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Apple's updated MacBook Air is a compact powerhouse of a notebook, and Dell's XPS 13 Plus tailors to the same market segment. Here's how the two notebooks stand in our hands on side-by-side comparison.
The M2 MacBook Air, packing Apple's latest Apple Silicon chip and overhauled with various new features, is arguably one of the best value notebooks you can buy. Combining a slim profile with performance, it is an attractive combination.
Naturally, this is territory that many notebook producers also try to occupy with their products. In the case of Dell, its XPS 13 Plus is a notebook that directly competes against the MacBook Air.
Dell XPS 13 Plus vs 2022 MacBook Air - Specifications
|Specifications||MacBook Air (2022, M2)||Dell XPS 13 Plus|
Best M2 MacBook Air prices
On sale at Dell
|Dimensions (inches)||11.97 x 8.46 x 0.44||11.63 x 7.84 x 0.60|
|Weight (pounds)||2.7||2.71 (FHD and 4K+), |
|Display||13.6-inch Liquid Retina,|
Wide Color (P3),
Non-Touch or Touch options,
LCD or OLED options
|Resolution||2,560 x 1,664||1,920 x 1,200, |
3,456 x 2,160,
3,840 x 2,400
|Brightness||500 nits||400 nits (OLED), |
500 nits (LCD)
|Processor||Apple M2||12th-gen Intel Core i5-1240P 12-core 4.4GHz, |
12th-gen Intel Core i7-1260P 12-core 4.7GHz,
12th-gen Intel Core i7-1280P 14-core 4.8GHz
|Intel Iris Xe Graphics|
|8GB LPDDR5 5200, |
16GB LPDDR5 5200,
32GB LPDDR5 5200,
|512GB M.2 PCIe Gen 4 NVMe SSD,|
1TB M.2 PCIe Gen 4 NVMe SSD,
2TB M.2 PCIe Gen 4 NVMe SSD
Up to 15 hours web, 18 hours video
|55Wh integrated, |
Up to 7 hours of Netflix streaming
|Networking||802.11ax Wi-Fi 6|
|Intel Killer Wi-Fi 6, |
|Biometrics||Touch ID||Fingerprint Reader, |
|Camera||1080p FaceTime HD||720p HD, 400p IR|
|Audio||Four-speaker sound system,|
Three-mic array with directional beamforming,
Headphone jack with high-impedance headphone support,
Dolby Atmos support with Spatial Audio
|Dual stereo speakers (tweeter and woofer), |
Dual array microphones
|Ports||Two Thunderbolt/USB 4,|
|Two Thunderbolt 4|
Dell XPS 13 Plus vs M2 MacBook Air - Physical Design
Like Apple does with the MacBook Air, Dell refers to its XPS 13 Plus as having a "lightweight design." Like Apple, Dell uses an aluminum outer enclosure for its notebook, which lends itself both to the weight and a premium finish.
Indeed, a closer inspection of the closed XPS 13 Plus offers many similarities with Apple's hardware.
While the MacBook Air has moved away from a taper to a more uniform thickness, Dell tries to fake a taper with its own enclosure. The sides start out thicker at the rear, with the edge narrowing towards the front to give the appearance of a taper, but really it is decoration for the edge.
The two are very similarly sized, with the MacBook Air having a footprint of 11.97 inches by 8.46 inches, while the Dell is smaller at 11.63 inches by 7.84 inches. Though Dell wins with a smaller footprint, it does lose out on thickness at 0.6 inches to the MacBook Air's 0.44 inches.
The weight is an oddity, as the configuration options for the Dell can slightly change its mass. The non-OLED version has a starting weight of 2.71 pounds, but going for OLED brings it up to 2.77 pounds.
The MacBook Air is referred to as 2.7 pounds, regardless of configuration. Really, this makes the two notebooks quite similar in weight overall, give or take a small number of ounces.
Dell XPS 13 Plus vs M2 MacBook Air - Display
Both notebooks have a display that's considered to be roughly 13 inches in size. Apple's is slightly larger at 13.6 to Dell's 13.4, but there are a lot more differences to consider.
