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XPS vs rMBP

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There have been a handful of users who have had both a new XPS 15 and a new rMBP to compare at length before choosing one over the other.  To the best of my knowledge, there is no clear winner between the two (rMBP appears to have the edge of being less buggy overall), but by reading through the content on this page you might grow confident in knowing which laptop is the better fit for you.

Ajax-jp's Comparison:  XPS vs rMBPEdit

For those wanting a comparison between the Late 2013 MBP 15 and the Dell XPS 15 9530, here are my impressions. I'm not going to include a performance benchmark because those are everywhere and should be completely objective. This is only a subjective write up.


Top spec XPS 15 vs Top spec MBP 15 (512g SSD in both)Edit

Build QualityEdit

Construction:

These machines have a lot in common. Both of these machines use high quality materials, aluminum unibody for the Mac, aluminum and carbon fiber for the Dell. Both screens are covered with corning gorilla glass for durability.  The Mac has a smaller footprint and less bezel around the screen. I didn't actually measure it (I can if you want) but here's what I can say, top bezel is about the same, side bezels are smaller on the Dell, bottom bezel is much larger on the dell (probably 2x the Mac).
For those who have used aluminum unibody macs (this is my second), they always feel very solid. They also tend to get very warm when they're in your lap for a long time. My 17" MBP from 2010 would get really hot if I used it for a long period of time.  The Dell is actually thinner and lighter than the Mac but only barely (4.44lb vs 4.46lb, 0.7" vs 0.71".. barely).

Issues:
I haven't experienced any issues with my MBP. I do have coil hum on my Dell, but it's not loud enough to be annoying and I have a feeling this will be corrected shortly. Dell really wants this machine to compete with Apple so it has to be as flawless as possible. Some users have also reported issues with displays and the touch screens.
Overall Feel:
Both of these machines feel really solid. I actually prefer the feel of the Dell's palmrest to the Mac as the soft touch keyboard deck is really comfortable. That said, I prefer the Mac's keyboard (and touchpad but more on that later). The keys on the Dell's keyboard are a bit stiff. They might soften up in time, but compared to the Mac, which has very light accurate feel, the Dell currently feels a bit stiff and spongy. On my desktop I use a mechanical keyboard with Cherry MX Blue switches, so smooth and accurate feel always appeals to me.

DisplayEdit

Color Uniformity and Accuracy:

AjaxjpXPSvsMBP

This pic is being used with permission from ajax-jp, who posted it to NotebookReview on 13 November 2013.

Edit

Out of the box, the Mac has much better color uniformity and accuracy. That said, most of that is caused by software. Another user on this forum pointed out that Dell ships this laptop with the color mode set to vivid. Turn that off! It's about equivalent to the TVs you see at best buy in demo mode settings. Thecolors really pop, they're really bright, and they are completely terrible when it comes to accuracy. Turning off Vivid mode (Start -> Mobility Settings) brings things much closer. You have to remember that both companies are trying to attract professionals to use these products and the displays have to be accurate in order for that to be true. So, vivid mode off, colors are much more uniform on both systems. The Mac has slightly better contrast.
After calibration, it was really hard to tell the difference between the 2 laptops. They both look great.  My only caveat here is the backlight on the Dell. It's REALLY bright at max settings. It's so bright that you can actually see a slight reflection of it off of the front glass when turned all the way up. When I performed my calibration, I calibrated for 180 cd/m brightness. I achieved that at 60% backlight on the Dell. 100% backlight was around 350 cd/m. The Dell is probably great for outdoor use, but for general daily use, turn the thing down!
Resolution:
2880x1800 (1440x900) for the Mac vs 3200x1800 (1600x900) for the Dell. Mac OSX allows a maximum resolution of 1920x1200 using their scalar (unless you install custom software or modify a plist file). Windows will allow you to push all the way to 3200x1800 or 2880x1800 on the Mac. Things are just too small on a 15" display to use that resolution at 1:1 scaling. I personally have my Mac scalar set to 1920x1200 and the Dell is 1.25:1 which gives me 2400x1350.
Either way, both displays look great with the right settings. The extra resolution and PPI is nice on the Dell, though you may not even notice it.
Touchscreen:
The Dell has one, the Mac doesn't. Some users are experiencing issues with it. I'm having no problems. It works just fine. I hate touching my monitor though, lol.

TouchpadEdit

Touchpad:
The Mac's is better, hands down. They both click, and the click mechanism works fine. The click feels better on the Mac and it's more accurate. All too often when I click on the Dell, the cursor moves during the click. I never have that problem on the Mac. I also feel like I can click the touchpad in more places on the Mac.
I've found that with the current drivers shipped by Dell, the touchpad pressure requirement is way too high. I have mine turned almost all the way down and that seems to solve some of the sensitivity issues, especially with gestures.
Gestures:
Again, the Mac's work better and again this could be driver related. With 3 and 4 finger gestures especially, the Dell seems to just miss them every so often.


