Dell XPS 13 Plus vs MacBook Air M2: The best ever

Dell and Apple have rolled out two of the most advanced laptops we’ve seen in a while. The Dell XPS 13 Plus and M2 MacBook Air push the boundaries of laptop design but in different ways. Which one is more forward-thinking and more worthy of your money?

Having reviewed both devices myself, I’m ready to outline the pros and cons of both – and give you my best recommendations for what to buy.

MacBook Air on a table in front of a window.

design

Both mobile devices are sophisticated in terms of looks and aesthetics. The MacBook Air M2 looks more traditional in that it takes a lot of design elements from the 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pro and translates them into a smaller size. This includes notch, thinner edges, rounded corners, and flat cap.

The XPS 13 Plus takes the XPS brand in a whole new direction. Most of the brand’s hallmarks are gone, and they’re as adventurous as laptops. The keyboard extends from edge to edge, giving it a very modern look. Meanwhile, the trackpad is completely invisible. Like the MacBook Air, it uses a haptic feedback trackpad, which means there’s no physical clicking mechanism.

But where the MacBook Air M2 remains a leader is in size. At just 0.44 inches thick, it is the thinnest laptop of this type. The only other laptops that came this close are a couple of premium Chromebooks and a few Windows laptops. Built around the efficiency of the M2 chip, MacBook Air is able to be incredibly thin without sacrificing performance. At this level alone, it will change the rules of the game.

While the XPS 13 Plus is fairly compact by itself, it’s closer to what you get with the M1 MacBook Air in this regard.

Keyboard and trackpad

Capacitive touch buttons on the Dell XPS 13 Plus.

These two devices feature some of the best keyboards and trackpads on a laptop that you can buy. There is a lot in common about these input pairs, too. Both feature 1mm of key travel on the keyboard and touch trackpads.

However, there are two things to keep in mind about the layout of these keyboards. First, the MacBook Air has a row of full-size function keys, rather than the half-size keys found on the M1 MacBook Air. It makes quick access to brightness or volume control easier than ever. The Dell XPS 13 Plus takes an opposite approach, replacing the function keys with capacitive touch buttons. Although they didn’t bother me as much as I thought they would, I pretty much prefer physical switches. Lighting buttons definitely look futuristic.

Finally, I really like the size of the keycaps on the XPS 13 Plus. The “edge-to-edge” design means keys such as the Shift and Ctrl keys are very wide.

ports

Side of the MacBook Air showing the ports.

Both portable devices are very simple when it comes to ports. Both are primarily based on USB-C, although there are some important differences. First, both the MacBook Air M2 and the Dell XPS 13 Plus feature two USB-C ports. The MacBook Air keeps both on the left side, while the XPS 13 Plus has the left and the other on the right. I prefer the XPS 13 Plus in this regard, obviously, just for the sake of convenience.

The XPS 13 Plus has another advantage over the MacBook Air with the capabilities of these ports. The MacBook Air can still only support one external display up to 4K, while the XPS 13 Plus can handle two. This is somewhat important for people looking to dock their laptop and use it as a workstation at home.

Of course, the MacBook Air M2 also comes with its own MagSafe 3 power connector, which can free up one of the USB-C ports for other connections. It also comes with a headphone jack, which the XPS 13 Plus leaves entirely. While Dell does include a free USB-C adapter in the box, you may find yourself with very limited ports if you use one for audio and one for power.

Display and webcam

Dell XPS 13 Plus at a table outside.

The MacBook Air has only one display: a 2560 x 1664, 13.6-inch “Liquid Retina” display. It’s a beautiful screen with a brightness of 486 nits. Not only does it have the amazing HDR performance of the 14-inch MacBook Pro, but neither does the XPS 13 Plus.

There are many different screen options with the XPS 13 Plus. I tested the 3.5K OLED screen option, which is the best option in terms of image quality. You can also choose either a lower resolution LED panel or a higher resolution 4K LED configuration. The 3.5K OLED screen isn’t quite as bright as the MacBook Air, but it has better resolution and color saturation than the MacBook Air. Of course, since it’s OLED, it also has deeper black levels and better contrast.

It’s also a touchpad, which the MacBook Air still doesn’t offer.

MacBook Air webcam.

For webcams, the MacBook Air is by far the best option. It’s 1080p versus 720p, and provides much better low-light performance for video calls.

Performance and battery life

In almost all cases, the MacBook Air M2 is the most powerful laptop. That might come as a surprise, given how thin the chassis is and the long battery life. However, whether it’s a single-core core muscle in benchmarks, GPU performance, or video editing in Premiere Pro, the MacBook Air M2 is the most powerful laptop out there. For example, the MacBook Air M2 is 54% faster at exporting timelines in Premiere Pro. Even in XPS 13 Plus performance mode, the M2 is still 36% faster on exports.

MacBook Air also keeps a laptop cool on the outside. While it can get hot internally, MacBook Air surface temperatures remain amazingly cool, especially in the palm. It doesn’t have a fan either, which means it’s a much quieter laptop than the XPS 13 Plus.

MacBook Air M2 screen.

However, there are some caveats to these claims. First, the configuration I tested was not the base model, which It is said to have nerfed performance in several different areas. It only has an eight-core GPU, and the SSD has only one NAND chip. This resulted in significantly worse storage performance, affecting tasks like transferring files – or anything that relies on quick access to an SSD.

This has no effect on battery life. No matter which configuration you buy, the MacBook Air M2 offers amazing battery life — especially compared to the Dell XPS 13 Plus. It will last 18 hours compared to the eight hours on the Dell XPS 13 Plus. It’s not even in the same league.

conclusion

MacBook Air keyboard.

When choosing between these two portable devices, most people will succumb to which operating system is more comfortable for them. Either way, you will get an excellent, high-quality laptop.

As much as I love the XPS 13 Plus’s bold design, if you really want to compare it side by side, the MacBook Air M2 is clearly the best laptop. It’s faster, lasts significantly longer on a charge, and offers a much better video and media conferencing experience. Interestingly, the price of the two laptops is also similar, depending on the configuration.

Editors’ Recommendations






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