Two of the best 13-inch laptops you can buy, Dell’s XPS 13 and Apple’s MacBook Air, have undergone significant redesigns in their latest iterations. The XPS 13 9315 has transformed into an all-aluminum laptop with no carbon or glass fiber that’s thinner and lighter than ever while gaining Intel’s 12th-generation CPUs. The MacBook Air gains Apple’s latest CPU, the M2, while losing the iconic tapered design and becoming one of the thinnest laptops around.
We haven’t had a chance to run either of these new machines through our review process, so this comparison will be based on specifications alone. So far, though, one design certainly looks more promising.
|Dell XPS 13 9315||Apple MacBook Air M2|
|Dimensions||11.63 inches by 7.86 inches by 0.55 inches||11.97 inches by 8.46 inches by 0.44 inches|
|Weight||2.59 pounds||2.7 pounds|
|Processor||Intel Core i5-1230U
Intel Core i7-1250U
|Apple M2 eight-core CPU, eight-Core GPU
Apple Me eight-core CPU, 10-Core GPU
|Graphics||Intel Iris Xe||Apple M2|
|Display||13.4-inch 16:10 Full HD+ (1920 x 1080) IPS non-touch
13.4-inch 16:10 Full HD+ IPS touch
13.4-inch 16:10 UHD+ (3840 x 2400) IPS touch
|13.5-inch 16:10 2360 x 1664 IPS|
|Storage||512GB PCIe 4.0 solid-state drive
1TB PCIe 4.0 SSD
|256GB PCIe SSD
512GB PCIe SSD
1TB PCIe SSD
2TB PCIe SSD
|Ports||2 x USB-C with Thunderbolt 4||2 x USB-C with Thunderbolt 4
3.5mm audio jack
|Wireless||Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.2||Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0|
|Webcam||720p with Windows 11 Hello infrared camera||1080p|
|Operating system||Windows 11||MacOS Monterey|
|Battery||51 watt-hours||52.6 watt-hours|
|Rating||Not reviewed||Not reviewed|
The XPS 13’s design was perfected over several years of iterations, resulting in a laptop we considered the best laptop you can buy. It sported an iconic design melding CNC machined aluminum and carbon or glass fiber into a streamlined aesthetic that carried up through the line into the XPS 15 and XPS 17. The new XPS 13 throws much of that design philosophy away. The fiber keyboard deck is no more, with the laptop now sporting an even smaller all-aluminum chassis that greatly simplifies the aesthetic. The warmth that the fiber provided during use is gone as well. Two colors are available, Sky and Umber. Overall, it’s debatable whether the change is an improvement, but Dell clearly doesn’t want the XPS 13 to stagnate.
The MacBook Air M2 remains an all-aluminum affair, but it also loses its most iconic design element. It’s no longer tapered, appearing more in line with the MacBook Pro. It’s also incredibly thin at just 0.44 inches, making it one of the thinnest laptops ever made. It’s available in four colors, Space Gray, silver, Starlight, and Midnight. The MacBook Air M2 has smaller bezels, although not as small as the XPS 13’s, and it also has the notorious notch at the top that houses the webcam.
We expect both laptops to be among the best-built options available. The XPS 13 and MacBook Air M1 were both solid as a rock, and there’s no reason to think the new models will be any different.
If the XPS 13’s keyboard remains the same, it will be among the best Windows 11 versions available today. It has a light touch with precise bottoming action, large keycaps, and plenty of key spacing. The touchpad should also be just fine, with a smooth surface and confident clicks to go with Microsoft Precision touchpad drivers and reliable Windows 11 multitouch gesture support. However, Apple’s Magic Keyboard is the best you can get on any laptop today, with even more precise switches and a bottoming action that’s springy and responsive. Its keycaps are perfectly sized with more than adequate key spacing, making it an incredibly comfortable keyboard for long typing sessions. And, the MacBook Air M2’s Force Touch haptic touchpad is larger and more precise.
