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Against the Dell XPS 15, the Surface Laptop Studio 2 falters

Dell XPS 15 9530 front angled view showing display and keyboard deck.
Dell XPS 15 Mark Coppock / Digital Trends

Microsoft’s premier 2-in-1 laptop, the Surface Laptop Studio, just got refreshed, and it has had its performance quotient upped significantly. We compared the first generation to the Dell XPS 13 based on size, but the Surface Laptop Studio 2 deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as much faster machines.

That includes the Dell XPS 15, a larger machine, but one that’s configured similarly to the Surface Laptop Studio 2. The Dell is on our list of best laptops, so it’s formidable competition.

We’ve completed our Surface Laptop Studio 2 review and can now directly compare these two machines. Which comes out on top?

Specs and configurations

  Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio 2 Dell XPS 15 9530
Dimensions 12.72 inches x 9.06 inches x 0.86 inches 13.57 inches x 9.06 inches x 0.71 inches
Weight 4.37 pounds 4.23 pounds
Processor Intel Core i7-13700H
Intel Gen3 Movidius 3700VC VPU AI Accelerator
Intel Core i5-13500H
Intel Core i7-13700H
Intel Core i9-13900H
Graphics Intel Iris Xe
Nvidia GeForce RTX 4050
Nvidia GeForce RTX 4060
Nvidia RTX 2000 Ada
Intel Iris Xe
Intel Arc A370M
Nvidia GeForce RTX 4050 (40W)
Nvidia GeForce RTX 4060 (40W)
Nvidia GeForce RTX 4070 (40W)
Display 14.4-inch 3:2 PixelSense 2,400 x 1,600 IPS, 120Hz 15.6-inch 16:10 Full HD+ (1,920 x 1,200) IPS
15.6-inch 16:10 3.5K (3,456 x 2,160) OLED
Storage 512GB PCIe SSD
8TB PCIe SSD (2 x 4TB SSDs)
Touch Yes Optional
Ports 2 x USB-C with Thunderbolt 4
1 x USB-A 3.1
1 x Surface Connect
1 x 3.5mm audio jack
1 x microSD card reader
2 x USB-C with Thunderbolt 4
1 x USB-C 3.2 Gen 2
1 x 3.5mm audio jack
1 x SD Card reader
Wireless Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.3 Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.2
Webcam 1080p with infrared camera for Windows 11 Hello 720p with infrared camera for Windows 11 Hello
Operating system Windows 11 Windows 11
Battery 58 watt-hour 86 watt-hours
Price $2,000+ $1,499+
Rating 3.5 out of 5 stars 3.5 out of 5 stars

The Dell XPS 15 starts at $1,499 for a Core i7-13700H CPU, 16GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD, a 15.6-inch Full HD+ IPS display, and an Intel Arc A370M GPU. Fully configured, it costs $4,349 for a Core i9-13900H, 64GB of RAM, an 8TB SSD, a 15.6-inch 3.5K OLED display, and an Nvidia GeForce RTX 4070.

The Surface Laptop Studio 2 starts out at a higher price: $2,000 for a Core i7-13700H, 16GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD, and a 14.4-inch PixelSense IPS display. The most expensive configuration is $3,700 for a Core i7-13700H, 64GB of RAM, a 2TB SSD, and an RTX 4060 GPU.

The XPS 15 is more expensive at the high end, but that’s with significantly upgraded components. Both are expensive machines, but for what you get in terms of specs, the XPS 15 certainly offers more bang for your buck.


Portal RTX running on the Surface Laptop Studio 2.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

The Surface Laptop Studio 2 sports an unusual design, even among 2-in-1 laptops. It utilizes a “pull-forward” mechanism, meaning its display can be used in a normal clamshell configuration or pulled forward into what Microsoft calls Studio mode, where the display sits at an angle covering the keyboard while leaving the touchpad available for use, or Tablet mode, a more traditional 2-in-1 format. The XPS 15 is a traditional clamshell laptop through and through. That makes the Surface Laptop Studio 2 a much more flexible machine with a ton of additional uses, particularly when you’re using the Microsoft Surface Pen to write and draw on the display.

Microsoft’s machine is also a lot more modern in its design. While it maintains the same look as the previous generation, that aesthetic seems more futuristic than the XPS 15’s, which also hasn’t changed for a few generations. The XPS 15 is an attractive laptop, no doubt, with its silver aluminum base and black carbon fiber keyboard deck, but the Surface Laptop Studio’s all-aluminum chassis and innovative display design give it a more futuristic feel. Both are incredibly well-built though, and so you won’t be choosing between these machines based on build quality.

Both laptops also have excellent keyboards, with plenty of travel, large comfortable keycaps, tons of key spacing, and switches that are precise and snappy. The Surface Laptop Studio 2’s touchpad is quite a bit smaller than the XPS 15’s, but it’s a haptic version that provides all the advantages of that technology, such as clicking on the entire surface. The XPS 15’s mechanical version is huge and responsive, but haptic touchpads are more efficient.

