Computing

Microsoft Surface Pro 7 vs. Dell XPS 13

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

If you’re looking for a premium PC that will last you throughout 2019 and beyond, the Surface Pro 7 and the Dell XPS 13 are likely some of the most enticing options. The Surface Pro 7 is our all-time favorite Windows 2-in-1, and the Dell XPS 13 is 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

The most obvious difference between the two is the form factor. The Surface Pro 7 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 — which comes in a host of colors — can even be separated from the bottom of the screen to be used in a similar form to an iPad. And the integrated kickstand helps you prop up the Surface on your desk or a laptop for comfort when using it in tablet and laptop modes. On the other hand, the Dell XPS 13 is a traditional laptop. It comes in Silver, Frost, and Rose Gold exterior color options and sports a new hinge that makes the laptop easier to open.

The XPS 13 stands out for its slimmer “Infinity Edge” bezels, whereas the Surface Pro 7 still suffers from larger bezels that make for a larger-than-necessary chassis. The difference is noticeable, and gives the XPS 13 an edge when it comes to appearing like a modern laptop.

Another area where the XPS 13 and the Surface Pro 7 differ is in their keyboards. As a 2-in-1, the Surface Pro 7 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. Similarly, the XPS 13’s keyboard is snappy and precise, with sufficient travel to make touch typists happy. Both laptops have excellent touchpads with Microsoft Precision drivers for reliable Windows 10 multitouch gestures.

Performance

Microsoft Surface Pro 7 windows 10
Riley Young / Digital Trends

On the inside, the XPS 13 and the Surface Pro 7 pack plenty of Intel power. Microsoft’s laptop has an Intel’s 10th-gen Ice Lake CPU that offers better processor performance but, more important, much better integrated Iris Plus graphics. The XPS 13, on the other hand, uses Intel’s 10th-gen Comet Lake CPUs, which are built on the same process as the previous Whiskey Lake versions but offer faster speeds and a new six-core option. Equip the XPS 13 with the faster Core i7 and you have the most powerful 13-inch laptop money can buy.

Both laptops are fast enough for productivity work, and their suitability for creative applications is mixed. The Surface Pro 7 benefits from Iris Plus graphics that can help speed up any application that can utilize the GPU, while the XPS 13 with the six-core CPU is going to be faster across the board.

In terms of their displays, the XPS 13 has options for non-touch 1080p, touch-enabled 1080p, and touch-enabled 4K. There’s no pen support, however. The Surface Pro 7 retains the usual 12.3-inch touch screen in the productivity-friendly 3:2 aspect ratio, and it’s plenty spacious in a resolution of 2,736 × 1,824. 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.

The 4K option on the XPS 13 pushes out more pixels than the Surface Pro 7 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.

Portability

Surface Pro 6 Review
Dan Baker/Digital Trends

In terms of size, the Surface Pro 7 comes in at 11.5 x 7.9 x 0.33 inches and comes in at 1.74 pounds. That smaller and more compact than the XPS 13, which comes in at 11.9 x 7.8 x 0.46 inches and  2.7 pounds in weight. Both of these laptops, though, are small and light enough that you’ll barely notice them in your backpack.

Since both devices are likely to be used while out and about, we should also warn about battery life. The Surface Pro 7 lasted us about eight and a half hours in web browsing and eight 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 eight hours in web browsing. 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 7 comes with a USB-C 3.2 Gen 1 port (no Thunderbolt 3), a classic USB-A port, an SD Card slot, and Microsoft’s proprietary Surface Connect. The XPS 13 includes two Thunderbolt 3 ports, a standard USB-C 3.2 Gen 1 port, and a microSD card slot. Fans of Thunderbolt 3 will prefer the XPS 13 more, but those who aren’t quite ready for the new trend in technology will find Microsoft’s Surface Pro 7 acceptable.

Buy the XPS 13

The Surface Pro 7 starts at $749 for the tablet alone with a Core i3, 4GB of RAM, and a 128GB SSD. You can spend as much as $2,299 for a Core i7, 16GB of RAM, and a 1TB SSD. Add $160 to that for the Type Cover and $100 for the Surface Pen.

The XPS 13 starts at $950 for a Core i3, 4GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD, and a non-touch Full HD display. It ramps up to $2,100 for a Core i7, 16GB of RAM, a 2TB SSD, and a 4K touch display.

At the end of the day, the win has to go to the Dell XPS 13. Though the Surface Pro 7 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 up to a six-core processor 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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