MacBook Air Alternatives

Dell XPS 13 and 14: Smaller than You Think

The whole concept behind an Ultrabook is improving portability while remaining as close to a full-sized notebook experience as possible. Display size and performance are sacrificed for added portability, but much like Intel has managed to keep performance up while saving on battery life, Dell has found a way to keep their displays large and their footprint small.

The XPS 13 Ultrabook features a 13.3-inch display, but has an overall size that is only slightly larger than Apple’s 11-inch MacBook Air. This space saving bezel magic doesn’t come cheap, as the XPS 13 starts at $999 and lacks many of the recent upgrades the MacBook line just saw. You’ll have to settle for the 2nd generation of Intel’s Core processors, only two USB ports (one of which is USB 3.0), and the display resolution is only 720p.

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Dell XPS 13Dell XPS 14
Processor2nd Gen Intel Core i5 or Core i73rd Gen Intel Core i5 or Core i7
GraphicsIntel HD Graphics 3000Intel HD Graphics 4000 or Nvidia GeForce GT 630M
Display13.3-inch 1280x720 w/ Gorilla Glass14-inch 1600x900
I/O Ports & Etc.1x USB 3.0, 1x USB 2.0, mini DisplayPort, Headphone2x USB 3.0, Ethernet, HDMI, mini DisplayPort, Card Reader, Headphone
Battery LifeUp to 9 HoursUp to 11 Hours
Dimensions (inches)12.4 x 8.1 x 0.7113.2 x 9.2 x 0.81
Weight2.99 Lbs4.6 Lbs
PriceStarting at $999Starting at $1099

The XPS 13’s best selling point is its design. Not only is it more compact than you’d expect, it’s also incredibly sturdy with a machined aluminum frame, carbon fiber base, and tempered Gorilla Glass screen.

The XPS 14 Ultrabook compromises much less than the XPS 13, and it actually bests the MacBook Air in almost all categories. It uses the same space-saving edge-to-edge display and hinge technology to cram the 14-inch 1600x900 display into a form factor that is only 7 square inches larger than the 13.3-inch MacBook Air.

If screen space is important to you, the XPS 14 is probably one of the best Ultrabook choices on the market right now. Unlike the XPS 13, it features the 3rd generation Core processors, and the models starting from $1199 and above offer even more graphics performance thanks to an Nvidia GeForce GT 630m dedicated GPU. This means that the XPS 14 is also one of your best choices if you’re looking for performance as well.

With the exception of the $1999 configuration, all of the XPS 14 models feature a 500 GB hybrid hard drive, and there are no customizable storage options. If you’re looking for the system-wide loading speed boosts a full SSD provides, you’re stuck with the most expensive model (or you’ll have to do some post-purchase upgrading).

As far as ports go, you get an HDMI and mini DisplayPort, so your secondary display bases are covered. There are only two USB ports, but both are USB 3.0. Apple does get one trump card down with its Thunderbolt port, but the XPS 14 shoots back with its Ethernet port, though it’s not quite as lofty a feature.

Ultimately, the XPS 14 Ultrabook offers some of the best performance and usability you’ll find in an Ultrabook, and while it doesn’t really cost any less than the MacBook Air, it’s easy to argue that it offers a better experience.

  • acerace
    I love this article. :)
  • Hybrid hard drives negate a lot of what makes the Macbook Air great.
  • farensabri
    the truth
  • halcyon
    Very nice. I especially like the Dell, Asus, and Samsung pieces. While I may prefer OS X from a UI standpoint, I love this what these have to offer enough that I'd make the sacrifice.
  • fudoka711
    While I know many of us like to bash Apple, I like how this article wasn't focusing on why Apple sucks, but instead focused on why the competition is better, or at least probably better to the average consumer. Props to Mr. Escallier for outlining each vendor's pro's/con's in comparison to each other and the MBA.

    If I had to choose, I'd get the Zenbook because I love its design and 1080p output. Not gonna be gaming on it, sadly, but watching movies on it would be great. Plus I love the design.
  • altriss
    but it’s really just an “Ultrabook” – a term trademarked and defined by Intel
    without beeing specially an Aple fan, I find this stupid. Be honest if Aple hadn't created McBookAir, Intel would never had the Idea of UltraBooks.
    By the way I agree with fudoka711 about the general view on this article. Nice to see than PC builders finally created something that is worth a macbook air!
  • unstable hackintosh?its not unstable at all if you know what your doing everything works just fine and app store also so i dont see a problem...
  • quantumrand
    NotFastEnoughHybrid hard drives negate a lot of what makes the Macbook Air great.
    My counter argument: You can go with the Sony Vaio T-Series with a hybrid drive and save $400, taking a small hit in load times for apps you don't use often, or you can go with the T-Series with a SSD and save $200 and get the same SSD performance that "makes the Macbook Air great." :-)

    altrisswithout beeing specially an Aple fan, I find this stupid. Be honest if Aple hadn't created McBookAir, Intel would never had the Idea of UltraBooks.
    If you want to go with who came first, Gateway had the very first "subnotebook" form factor with the Gateway Handbook back in 1992.

    In 2002, Sharp had its Ultranotebook PC-UM20. It used a specialized Ultra-Low Voltage Intel processor (just like today's Ultrabooks) and was only .65 inches thick, thinner than even the current MacBook Air. I'd argue that this was the first "Ultrabook" in the non-Intel defined sense of the term.

    In 2004, four years before the MacBook Air, Sony released the PCG-X505. It featured the same processor specs as the full-sized laptops of its time, but was 10.4" laptop that was only 0.8 inches thick.

    There was also the Lenovo ThinkPad X300 which was a contemporary of the MacBook Air (released just weeks after the Air) and was actually thinner.

    Apple was by no means the pioneer of the Ultrabook platform. The MacBook Air just happened to be the most well-known one. If Apple didn't exist, Intel would still have gone forward with its "Ultrabook" concept. I would absolutely not give Apple credit with coming up with the Ultrabook idea. It gets credit for popularizing it, and that's all.
  • DjEaZy
    ... MacBook Air Alternatives? Without OS X? Except, if you make a hackentoch... but then you can take the original...
  • halcyon
    TBH, while the MacBook Air and its Ultrabook derivatives are nice enough I don't think I'd want to give up any of what my 15" notebook has to offer in terms of performance just to save a few pounds that, by carrying, can only help me stay in better shape than if I were not carrying them. The idea was novel at first and I've had my share of the MacBook Air (I've had 3) and my wife now has one but I'd rather carry my 15" notebook.