M1 Mobility: Apple MacBook Air vs. Dell XPS 13

M1 Mobility: Apple MacBook Air vs. Dell XPS 13

Designed by Apple using Arm architecture, the M1 chip offers benefits including high performance and longer battery life (it also helps to keep the MacBook Air price down).

Thanks to the M1 chip, Apple’s growth streak for the Mac line continues. Mac sales have surged during Apple’s past three quarters, and the M1-powered MacBook Air is no doubt helping to drive the strong demand.

Meanwhile, over in the Windows 10 world – soon to be Windows 11 – Dell’s popular XPS 13 has received an update for 2021 that should make it an alternative to the MacBook Air that’s worth considering. For the processor, Dell’s newest XPS 13 comes with 11th-gen Intel Core processors along with options for OLED or 4K displays.

Both the newest MacBook Air and XPS 13 thus offer powerful CPUs for enabling productivity along with aesthetically pleasing designs.

Which of the two powerful-but-pretty laptops is the better fit for you? We compare the new Apple MacBook Air (M1) vs Dell’s XPS 13 for 2021 on specs and price.

Besides considering the Apple M1 vs Intel CPU differences, buyers looking for a new laptop should check out the differences on display with the MacBook Air and XPS 13. As mentioned, the new XPS 13 offers an option for vibrant OLED display technology or ultra-sharp 4K resolution on its 13.4-inch screen.

While sporting Apple’s famous Retina display technology, the MacBook Air does not have options for resolution that high or OLED technology on the display – or a touch screen, either, as some XPS 13 configurations do offer.

For the latest XPS 13, there are a total of four to choose from. The top-of-the-line OLED XPS 13 features resolution of 3,456 x 2,160 and a touch screen, while there’s also an even higher-resolution model with 4K (3,840 x 2,400) pixels on an LCD touch screen. The XPS 13 for 2021 can also come with a 1,920 x 1,200 display, available as a touch or non-touch screen.

As mentioned, while the MacBook Air doesn’t offer OLED or a touch screen option, the notebook’s Retina display technology promises top-notch picture quality for the notebook. Apple has also introduced support for P3 wide colour on the MacBook Air – which provides “an even more vibrant, true-to-life Retina display,” the company said. The resolution for the M1 MacBook Air falls in between the options on the XPS 13, at 2,560 x 1,600. The XPS 13 also comes out ahead in terms of display brightness, with up to 500 nits of brightness available for the laptop. That’s above the 400 nits of brightness reported by Apple for the M1 MacBook Air.

The XPS 13 does have one other advantage related to the display. Thanks to its use of slim bezels around the display, the notebook offers a 91.5 percent screen-to-body ratio as well as a compact form factor overall. The screen-to-body ratio for the M1 MacBook Air has been reported at about 69.5 percent, as a result of having thicker bezels around the display. The XPS 13 is also a lighter with a starting weight of 2.64 pounds (for the non-touch model), versus a starting weight of 2.8 pounds on the MacBook Air. In terms of thickness, the XPS 13 is a bit thinner at 0.58 of an inch, while the MacBook Air measures 0.63 of an inch thick.

In terms of materials, both notebooks are made from aluminium. The MacBook Air is available in three colours – gold, silver or space gray – while the XPS 13 is offered with either a platinum silver exterior and black interior, or a “frost” exterior and white interior. Both the XPS 13 and MacBook Air only offer two ports and both are USB-C / Thunderbolt. With either laptop, that means getting used to owning dongles for converting from USB-C to other connector needs, such as USB-A or HDMI.

Apple’s MacBook Air is among the first devices to come equipped with the company’s speedy, Arm-based M1 processor. For the MacBook Air, there are two options for the M1—a version that has a seven-core GPU or a variant with an eight-core GPU. Both versions have an eight-core CPU. As mentioned, Dell’s new XPS 13 comes with 11th-gen Intel Core processors. Choices include the Intel Core i3, i5 and i7—up to the Core i7-1185G7, a quad-core chip.

How does the XPS 13 compare on performance to the M1-powered MacBook Air? Recent benchmark scores suggest a speed advantage for the MacBook Air with M1, even when it’s up against the fastest XPS 13. Geekbench 5 scores for the M1 and Core i7-1185G7 show the M1 winning out both in single-core and multi-core tests. The M1’s performance advantage should most noticeable on more-demanding, multi-core tasks, according to the Geekbench 5 results. The XPS 13 does have greater choices for RAM, however, with a higher configuration of 32 GB of RAM available. New XPS 13 models are also being offered with 8 GB or 16 GB of RAM. The MacBook Air with M1 can only be configured with 8 GB or 16 GB of RAM.

The News Highlights

  • M1 Mobility: Apple MacBook Air vs. Dell XPS 13
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