XPS 13 vs Surface

I recently bought a Dell XPS 13, to replace my Surface Pro 3. These devices roughly cost the same, but I managed to snag a last generation XPS with the improved screen for the same price as a current generation with the regular HD display. I miss out on USB-C and improved graphics, but that’s not a huge deal.

While both of these devices are a generation behind, they’re very similar to the current model, so this comparison is still valid.

My XPS 13

What the XPS does better

  • Screen This is the best part of the XPS 13. The 3200x1800 resolution is great, and apps like Photoshop look great at 200% scaling. There’s more pixels on this thing than the 15” MacBook Pro! Oh, and the tiny bezels are beautiful.

  • Battery Even with the crazy screen, the XPS lasts 9 hours. The Surface with a fresh battery only lasts 5 hours. The power management also seems a lot better - the Surface always used to randomly turn on in my bag.

  • Connectivity The XPS has an extra USB port, lock slot and a full sized SD card reader. The newer model even has Thunderbolt over USB-C! Oh, and if you thought Broadcom Wi-Fi was bad, the Atheros chip in the Surface will drive your head through a wall.

What the Surface does better

  • Stylus The Surface has pen support, which works really well. It’s great if you want to annotate things, or draw. However, I find paper better because you can spread it around on a table and refer back a bit easier. Oh, and since printing is an enormous hassle, I just handwrite my assignments anyway. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

  • Keyboard The Type Cover 4 is less mushy, even though it has less travel.

  • Audio The Surface has front facing speakers and never any software issues. On the XPS, very occasionally headphones aren’t detected or the sound quality deteriorates (a reboot fixes this).

Things other people have issues with

  • Webcam The XPS 13 has stupid webcam placement, but I use my phone for video calling.
  • Form Factor The Surface is also a tablet.
  • Windows Hello Only the Surface Pro 4 has this, but it’s really cool.
  • Windows 10 Pro The Surface comes with it, but I had a spare license for my XPS.

What both could do better

  • Trackpad The trackpad on the Type Cover 4 is too small. The XPS 13 doesn’t support four finger gestures. I just wish I could switch desktops with 3 fingers. There’s also a lot of apps in Windows that don’t handle precision scrolling well *cough* Electron *cough*.

  • Windows 10 Sometimes Windows Explorer messes up and I can’t use instant search. It’s very annoying, and I need to restart the process.

The Verdict

I like the XPS more, if only because of the nicer screen and significantly better battery. If a tablet and stylus is important to you, get a Surface.