HP Spectre x360 13.5 vs. Dell XPS 13 which flagship to buy?

HP Spectre x360 13.5 vs. Dell XPS 13 which flagship to buy?

Deciding Between the Dell XPS 13 and HP Spectre x360 13.5: A Comprehensive Comparison

If you’re in the market for a premium, lightweight, 13-inch Windows laptop, chances are you’ve heard of two popular models: the Dell XPS 13 and the HP Spectre x360 13.5. These laptops are widely regarded as the cream of the crop in the 13-inch category. They come with a hefty price tag and boast impressive build quality and aesthetics.

But what sets these two laptops apart, and which one should you choose? Having extensively used both models, I’m here to provide you with an in-depth comparison. Spoiler alert: the Spectre x360 is the model I would personally opt for, thanks to its numerous advantages over the XPS. However, there is one significant drawback that you should be aware of.

Let’s dive into the details and explore the differences between these two laptops.

Price: Who Wins the Budget Battle?

Let’s get the price discussion out of the way. Currently, you can purchase a Spectre x360 13.5 with a Core i7, 16GB of memory, and 1TB of storage (the configuration I tested) for $1,434.99. On the other hand, a similarly specced XPS 13 has an MSRP of $1,449 but is currently discounted to $1,299 on Dell’s website. The XPS 13 with a 1TB storage option is only available with 32GB of RAM. So, there’s a difference of $135.99 (which may vary due to discounts), but the extra cost of the Spectre x360 is not without its merits.

Look and Feel: Aesthetic Appeal Showdown

The visual vibe of the XPS and the Spectre is where you’ll notice the most significant difference, and it’s an aspect that will impact your daily experience with the laptop. Each laptop has its own distinct look and feel.

Personally, I find the Spectre’s design to be gorgeous and sophisticated. The black model I tested has tasteful gold accents around the touchpad, hinges, and various other locations, giving it an elegant C-Suite look. On the other hand, the XPS is more inclined towards blending in, with a plastic-like texture and a generic aesthetic. It’s not unattractive, but it doesn’t turn heads either.

In terms of portability, the XPS takes the lead. Weighing almost half a pound less than the Spectre, it feels noticeably lighter when carrying both laptops in a backpack or tote. This aspect makes a difference, especially if you commute frequently. Personally, the XPS’s ease of mobility has been the primary reason I’ve hesitated to choose the Spectre, despite its other appealing qualities. Additionally, I’ve noticed that the XPS’s finish is more prone to scratching, while the Spectre is more susceptible to fingerprint smudges.

Video Calling Experience: Which Laptop Makes You Look Good?

When it comes to video calls, the XPS’s webcam falls short. While not terrible, it often produces washed-out backgrounds. On the other hand, the Spectre’s webcam is superior, producing a less grainy image and handling bright backgrounds better. It also comes with a physical shutter, providing additional privacy with the ability to control it via the keyboard.

The Spectre truly excels in the video calling department with its GlamCam suite of “beautification” features. This includes a Center Stage-like feature that follows you during calls, a lighting correction filter (though its effectiveness is debatable), a “BRB Mode” that displays “BRB” on your screen if you need to step away, and an appearance filter for retouching your face. These effects may raise questions about beauty standards, but if you desire these enhancements, the Spectre has them readily available.

Moreover, the Spectre has twice the number of speakers compared to the XPS, providing crisp audio with solid bass. While the XPS’s audio is decent, it falls slightly short in volume, making it challenging to hear calls in public spaces. The Spectre’s audio quality is superior in this aspect.

Screen: A Window to Visual Delight

When it comes to the screen, the Spectre steals the show. The XPS comes with a 1920 x 1200 IPS panel, limiting your options to this resolution. If you desire a higher-resolution OLED display, you’ll have to look at the more expensive XPS 13 Plus model, which also features additional unique elements.

The Spectre I tested came with a 3000 x 2000 OLED screen, creating a divine visual experience. It boasts minimal glare, vivid colors, and crisp details. The Spectre’s screen is undoubtedly a sight to behold, and parting ways with it was a bittersweet experience.

