Microsoft Surface Pro 9 vs Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 |  digital trends

Microsoft Surface Pro 9 vs Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 | digital trends

Microsoft had almost a decade to perfect the detachable Surface Pro tablet, culminating in the Surface Pro 9, which promises to claim the laptop’s place as the best 2-in-1. Dell recently unveiled the all-new XPS 13 detachable 2-in-1 tablet, a complete redesign of the previous 360-degree convertible 2-in-1 format.

It’s no small feat to challenge such an established standard with so many years of refinement in its design. Does the XPS 13 2-in-1 have what it takes to overtake the Surface Pro 9 as the best detachable 2-in-1?

specifications

Microsoft Surface Pro 9 Dell XPS 13 2-in-1
Dimensions 11.3 inches by 8.2 inches by 0.37 inches 11.5″ x 7.9″ x 0.29″.
weight 1.94 pounds 1.23 pounds
processor Intel Core i5-1235U
Intel Core i7-1255U
Microsoft SQ 3 (5G models)
Intel Core i5-1230U
Intel Core i7-1250U
graphic Intel Iris Xe
Microsoft SQ 3 Adreno (5G models)
Intel Iris Xe
R.A.M. 8GB to 32GB LPDDR5
8GB or 16GB LPDDR4x (5G model)
8GB or 16GB LPDDR4x
advertisement 13-inch 3:2 PixelSense 2880 x 1920 IPS up to 120Hz 13 inch 3:2 2880×1920 IPS
storage 128GB to 1TB removable PCIe SSD
128GB to 512GB removable PCIe SSD (5G models)
512GB or 1TB PCIe SSD
Touch Yes Yes
ports 2x USB-C with Thunderbolt 4
1x Surface Connect port
1 x Surface Keyboard Connector
1 x Nano SIM (5G models)
2 x USB-C 3.2 (5G models)
2x USB-C with Thunderbolt 4
1 x USB-C to USB-A Adapter
1 x USB-C to 3.5mm Audio Jack Adapter
1 x Nano SIM (optional)
Wireless WiFi 6E and Bluetooth 5.1
Optional 5GB WWAN
WiFi 6E and Bluetooth 5.1
Optional 5GB WWAN
cam 1080p with infrared camera for Windows 11 Hello
10MP rear facing
1080p with infrared camera for Windows 11 Hell0
2160p rear facing
operating system Windows11 Windows11
battery 60 watt hours 49.5 watt hours
Price $1,000+ $1,000
valuation 3.5 out of 5 3.5 out of 5

price and configurations

The entry-level Surface Pro 9 Intel-based configuration costs $1,000 for a Core i5, 8GB of RAM, and a 128GB SSD. The most expensive model costs $2,600 for a Core i7, 32GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD. The 5G ARM-based model starts at $1,300 for a Microsoft SQ 3 CPU, 8GB RAM and a 128GB SSD and goes up to $1,900 with 16GB RAM and a 512GB SSD. You pay an additional $280 for the Surface Signature Type Cover and the Surface Slim Pen 2.

The XPS 13 2-in-1 starts at the same $1,000 for a Core i5, 8GB of RAM and quadruple the storage at 512GB. Dell’s fully configured tablet costs $1,500 for a Core i7, 16GB of RAM, and a 1TB SSD. The XPS Folio and XPS Stylus cost an additional $100 when configured with the system. This makes the XPS 13 2-in-1 more affordable in the entry-level configuration thanks to additional memory, and significantly cheaper in the high-end, albeit with less RAM.

draft

The Surface Pro 9 retains the rounded edges, aluminum construction, and smaller bezels of the previous generation, with the usual Surface build quality that makes the tablet one of the most attractive and solid ones you can buy. It is available in Platinum, Sapphire, Forest and Graphite colors in the Intel version and in Graphite in the 5G version. The XPS 13 2-in-1 is also solidly built, with square corners, even smaller bezels, and an aluminum frame around a glass back that’s optimized for wireless connectivity. It’s available in Sky and Slate, with the 5G version only available in Slate.

The biggest distinguishing feature of the convertible tablets is the integrated kickstand of the Surface Pro 9 with its wide angle range. The XPS 13 2-in-1 lacks this feature, meaning Microsoft’s tablet is much easier to use on its own. With Dell’s model, you have to attach the folio to support the tablet, and you only get three angles determined by magnets on the back of the tablet.

Additionally, the Microsoft Surface Type Cover rests at an angle for more comfortable typing, while the Dell XPS Folio’s keyboard lays flat. That’s a lot less comfortable, though the XPS Folio’s edge-to-edge keyboard with precise, snappy switches might be more comfortable than the deeper, but not as precise, versions of the Type Cover. The touchpads on both are similar in size and work well.

