It’s no secret that 15-inch laptops (and bigger) are the powerhouses of portable computing. They’re used for gaming, content creation, video editing, and serious work.
Two of the best laptops are the Dell XPS 15 and the Apple MacBook Pro 16. Both are excellent laptops that offer great performance, outstanding build quality, and excellent input options — but which one is right for you?
|Dell XPS 15 9520||Apple MacBook Pro 16|
|Dimensions||13.56 inches x 9.06 inches x 0.73 inches||14.01 inches x 9.77 inches x 0.66 inches|
|Weight||4.62 pounds||4.8 pounds|
|Processor||Intel Core i5-12500H
Intel Core i7-12700H
Intel Core i9-12900HK
|Apple M1 Pro
Apple M1 Max
|Graphics||Intel UHD graphics
Intel Iris Xe
Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050
Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti
|Integrated Apple GPU|
64GB (M1 Max)
|Display||15.6-inch 16:10 Full HD+ (1920 x 1200) IPS non-touch
15.6-inch 16:10 UHD+ (3840 x 2400) IPS touch
15.6-inch 16:10 3.5K (3456 x 2160) OLED touch
|16.2-inch 16:10 Liquid Retina XDR (3456 x 2234)|
|Ports||1 x USB-C 3.2 Gen 2
1 x USB-C with Thunderbolt 4
1 x 3.5mm audio jack
1 x SD Card reader
|3 x USB-C 4 with Thunderbolt 4
1 x HDMI 2.0
1 x 3.5mm audio jack
1 x SD Card reader
|Wireless||Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.2||Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0|
|Operating system||Windows 11||MacOS Monterey|
|Battery||86 watt-hour||100 watt-hour|
|Rating||4.5 out of 5 stars||5 out of 5 stars|
Your first decision is which operating system is right for you. If you have no preference, then read on. But if you’re a fan of one over the other, then the hardware won’t matter — your decision has already been made.
If it hasn’t, however, then you’ll be pleased to know that both laptops offer exceptional design and sturdiness. The XPS 15 combines machined aluminum and carbon fiber (black keyboard deck) or glass fiber (white keyboard deck), while the MacBook Pro 16 is constructed from a single chunk of aluminum. Both have a tight fit and finish and feel plenty rigid in hand — you won’t be making your decision based on build quality alone.
Aesthetically, the MacBook Pro 16 is a simpler design. It’s either silver or space gray throughout, with only the black keyboard section and black Apple logo on the lid breaking up the color scheme. It’s a study in refined elegance, and while it’s a minimalist design, it still exudes quality. The XPS 15 is more elaborately designed, with silver or frost aluminum making up the lid and chassis bottom and a black carbon fiber or white glass keyboard deck creating a lovely contrast. The sides are double-anodized chrome that accentuates the streamlined chassis and provides extra protection against scratches. Both laptops are good-looking machines, and which is better depends on one’s subjective tastes.
Despite having relatively short travel at just 1mm, the MacBook’s Magic Keyboard keyboard is crisp, snappy, and responsive. It’s the best keyboard available on a laptop today. The keyboard on Dell’s XPS 15 is also excellent, with more travel and its own precise mechanism. Both keyboards have large keys and plenty of key spacing, which, combined with excellent switches, make them well-suited for long typing sessions.
The MacBook Pro 16’s touchpad is also a step above the XPS 15’s. While the Dell sports a fine touchpad that’s large by Windows 11 standards and supports Microsoft Precision touchpad drivers, it doesn’t compare to Apple’s expansive Force Touch touchpad. It takes a little time to get used to the MacBook’s haptic feedback method of registering “clicks” compared to the physical buttons on the XPS 15. Once you’re used to it, though, it becomes second nature. Apple’s touchpad also remains the most responsive when it comes to the plethora of multitouch gestures supported by MacOS.
The XPS 15 uses a fingerprint scanner and facial recognition to support Windows 11 Hello, which works well for logging in without a password. Apple has its Touch ID fingerprint reader that also allows for passwordless login. They’re both great solutions that work very well.
As for ports, there are some essential differences between the two. Apple has expanded connectivity on the MacBook Pro 16, offering a full-size HDMI port and full-size SD card reader to go with three USB-C ports with Thunderbolt 4 and a 3.5mm audio jack. Dell provides a less diverse range of connectivity, with just a USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 port, two USB-C ports with Thunderbolt 4 support, a 3.5mm audio jack, and a full-size SD card reader. The XPS 15 offers Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.2, an advantage over the MacBook Pro 16’s Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1.
The MacBook Pro 16 can be equipped with Apple’s M1 Pro or M1 Max CPU. The former offers a 10-core CPU (eight performance and two efficiency) and a 16-core CPU. The latter is a 10-core CPU but offers 24 or 32 GPU cores. Both are incredibly fast at CPU-intensive tasks and burn through creative workflows. We reviewed the MacBook with the M1 Pro chip.
