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HP Spectre x360 13.5 vs. Dell XPS 13 Plus: flagship battle

Simply put, the HP Spectre x360 13.5 and Dell XPS 13 Plus are two of the best laptops you can buy at any price and any size. These flagships sit at the top of the heap in terms of premium designs and components.

But choosing between the two isn’t simple. They each have their relative strengths and are similarly priced. Below, we go over the differences between the Spectre x360 13.5 and XPS 13 Plus to help make your decision a little easier.

Specs

  HP Spectre x360 13.5 Dell XPS 13 Plus
Dimensions 11.73 inches x 8.68 inches x 0.67 inches  11.63 inches x 7.84 inches x 0.60 inches
Weight 3.01 pounds 2.73 pounds
Processor Intel Core i5-1235U
Intel Core i7-1255U
Intel Core i5-1240P
Intel Core i7-1260P
Intel Core i7-1270P
Intel Core i7-1280P
Graphics Intel Iris Xe graphics Intel Iris Xe graphics
RAM 8GB
16GB
32GB
8GB LPDDR5
16GB LPDDR5
32GB LPDDR5
Display 13.5-inch 3:2 IPS WUXGA (1,920 x 1,280) touch
13.5-inch 3:2 IPS WUXGA SureView privacy screen touch
13.5-inch 3:2 OLED 3K2K (3,000 x 2,000) touch
13.4-inch 16:10 IPS Full HD+ (1920 x 1200)
13.4-inch 16:10 OLED 3.5K (3456 x 2160) touch
13.4-inch 16:10 IPS UHD+ (3840 x 2400) touch
Storage 512GB PCIe SSD
1TB PCIe SSD
2TB PCIe SSD
512GB PCIe SSD
1TB PCIe SSD
2GB PCIe SSD
Touch Yes Optional
Ports 2 x USB-C with Thunderbolt 4
1 x USB-A 3.2
1 x 3.5mm audio jack
microSD card reader
 2 x USB-C with Thunderbolt 4
Wireless Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.2 Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.2
Webcam 5MB, Windows Hello IR webcam 720p, Windows Hello IR webcam
Operating system Windows 11 Windows 11
Battery 66 watt-hours 55 watt-hours
Price $1,250+ $1,149+
Rating 4.5 stars out of 5 4 stars out of 5

Price and configurations

The Spectre x360 13.5 starts at $1,250 for a Core i5-1235U, 8GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD, and a 13.5-inch 3:2 WUXGA+ (1920 x 1280) IPS display. At the high end, you’ll pay $1,830 for a Core i7-1255U, 32GB of RAM, and a 2TB SSD. The OLED display maxes out at 16GB of RAM and costs the same $1,830.

The XPS 13 Plus entry-level configuration is a little less expensive at $1,150 for a Core i5-1240P, 8GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD, and a 13.4-inch 16:10 Full HD+ (1920 x 1200) IPS non-touch display. Max it out, and it’s $2,199 for a Core i7-1260P, 32GB of RAM, a 2TB SSD, and a 3.5K (3,456 x 2,160) OLED display.

Both are premium laptops, and the XPS 13 Plus has a wider range of prices. Dell has a slight advantage here in that you can get the maximum RAM with the OLED display, even though you’re paying more for it.

Design

HP Spectre x360 13.5 front angled view showing display and keyboard deck.
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

The most important design difference between the two laptops is in their form factor. The Spectre x360 13.5 is a convertible 2-in-1 while the XPS 13 Plus is a traditional clamshell. That means the HP is slightly thicker and heavier and has a larger bottom chin on the display to accommodate the more complex hinges. That also makes the HP more flexible and potentially useful, with the ability to convert to media, tent, and tablet modes and to allow the use of a quality active pen. If these things don’t matter to you, then that’s not much of an advantage. But if they do, then the Spectre is a more suitable laptop.

The Spectre x360 13.5 and XPS 13 Plus are similar in that they’re both constructed of CNC machined aluminum throughout and are solidly built. You’ll find no bending, flexing, or twisting in either machine. The Spectre has a more extravagant aesthetic with rounded, gem-cut, and colored edges and notches cut into the bottom of the display and the rear of the chassis. One notch houses a USB-C/Thunderbolt 4 port and the other a 3.5mm audio jack.

The XPS 13 Plus is a more streamlined design, with simple lines accentuated by the edge-to-edge keyboard and a palm rest that’s unbroken thanks to the embedded haptic touchpad. The Dell also has LED function buttons rather than physical keys, which lends an air of modernity.

HP has done a great job with Spectre keyboards for several years now. They have plenty of key spacing and large keycaps, with a switch mechanism that’s snappy and light with precise bottoming action. It’s one of the best keyboards in Windows laptops, rivaled only by Apple’s excellent Magic Keyboard on the latest MacBooks. The XPS 13 Plus keyboard is quite different, with an edge-to-edge design and very little space between keys. The mechanism is also precise and snappy, and while quite different from the Spectres is quite good.

The side of the keyboard on the Dell XPS 13 Plus.

The biggest difference is in touchpads. While the Spectre x360 13.5’s touchpad is large enough and very good as a mechanical version, the XPS 13 Plus’s haptic touchpad is superior. It’s more precise and offers the ability to click anywhere. At the same time, the HP benefits from pen support and touch on every display option compared to optional touch on the Dell.