The XPS 13 2-in-1 has fairly typical pen support with the XPS Stylus and its 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity and tilt capability. The Surface Slim Pen 2 has these features, plus haptic feedback for a more realistic experience, and the Surface Pro 9’s 120Hz display provides smoother coloring.

Both tablets have 1080p webcams with infrared cameras for Windows 11 Hello password-less facial login, while the XPS 13 2-in-1 also has a fingerprint reader. The Surface Pro 9 specs show a 2160p rear-facing camera, while the XPS 13-in-1 has a 10-megapixel camera.

Both the XPS 13 2-in-1 and the Surface Pro 9 Intel versions have the same number of Thunderbolt 4 ports, and neither have a 3.5mm audio jack. The Surface Pro 9 5G version has USB-C 3.2 instead, thanks to the Qualcomm Snapdragon chipset. Microsoft’s tablet also has a Surface Connect port for power, while the XPS 13 2-in-1 needs to use one of its USB-C ports for charging. The XPS 13 2-in-1 offers optional 5G WWAN connectivity, while you’ll need to purchase the ARM-based 5G Surface Pro 9 for always-on internet connectivity.

perfomance

Side view of the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 with edges.
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

The Surface Pro 9 uses a 15-watt 12th Gen Intel U-series CPU, specifically the 10-core/12-thread Core i5-1235U and Core i7-1255U. We tested the XPS 13 2-in-1 with 9-watt chips, the Core i5-1230U and Core i7-1250U with 10 cores and 12 threads, and the tablet with the Core i5.

Unsurprisingly, the Surface Pro 9 was faster in our benchmarks. The differences between Geekbench 5 and our Handbrake test, which encodes a 420MB video as H.265, weren’t as significant as the large discrepancy seen in Cinebench R23. The XPS 13 2-in-1 is fanless, which may have contributed to some throttling in this CPU-intensive benchmark.

Note that there’s also a 5G Surface Pro 9 running a Microsoft version of the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 ARM processor. This machine is likely to be considerably slower than the two Intel tablets.

Microsoft Surface Pro 9
(Core i7-1255U)
Dell XPS 13 2-in-1
(Core i5-1230U)
geek bench 5
(single / multiple)
Ball: 1,170 / 6,518
Power: 1,598 / 8,165
Ball: 1,435 / 6,099
Power: 1,572 / 7,028
handbrake
(seconds)
balls: 166
Power: 127
balls: 139
Power: 144
Cinebench R23
(single / multiple)
Sal: 1.124 / 7.537
Performance: N/A
Bal: 1.064 / 3.032
Power: 1,065 / 3,009
Completed PCMark 10
(higher is better)
4,045 4,535

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The Surface Pro 9 screen on a table.

Both laptops use 3:2 2880 x 1920 IPS displays, but the XPS 13 2-in-1’s panel is slightly smaller and therefore sharper. The Dell also had significantly higher brightness and contrast, as well as better color accuracy, making it a more pleasing display for demanding productivity work. Neither laptop has wide enough colors for developers.

Where the Surface Pro 9 display wins is its 120Hz refresh rate. This makes for better coloring and an overall smoother Windows 11 experience. It’s also great for gaming with higher frame rates. Although none of these laptops are designed for that, their integrated GPUs are sufficient for very light esports games.

Microsoft Surface Pro 9
(IPS)
Dell XPS 13 2-in-1
(IPS)
brightness
(nits)
409 480
AdobeRGB scale 80% 78%
sRGB scale 99% 99%
accuracy
(DeltaE, lower is better)
1.24 0.8
contrast ratio 1,050:1 1,840:1

portability

Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 left side view showing ports and speakers.
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

The XPS 13 2-in-1 is slightly thinner than the Surface Pro 9 at 0.29 inches versus 0.37 inches and lighter at 1.23 pounds versus 1.97 pounds. Both are light and small enough to fit comfortably in a backpack, but the Surface Pro 9 is more comfortable to use without the bulk of its detachable keyboard.

The Surface Pro 9 was stronger in battery life thanks to its larger battery. For example, it lasted about eight hours in our web browsing test, compared to just six hours on the XPS 13 2-in-1. The 5G Surface Pro 9 would likely get significantly better battery life overall.

The Surface Pro 9 is better, but significantly more expensive

The Surface Pro 9 is the best detachable 2-in-1 in terms of color experience, performance and battery life. It’s also more expensive than the XPS 13 2-in-1, which offers 5G connectivity in its Intel version.

Overall, Microsoft’s Surface Pro 9 is the better machine – just be prepared to pay a lot more for it.

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