The MacBook Air M2 also benefits from a Full HD webcam versus the XPS 13’s 720p variety. It uses Apple’s Touch ID fingerprint reader for passwordless login, while the XPS 13 supports both a fingerprint reader and an infrared camera for facial recognition.
Connectivity is almost evenly matched, with both laptops sporting two USB-C ports with Thunderbolt 4 support. The most significant difference is that the MacBook Air M2 maintains a 3.5mm audio jack while the XPS 13, unfortunately, omits it. That’s a disappointment and gives Apple a leg up. The XPS 13 does have more up-to-date wireless connectivity with Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.2 versus Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0.
The XPS 13 utilizes Intel 12th-gen CPUs, specifically the Core i5-1230U and Core i7-1250U. Both are 9-watt, 10-core (two Performance and eight Efficient), 12-thread processors, with the Core i5 running at a max Turbo frequency of 4.40GHz and the Core i7 ramping up to 4.70GHz. That’s potentially a drop in performance from the previous generation, which used 28-watt Intel 11th-gen CPUs, but with improved efficiency. Of course, we won’t know for sure until we’ve had a chance to benchmark the new model.
The MacBook Air M2 utilizes Apple’s eight-core CPU with up to a 10-core GPU M2, which the company claims is up to 18% faster than the M1 in CPU processes and up to 35% faster in its GPU. The MacBook Air M1 was already faster than the previous-generation XPS 13, and with the latter’s drop to a low-power Intel CPU, the MacBook Air M2 will likely be even faster yet.
There’s no doubt that the MacBook Air M2 should dominate performance versus the new XPS 13. The only question that remains is by how much. And we should note that the MacBook Air M2 is fanless, meaning it will be completely silent even when operating under heavy loads. The XPS 13 can’t boast the same claim.
The XPS 13 comes with a choice of 13.4-inch 16:10 Full HD+ (1920 x 1200) and UHD+ (3840 x 2400) IPS displays. Going by experience, these displays will range from average to just above average, making neither great choices for creators but more than good enough for productivity work. There’s no longer an OLED panel option, which is a tremendous disappointment and takes away a superior display.
The MacBook Air M2 has a new and improved 13.6-inch 16:10 Liquid Retina IPS display at 2560 x 1664 with up to 500 nits of brightness and wide colors. Most likely, it will be a superior display to either XPS 13 option. That, too, will have to wait until we’ve had a chance to review both machines.
The XPS 13 is slightly narrower than the MacBook Air M2 and more than half an inch shallower. It also weighs less at 2.59 pounds versus 2.7 pounds, but it’s not as insanely thin at 0.55 inches versus 0.44 inches. Both laptops are tiny enough to toss in a backpack and forget it’s there, though, so the difference doesn’t make a huge one.
We don’t have battery life numbers on either machine, but we’re willing to guarantee that the MacBook Air M2 will get a significantly longer battery life than the XPS 13. In fact, it wouldn’t be surprising if Apple’s laptop doubled up on Dell’s machine or better. That makes the MacBook Air M2 the more portable machine and one that might last two full working days on a single charge.
The XPS 13 starts at $979 for a Core i5-1230U, 8GB of LPDDR5 RAM, a 512GB PCIe 4.0 SSD, and a 13.4-inch FHD+ display. Currently, Dell isn’t listing the UHD+ display, so the high-end XPS 13 that can currently be configured is $1,469 for a Core i7-1250U, 32GB of LPDDR5 RAM, a 1TB PCIe 4.0 SSD, and the Full HD+ display.
The MacBook Air M2 entry-level configuration is $1,199 for an eight-core CPU, eight-core GPU, 8GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD, and the 13.6-inch display. You can configure up to an eight-core CPU, 10-core GPU, 24GB of RAM, a 2TB SSD, and the 13.6-inch display for $2,499. That makes the MacBook Air M2 the more expensive laptop.
It’s challenging to award either laptop with a clear-cut victory without having put them through our review process. But on paper, the MacBook Air M2 is the superior laptop for anyone who’s not tied to Windows 11 and has some extra cash to spend.