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Dell XPS 17 vs. MacBook Pro 16-inch: Which big laptop reigns supreme?

Apple’s MacBook has long been viewed as the go-to laptop for students, designers, and those in the creative industry, but Dell’s XPS lineup doesn’t lag far behind.

With the introduction of the XPS 17, the XPS lineup has its sights set on Apple’s high-end MacBooks. Featuring Intel’s latest 10th-gen H-Series processors and up to Nvidia’s RTX 2060 GPU, it’s one seriously powerful laptop. Here’s a look at how XPS 17 stands up against the MacBook Pro 16-inch.

Price and design

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Dell’s XPS 17 starts at $1,500, and Apple’s MacBook Pro 16-inch starts at $2,399. That sounds like a big difference, but these base models can’t be compared on an apples-to-apples basis. The XPS 17 starts with a 1,920 x 1,200 resolution screen, a 256GB SSD, 8GB of RAM, a Core i5-10300H, and integrated graphics. From there, it can be configured up to a 4K+ screen, RTX 2060 graphics, a Core i9-10885H, 64GB of RAM, and 8TB of storage. We’ll know more about the exact configuration options of the XPS 17 when it launches later this summer.

Meanwhile, the MacBook Pro 16-inch starts with its higher-resolution screen, discrete graphics, 512GB of SSD, and 16GB of RAM.

Price difference aside, both of these laptops are crafted out of premium materials but end up looking and feeling different from each other. That’s because you’ll find carbon fiber palm rests on the XPS, and an all-aluminum finish and design on the MacBook Pro.

Dell’s XPS 17 takes a lot of design cues from the rest of the XPS lineup. It is cut from a block of aluminum in two pieces and features diamond-cut sidewalls. There’s also aerospace-inspired carbon fiber used in the design of the black palm rest. It comes in at 0.77 inches in thickness and weighs 4.65 pounds. There’s only one interior color option: Classic black.

In terms of weight and thickness, Apple’s MacBook is slimmer than Dell’s XPS 17, mainly because of the smaller 16-inch screen. It comes in at 0.64 inches in thickness, and 4.3 pounds. That’s a subtle difference you’re not likely to notice unless you’re picky.

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The XPS 17 sports four Thunderbolt 3 ports, a full-size SD card reader, and a 3.5 mm headphone jack. It is a very well-connected modern machine, though there is no USB-A, as there has been in previous XPS laptops. Dell is kind enough to include a USB-C to USB-A 3.0 cable and HDMI dongle in the box, however. If you’re considering differences in ports when looking at the two laptops, there’s just one. The MacBook has four Thunderbolt 3 USB-C ports, as well as a headphone jack, but there is no SD card slot. That means you’ll need to dongle up with the MacBook.

The MacBook has the Touch Bar, which isn’t on the XPS 17. This OLED strip gives you access to function keys and other shortcuts in MacOS via touch. Both laptops feature a fingerprint scanner located in the top right of the keyboard layout.


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The signature feature of Dell’s modern XPS laptops is the “Infinity Edge” display, with its iconic ultra-thin bezels. If you’re all about screen space, the XPS 17 dominates the MacBook Pro. Both devices have slim displays, but the XPS 17 has a huge edge over Apple, with a larger screen in a body that’s only marginally bigger.

Dell claims the display on the XPS 17 has a 93.7% screen-to-body ratio. It also comes in at the 16:10 aspect ratio, which allows for a bit more vertical room when multitasking. Screen options include a 4K Ultra HD+ (3,840 x 2,400) resolution touch panel, or a FHD+ (1,920 x 1,200) resolution panel. For content creation,  the 4K option is best, as it sports an anti-reflective coating, 1,600:1 contrast ratio, and 500 nits of brightness. The 4K model covers 100% of Adobe RGB and 94% of DCI-P3 color gamut.

If you’re looking at the display on the MacBook Pro 16-inch, you still won’t be disappointed. It has thin bezels, but they’re not as marrow as the XPS 17’s. Compared to the older 15-inch MacBook models, the display picks up 0.6 more inches of space, but there is still a thin strip and bottom “chin” on the MacBook that you won’t really notice on the XPS 17.

Specs-wise, the MacBook Pro 16-inch offers a single option — a 3,072 x 1,920 resolution panel. That’s less resolution than the 4K model of the XPS 17, but it’s still plenty vibrant and bright, especially in office settings. There is no touchscreen option, however, as Apple would rather you buy an iPad if you’re looking for a touch-centric experience.

Apple’s MacBook also has the same 500 nits of brightness as the XPS 17, but it sports support for Apple’s P3 Wide color gamut and true-tone technology, which can adjust the color temperature of the screen based on how you use it. Both are fantastic devices for photography, graphic design, and video editing thanks to the fantastic color accuracy.

