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Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook vs. MacBook Air (Video)



The Dell XPS 13 is an impressive notebook, and easily the best Ultrabook yet.

It’s really the first Ultrabook that competes with the MacBook Air thanks to a starting price of $999, powerful internals and great looks.

The Dell XPS 13 compares favorably to both MacBook Air models, but offers a better value than the 11 inch MacBook Air for many consumers.

(Read: Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook Review – Editor’s Choice)

If you’re tied to OS X, I’m not here to convert you to Windows, but if you can work on either platform, the Dell XPS 13 deserves a spot next to the Macbook Air on your list of potential notebooks to buy.

It’s natural to compare the Dell XPS 13 to the 13 inch MacBook Air 13, which I show you in the video below, but the real competition is between the Dell XPS 13 and the 11 inch MacBook Air. That’s where the bulk of this comparison will look.

Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook vs. MacBook Air Hands on Video

Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook vs. MacBook Air – Performance and Price

As I said in the video, the Dell XPS 13 offers a better value for most users over the same $999 priced 11 inch MacBook Air. Without sacrificing size or weight consumers get a larger screen and still maintain an impressive 6 hour battery life.

Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook vs. MacBook Air side by side

Screen size isn’t everything though. The $999 Dell XPS has double the RAM and double the hard drive space when you compare it to the entry-level MacBook Air. This means better performance when multitasking and more room to store photos and files. With the explosion of digital photography, a 64GB SSD is too small to be in the primary notebook of a user.

Power users can afford an 11.6 inch MacBook Air and a more powerful system with a larger hard drive and big screen, but the average computer user owns one computer. The MacBook Air 11.6 priced at $999 won’t meet the needs of nearly as many users as the $999 Dell XPS 13.

Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook vs. MacBook Air angle


Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook MacBook Air 11-inch
Display (size/res) 13.3-inches, 1366 x 768 11.6-inches, 1366 x 768
CPU 1.60-GHz Intel Core i5-(2nd gen) 1.60-GHz Intel Core i5-(2nd gen)
Graphics Intel HD Graphics 3000 Intel HD Graphics 3000
Storage 128GB SSD 64GB SSD
Wireless Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n; Bluetooth 3.0 Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n; Bluetooth 4.0
Ports 1 USB 3.0, 1 USB 2.0, DisplayPort, headphone/mic, 1.3MP HD webcam 2 USB 2.0, Mic Headphone, ThunderBolt Port, FaceTime camera,
Size 12.4″ x 8.1″ x 0.24-0.71″ 11.8″ x 7.56″ x 0.11-0.71″.
Weight 2.99 pounds 2.38 pounds

Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook vs. MacBook Air – Size

The Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook is incredibly compact thanks to a very small bezel. The design allows this Ultrabook to comes in at 12.4″ x 8.1″ x 0.24-0.71″, which is almost the same size as the 11 inch MacBook Air which measures, 11.8″ x 7.56″ x 0.11-0.71″. The Macbook Air is smaller and lighter by about a half pound, but these are small differences once you get to this size and weight.

Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook vs. MacBook Air Size

In the case of the XPS 13 Ultrabook, consumers don’t have to give up a decent size display, just to stay slim and trim.

Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook vs. MacBook Air – Software

You can’t ignore the software differences between these two notebooks. OS X and Windows both come with different strengths and weaknesses. The most profound differences in my use are that OS X is much better for video creation, and it’s hard to beat iPhoto, though Windows alternatives are getting better. Office apps and windows management is better on Windows, and there is less app disparity than between Android and iPhone.

I’m not here to convert you to Windows or OS X, but with the XPS 13 Ultrabook, there’s finally a computer running Windows that I am tempted to buy.

Use and Recommendations

There’s more to a notebook than specs and price. We’ve been burned by Macbook Air competitors before that can’t perform in real life despite attractive feature sets and price points. The Dell XPS 13 is the first Windows Ultrabook I can easily recommend to users that want an experience that is on par with the MacBook Air. From looks to build quality and overall satisfaction while using it, the Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook is on par with the MacBook Air.

Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook vs. MacBook Air head on

The larger 13.3 inch MacBook Air bests the XPS 13 Ultrabook in several areas, including screen resolution, but the XPS 13 Ultrabook is going to be competing with the 11-inch Macbook Air in the minds of more consumers.

The biggest issue I had with the Dell XPS 13 was the touchpad, but Dell is already at work on an update to improve performance of the touchpad. I will be testing this out soon, and updating the Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook review as well as this post.

Unfortunately, you can go into many Best Buy locations and every Apple Store to test out the MacBook Air, but there is no place to try the Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook in person.

Ultimately it will come down to personal preferences and software availability, but the Dell XPS 13 deserves to be on your short list of ultraportable computers, right next to the MacBook Air.

Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook vs. MacBook Air Gallery



  1. JGNG

    03/21/2012 at 9:34 am

    Please stop comparison of windows and mac. what is different in these two systems are the OS (I mean how beautifully an OS can be integrated with the hardware) – certainly I am not praising Windows……

  2. Juanfer Bazo

    03/21/2012 at 2:45 pm

    I don’t know the DEL XPS 13, but I think you missed to say that the macbook air has a backlit keyboard and an HD FaceTime camera.