Apple uses a Liquid Retina display, an LED-backlit screen offering Wide Color (P3) support and True Tone. At 60Hz and 500 nits, it's acceptable in terms of brightness, and its 2,560-by-1,664 display is more than enough for most people, even taking into account the space consumed by the notch.
For the XPS 13 Plus, Dell offers users a choice of four different monitors to go with their notebook. Not all options are available in all configurations, but they exist for most of them.
At the low-end is an FHD+ InfinityEdge display with a resolution of 1,920 by 1,200, a 60Hz refresh rate, a 500-nit brightness, and anti-glare coating. The impressive element is the extremely thin bezel on all sides, even the top edge that fits in a webcam without resorting to a notch.
It has a contrast ratio of 1,500:1, as well as 100^ sRGB coverage and 90% of DCI3 P3.
The next display up is the same specification as the previous display, except it is touch-enabled.
The third is an OLED version with a 3.5K resolution of 3,456 by 2,160, an anti-reflect coating, and touch support. It does have the lowest brightness of the group at 400 nits, but a great 100,000:1 contrast ratio.
Lastly, if resolution is life, the UHD+ display has a high resolution of 3,840 by 2,400, touch support, an anti-reflect coating, and 500 nits of brightness.
Dell XPS 13 Plus vs M2 MacBook Air - Performance
Apple's update to the M2 chip reads a lot like the M1 in general specifications, a chip that has previously proven its worth against its notebook-bound rivals.
The M2 uses an 8-core CPU divided evenly between performance and efficiency cores, along with a 16-core Neural Engine, 100GB/s of memory bandwidth, and a new addition of the Media Engine for video encoding and decoding.
It's supported by either 8GB, 16GB, or 24GB of Unified Memory, which assists not only the CPU, but also the graphical elements of the system.
Dell offers a choice of three processors in its XPS 13 Plus. All of them are 12th-gen Intel chips.
The lowest is the Core i5-1240P, which has 12 cores split into 4 performance and 8 efficiency cores, 16 threads, 12MB of cache, and a clock speed of up to 4.4Ghz.
The mid-range is the Core i7-1260P, which again has 12 cores in the same configuration, 18MB of cache, and a clock speed of up to 4.7Ghz.
At the top end is the Core i7-1280P, which has 14 cores with 6 performance and 8 efficiency cores, 20 total threads, 24MB of cache, and a max clock speed of 4.8GHz.
In our testing of both entry-level machines, the M2 in the MacBook Air bested the Intel silicon in the Dell. The M2 MacBook Air scored 1898 and 8941 on the single and multi-core tests respectively while the Intel Core i5-1240P scored 1336 and 6615.
Each of the machines performed great, making these highly-portable laptops surprisingly capable. We tried playing a few rounds in Civ VI, browsing online, and most tasks felt identical between the two, though load times were just a bit ahead on the MacBook Air.
Results for Dell notebooks equipped with the i7-1260P show results around 1,700 for single-core, and over 9,100 for the multi-core.
Searches for Dell XPS models using the Core i7-1280P in GeekBench's browser brings up single-core scores of around 1,700 again, but the multi-core is around 10,500.
At the high end, the Dell certainly takes the lead for multi-core tasks.
Memory consists of LPDDR5 5,200MHz dual-channel options, starting at 8GB with 16GB and 32GB alternates available.
As an extra wrinkle, there is a difference in thermal management. The MacBook Air doesn't have any incorporated fans, so it relies on heat dissipating through its aluminum body, which means it could hit thermal throttling faster than an actively-cooled notebook.
Dell has been working on the fans in the model, increasing the airflow of its dual-fan system without impacting noise levels. In theory, the Dell should be less affected by longer, more involved workloads, but that shouldn't really be a factor for the real world's lower intensity and shorter single-core workloads.