Furthermore, the Spectre features a 3:2 aspect ratio, while the XPS has a 16:10 ratio. Both options are preferable to the traditional 16:9 ratio, but the 3:2 aspect ratio provides slightly more vertical room compared to the XPS.

Battery Life: The Achilles Heel

Here’s where the Spectre encounters a stumbling block. With continuous use, I averaged just over four hours of battery life from the OLED-powered Spectre. Despite having a larger battery than the XPS, the high-resolution screen quickly consumes power.

This low battery life, though somewhat expected due to the OLED display, is a significant drawback for such a pricey device. It remains my primary complaint about the Spectre. If it could achieve around 10 hours of battery life, it would be a nearly perfect laptop. The Spectre stands out in multiple categories, but the short lifespan makes it a tough sell for users who require portability.

On the other hand, the XPS fared considerably better, averaging six hours and 42 minutes of battery life with the same workload. While not groundbreaking by XPS standards, it is still an impressive result compared to other Windows laptops. Achieving all-day battery life is no longer a given, and the XPS handles it quite well.

Performance: Benchmarks and Beyond

Benchmark scores can provide insight into performance, although it should be noted that neither the Spectre nor the XPS is designed for prolonged heavy usage. Nevertheless, if you’re curious about scores, here they are:

  • Geekbench 6 CPU Single: Spectre – 2240, XPS – 2028
  • Geekbench 6 CPU Multi: Spectre – 8790, XPS – 7224
  • Geekbench 6 Open CL / Compute: Spectre – 14537, XPS – 8386
  • Cinebench R23 Single: Spectre – 1633, XPS – 1346
  • Cinebench R23 Multi: Spectre – 7825, XPS – 5233
  • Cinebench R23 Multi 30 min loop: Spectre – 7947, XPS – 4390
  • PugetBench for Premiere Pro: Spectre – 224, XPS – 177
  • Shadow of the Tomb Raider (1920 x 1200, highest): Spectre – 32, XPS – 15
  • 4K Export (Adobe Premiere Pro 15): Spectre – 6:48, XPS – 10:08

In terms of processors, the Spectre edges out the XPS slightly. While their scores are similar, the Spectre usually comes out on top in most cases. If gaming or video exporting are part of your routine, you may notice slightly faster performance with the Spectre. However, if these tasks are a regular occurrence, neither of these laptops belongs on your shortlist.

For general day-to-day usage, both laptops perform admirably in popular web browsers and office applications. The difference is negligible. It’s worth noting that the XPS tends to generate more fan noise, with the fans kicking in even during light tasks like browsing. In contrast, the Spectre remains cool and quiet, with noise only becoming noticeable during demanding benchmark tests. If fan noise bothers you, the Spectre proves to be the better choice.

Which Laptop Should You Buy?

In conclusion, the Spectre reigns supreme in many areas, making it my top recommendation. However, there is one glaring Achilles heel: battery life. The Spectre’s limited endurance, averaging around four hours, is disappointing considering its premium price tag. The difference of two hours between the Spectre and the XPS could determine whether you need to carry a charger, complete a flight, or make it through a day of school or work. This is a significant advantage in favor of the XPS.

Despite this drawback, I still believe the Spectre offers better value for its price. Its exceptional build quality, unique aspect ratio, and overall package are difficult to find from other manufacturers. HP’s innovative approach with the Spectre sets it apart from Dell’s more conservative approach with the XPS. Thus, the Spectre is the more exciting option.

However, opting for the XPS wouldn’t be unreasonable, especially if HP fails to address the battery life issue that arises with a high-resolution OLED screen and a 67Wh battery. The XPS’s lower price and longer battery life make it an attractive choice for many users seeking a pragmatic solution.

Ultimately, the choice boils down to your specific needs, preferences, and budget. Whichever laptop you choose, rest assured that both the Dell XPS 13 and HP Spectre x360 13.5 provide excellent options in the realm of 13-inch Windows laptops.