The Dell XPS 13 is currently our pick for the best laptop on the market, and it has been for awhile. As Dell continues to refine its thin and light laptop — including some significant changes in the 2020 model we’ll be covering in this comparison — the XPS 13 continues to prove that it’s the laptop for work, general browsing, and even some light photo or video editing.
However, it has some stiff competition in HP’s Spectre x360 13. HP’s competing laptop has some of its own improvements for 2020, but which one should you choose? In this Dell XPS 13 versus HP Spectre x360 13 comparison, we find out.
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When it comes to looks and build quality, it’s hard to go wrong with the XPS 13 and x360 13. Dell’s model is familiar, short of a slightly reworked hinge, and it comes in two colors: Silver with a black interior, or Frost with a white interior. HP’s x360 is a little more flashy with diamond-cut corners and lovely Spectre logos adorning each of the hinges. It has more color options, too, including silver, black and gold, and navy with silver accents. We’ll get into dimensions later, but the two laptops are mainly on par. Technically, however, the XPS 13 is slightly thinner and lighter.
As for typing, the XPS 13 and x360 are the best of the best when it comes to laptops (short of the Magic Keyboard on Apple’s latest MacBooks). A lot of it comes down to preference, but the x360’s keys have more travel than the Dell’s. The 2020 XPS 13 does improve on previous models, however, changing out the butterfly mechanisms for a more tactile feel, and moving the page up and page down keys away from the arrow keys. The changes, as we noted in our review of the XPS 13, basically make the x360 13 and XPS 13 equal when it comes to typing.
The two aren’t equal when it comes to port selection, though. The XPS 13 continues the trend of Dell removing ports, featuring a single Thunderbolt 4 port on each side of the laptop, as well as a 3.5mm headphone/microphone combo jack and a MicroSD card reader. The x360 13 comes with a pair of Thunderbolt 4 ports, as well, in addition to a 3.5mm jack. It trades the MicroSD port for a USB 3.0 Type-A port, however. Considering you’ll need a dongle with both machines, the USB-A port on the x360 13 is a useful addition.
As for wireless connectivity, the two machines are equally matched, sporting the latest Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5. The x360 13 also supports LTE on certain models.
Intel’s 11th-gen Tiger Lake processors are the star of the show for both the XPS 13 and x360 13, and Dell and HP have mostly the same options. For HP, you have the option between the i5-1135G7 and i7-1165G7. Dell matches those offerings in its high-end configurations, but also offers a less powerful i3-1115G4 model at a reduced price. At their respective prices, the i7-1165G7 is the ideal choice. It’s a four-core, eight-thread part that can turbo up to 4.8GHz, and it comes with Intel’s new Xe graphics.
Other components are similar, too, with both manufacturers offering up to 2TB of NVMe storage and 8GB or 16GB of RAM (HP also offers a 32GB configuration). Outside of the XPS 13 enjoying faster memory speeds, the two notebooks are equal on paper. If our past encounters with HP’s x360 are anything to go by, the XPS should perform slightly better in certain applications (this makes sense, given the faster memory speed). “Slightly” is the operative word here, though. In most real-world use cases, you won’t notice much of a difference between the two.
As for what real-world cases these laptops are equipped for, photo editing and general productivity top the pile. With a smaller design, the XPS 13 and x360 13 don’t have enough horsepower to make it through extensive video editing or 3D modeling quite like their 15-inch counterparts.
Don’t expect to run AAA games at 60 FPS either, though Esports gaming is certainly possible. Testing a slightly more powerful i7-1185G7, we found that Intel’s new Xe integrated graphics could produce playable frame rates in Battlefield V and Civilization VI. A dedicated GPU is still essential for any serious gaming, but the XPS 13 and x360 13 can play the role of lightweight gaming notebooks once you wrap up your work.
Internally, the two laptops are mostly equal, but there are some significant differences externally. For HP’s x360 13, a touchscreen is the standard. No matter what model you choose or what resolution — HP offers 1080p and 4K — you’re getting a touch display. HP offers an OLED display with certain CPU configurations, too, sporting much deeper contrast and a peak brightness of 400 nits.
Dell doesn’t offer an OLED option, though it’s not down for the count. XPS 13 models come in either FHD+ or UHD+ with a peak brightness of 500 nits and support for Dolby Vision HDR. The “+” bit comes from the 16:10 aspect ratio on the XPS 13, giving you a few hundred extra pixels horizontally. The extra pixel count may not sound like much, but it makes a difference. Dell has been using its InfinityEdge displays for a while, so combining a slightly wider aspect ratio with little in the way of bezels, the XPS 13 can simply fit more things on screen than the x360 13.
The XPS 13 and x360 13 are both thin and light laptops, though the Dell model is slightly thinner and lighter. For the non-touch model, the XPS 13 clocks in at 2.64 pounds to the x360 13’s 2.8 pounds and measures only 0.58 inches thick (the x360 13 is 0.67 inches thick). The x360 13 is also around half an inch wider than the XPS 13.
Even with the differences, you’ll rarely, if ever, notice a difference between the two. They’re basically the same in terms of size and weight, so unless you can discern a difference of a tenth of an inch, you shouldn’t worry about size.
You should worry about battery life, however. The XPS 13 comes with a 52 watt-hour (Wh) battery, while the x360 13’s battery is rated for 60Wh. Based on the size of the battery alone, the HP laptop beats the Dell laptop every time. Testing local video playback, we found the x360 lasted around three and a half hours longer than the XPS 13 with a standard 1080p display. With the OLED display, the x360 drops below the XPS 13, but only by a bit.
It’s important to remember the XPS 13’s aspect ratio here. Powering the display is one of the biggest strains on your laptop’s battery, and the XPS 13 is simply pushing more pixels than the x360 13. It’s a small difference, sure, but combined with the x360’s larger battery, HP is the clear winner when it comes to battery life. We wouldn’t recommend the 4K version of either laptop if you’re worried about battery life, though. Expect to lose three to four hours on average battery life with a higher resolution display.
Two excellent laptops, but which should you pick?
The HP Spectre x360 13 is an exceptional laptop with a starting price of $1,100 (you can snag it for around $800 when it’s on sale). For this price, you receive a Core i5-1135G7 CPU, 8GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD, and a sleek, low-power, Full HD display. If you want to opt for the pricer version, you can max out at $1,930 (or you can grab it for $1,630 on sale). This upgraded edition includes a Core i7-1165G7, 16GB of RAM storage capacity, a 2TB SSD, and an awe-inspiring 4K AMOLED display.
If you’re looking for a Dell XPS 13, you can get a decent one starting at $980. With it, you’ll get a Core i3-1115G4, 4GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD, and a Full HD non-touch display. The price only increases from here. The highest you can spend is $2,350 (or a sale price of $2,100) for a Core i7-1185G7 16GB of RAM, a 2TB SSD, and a sweet, 4K IPS display.
We found that the x360 13 is the more affordable option compared to other laptops. Even though the most affordable x360 13 is priced higher than the cheapest XPS 13, it includes an i5, while the Dell model only consists of an i3.
There are plenty of tiny benefits to consider with the x360 13, such as its extended battery lifespan and its incredible OLED display option. However, we do want to point out that the XPS 13 has some leverage of its own, with a slightly wider aspect ratio.
Each of these laptops is comparable to each other, so it’s challenging for us to crown a champion. In all honesty, it’s pretty subjective. Most of it comes down to users’ screen, typing, and design preferences.