-- Update --
As of 12/31/13, Dell released a firmware update that is advertised as for the touch screen. This firmware update seems to dramatically improve the behavior of the touchpad as well. The touch pad no longer moves erratically during clicks and 2 and 3 finger gestures are much improved. 4 finger swiping has improved but not as dramatically. It's still not as accurate as the rMBP, but it's very close. Future tuning may iron out the issues with 4 finger swiping.

AudioEdit

Speakers:
At low volumes, both sound good enough for a laptop. The Dell plays much louder than the Mac, however, the sound quality at maximum volume drops off as the bass response at those volumes just isn't there. The Dell's speakers also are a bit bright sounding. That may change with use, but it's not bright enough to be obnoxious. (If you've ever listened to reference speakers, like B&W 8 series with diamond tweeters and kevlar cones, when they're brand new, they sound very bright. The treble can be almost unbearable at high volumes, as they age, they settle down quite a bit and are just wonderful.)
The Mac really does have better bass response across the entire volume range. The sound is much more natural. Apple apparently spent a lot of time on these speakers with this revision.

PortsEdit

Mac: 2 thunderbolt, 2 USB, 1 HDMI, 1 SDXC Card slot
Dell: 3 USB 3.0, 1 USB 2.0, 1 Mini Display Port, 1 HDMI, 1 SDIO/SDXC slot, NFC

ConclusionEdit

They're both really good, but the Mac is better overall.

I find this odd because I didn't buy the Mac, I bought the Dell. The Mac was given to me on Monday when I started my new job. I was replacing my 17" MBP with the Dell XPS and I told myself I wouldn't buy another Mac.
While I don't think it was a mistake to purchase it, I'm really surprised I came to this conclusion.

Assuming Dell can get the minor issues with their machine resolved, I might change my mind.

  • Running Windows 8.1 native on a Mac drives me nuts. I always end up remapping the keyboard as CTRL | OPTION (alt) | COMMAND layout just doesn't work for me. I much prefer the CTRL | ALT | OSKey layout of PC keyboards.
  • The Dell has more options. It's got the better port configuration, NFC, the touchscreen display, higher resolution monitor and better hard disk options (SATA + mSATA).
  • The Mac has the faster processor (4960HQ vs 4702HQ) and also consumes more power because of it.
  • They run the same video card (GT750M 2GB DDR5)
  • They have the same RAM configuration.
  • The top end Mac configuration costs ~500-600 more.

Comments or questions are welcome. Again, this is my opinion and anything above that I may have mis-stated I will correct.

Cincinnatux's Comparison:  XPS vs rMBPEdit

While there are a lot of details I fail to cover here (and I invite others to edit accordingly), the following is a comment I posted to a forum thread about the 15" retina MacBook Pro:

It seems to me that deciding between the rMBP and the XPS depends mostly on OS requirements. Those that need Windows (due to work-required software or to support their gaming habits or both) aren't really comparing rMBP to XPS; they're comparing rMBP running Windows against XPS running Windows. That's a very different comparison. For those that have no need to run Windows to access other applications, it comes down to the philosophic differences between an OS built around providing a fluid experience and an OS built around hardware flexibility. Apple will give you the better experience *unless* you have/want hardware that Apple doesn't sell/control, in which case Windows might give you a better experience.  In addition, there are hardware differences between the rMBP and the XPS.

DisplayEdit

Yes, the rMBP has a more useful aspect ratio, but the XPS contains that aspect ratio *within* its aspect ratio; it has more pixel real estate even if it doesn't have more display surface area. For some people, that would mean squinting to achieve the same verticality and they might well want to stick with the rMBP. The rMBP has a true IPS display, whereas the XPS uses IGZO technology to enhance a TN experience. Each one gives great color fidelity (particularly when calibrated), but the IPS gives wider viewing angles and the IGZO display consumes less power. More significantly for some users, the XPS display is a touchscreen whereas the rMBP is not. That will be a deal-breaker for some shoppers. On the subject of the IGZO display, a few additional comments are merited. Dell is sourcing these displays from Sharp which, in turn, is producing them under contract from a brand-new facility in mainland China. Rumor has it that there have been production delays. Part of this may be because IGZO is a new technology, part of this may be because Chinese corporate law prevents Sharp from outright owning/controlling the factory on Chinese soil, part of this may be because a new facility in a region that already makes pretty good use of its skilled technicians which means that Sharp needs to train hundreds (perhaps thousands) of poorly-educated laborers to operate sophisticated equipment. They can do it (visit China sometime if you have any doubts about industrial miracle-working), but the risk of unforeseen disasters on the production floor is pretty high. Anyhow, owners have had mixed experiences with the performance of their XPS IGZO displays. Most love it, but some have had issues that may be the result of inadequate quality controls in a brand new facility with inexperienced quality control engineers. It happens. For those that get the XPS, this would be a compelling reason to shell out the extra cash for on-site service.


TrackpadEdit

The rMBP has Apple's industry-leading trackpad+driver combo. Nobody in the Windows world has managed to code a driver as reliably intuitive as Apple's in this regard. Those that always use a mouse (or who plan to rely on the touchscreen) may not care about this Apple advantage.