    • Fer

      03/22/2012 at 6:07 am

      Its in the specs table!

  3. Gugusmart

    03/21/2012 at 5:29 pm

    Lol windows is obviously better

  4. Visionarymax

    03/21/2012 at 8:45 pm

    Wow! Such a great sleek and powerful ultra book finally!! Meh…boooh! :-P

    “The $999 Dell XPS has double the RAM and double the hard drive space when you compare it to the entry-level MacBook Air.”

    BS…Even the MBA has 4GB RAM version, though higher priced.
    We would like to see more RAM, like 8GB by default with a max support up to 16GB as in most
    of the latest windows laptops? Stop giving excuses on like it is too thin, it is soldered…It is not a brick we are asking to put in the MBA or the
    windows ultra books. If Apple is not ready to do it yet now on MBA or
    soon to be redesigned thinner MBP, why are not these companies behind
    the windows ultra books not able to do it before Apple?

    seem to just follow Apple but never ahead!! I personally would not buy
    any ultra book or MBA this year, if the minimum RAM is not 8GB. Period!
    Don’t see any other significant upgrade so great from the current specs.

  5. Steve

    03/22/2012 at 4:20 am

    Widows is such a memory user it needs twice the Ram and dont forget that apple has a beautiful screen in all its computers. I would wait and see how windows 8 performs before choosing the windows platform over apple 

  6. Amos Shapira

    03/23/2012 at 9:23 pm

    How does the battery compare?
    How is the Linux support Flint the Dell hardware?

  7. Seb

    03/24/2012 at 8:13 am

    Hello, I like this review its quite informative. But could you tell us some simple layman’s terms info as well please? How long does the battery last with normal use? Can it play 1080/720 movies? Just the 1 USB port? And, can you connect it to another screen with HDMI?

  8. Post

    03/24/2012 at 2:58 pm

    This review gives a good view of the Dell, but why are you so inconsequently comparing it with MBA’s 11 and 13? With its screen size and dimensions it lays much closer to the 11 inch MBA.

  9. guest

    03/30/2012 at 4:10 pm

    How about the Asus B23E?  Although slightly thicker and heavier, I’ve found that it’s offered far more computing power than the Macbook Air.

  10. guest

    04/21/2012 at 12:31 pm

    This is a stupid comparison. Saying that mac is better for video creation or “creativity” in general is a downright stupid point. 99% of professionals end up using adobe products available on both operating system. Not saying windows is better for that, but it’s not a strength for either.

  11. Daytripper1616

    04/24/2012 at 7:23 am

    This review is completely worthless and busch league. Regardless of your OS preference, whether your a mac or windows person is inconsequential, there is no consistency with the review. I just WATCHED the video and looked at the pictures where the dell was being compared to the 13 inch macbook air, and READ the review where all the comparisons are against the 11 macbook air. What point are you trying to make Josh? To say that the 13 inch mac is more expensive than the dell, then in the written comparisons show that the dell has slightly better specs than the 11 inch mac is slightly misleading… wouldn’t you agree? The dell isn’t really a 13 inch computer, why placate the idea since you said in the written review that the dell is almost the same size as the 11 inch. This is terrible reporting and a waste of a reader’s time… wouldn’t you agree Josh?

  12. B

    06/09/2012 at 2:02 pm

    One of the most important features to compare is the touchpad. Nothing Dell has ever done comes close to the touchpad you get on MacBooks. I haven’t used a mouse on my laptop in years but I always keep people with their stupid plastic Dells lugging around a mouse to make up for the hideous touch pad that comes with their laptop.

    You should also compare the mother/logic boards. Dell is pretty infamous for going on the cheap on their motherboards which leads to overheating issues and reduced performance. I’m sure plenty of people reading this have used a Dell Laptop that burned their hands because Dell put the videocard right under the handrest where all of the MacBooks situate heat generating components right by the vents in the back to both increase cooling and avoid burning the user.

    Hardware comparisons are stupid because they’re just an easy way for hacks like Dell to paint the picture that they’re offering a better value. They’re not.

  13. john

    07/06/2012 at 12:28 pm

    LOL as daytripper1616 says, this is a complete trash article.

    Good way to waste your time if you read it.

    So much inconsistency, all over the place, nothing professional.

  14. Metlin

    10/26/2012 at 4:10 pm

    Will the parts also fall apart? Having owned Dell laptops in the past, I have been surprised by how shoddily made the parts are. Compared to that, my old school Powerbook has been ridden over by a motorcycle on accident and still works (not even kidding). Apple’s biggest advantage is the integrated HW+SW experience, and good industrial design. Companies like Dell add little bells and whistles that take away from simple, good design, and these complications only add components that are more likely to fall apart (and a year or two later, Dell will stop supporting them). Three of my previous Dell laptops have had parts that failed — the charger, keyboards, and power button. And because of the churn in the models, good luck if your 2 year old Dell’s keyboard buttons fall off. In contrast, do you know that I can still get my Powerbook repaired by Apple?

  15. Oliver Nielsen

    10/28/2013 at 3:14 am

    But they’re still the same resolution, so the bigger screen doesn’t make much difference.

    What would be nice, would be to see a Macbook Pro 11″ (or the rumored 12″) with a higher pixel density.


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