The Dell XPS 15 offers Intel’s 45-watt 12th-gen CPUs, including the Core i5-12500H (four Performance cores, eight Efficient cores, and 16 threads), the Core i7-12700H (six Performance cores, eight Efficient cores, and 20 threads), and the Core i9-12900HK (the same core and thread count as the Core i7 but a 5.0GHz max Turbo frequency versus 4.7GHz). The lineup offers improved performance over Intel’s 11th-gen CPUs and competes well against the M1 Pro in most of our benchmarks.
For example, when switched to its performance mode, the XPS 15 kept up with the MacBook Pro 16 in Geekbench 5, was faster in our Handbrake test that encodes a 420MB video as H.265, and was faster in Cinebench R23. The MacBook Pro 16, however, was much faster in the Pugetbench Premiere Pro benchmark that runs in a live version of Premiere Pro, showing off the M1 Pro’s prowess in real-world tasks. And, the MacBook Pro 16 can be upgraded to an M1 Max that will be significantly faster yet.
The only area where the XPS 15 will exceed the MacBook Pro 16’s performance is in gaming, thanks to its discrete Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti CPU, but even there, the difference won’t be extreme.
Both laptops are fast enough for creative applications, but the MacBook Pro 16 is the quicker option for demanding creators.
|Dell XPS 15 9520
|Apple MacBook Pro 16
(single / multi)
|Bal: 1,470 / 9,952
Perf: 1,714 / 11,053
|1,773 / 12,605|
(single / multi)
|Bal: 1,509 / 11,578
Perf: 1,806 / 13,313
|1,531 / 12,343|
|Pugetbench Premiere Pro||Bal: 760
The MacBook Pro 16 comes with just one display option, a Liquid Retina XDR (mini-LED) 16.2-inch 16:10 panel running at a 3,456 x 2,234 resolution. It offers unparalleled contrast at 475,200:1 for inky blacks and brightness at 475 nits, with a wide color gamut (100 percent of sRGB and 90 percent of AdobeRGB), and outstanding accuracy at a DeltaE of 1.04 (less than 1.0 is considered excellent).
The XPS 15 offers a variety of 15.6-inch 16:10 displays including non-touch Full HD+ (1,920 x 1,200), touch-enabled UHD+ (3,840 x 2,400) IPS, and 3.5K (3,456 x 2,160) OLED panels. We reviewed the OLED version, and it was a truly spectacular experience. Brightness was high at 391 nits, although considerably less than the MacBook Pro 16, and the contrast was 381,130:1 with deep blacks. The color gamut was wider than the MacBooks at 100 percent of sRGB and 96 percent of AdobeRGB, with significantly better accuracy at 0.42.
Both displays are excellent for creators, with wide and accurate colors and true blacks. They’re also great for productivity work and media consumption. Call this category a draw.
|Dell XPS 15||Apple MacBook Pro 16|
(DeltaE, lower is better)
The MacBook Pro 16 has a larger 16.2-inch display, so its chassis is slightly larger than the XPS 15’s, but both enjoy slim display bezels that allow for as small a chassis as possible. The MacBook is thinner than the XPS 15 at 0.66 inches versus 0.73 inches, but it’s slightly heavier at 4.8 pounds versus 4.62 pounds. In short, both are equally portable — or non-portable, depending on your tolerance for size and weight.
The XPS 15 is available with an 86 watt-hour battery, while the MacBook Pro 16 comes with a whopping 100 watt-hours of battery capacity, the most that’s allowed on airline flights. Even more important is the incredible efficiency of Apple’s M1 Pro and Max chips.
Simply put, the MacBook Pro 16 offers extraordinary battery life for such a powerful laptop with a large, power-hungry display. It almost doubles the XPS 15’s battery life, which itself isn’t bad for a portable workstation. You’ll get two days of work out of the MacBook Pro 16, while you’ll get a single day from the XPS 15. And even if you push the CPU and GPU, the MacBook Pro 16 might make it through a full day’s work.
|MSI Creator Z17
|Apple MacBook Pro 16
|Web browsing||9 hours, 38 minutes||18 hours 35 minutes|
|Video||12 hours, 40 minutes||23 hours 11 minutes|
Here’s where the XPS 15 and MacBook Pro 16 diverge the most. Dell offers a configuration of the XPS 15 that starts at just $1,420 for an Intel Core i5-12500H, 8GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD, Intel UHD graphics, and a 15.6-inch Full HD+ non-touch display. You can spend as much as $3,331 for a Core i9-12900HK, 64GB of RAM, a 2TB SSD, an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti, and a 3.5K OLED display.
The MacBook Pro 16 is a much more expensive laptop, especially at the low end. The entry-level configuration is $2,499 for an M1 Pro with 10 CPU cores and 16 GPU cores, 16GB of RAM, and a 512GB SSD. At the very high end, you can spend as much as $6,099 for an M1 Max with 10 CPU cores and 32 GPU cores, 64GB of RAM, and an 8TB SSD.
The MacBook Pro 16 is the better all-around laptop, with more performance at the high end, incredible battery life, and a spectacular display. It’s the best choice for the most demanding creators. Dell’s XPS 15 is a better mainstream laptop, however, coming in at around half the price fully configured, and offering its own excellent performance. Which is right for you depends entirely on how deep your pockets are.