Microsoft Surface Pro 6 vs. Dell XPS 13

We compare two of our favorite portable Windows PC devices. Which is best?

Dell XPS 13 2019 review (9380)
Riley Young/Digital Trends

If you’re looking for a premium PC that will last you throughout 2019 and beyond, the Surface Pro 6 and the Dell XPS 13 are likely some of the most enticing options. The Surface Pro 6 is our all-time favorite Windows 2-in-1, and the Dell XPS 13 our favorite clamshell laptop. Both devices might be powered by Windows, but be it the form factor, processors, or display, there’s a lot that makes the two different.

In this head to head guide, we will pit the two devices against each other, helping you decide which one is right for you. There can only be one victor, so read on to find out which one is best.

Design

Dell XPS 13 2019 review (9380)
Riley Young/Digital Trends

The most obvious difference between the two is form factor. The Surface Pro 6 is a 2-in-1, meaning it can used as either a tablet or laptop. Built of magnesium, and available in black or platinum, it is lightweight and portable. Its keyboard can even be separated from the bottom of the screen so it can be used in a similar form to an iPad. There’s even an integrated kickstand to help you prop up use the Surface on your desk or a laptop for comfort when using it in tablet and laptop modes.

Though packing thick bezels, the 12.3-inch touch screen is still plenty spacious, coming in a resolution of 2,736 × 1,824, with a pixel density of 267. Overall, this makes it the best option for those who just want to throw a device in their bag or are always out and about. In our review, we found the design quite sleek, robust, and distinctive. The display was also one of the best we found in the 2-in-1 category, and it even supports Microsoft’s Surface Pen.

On the other hand, the Dell XPS 13 is a traditional laptop. It comes in “Frost” exterior color option and a new hinge which makes the laptop easier to open. You’ll also find it in white or rose gold color schemes along with a unique carbon fiber finish on the inside. As for the display, a less than 4 mm, it packs slimmer “Infinity Edge” bezels and comes in with options for a non-touch 1080p, touch-enabled 1080p (not currently available), and touch-enabled 4K panel. There’s no pen support, however.

The 4K option on the XPS 13 pushes out more pixels than the Surface Pro 6 and is more vibrant and colorful, but it also was a big battery drainer for us in our review. We’d still recommend sticking to the model with a 1080p panel in that case. It also is 13.3 inches in size, which is slightly bigger and brings more room for multitasking than the 12.3-inch display on the Surface.

Another area where the XPS 13 and the Surface Pro 6 differ is the keyboard. As it is a 2-in-1, the Surface Pro 6 doesn’t come with a keyboard in the box. Instead, you have to buy it separately at $130 or $150. It still is plenty spacious though. In our review, we found that despite cut off keys, it is not cramped and the keyboard is snappy.

Performance

surface pro 6
Dan Baker/Digital Trends

On the inside, the XPS 13 and the Surface Pro 6 pack plenty of Intel power, but one is still better than the other. Microsoft’s Surface Pro 6 comes with Intel Kaby Lake processors, not the newer Whiskey Lake CPUs seen inside the XPS 13. Though it is still quad-core chipset for more processing power, in our review of the Surface Pro 6 we were a bit disappointed to see Microsoft not opt for a newer Intel chip. It is now nearly a generation back and will be outdated sooner.

For most people, though, it might work just fine, as in our review, we found that it could handle a full day of work at the office, as well as the tablet usage on the bus ride home. Configurations start with the Intel Core 8th Gen i5-8250U or i7-8650U processor, with either 8GB or 16GB of RAM and 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, or 1TB of SSD storage. A base Surface Pro 6 with 128 GB of storage, 8GB RAM, and Core i5 processor comes in at $800.

The XPS 13, however, is equipped with the latest and greatest from Intel. You can configure it with either the Core i5-8265U, i7-8565U, or the i3-8145U CPUs. These processors come with higher base clock speeds and Gigabit Wi-Fi and are more future proof. Configurations on the XPS 13 range anywhere from 8GB to 16GB RAM, or with 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB, or 2TB (and faster) NVMe storage. In our review, we found that it was plenty quick, mentioning that other laptops with the new Whiskey Lake processors don’t beat the XPS 13 in performance. The base XPS 13 comes with an 8th-gen Core i3 processor, 128 GB of storage and 4GB RAM for $800, though that’s the version with the nose-cam.

Portability

Surface Pro 6 Review
Dan Baker/Digital Trends

In terms of weight, the Surface Pro 6 comes in at 11.5 x 7.9 x 0.33 inches and comes in at 1.71 pounds. That is much smaller and compact to the XPS 13, which is roughly about 11.9 x 7.8 x 0.46 inches and  2.7 pounds in weight. As it is a 2-in-1, the Surface Pro 6 is naturally the better option for traveling, but the XPS 13 still packs in one of the smallest profiles of all 13-inch laptops.

Since both devices are likely to be used while out and about, we should also warn about battery life. The Surface Pro 6 lasted us about nine and a half hours in web browsing, and 14 hours in video playback. It easily beats out the XPS 13, though we were reviewing the power-hungry 4K model. In our tests, the XPS 13 lasted about seven hours in web browsing, and video playback. Still, the standard XPS 13 with the 1080p panel could likely last longer, so that’s no reason to give it up.

Finally, with ports, the Surface Pro 6 comes with mini-DisplayPort, a classic USB-A port, and also an SD Card slot. That’s a somewhat aging tech to most, as it does not include USB-C on board. The XPS 13 switches that up, and includes two Thunderbolt 3 ports, a standard USB-C port, a microSD card slot, and a 3.5mm headphone jack. Fans of USB-C might like the XPS 13 more, but those who aren’t quite ready for the new trend in technology will appreciate Microsoft’s Surface Pro 6.

Buy the XPS 13

Dell XPS 13 2019 review (9380)
Riley Young/Digital Trends

At the end of the day, the win has to go to the Dell XPS 13. Though the Surface Pro 6 works best as a 2-in-1 and is ultra-portable, light, and easy to travel with, the XPS 13 packs more power under the hood. It comes with Intel’s latest Whiskey Lake processors for the best performance, more modern connectivity, and also has more variety with configurations. That adds up to the best value for the money, and something that will last a long time.

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