Even though the fans did kick in during benchmarks, they weren't overly noticeable. They did, however, stumble in properly cooling the machine. In high-performance mode, it reached nearly 100 degrees Fahrenheit on the bottom while our MacBook Air was only about 85 degrees at its hottest.
On the graphical side, the MacBook Air is offered with 8 GPU cores in the base edition, with an option to go for 10 if required.
Dell uses Intel Iris Xe Graphics, which refers to the integrated graphics built into Intel's chips. It scored a 13743 on the OpenCL Geekbench 5 graphics test.
Dell XPS 13 Plus vs M2 MacBook Air - Connectivity
Apple is known for having a rather minimalist approach when it comes to ports on devices. It started to shift away from that viewpoint with the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro releases, and it somewhat continued with the MacBook Air.
The M2 MacBook Air has a pair of Thunderbolt/USB 4 ports, which will be familiar to long-term MacBook Air users. There's also the 3.5mm headphone jack complete with support for high-impedance headphones, which is similarly typical.
For the new addition, Apple added MagSafe 3, allowing users to charge their MacBook without sacrificing one of the two only Thunderbolt ports on the device.
Dell didn't get the memo about increasing connectivity, so it has the two Thunderbolt 4 ports, and that's it. They can be used with Power Delivery for charging, and for DisplayPort output, as well as USB connectivity, but that's your lot.
There's not even a headphone jack, so you're stuck with Bluetooth headphones or using an appropriately equipped dongle or dock.
On the wireless side, both notebooks use Wi-Fi 6 for networking, with the Dell using Intel's Killer-branded 2x2 wireless card.
Bluetooth 5 is still the main one used by Apple in its notebooks. Dell opts for Bluetooth 5.2, which is helpful so long as you have the accessories that use it.
Dell XPS 13 Plus vs M2 MacBook Air - Battery Life
The MacBook Air houses a 52.6Wh lithium-polymer battery, meanwhile Dell says it has a 55Wh integrated battery in its notebook.
However, battery size isn't as important as how you use it.
According to Apple, the MacBook Air can manage up to 15 hours of web access, or 18 hours of video played from the Apple TV app.
Despite being bigger, Dell says its XPS 13 Plus manages up to 7 hours of Netflix video streaming, which is similar to the Apple TV app test of Apple's.
While usually there is a difference in opinion when it comes to testing out battery life, the reasoning seems to be quite equal in this case. Of course, everyday usage will result in variances from the observed battery lives, but it does seem to be a clear win for Apple in that regard.
Dell XPS 13 Plus vs M2 MacBook Air - Keyboards and Trackpads
Apple uses a backlit Magic Keyboard, which offers 12 full-heigh function keys, as well as a Touch ID sensor,
Dell uses a backlit keyboard with an incorporated fingerprint reader, practically equalling Apple at face value. Dell also goes for a "Zero-lattice" keyboard with large and deep keycaps that are "touch-friendly."
However, it uses a capacitive touch function row above the keyboard, providing media shortcuts along with function key access. Rather than a display, like Apple's disappearing Touch Bar, Dell uses backlighting to alternate between symbols.
As for the trackpad, Apple uses its Force Touch version that supports Force clicks, pressure-sensitive drawing, and multi-touch gestures.
Dell has a "seamless glass trackpad" that blends in with the rest of the wrist rest. It's roughly in line with the space bar, so in the same sort of region as the Apple version.
Dell XPS 13 Plus vs M2 MacBook Air - Storage
Apple offers the MacBook Air in a choice of four capacities, covering 256GB, 512GB, 1TB, and 2TB.
Dell's XPS 13 Plus starts off with a 512GB M.2 PCIe Gen 4 NVMe SSD, with options for a 1TB or 2TB version.
However, unlike Apple, Dell does allow for the drive to be changed. Support documents detail how to access and switch out the solid-state drive for another, so it could be upgraded down the line.