Performance and battery life

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Of course, performance is key for laptops, and this is an area where the MacBook and the XPS 17 converge a bit. Both laptops are quite powerful, and it’s hard to choose a winner in this category as we haven’t tested the XPS 17 yet. Your choice might come down to operating system preferences, as the XPS 17 is powered by Windows 10 and the MacBook by Apple’s MacOS.

With the XPS 17, Dell has opted for Intel’s latest 10th Generation H-Series processors. There are options for either 4-core, 6-core, or 8-core processors. That includes the Core i5-10300H, Core i7-10750H, Core i7-10875H, and the Core i9-10885H. RAM options start at 8GB and go up to 64GB. The SSD starts at 256GB and can be configured up to 2TB.

Apple, meanwhile, opts for a 2.6GHz 6‑core Intel Core i7 processor or a 2.3GHz 8‑core Intel Core i9 processor. Configurations can be pushed up to s 2.4GHz 8‑core Intel Core i9, with Turbo Boost of up to 5.0GHz.

Storage starts at 512GB but can be increased to as much as 8TB if needed. RAM options start at 16GB and reach up to 64GB. Apple is more aggressive with the storage options when compared to Dell, hence the higher price.

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In the GPU department, Apple offers options for the AMD Radeon Pro 5500M with either 4GB or 8GB of GDDR6 memory. These AMD parts are all custom chips designed for Apple’s devices. Based on AMD’s next generation of Zen 2 7nm graphics architecture, we found these GPUs help make the MacBook a video-editing workhorse, with the ability to complete a video in 4 minutes, twice as fast as last year’s MacBook Pro 15-inch.

With the XPS, Dell has gone with Nvidia, which provides a lot more choice. Base models come with options for Intel’s UHD graphics. There’s also the GTX 1660 Ti with 4GB of GDDR6 memory as a midrange option or the powerful RTX 2060 graphics card with 6GB of GDDR6 memory.

We didn’t test it yet, but the model with RTX graphics can also be a workhorse. It will be able to take advantage of ray tracing and dedicated A.I. cores. Dell also says it has tweaked the thermals to ensure the laptop can keep up. It delivers 90 watts of power in a thin form factor.

On models with Nvidia graphics, the XPS 17 has dual-opposite outlet fans to increase fan airflow by approximately 30% and drive cooling airflow in both directions. There’s also a massive vapor chamber that spans the entire width of the laptop to keep the processor cool.

Battery life is currently an unknown for the XPS 17. Apple’s MacBook lasted around five-and-a-half-half hours with general usage. That’s thanks to the 16% larger 100‑watt‑hour battery. Dell’s XPS 17 has options for either a 97 watt-hour or 56-watt hour battery.

Keyboard, touchpad, and audio

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The keyboard, touchpad, and audio experience are important aspects of any laptop. In these areas, the XPS 17 and the MacBook Pro do not disappoint. Apple makes up for its issue from the past with its Magic Keyboard, and Dell has supersized its keyboard to help make the XPS lineup great.

Looking at the XPS 17 keyboard, it has something its younger sibling, the XPS 13, does not. Instead of sporting an edge-to-edge keyboard, the keyboard is in the middle of the laptop on the XPS 17, surrounded by speaker grills. The keycaps are also much larger than before, and there is the addition of larger left and right arrow keys. As for the touchpad, it is much larger than the ones found on the XPS 13 and XPS 15. It’s also centered right in the middle for ease of access and to guard against accidental clicks when resting your hands on the palm rest.

The speakers on the XPS 17 are upward-firing, like on Apple’s MacBook, and are tuned by the Waves Nx 3D audio experience. There are also two tweeters in the base for a truly immersive quad-speaker setup.

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As mentioned, you’ll find the newly improved “Magic Keyboard” on the MacBook Pro 16. This keyboard moves away from Apple’s controversial butterfly switch mechanism over to the classic scissor one instead. It also has an inverted T-arrangement for the arrow keys and a physical escape key. We found it was one of the best ever released, with larger keycaps and a snappier feeling.

Of course, this keyboard is flanked by Apple’s Force Touch trackpad on the bottom. This is different from the XPS 17 since there isn’t a dedicated area to do your clicking. The entire surface allows you to click anywhere and offers haptic feedback that provides a responsive and uniform feel.

Apple’s MacBook also features impressive speakers. It has a high‑fidelity six‑speaker system with force-canceling woofers. It has two more speakers than the XPS 17 and support for wide stereo sound. If audio is important for you, then the MacBook might be the way to go, though until we test the XPS 17, we can’t say for sure.

The XPS wins — on paper, that is

Looking at just the specs, the XPS 17 is the winner of this battle of the laptops. The RTX 2060 adds a lot of power that the MacBook Pro 16-inch can’t compete with. The slim-bezel display also makes it a better buy over Apple. However, until we can test the XPS 17 in full, the MacBook Pro 16-inch remains the only option you can buy today.

Editors' Recommendations

Arif Bacchus
Arif Bacchus is a native New Yorker and a fan of all things technology. Arif works as a freelance writer at Digital Trends…
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