It all comes down to this: The battle of the high-range laptops. The rumble not in the jungle butin the meeting room. After a few tough losses, the Dell XPS 15 is back and better than ever, sporting an infinity display and updated design courtesy of the little brother XPS 13. The MacBook Pro, meanwhile, has been chugging along, business as usual, unsuspecting of the change that’s been brewing over at Dell.
Two will enter, but only one will leave — in your laptop bag.
These two systems are a close match on paper, but the Dell XPS 15 takes a slight edge in a number of categories. It’s not a major advantage, but rather a number of smaller factors that add up slowly. The MacBook’s RAM is just a bit older, and slower, and at the base, cost comparable level, the Mac lacks dedicated graphics.
That lag behind the market applies to the processor as well. While the XPS 15 is powered by a brand new i7-6700HQ chip, the MacBook’s engine is a noticeably slower 2.2GHz Core i7. While it isn’t identified, it’s likely this chip is the same i7-4700HQ that’s been under the hood of the MacBook Pro for some time. Both systems offer 16GB of RAM. The MacBook Pro 15 with Retina offers 256GB of storage at its base price, while the similarly priced XPS 15 is double that with 512GB. Both systems use a PCI Express solid state drive for maximum performance.
Apple’s Retina display is largely responsible for pushing higher resolution screens into laptops, but in this case, the Dell delivers a hefty gut punch to the Apple with its near-perfect 4K IPS panel. It achieved some of the best scores we’ve ever seen from a display, laptop or desktop, and with a higher resolution and PPI than the Apple, it’s an automatic win.
The first victory for the Apple in the specs category is the battery. The Apple’s battery is about 15 percent larger than the Dell’s, and the Mac’s lower resolution display and better power management mean battery life that’s significantly longer than the Dell’s five to six hour run-time.
If there’s one thing the MacBook really has going for it, it’s style. The sleek, unibody design has become iconic in computing, and even found its way to other platforms and markets, but the XPS 15 isn’t going down without a fight. Infinity is the secret weapon Dell has been hiding up its sleeve, and it packs a real punch.
The extremely thin bezel of the infinity display is immediately striking and gorgeous, and it’s just one of the reasons the XPS 13 has wowed us so much since its re-introduction at CES in 2015. It’s why the design from the XPS 13 was carried over to the 15-inch model. The MacBook is still an elegant machine, but it’s been a while since it’s had a facelift.
Both have spacious keyboards and trackpads, without trying to cram in a numpad. Few users actually need the extra keys, and it’s an easy way to ensure a comfortable keyboard size, with solid key travel.
Apple’s rig does have a slightly better selection of ports. It offers two Thunderbolt ports that can also be used as DisplayPort outputs, along with HDMI and two USB 3.0. The Dell XPS 15 has two USB 3.0 ports, plus a Thunderbolt port that’s also compatible with USB 3.1 Type-C. Both laptops have an SD card, an HDMI output, and a combo audio jack.
Our review Dell XPS 15 was a well-equipped machine, with upgrades in almost every category, which brings the price up to $2,100 from the base price of $1,000. On the other hand, the MacBook Pro 15 starts at $2,000 for the model detailed above. For just $100 more than the base MacBook, users can purchase a top-end Dell XPS 15, with superior graphics and a better display.
At the XPS 15’s base price of $1,000, the system includes an i3 CPU and 8GB of RAM with no discrete GPU. At the $1,400 price point, however, the system includes an i7, a 256GB SSD, and a GTX 960M. That value is really hard to beat, especially for a system that passes all of our benchmarks with flying colors.
As stated before, it’s not a totally fair fight. The MacBook Pro 15 has seen minor updates over the last couple of years, but the XPS 15 is coming out of a major redesign that coincides with a massive processor generation launch.
That being said, Apple has never been one for providing budget options, and if you want the MacBook Pro 15, you’ll have to spend a bit more — that’s always been true. It offers some functionality that the Dell doesn’t, like much, much better battery life, and…well actually that’s about it.
As impressive of a machine as the MacBook Pro 15 is, it’s slowly fallen behind with just incremental updates. We hope a revision isn’t far away.