Battery LifeEdit

Both machines use non-swappable li-poly batteries. Dell doesn't have much experience with these, whereas this is the default power supply for all of Apple's mobile electronics. I'd give Apple the edge here on knowing exactly where they can cut costs without compromising battery endurance or safety. But I'd give the Dell the edge in terms of battery replacement. Although it's pricey ($160 US), anyone brave enough to swap out RAM modules in a laptop would be able to change the battery on an XPS. I don't think that bears out for the rMBP. It doesn't give one the flexibility of an external li-ion battery, but it is some insurance for those concerned that Dell doesn't yet know what it's doing with li-poly. All that being said, the rMBP consistently produces real-world battery life that exceeds the battery life of the XPS, often by more than an hour of total usage. That might be a decider for some buyers.


PortsEdit

In a word: thunderbolt. If you have *any* thunderbolt peripherals or if you plan to invest in them within the life of your laptop, your decision is made for you. But given the expense of thunderbolt and the paucity of peripherals cabled for it, surely few shoppers will decide on this basis. The XPS provides a more varied set of port options, making it more flexible in conference rooms, hotels, business offices, and friends' houses. The rMBP presumes that you and your social universe are all wedded to Apple's proprietary standards. If that's true, you aren't seriously considering the XPS anyway. Thus, for people considering both machines in earnest, I would say that the XPS wins on ports for most.


CostEdit

It has been pointed out elsewhere that folks who turn over their hardware frequently (every 12-18 months) can often resell an Apple device for nearly as much as they paid for it new. If this is you, then you are MUCH better off buying the rMBP. If, however, you plan on using your computer for 3 or more years before replacing, the price advantage swings rather dramatically toward the XPS. Yes, on paper it looks like the difference is less than $300. In practice, however, Dell's listed selling price is rarely what the savvy consumer will have to pay for any given Dell machine. In my case, I ordered a high-end XPS (16 GB RAM, IGZO display, i7 CPU, 512 GB SSD, blah blah blah) and my cost was $1900 + tax. I also purchased a 3-year off-site warranty for $100 more. That's $600 less than Dell's list price for this combo. Thus, in the real world, Apple's retail pricing is as premium as its branding strategy. The only thing cheap about Apple is its miserly philosophy; from the consumer end, expect everything to cost you more than non-Apple buys pay to get the same thing. Historically, that has been justified because you couldn't *get* the same thing anywhere else. That's still mostly true, but becoming less true each year.


HeatEdit

Neither machine manages heat particularly well, preferring to have a svelte body instead of internal ventilation. More's the pity. That being said, the XPS's plastic+carbon fiber base should deflect heat from the lap when placed there. It's not perfect, but if you find yourself doing intensive computing with the machine on your lap and for whatever crazy reason you don't have a cooling pad, the XPS will likely do less damage to you than the rMBP. But in most usage it's more of a wash. They both get hot to the touch and benefit from users who feed them cool, fresh air when they are asked to work.


ConclusionEdit

In the end, neither machine is flawless. You will need to weigh for yourself which flaws are more acceptable to you. And that is my recommendation in a nutshell: rather than focus on the strengths of one versus the other, focus on the weaknesses for that is where you will find yourself regretting a poor purchasing decision. You should be able to delight in the strengths of either machine - they are pretty amazing, particularly if you can recall what laptops used to be like 10+ years ago - but when you need it to do something badly and discover how difficult (or impossible) it is to get the device in question to fit your needs.... well, you get the idea.  It is worth noting that for those who expect to run Windows primarily, the battery life is dramatically reduced on the rMBP (versus running Mavericks), due to a Bootcamped Mac's inability to support Optimus switching (meaning that the GT-750M is always running on top of the Intel Iris Pro graphics), in some cases reducing battery life to less than 3 hours of runtime and leaving the machine hot to the touch even under light use (meaning lap use would have to include a thermal barrier like a cooling pad).  In addition, it noteworthy that the touchpad drivers in Windows on a Mac render the Mac touchpad as buggy as touchpads on any other Windows device, including the XPS 15, simply because Microsoft has yet to figure out how to craft an elegant touchpad driver and what makes the Mac touchpad so excellent is the OSX driver, not the hardware (which, after all, is just a pane of glass with a hydrophobic coating on top and sensors beneath it).


Some further hintsEdit

ThunderboltEdit

The Thunderbolt implementation on the Apple is wrong. Following the Thunderbolt specs from Intel, this should be implemented in ACPI, but Apple decided to do this completly in the driver instead. This causes to drive Thunderbolt under Windows and Linux nearly unusable, because the Hot-Plug features do not work.

The driver support of the XPS is much better in this respect, but it only offers USB3.

MaintenanceEdit

The MBPr is almost unrepairable. You cannot even replace the battery without breaking the machine (see [1]) You cannot replace the DRAM or any other component. The only replaceable part is the SSD.

This XPS is better here too and Dell offers a repair guide!



Happy shopping to all. May your choice be the perfect fit for YOU.

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