Buying a new laptop is always exciting, but it can also be a little tough. There are some phenomenal laptops out there, and choosing the best one for you isn’t always straightforward. When you look at the best laptops you can buy, two of the brands you’ll see most often are Dell and the MacBook family. So you’re especially interested in larger laptops, the Dell XPS 17 and the MacBook Pro 16 inch are two of the top contenders.
So how do you choose between the two? We’re here to help you with that. We’re going to be pitting the Dell XPS 17 against the MacBook Pro 16 inch so you can more easily decide what’s best for you.
Let’s start with the technical specs for each of these laptops. Both the Dell XPS 17 and MacBook Pro 16 inch are high-performance machines, but there are some big differences.
|Dell XPS 17||MacBook Pro 16-inch|
Upgradeable to Windows 11
|Size (WxDxH)||14.74 x 9.76 x 0.77 in (374.45 x 248.05 x 19.05 mm)||14.09 x 9.68 x 0.64 in (357.9 x 245.9 x 16.2 mm)|
|Weight||4.87 lbs (2.21 kg) (non-touch), 5.34 lbs (2.42 kg) (touch)||4.3 lbs (2 kg)|
Dell XPS 17 vs MacBook Pro 16-inch: Windows or macOS
Despite all the differences in specs, the biggest deciding factor for a lot of people will probably be the operating systems. These two are significantly different machines, simply because one of them runs Windows and the other runs macOS. This is something that comes down to personal preference though, and neither one is definitively better than the other.
macOS is often seen as being more accessible to more users. It’s more straightforward in some ways, so for users who want a simple experience, it can be preferable. While macOS generally has far fewer apps than Windows, tools for creative professionals very often favor Apple’s platform.
The biggest example one can point to is Final Cut Pro, which many video creators prefer for video editing. This tool is exclusive to macOS (it’s developed by Apple, after all), so it’s a potential reason to use macOS instead. If you want a quality, free video editor, macOS has iMovie, while Windows 10 no longer includes a proper video editing tool.
On the other hand, as we mentioned, Windows 10 generally has far more apps developed for it. Windows is the most popular operating system for computers, so almost every app out there has a version for Windows. Many Windows apps are also not available on macOS, with the prime example being games. Most videogames are still developed for Windows first, with other operating systems coming later if they get support at all.
If you’re interested in gaming, Windows is definitely the preferred platform. Windows also typically gives users a bit more freedom with how they use their computers, with some in-depth settings being more easily accessible.
As we said at the start though, this comes down to personal preference. Some will prefer macOS over Windows, and others will go the other way.
Dell XPS 17 vs MacBook Pro 16-inch: Performance
Just looking through the spec sheet above, you’ve surely noticed quite a few differences between the MacBook Pro 16 inch and the Dell XPS 17. Apple hasn’t updated the hardware on the MacBook Pro 16 inch since 2019, and thus Dell has much newer, more powerful hardware in many regards.
First off, the MacBook Pro is still using Intel’s 9th-generation processors, which are a couple of years old by now. These processors are based on a 14nm process so they’re less efficient, plus they lack other performance improvements Intel has developed since then.
On the other hand, the Dell XPS 17 is using the latest 11th-generation Intel Core processors, based on a 10nm processor and a handful of other improvements like more cache, better integrated graphics, and more. We can look to benchmark results on GeekBench for a general performance comparison between these processors. Comparing the Intel Core i7-9750H in the MacBook Pro to its newer equivalent, the difference is huge. In fact, even the Intel Core i5-11400H is significantly faster:
|Intel Core i7-9750H||Intel Core i7-11800H||Intel Core i5-11400H|
|Average GeekBench score (single-core/multi-core)||1047 / 4901||1503 / 8156||1405 / 6046|
The graphics cards in the MacBook Pro are also older. The AMD Radeon Pro 5300M and 5500M have been around since the MacBook Pro released in 2019, but the Radeon Pro 5600M was introduced in June 2020, so it’s more recent. However, the higher-end GPUs on the MacBook Pro have 8GB of memory, compared to the maximum 6GB of the Dell XPS 17. Plus, the Radeon Pro 5600M uses HBM2 memory, which is faster than GDDR6. In terms of processing power, though, the NVIDIA GeForce RTX 30 series GPUs on the Dell XPS will still be faster in general.
Both of these laptops offer the same RAM configurations, but if you want the most internal storage possible, the MacBook Pro does give you the option to go further. You can get it with up to a massive 8TB of SSD storage, versus the Dell XPS 17’s 4TB maximum. You’ll be well-served either way, and you always have the option to connect external storage if you need even more space. Overall, the Dell XPS 17 is leading in performance, but that could change in the future. We’re expecting Apple to refresh the MacBook Pro with new Apple Silicon processors sometime soon, which could turn the tide in its favor.
Display, sound, and webcam
If you’re looking for the best display, both of these laptops are great options. However, Dell offers its base configuration with a Full HD+ (1920 x 1200) display, which is significantly less sharp than Apple’s offering. Of course, the Dell XPS 17 starts at a much lower price, but if you want a comparable experience, you’re going to want to upgrade to the Ultra HD+ (3840 x 2400) option. Putting these two options against each other, the Dell XPS 17 does come out on top. You get a larger screen with a higher resolution, plus the Ultra HD+ option on the Dell XPS 17 also includes 100% of Adobe RGB coverage and 94% of DCI-P3.
