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Updated: 17 Jul 2020

Which? laptop reviews: Dell XPS 13 9300 takes on the MacBook Pro 2020

Latest testing puts the cream of the Windows crop against the latest Apple MacBook, plus three high-end alternatives from Microsoft, Lenovo and Samsung

We're no strangers to reviewing premium laptops in the Which? labs, but it's rare to have two titans on test at the same time.

In our summer lab testing schedule, both the Dell XPS 13 9300 and the 2020 13-inch MacBook Pro were put through their paces.

We've taken a look at the on-paper specs to help you make a start in deciding which one deserves a place in your bag.

If neither of these models takes your fancy, have a rummage through our full list of the best laptops to find one that will tick all of your boxes.

Dell XPS 13 vs MacBook Pro

If you're looking for a high-end lightweight laptop, you'll have undoubtedly come across both the MacBook Pro and Dell XPS 13. Both models have been updated for 2020 and feature similar internal specifications to their previous versions, but in every other way these are very different machines.

A couple of years ago, the starting price for the MacBook Pro was more than £500 higher than that of the Dell XPS 13.

In recent years, the price of these two laptops has grown increasingly closer. In fact, as of 16 July 2020, the cheapest version of the MacBook Pro (£1,299) is £100 cheaper than the cheapest Dell XPS 13 (£1,399).

Apple a cheaper pick? These are strange times indeed.

Of course, these headline prices don't tell the whole story, because the bottom-specification Dell XPS 13 has twice the storage (512GB) of the MacBook Pro. Upping the storage on the MacBook to match the Dell will set you back an additional £200, putting it at £1,499, £100 more expensive than the Dell.

Which should you buy? Take a look at how they compare on paper, below.

Alternatively, head over to our full 13-inch MacBook Pro 2020 review and Dell XPS 13 9300 review to see if they lived up their promise when our lab experts got their hands on them.

MacBook Pro 2020 vs Dell XPS 13 9300: tech specs compared

Screen quality

There are other major differences between the two laptops, some of which relate to the screens.

  • The Dell on test here has a Full HD screen, while the MacBook Pro has a higher-resolution 'Retina' 2,560 x 1,600-pixel display, making it much sharper than the 1,920 x 1,200-pixel Dell.
  • The MacBook also makes bigger claims about its colour performance, which should mean it can display more vibrant shades than the Full HD Dell display. Our lab tests put this claim to the test in our full reviews.

Dell does have an ace up its sleeve, with a 3,840 x 2,400-pixel 4K screen option. This ups the brightness and colour coverage, as well as making it super-sharp for viewing high-resolution photos and videos. But it also ups the price, starting at £1,749.

Size and build quality

The Dell is smaller, so will take up less space on your desk, and it's lighter too - so more portable.

The larger size of the MacBook Pro does, however, mean the keyboard will be more roomy, and the touchpad is far larger, making it easier to swipe around. And you get a laptop made from a single piece of aluminium, which undoubtedly feels more premium, albeit a touch heavier.

The Dell isn't exactly cheaply made, though - the carbon-fibre-topped wrist rest and aluminium lid are both head-turners.

Keyboard features

The MacBook Pro features the 'Touch Bar', which is a horizontal touchscreen above the keyboard that changes the buttons it displays based on which programs you have open. If you're in Safari, you'll get navigation buttons and your favourites, and in Photoshop you'll have controls for editing images quickly, colour palettes and whatever else you choose to add there.

It is certainly flexible, although traditionalists may prefer the tried-and-tested row of 'F' keys on the Dell.

Performance tech specs

When it comes to potential performance, the two models are closely matched even if the spec sheet doesn't make that entirely clear. The MacBook Pro uses an 'eighth-generation'-branded Intel Core i5 processor, while the Dell uses a newer-sounding '10th-generation' chip. In fact, both processors launched in the third quarter of 2019, so are the same age.

While they ostensibly use slightly different technology, the MacBook's processor boasts slightly better on-paper speeds than the Dell, so you aren't missing out on any noticeable performance day-to-day if you pick the MacBook. But if you want the very latest and greatest, Apple also sells a MacBook Pro with a '10th-generation' processor starting at £1,799.

Three alternatives to the Dell XPS 13 and MacBook Pro

Dell and Apple aren't the only players in town when it comes to high-spec, lightweight laptops. Here are three more to consider.

Lenovo Yoga S940-14IWL, tested at £1,499, now £1,229.

This is one of Lenovo's most expensive laptops, putting it right up there with Dell and Apple. However, since we first tested it, it has come down in price significantly and you get even more for your money.

In fact, Currys is selling this lightweight, 14-inch laptop with a 4K screen (instead of the Full HD model we tested) for £1,229 in a limited-time deal.

Read our full Lenovo Yoga S940-14IWL review to see if it's worth buying.

Microsoft Surface Laptop 3, £999

With a unique, fabric-topped keyboard and a squarer design than its rivals, the Surface Laptop 3 is a genuinely different laptop that could appeal to those looking for an office laptop with a bit of extra pizzazz.

It doesn't scrimp on specs, either, so you aren't missing out on speed even if it doesn't cost as much as the models features above.

Read our full Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 review for the full verdict.

Samsung Galaxy Book S, £999

This laptop does things differently, using a processor that is more akin to what you'll find in a mobile phone. That's no bad thing, though, as the very latest phones are incredibly fast.

What's more, with this processor in use, Samsung makes some huge battery life promises, claiming up to 25 hours of continuous use on a single charge.

We've put this claim, and the rest, to the test in our Samsung Galaxy Book S review.