Connectivity is close to a tie, with both offering a mix of Thunderbolt 4 and legacy ports. We prefer the full-sized SD card reader in the XPS 15 to the Surface Laptop Studio 2’s microSD card reader. Dell is a generation behind in wireless connectivity.

Another win for the Surface Laptop Studio 2 is in its 1080p webcam. The XPS 15 is stuck with a 720p version, so the Surface Laptop Studio 2 produces a far sharper image.


Dell XPS 15 9530 rear side view showing vents.
Mark Coppock / Digital Trends

The XPS 15 is a thin and light 15-inch laptop that compromises a bit on performance to fit everything into its chassis. It offers fast components, including up to the 45-watt Core i9-13900H and the Nvidia GeForce RTX 4070, but thermal issues exist that limit performance. Dell also seriously underclocked the RTX 4070. Even so, the XPS 15 performs well for both the most demanding productivity users and all but professional creators.

The Surface Laptop Studio 2 offers the 45-watt Core i7-13700H, which in other laptops has provided solid productivity and creative performance. And it can be purchased with the RTX 4060, a much faster GPU than what was available in the previous generation. There’s also an option for an Nvidia RTX 2000 Ada, which is aimed at professional applications and promises performance similar to the RTX 4060.

Cinebench R23
Premiere Pro
Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio 2
(Core i7-13700H / RTX 4060)
Bal: 104
Perf: 77
Bal: 1,075 / 10,482
Perf: 1,852 / 13,777
Bal: 1,047
Perf: 912
Dell XPS 15
(Core i7-13700H / RTX 4070)
Bal: 79
Perf: 76
Bal: 1865 / 13386
Perf: 1868 / 13927
Bal: 709
Perf: 1,032


Dell XPS 15 front view showing display.
Mark Coppock / Digital Trends

The Surface Laptop Studio 2 offers a single display option, the 14.4-inch PixelSense IPS display with a very tall 3:2 aspect ratio, a resolution of 2,400 x 1,600, and a fast refresh rate of 120Hz. It’s mostly unchanged from the previous version, sporting good color accuracy and decent coverage, as well as a high peak brightness of just over 500 nits. The display supports both touch and Microsoft’s excellent Surface Pen.

The XPS 15 has two displays available. The pedestrian 15.6-inch 16:10 Full HD+ IPS display is for those looking to save some money and who don’t need wide colors or deep contrast. Also available is a 3.5K OLED panel that offers good brightness, very wide and accurate colors, and inky blacks. Both displays run at just 60Hz, but for creators, the OLED panel is the winner here. Note that while the XPS 15’s OLED display supports touch, neither of its displays offers pen support.

According to my colorimeter, the Surface display offered extremely high brightness and deep contrast for an IPS display, with average color width and excellent color accuracy. The XPS 15’s OLED display wasn’t as bright, but its colors were much wider and its high contrast made for OLED’s typical inky blacks.

The Surface Laptop 2 has a very good display, but the XPS 15’s is better, particularly for the creators who are looking for fast, portable laptops.

Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio 2
Dell XPS 15
532 358
AdobeRGB gamut 100% 96%
 sRGB gamut 76% 100%
(DeltaE, lower is better)
0.98 1.31
Contrast ratio 1,650:1 24,850:1


Ports on the Surface Laptop Studio 2.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

The Surface Laptop Studio 2 is narrower than the XPS 15, but it’s just as deep, thicker, and heavier. That’s because of the pull-forward display, which increases complexity and pushes out the palm rest. Neither is a particularly portable laptop.

The XPS 15 gets better battery life by a couple of hours in our web-browsing and video-looping tests. That’s a drop from the original Surface, which reversed these results.

The XPS 15 is more likely to get you through a full day’s work, although that’s unlikely if you’re pushing the laptop’s performance. The Surface Laptop Studio 2 definitely won’t.

Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio 2
(Core i9-13900H)
Dell XPS 15
(Core i7-13700H)
Web browsing 7 hours, 29 minutes 9 hours, 43 minutes
Video 9 hours, 3 minutes 11 hours, 46 minutes

The XPS 15 has more widespread appeal

The Surface Laptop Studio 2 has a more modern design that offers superior flexibility. You can do more with Microsoft’s machine, particularly if you’re one who likes to take digital notes and draw on a display. The two laptops also have similar performance.

However, the XPS 15 is less expensive when similarly configured, and it gets better battery life. The Surface Laptop Studio 2 is a great laptop, but the XPS 15 will meet the needs of more users.

Editors' Recommendations

Mark Coppock
Mark has been a geek since MS-DOS gave way to Windows and the PalmPilot was a thing. He’s translated his love for…
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