Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 vs Microsoft Surface Pro: Which should you buy?

JamieKavanagh

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Apr 19, 2016
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The brand new Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 was unveiled at CES 2017 and has gone down well with early reviewers. It seems to have taken all the things we liked about the XPS 13 and added to them, delivering a great looking, capable laptop. The Microsoft Surface Pro 4 has had a little longer to make an impression and is currently regarded as the best Windows tablet on the market.

In Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 vs Microsoft Surface: Which should you buy? I shall compare the two devices. I’ll compare specifications, screen, design, battery life and cost. All things we consider when looking for new tech. Hopefully, then you can make a decision about what device is right for you.

Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 vs Microsoft Surface: Specifications
The Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 is specified with Intel’s new 7th gen Kaby Lake processors. Available in i5 and i7 Y-series low voltage guise with between 4GB and 16GB of RAM, 128GB to 512GB of SSD storage. It has either a 13.3” full HD or QHD+ (3200x1800) display, Intel onboard graphics, HD webcam, Wi-Fi, two USB-C ports, one with Thunderbolt3 and microSD reader.

The Microsoft Surface Pro 4 uses Intel 6th gen Core M3, i5 or i7 processors with between 4GB and 16GB of RAM. It also has between 128GB and 1TB of SSD storage. It uses a 12.3” PixelSense display capable of 2736 x 1824 resolution. It also features USB 3, microSD, Intel onboard graphics, two HD cameras, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and a TPM chip.

The two devices are well matched on spec although 4GB of RAM is woefully inadequate for most users. The Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 has an advantage in the newer Kaby Lake chips as they are very mobile friendly. They are also passively cooled which is great for lower demand use but not so great for intensive applications.

Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 vs Microsoft Surface: Screen

The screen on the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 is either a 13.3” full HD InfinityEdge touch display or a QHD+ InfinityEdge touch display capable of 3200 x 1800. They are driven by Intel onboard HD graphics 615.

The screen is bright, detailed and offers amazing clarity, especially the QHD+. The super thin bezel pays huge dividends with screen real estate which makes the screen seem larger than it is. The ability to angle the screen almost 360 degrees means you can always position it for best viewing too. All in all, the screen on the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 is excellent.

The Microsoft Surface Pro 4 has a 12.3” PixelSense display that runs at 2736 x 1824 resolution. That touchscreen is driven by Intel HD 515, 520 or Iris depending on which spec you buy. The display is very responsive, detailed and accurate with color. The 3:2 display ratio takes a little getting used to but otherwise, the screen is detailed and good in most light conditions.

To my eye, the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 has the edge, especially in QHD+. Clarity is excellent and resolution is about as much as any user could ever need.

Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 vs Microsoft Surface: Design
The headline design feature of the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 has to be the 360 screen. It also features that tiny bezel and very thin chassis. Push the display back to flip the screen or pull it forward to use it like a laptop. It is a very simple but effective way to work.

At only half an inch thick and weighing a mere 2.7 pounds, the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 is very portable. Despite the diminutive size, the Dell has a full size keyboard and trackpad. The main downside is the position of the camera. Like the XPS 13 before it, the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 places the cameras awkwardly which is great for checking out your chin but not so much for video conferencing. The advantage is that you can flip the screen to get a better position.

The Microsoft Surface Pro 4 is similar in size to the Dell, with a 12.3” screen and less than half inch thickness. It too has a full size keyboard and trackpad but they come with the optional Type Cover rather than being integral to the device. While the Surface doesn’t have the flip ability of the Dell, it is almost as flexible if you buy the Type Cover. It too can flip, support the screen and provide similar flexibility.

Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 vs Microsoft Surface: Battery life
Dell says the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 can last up to 9 hours on a charge but it is a little early to know for sure. It has a distinct advantage with the Kaby Lake processors and passive cooling but the display will be the main drain. The consequence of having such a bright and detailed screen is that it is a battery hog. If the projections are even close to being true though, 15 hours is a respectable lifespan for a single charge.

The Microsoft Surface Pro 4 also has a listed 9 hour battery life but real life testing sees that fall way short. Average life for doing nothing but streaming a video seem to sit within 5 to 7 hours, which is quite a bit short of the advertised 9. Even if the Surface is capable of a full 9 hours, it is still less than the competition.

It's still early days for the Dell, but on paper at least, it looks to fare much better in the battery life stakes.

Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 vs Microsoft Surface: Cost
The Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 starts at $999 for an i5 with 4GB of RAM and 128GB SSD. That increases to $1,199 for 8GB of RAM and 256GB SSD, $1,299 for i7 with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of SSD and finally, $1,399 for i7, 16GB of RAM and 256GB of SSD. All come with Windows 10 Home.

The Microsoft Surface Pro 4 starts at $749 (currently on offer at Microsoft) for the Core m3 with 4GB of RAM and 128GB of SSD, then increases to $899 for i5 with 4GB of RAM and 128GB SSD. That goes up to $1,299 for core i5, 8GB of RAM and 256GB SSD, $1,599 for i7 with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of SSD and $1,799 for i7 with 16GB of RAM and 256GB of SSD.

Even if you don’t factor in the extra cost for the Type Cover and extras, the Dell wins on cost by a significant margin.

So which should you buy?
Both of these devices perform different functions. The Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 is a laptop that can be like a tablet. The Microsoft Surface Pro 4 is a tablet that can act like a laptop. The Dell is passively cooled, which is great for quietness but not so good for intensive applications.

Both have great screens driven by Intel onboard graphics. Both have Windows 10, both use their respective touchscreens very well and both offer practical options in different situations. Choosing which to get is dependent entirely on what you want to use it for. So while I cannot tell you which to buy, at least you now have enough information to make an informed decision.

Feel free to tell us which way you jumped below!


 
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