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Dell XPS 13 vs. Apple MacBook Air M2

Two of the best laptops you can buy, Dell’s XPS 13 and Apple’s MacBook Air, have undergone significant redesigns in their latest iterations. The XPS 13 9315 has transformed into an all-aluminum laptop with no carbon or glass fiber that’s thinner and lighter than ever while gaining Intel’s 12th-generation CPUs. The MacBook Air gains Apple’s latest CPU, the M2, while losing the iconic tapered design and becoming one of the thinnest laptops around.

Both laptops are small, incredibly well-built, and look great. And the XPS 13 has long been our favorite. Does the latest MacBook Air have what it takes to supplant it?

Specs

  Dell XPS 13 9315 Apple MacBook Air M2
Dimensions 11.63 inches by 7.86 inches by 0.55 inches 11.97 inches by 8.46 inches by 0.44 inches
Weight 2.59 pounds 2.7 pounds
Processor Intel Core i5-1230U
Intel Core i7-1250U
Apple M2 eight-core CPU, eight-Core GPU
Apple Me eight-core CPU, 10-Core GPU
Graphics Intel Iris Xe Apple M2
RAM 8GB LPDDR5
16GB LPDDR5
32GB LPDDR5
8GB
16GB
24GB
Display 13.4-inch 16:10 Full HD+ (1920 x 1080) IPS non-touch
13.4-inch 16:10 Full HD+ IPS touch
13.5-inch 16:10 2360 x 1664 IPS
Storage 512GB PCIe 4.0 solid-state drive (SSD)
1TB PCIe 4.0 SSD
256GB PCIe SSD
512GB PCIe SSD
1TB PCIe SSD
2TB PCIe SSD
Touch Optional No
Ports 2 USB-C with Thunderbolt 4 2 USB-C with Thunderbolt 4
3.5mm audio jack
Wireless Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.2 Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0
Webcam 720p with Windows 11 Hello infrared camera 1080p
Operating system Windows 11 macOS Monterey
Battery 51 watt-hours 52.6 watt-hours
Price $999+ $1,199+
Rating 4 out of 5 stars 4 out of 5 stars

Prices and configurations

The XPS 13 is an affordable premium laptop at its starting price of $999 for a Core i5-1230U CPU, 8GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD, and a non-touch display. It’s firmly in premium territory at $1,699, configured with a Core i7-1250U, 32GB of RAM, a 1TB SSD, and a touch display.

The MacBook Air M2 is more expensive, starting at $1,199 for an M2 processor with eight CPU cores/eight GPU cores, 8GB of RAM, and a 256GB SSD. It maxes out at a hefty $2,499 for an eight-core CPU/10-core GPU M2, 16GB of RAM, and a 2TB SSD.

Design

The Dell XPS 13, open on a table in front of a window.

The XPS 13’s design was perfected over several years of iterations, resulting in a laptop we considered the best laptop you can buy. The new XPS 13 throws much of the old design philosophy away. The fiber keyboard deck is no more, with the laptop now sporting an even smaller all-aluminum chassis that greatly simplifies the aesthetic. The warmth that the fiber provided during use is gone as well. Two colors are available, Sky and Umber. Overall, it’s debatable whether the change is an improvement, but Dell clearly doesn’t want the XPS 13 to stagnate.

The MacBook Air M2 remains an all-aluminum affair, but it also loses its most iconic design element. It’s no longer tapered, appearing more in line with the MacBook Pro. It’s also incredibly thin at just 0.44 inches, making it one of the thinnest laptops ever made. It’s available in four colors: Space Gray, silver, Starlight, and Midnight. The MacBook Air M2 has smaller bezels, although not as small as the XPS 13’s, and it also has the notorious notch at the top that houses the webcam.

The screen of the MacBook Air M2.

Both laptops are among the best-built options available. There’s no bending, flexing, or twisting anywhere in the lid or chassis.

The XPS 13 keyboard remains the same, making it among the best Windows 11 versions available today. It has a light touch with precise bottoming action, large keycaps, and plenty of key spacing. The touchpad is also fine, with a smooth surface and confident clicks to go with Microsoft Precision touchpad drivers and reliable Windows 11 multitouch gesture support. However, Apple’s Magic Keyboard is the best you can get on any laptop today, with even more precise switches and a bottoming action that’s springy and responsive. Its keycaps are perfectly sized with more than adequate key spacing, making it an incredibly comfortable keyboard for long typing sessions. And the MacBook Air M2’s Force Touch haptic touchpad is larger and more precise.