The Spectre x360 13.5 has a much better webcam, coming in at 5MP with great low-light performance and some nice HP Presence features like Auto Framing and Appearance Filter that smooths out blemishes. The XPS 13 Plus webcam is far more pedestrian, coming in at just 720p and offering an inferior video image.

Finally, the Spectre x360 13.5 offers better connectivity, including a USB-A port for legacy support, a 3.5mm audio jack, and a microSD card reader. The XPS 13 Plus has just the same two USB-C ports with Thunderbolt 4. The lack of an audio jack is contentious, and while Dell does throw in a USB-C to headphone jack, that’s quite limiting. Since power is also provided by USB-C, you’ll need a dock or adapter of some sort to use headphones while charging.

Performance

The edge of the Dell XPS 13 Plus' chassis.

We reviewed the Spectre x360 13.5 with a 15-watt Intel 12th-gen 10-core/12-thread Core i7-1255U, a lower-power variant of Intel’s Alder Lake chips for thin and light laptops. Our XPS 13 Plus review unit was equipped with the 28-watt 14-core/20-thread Core i7-1280P, a faster CPU on paper. Both laptops offer utilities that allow for some thermal adjustment, and both were effective in running quieter and cooler in balanced mode versus faster, louder, and hotter in performance mode.

Our benchmarks, though, didn’t show nearly the divide one might expect. The Dell was faster in GeekBench 5 and Cinebench R23 multi-core (except in performance mode), as well as in our Handbrake test that encodes a 420MB video as H.265. The Spectre x360, on the other hand, was faster in Geekbench 5 and Cinebench R23 single-core. The HP managed to pull out the win in the PCMark 10 Complete benchmark that runs through a series of productivity, multimedia, and creativity tests.

These results are surprising, but the XPS 13 Plus is thinner and so likely couldn’t keep its CPU as cool. In real-world use, the laptops will provide similarly excellent productivity performance while both will be underpowered for all but nominal creative tasks. Neither laptop was particularly fast in the 3DMark Time Spy test and so neither is a viable gaming machine.

HP Spectre x360 13.5
(Core i7-1255U)
Dell XPS 13 Plus
(Core i7-1280P)
Geekbench 5
(single / multi)
Bal: 1,566 / 7,314
Perf: 1,593 / 7,921
Bal: 1,316 / 8,207
Perf: N/A
Handbrake
(seconds)
Bal: 169
Perf: 120
Bal: 170
Perf: 94
Cinebench R23
(single / multi)
Bal: 1,623 / 5,823
Perf: 1,691 / 7,832
Bal: 1,311 / 6,308
Perf: 1,650 / 7,530
PCMark 10 Complete 5,203 4,309
3DMark Time Spy Bal: 1,582
Perf: 1,815
Bal: 1.708
Perf: 1,992

Display and audio

Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

We reviewed both laptops with their respective OLED displays. The Spectre x360 13.5’s display is a taller 3:2 panel that’s great for productivity and works best in portrait tablet mode (it’s closer in size to a physical sheet of paper). At the same time, the XPS 13 Plus’s 13.4-inch 16:10 display is sharper at 3.5K (3456 x 2160) versus the Spectre’s 3K2K (3,000 x 2,000) resolution.

In terms of image quality, however, both are simply spectacular. They’re almost identically as bright and nearly as accurate, with both enjoying excellent DeltaEs of under 1.0. The Dell’s AdobeRGB gamut is slightly wider, but it’s not going to be noticeable. Both displays are phenomenal for everyone alike, productivity users, creators, and media consumers. Note that the difference in contrast is due to the colorimeters used. Both have equally inky blacks.

HP Spectre x360 13.5
(OLED)
Dell XPS 13 Plus
(OLED)
Brightness
(nits)
380 386
AdobeRGB gamut 97% 99%
 sRGB gamut 100% 100%
Accuracy
(DeltaE, lower is better)
0.61 0.83
Contrast ratio 28,230:1 386,030:1

Both laptops offer four-speaker audio, with similar performance in terms of volume and bass. They’re both okay for binging Netflix on occasion, but they both benefit from a good set of headphones.

Portability

A top down view of the Dell XPS 13 Plus' keyboard.

The XPS 13 Plus is smaller, thinner, and lighter. However, both laptops can be easily slipped into a backpack and carried around.

Battery life presents more of a difference, with the Spectre x360 13.5 leveraging its low-power CPU more than the XPS 13 Plus leveraged its faster CPU. There was just a half-hour difference in our web browsing test, but a whopping six-hour difference in our video test.

If you’re particularly careful, the XPS 13 Plus might get close to a full day’s battery life. The Spectre x360 13.5, however, is more likely to make it all the way.

HP Spectre x360 13.5
(Core i7-1255U)
Dell XPS 13 Plus
(Core i7-1280P)
Web browsing 9 hours, 20 minutes 8 hours, 0 minutes
Video 9 hours, 58 minutes 13 hours, 59 minutes

The Spectre x360 13.5’s flexibility and battery life win out

Yes, the XPS 13 Plus has some innovative features that make it stand out. But the Spectre x360 13.5 offers more functionality thanks to the flexibility of its 2-in-1 design, and it has better battery life with similar performance. Given that it’s a little less expensive, that gives HP a narrow win in this very competitive shootout.

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