Dell XPS 13 Plus vs M2 MacBook Air - Camera and Biometrics
The camera in the M2 MacBook Air is an updated version, with the 2022 edition using a 1080p FaceTime HD camera. Up from a 720p sensor in the previous iteration, the webcam is also supported by the M2's Advanced Image Signal Processor to make the image as perfect as possible.
Dell uses a 720p HD webcam, which is a lower resolution than the M2 MacBook Air. However, it does also have a 400p infrared capability, which enables it to be used with Windows Hello, a biometric security system.
Apple has yet to include a TrueDepth camera array in a MacBook Pro or Air, despite using a notch in the display, so Face ID isn't an option at this time.
Both systems do offer another form of biometric security: fingerprints. The MacBook Air uses Touch ID on the keyboard, while a fingerprint reader in the Dell performs a similar function.
Dell XPS 13 Plus vs M2 MacBook Air - Audio and Microphones
On audio output, the MacBook Air has a four-speaker sound system, along with a headphone jack with high-impedance headphone support. There's also Dolby Atmos support with Spatial Audio.
Dell refers to its audio as "dual stereo speakers" with both tweeters and woofers. Two speakers are up-firing tweeters, while the other two are down-firing woofers.
To get audio back in, Dell employs dual-array microphones. Apple uses a three-mic array with directional beamforming.
Dell XPS 13 Plus vs M2 MacBook Air - Pricing
The M2 MacBook Air starts from $1,199 with the 8-core GPU, 8GB of memory, and 256GB of storage. Going to the 10-core GPU is an extra $100.
Going for 16GB of memory costs $200 more, while 24GB is a further $200 again.
Moving from 256GB of storage to 512GB is $200 extra, another $200 from 512GB to 1TB, and a further $400 from 1TB to 2TB.
The most expensive MacBook Air, with the 10-core GPU, 24GB of memory, and 2TB of storage, costs $2,499 ($150 off with this activation link and promo code APINSIDER at Apple Authorized Reseller Adorama.
Dell's XPS 13 Plus starts with the Core i5, 8GB of memory, 512GB SSD, non-touch FHD+ screen for $1,299. Going for the Core i7-1260P, which also boosts the memory to 16GB, costs $1,549.
The top Core i7 chip, again with the 16GB memory increase, costs $1,699 (buy at Dell).
Increasing the storage from 512Gb to 1TB is $100 across the board, and $200 from 1TB to 2TB. Upgrading the memory from 8GB to 16GB is $100, but while it's $150 to go from 16GB to 32GB, you cannot get the Core i5 with 32GB of memory.
Going from the lowest-resolution display to the touch-enabled version costs an extra $100. Going from the base display to the 3.5K OLED is $300 more, with the upgrade to the UHD+ variant the same cost.
The highest-priced configuration with the Core i7-1280P processor, 32GB of memory, 2TB of storage, and the OLED screen, costs $2,399.
Not quite a MacBook Air
The Dell XPS 13 Plus is a decent Windows notebook in its own right. That certainly cannot be taken away from it at all.
However, the general closeness of the Dell XPS 13 Plus to the appearance and operation of the MacBook Air does distract quite a bit.
If Dell is trying to make the XPS 13 Plus the equal to the MacBook Air, it's not quite met the brief.
The severely limited port selection is a problem historically felt by Apple, but here, Dell is the culprit. Sure, Apple's extra ports amount to a power connection so you don't waste one of the two Thunderbolt ports, but even Apple continues to embrace the headphone jack in its hardware.
As for performance, while the Intel chips can offer high performance, partly aided by active cooling, Apple's extensive push to save on power usage gives it a considerable lead on battery life.
There's no point to having all that performance only to not have the power to run it for an entire working day.
As a Windows notebook, the Dell XPS 13 is commendable, and a good choice for its potential users. But it isn't a MacBook Air, no matter how hard Dell tries.
Where to buy
Apple's M2 MacBook Air is currently on sale, with discounts of up to $150 off the systems and even bonus AppleCare savings.
Meanwhile, the Dell XPS 13 Plus starts at $1,299 and can be configured with up to 32GB of memory and up to 2TB of storage.