Apple also touts Wide color (P3) support for its display, and the 3072 x 1920 resolution is still more than sharp enough for anyone to use, though it’s not quite at the same level as the Dell XPS 17. Both the MacBook Pro and the Dell XPS 17 also come with a 16:10 aspect ratio for the display, but the MacBook’s display is slightly smaller. At the end of the day though, both of these laptops are fantastic choices, be it for general use or for creative professionals. The Dell XPS 17 does have another advantage, and that’s support for touch on the Ultra HD+ model. No model of the MacBook Pro has a touch screen.
“(…)both of these laptops are fantastic choices, be it for general use or for creative professionals.”
As for sound, the MacBook Pro 16-inch has a more robust sound system using six stereo speakers. The Dell XPS 17 has a quad-speaker system that’s also fairly loud, but you’ll get a better experience with the MacBook Pro here. If the display is more important to you, the Dell XPS 17 is probably the better option, but if you want the highest quality sound from the built-in speakers, then the MacBook Pro wins out.
Where the Dell XPS 17 is significantly worse is its webcam. In order to keep the bezels as small as possible, Dell created a webcam that’s just 2.25mm in size, and while that’s impressive, the webcam is notoriously low-quality. Both of these laptops have a 720p resolution camera, but you’re going to get far better results with the MacBook Pro.
Design and ports: The MacBook Pro is lighter and smaller
When you’re looking at laptops like this, portability may seem like less of an issue, but it’s still good to be able to carry your laptop more easily. The MacBook Pro 16 inch is easily the more portable of the two machines, weighing 4.3lbs. That’s not exactly light, but the Dell XPS 17 is even heavier at 4.87lbs, and that’s the model without a touchscreen. If you opt for the touch display (which is also 4K), the Dell XPS 17 starts at 5.34lbs, and that makes a significant difference in portability. The MacBook Pro is also just smaller, which is no doubt helped by the smaller display. The Dell XPS 17 is wider, taller, and thicker, though both laptops still come in at under 20mm thickness.
In terms of ports, both of the laptops make Thunderbolt their primary connection interface. The Dell XPS 17 supports Thunderbolt 4, and the MacBook Pro has Thunderbolt 3, but these are actually nearly identical at the end of the day. Thunderbolt 4 has a default bandwidth by default, while Thunderbolt 3 only supported 40Gbps as an option, but that’s the option Apple used, so there’s no big differences here.
What is different is that the Dell XPS 17 includes a full-size SD card reader, so you don’t need an adapter to move files from your camera or phone. Plus, the XPS 17 includes two adapters — USB Type-C to Type-A, and USB Type-C to HDMI. If you want these kinds of ports on the MacBook Pro, you have to spend extra.
Both laptops have a fingerprint sensor for biometric authentication, but the Dell XPS 17 has an infrared camera for facial recognition, too. This makes unlocking your PC much more convenient, since all you need to do is look at it. On the other hand, the MacBook Pro’s keyboard includes a Touch Bar, which you may consider a benefit. The Touch Bar offers the same shortcuts as the function keys by default, but it can be tailored to have different controls in different apps, something you can’t replicate with the typical function keys on the XPS 17.
Finally, in terms of looks, the MacBook Pro comes in two color options — Silver and Space Gray — but they’re both very neutral and not all that interesting. The Dell XPS 17 also has a silver exterior, but it uses a black carbon fiber interior that looks fairly unique. Of course, this too boils down to preference, but the Dell XPS 17 at least stands out from the crowd to some extent.
Dell XPS 17 vs MacBook Pro 16-inch: The bottom line
Despite the Dell XPS 17 having been refreshed much more recently than the MacBook Pro, these two laptops still trade blows in a few ways. For many people, the decision is going to come down to the operating system — if you prefer Windows, you get the Dell XPS 17, but if you prefer macOS, the MacBook Pro is the way to go.
The Dell XPS 17 does pull ahead significantly in terms of performance thanks to the newer hardware. It has much more powerful Intel processors than the MacBook Pro, and the GPUs are also much more powerful on the Dell XPS 17. Plus, you get a bigger screen with the option for higher resolution and touch support, which the MacBook Pro doesn’t have. As a bonus, a built-in SD card reader and included adapters make your life easier if you want to connect external devices.
“The Dell XPS 17 does pull ahead significantly in terms of performance thanks to the newer hardware.”
On the other hand, the MacBook Pro is a much more portable laptop, being lighter and smaller in every measurement, while still being decently powerful. You also get a much better webcam and a better sound system, so media consumption and video calls are likely to be much better here, too. And yes, the display might be lower resolution, but considering the smaller size, it’s still plenty sharp.
With each of these laptops having strengths over the other, the choice is largely dependent on your priorities. However, the MacBook Pro is likely to get a replacement sometime soon, so you may want to hold off to see what the next model looks like. You can buy either one of the laptops using the links below.