The MacBook Air M2 also benefits from a Full HD webcam versus the XPS 13’s 720p variety. It uses Apple’s Touch ID fingerprint reader for passwordless login, while the XPS 13 supports both a fingerprint reader and an infrared camera for facial recognition.

Connectivity is almost evenly matched, with both laptops sporting two USB-C ports with Thunderbolt 4 support. The most significant difference is that the MacBook Air M2 maintains a 3.5mm audio jack while the XPS 13, unfortunately, omits it. That’s a disappointment and gives Apple a leg up. The XPS 13 does have more up-to-date wireless connectivity with Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.2 versus Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0.

Performance

The USB-C port on the Dell XPS 13.

The XPS 13 utilizes Intel 12th-gen CPUs, specifically the Core i5-1230U and Core i7-1250U. Both are 9-watt, 10-core (two Performance and eight Efficient), 12-thread processors, with the Core i5 running at a max Turbo frequency of 4.40GHz and the Core i7 ramping up to 4.70GHz. The clocks are lower than last-gen, but the improved architecture and additional cores of Alder Lake should give them a good performance boost, as well as enhance efficiency.

The MacBook Air M2 utilizes Apple’s eight-core CPU with up to a 10-core GPU M2, which the company claims is up to 18% faster than the M1 in CPU processes and with a GPU that’s as much as 35% faster. The MacBook Air M1 was already faster than the previous-generation XPS 13, and with the latter’s drop to a low-power Intel CPU, the MacBook Air M2 is even faster yet.

There’s no doubt that the MacBook Air M2 dominates when it comes to performance versus the new XPS 13. And we should note that the MacBook Air M2 is fanless, meaning it will be completely silent even when operating under heavy loads. The XPS 13 can’t boast the same claim.

Dell XPS 13 9315
(Core i5-1230U)
Apple MacBook Air M2
(Apple M2)
Geekbench 5
(single / multi)
Bal: 1,393/ 4,459
Perf: 1,477 / 5,350
Bal: 1,925 / 8,973
Perf: N/A
Handbrake
(seconds)
Bal: 333
Perf: 192
Bal: 151
Perf: N/A
Cinebench R23
(single / multi)
Bal: 1,379 / 3,457
Perf: N/A
Bal: 1,600 / 7,938
Perf: N/A

Display

The screen of the MacBook Air on a table.

The XPS 13 comes with a choice of touch and non-touch 13.4-inch 16:10 Full HD+ (1920 x 1200) IPS displays. There’s no longer an OLED panel option, which is available on the more expensive XPS 13 Plus.

The MacBook Air M2 has a new and improved 13.6-inch 16:10 Liquid Retina IPS display at 2560 x 1664, with wider and more accurate colors and higher contrast. It’s superior to the XPS 13’s in quality while also being considerably sharper.

Dell XPS 13 9315
(IPS)
Apple MacBook Air M2
(IPS)
Brightness
(nits)
444 486
AdobeRGB gamut 75% 90%
 sRGB gamut 99% 100%
Accuracy
(DeltaE, lower is better)
1.33 1.08
Contrast ratio 1,390:1 1,310:1

Portability

A side of the MacBook Air showing the ports.

The XPS 13 is slightly narrower than the MacBook Air M2 and more than half an inch shallower. It also weighs less at 2.59 pounds versus 2.7 pounds, but it’s not as thin, measuring 0.55 inches versus 0.44 inches. Both laptops are tiny enough to toss in a backpack and forget they’re there, though, so the difference doesn’t isn’t big enough to be a major selling point for either.

In terms of battery life, though, the MacBook Air M2 is far superior. The XPS 13 does well for a Windows laptop at 13.25 hours in our web browsing test, but the MacBook lasts almost 18 hours in the same test. It also came in at 21 hours of watching a local video. That’s spectacular battery life that few Windows laptops can match. The XPS 13 doesn’t even get close.

Dell XPS 13 9315
(Core i5-1230U)
Apple MacBook Air M2
(Apple M2)
Web browsing  13 hours, 18 minutes 17 hours, 59 minutes
Video N/A 21 hours, 9 minutes

The MacBook Air M2 wins this, but at a cost

The MacBook Air M2 is faster and thinner, has significantly better battery life, and sports a better keyboard and touchpad. It’s a better laptop than Dell’s latest XPS 13. If you’re on a budget, though, or prefer Windows 11, then the XPS 13 is still a great choice.

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