch laptop, offering a lot of power in a tiny chassis thanks to some very small bezels. Its latest version garnered a rare 10/10 rating in our review, and it’s topped our best laptop list for a while now.
Our favorite 2-in-1, the 360-degree convertible HP Spectre x360 13, received its own late 2019 update, and it too achieved a perfect 10/10 rating. It’s also fast and very long-lasting, but does it have what it takes to dethrone the king? Note that Dell has announced a new XPS 13 version for 2020, and it’s thinner, lighter, with an improved display in the productivity-friendly 16:10 aspect ratio. We’ll update this comparison when we’ve had a chance to dig into the new model.
There’s no doubt about it: These are two attractive laptops. The XPS 13 is the more conservative of the two, coming in black and silver, Rose Gold, and Frost color options that haven’t changed for a few iterations. They look great but stay on the business-like side of elegant. Its primary claim to fame is its tiny bezels that keep its chassis as small as possible, with the webcam newly moved up top where it belongs. The Spectre x360 13 goes in a different direction, with its Nightfall Black, Poseidon Blue, and Silver colors, adorning a chassis that’s “gem-cut” on every possible facet. And, HP implemented notches at the rear corners housing the power button and a USB-C port that lets you plug in while keeping the cable at an angle and out of the way.
Both are lovely, and which is preferable comes purely down to taste. One thing that’s not disputable, though, is that each laptop is just as solidly built. The Spectre x360 13’s lid is a bit more rigid than the XPS 13’s, but the keyboard decks and chassis bottoms on both aren’t at all flexible. The XPS 13 is slightly thinner at 0.46 inches than the Spectre x360 (0.67 inches) and lighter at 2.7 pounds (versus 2.88 pounds). The latest Spectre x360 13 actually has smaller bezels than the XPS 13, and it’s subsequently just slightly smaller overall — enjoying a 90 percent screen-to-body ratio that beats out the Dell.
We do prefer the Spectre x360’s keyboard to the XPS 13’s. The former has plenty of travel and a precise and snappy mechanism, while the latter utilizes a coating for a different feel but isn’t quite as deep. Also new to this version of the Spectre x360 13 is the same Microsoft Precision touchpad technology as Dell’s XPS 13 has enjoyed for years, meaning that both laptops enjoy equally excellent multitouch gesture support. If you stick with the XPS 13’s Full HD display, then you’ll have to do without touch, while the HP offers the usual 2-in-1 multitouch and active pen support on all of its display options.
Finally, connectivity is more significantly different. The XPS doubles down on USB-C with Thunderbolt 3, offering two of those ports and another USB-C 3.1 port, meaning you’ll need some dongles for legacy devices. The Spectre x360 also gives you two USB-C with Thunderbolt 3 ports, but HP threw in a USB-A 3.1 port for older peripherals (via a drop jaw mechanism that we found perfectly usable). Both offer microSD card readers. Both laptops offer Wi-Fi 6 for faster internet speeds along with Bluetooth 5, but the Spectre x360 13 offers LTE cellular data support that can now be used alongside Wi-Fi.
Both of these laptops are built around the latest Intel 10th-gen CPUs, but they take a bit of a detour along the way. The XPS 13 leverages Intel’s Comet Lake chips, which are built on the same 14mm process as the previous generation and use similar Intel UHD 630 integrated graphics. That means that the XPS 13 can be configured with a six-core CPU that’s the fastest you’ll find in a 13-inch laptop. The Spectre x360 13, on the other hand, uses Intel’s Ice Lake CPUs, which are built on an 10mm process and offer some artificial intelligence acceleration to speed up tasks and Intel’s updated Iris Plus graphics on some models that offer significantly faster gaming and creative app performance.
Throw in fast PCIe solid-state drives (SSDs) that offer similar performance, and both laptops will provide excellent productivity performance. With its six-core CPU, the XPS 13 has the edge in pure processor performance, while the Spectre 360 13 is faster in casual gaming thanks to its Iris Plus graphics and will provide a nice boost to creative apps that can leverage the GPU. Which is preferable comes down to a user’s specific needs, but most likely the XPS 13 will provide better overall performance.
Display quality is another area of differentiation. You can configure the XPS 13 with either Full HD or 4K IPS panels, and you’ll get good but not great colors, brightness, and contrast with both. The Spectre x360 13 offers a low-power Full HD display that can provide some of the best battery life you’ll find in a 13-inch laptop, but it also has an ace in the hole: an AMOLED panel that provides spectacular brightness, colors, and contrast and is simply the best display you’ll find in this class of machine.
Both laptops are quick and offer very nice displays, but the HP wins out thanks to its AMOLED display option, touch capabilities on all displays, better efficiency, and improved privacy thanks to its electronic camera and microphone on-off buttons.
The XPS 13 is just slightly lighter while the Spectre x360 13 is slightly smaller. Neither of these laptops is a burden to carry around.
But, which lets you work for longer away from a charge? If we’re talking about the Full HD versions, then the answer is simple. The Spectre x360 13 is likely to last longer than almost every laptop we’ve tested, at least when performing tasks that are pushing the display more than the CPU. Whether it’s browsing the web or looping a local video, HP’s 2-in-1 lasts a couple of hours longer than the XPS 13. It’s only in a CPU-intensive benchmark where the two laptops match up. However, if you choose 4K options, then the Dell’s IPS display is going to use less juice than the Spectre x360 13’s AMOLED option.
These are two very light and portable laptops, but the Spectre x360 can be configured to last significantly longer on a charge.
Two excellent laptops, but the Spectre x360 13 wins by a hair
Theis a premium laptop, starting at $1,100 ($800 on sale) for a Core i5-1035G4 CPU, 8GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD, and a low-power Full HD display. You can spend as much as $1,930 ($1,630 on sale) maxed out with a Core i7-1065G7U, 16GB of RAM, a 2TB SSD, and a 4K AMOLED display.
Thestarts at $1,000 ($950 on sale) with a Core i3-10110U, 4GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD, and a Full HD non-touch display. and pricing goes up from there. At the very high end, it’s priced at $2,350 ($2,100 on sale) for a Core i7-10710U, 16GB of RAM, a 2TB SSD, and a 4K IPS display.
Prior to the latest version, the Spectre x360 13 was larger than the XPS 13 and that was enough to tip things in Dell’s favor. Today, though, the Spectre x360 13 is smaller, better-built, provides longer battery life, and offers a far better AMOLED display. It edges out the XPS 13 for the win — but stay tuned for the upcomgin 2020 version of the XPS 13.
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