Dell’s Beautiful XPS 13 Ultrabook Beats the Mac—For Now

Sadly, it’s only skin-deep

Key Takeaways

  • Dell’s 2022 XPS 13 is a real beauty.
  • Apple’s MacBook Air hasn’t changed much in years. 
  • The next MacBook Air will probably up the game significantly.
Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook in black and silver back-to-back


Thin, light, flush keyboard; invisible trackpad; tiny screen bezels—the XPS 13 is Dell out-apple-ing Apple, design-wise.

The XPS 13 is Dell's Ultrabook, the generic name for MacBook Air-type computers. But the 2022 XPS 13 is anything but generic. The screen bezels are thin, and there's no camera notch. The keyboard is recessed into the body, and the trackpad appears—at first glance—to have disappeared. It even has a Touch Bar, which Dell is definitely not calling a Touch Bar. What happened?

"Albert Einstein once said, 'Everything should be made as simple as possible but no simpler,'" technology and design author Ryan Mungia told Lifewire via email. "With its concealed trackpad, flush keyboard, and sleek, low-carbon aluminum build, Dell's new XPS 13 Plus makes things as simple as possible, but the question remains: is it too simple?" 


If you're in the market for an ultraportable Windows laptop, then it's hard to argue against this cool new Dell. I mean, look at it. It's a beauty and would slip into any purse or backpack without you really noticing. 

Meanwhile, Apple's MacBook Air is looking its age. It might run on Apple's frankly astonishing M1 system-on-a-chip (SoC), but those chips are sitting inside the old 2018 Retina model, the same one used to house Intel chips. The screen bezels are huge, the case is a little too thick, and it looks a little old-fashioned next to this Dell. 

"[Rivals such as Dell and Samsung] offer customers nearly identical design and tactical experiences—be it pencil-thin bezels, metallic finish, or extra-long battery life. However, not only are Apple's M1 chips superior performance-wise (and albeit expensive), it's the Apple ecosystem that keeps setup owners emotionally and technically attached to their devices, leading to future purchases," visual designer Ilya Ilford told Lifewire via email. 

Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook in Black and Silver and side-by-side


And that's the point. While Dell, Samsung, or anyone else making a notebook can make slim, pretty-looking cases, they can't copy the insides. Apple's M1 chips bring a unique combination of performance and power efficiency. The newest 2022 MacBook Pro, Apple's first laptop designed entirely around its own SoC, manages to beat out even Apple's own desktop Mac Pro on many tasks while barely getting warm.

It's not just the hardware, either. The entire Apple ecosystem uses iCloud to connect its devices in ways that PC and Android users cannot (although Google is trying). You can copy text or images on your iPhone, for example, and paste them on your Mac seamlessly.

"From our discussions with home office owners all over the world, it's become apparent that the ability to jot down ideas on an iPad and pick them up seamlessly on a Mac is extremely important," says Ilford.

Touch Bar and Other Improvements

Dell's XPS 13 manages to improve on at least one Mac feature, too. 

"One of the biggest complaints about past MacBook models was the Touch Bar. It slowed people down when they were typing, and it was easy to accidentally touch it," engineer Steven Jenkins told Lifewire via email. "The Ultrabook uses a similar idea with its capacitive touch row (where the function keys are), but Dell made it feel like it's a part of the keyboard. It's new, sleek, and still functional."

Top-down view of the Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook's keyboard


Apple has ditched the Touch Bar on its hardware, but that’s probably a good thing. As for all the other physical features of Dell’s design, those will probably start to look old as soon as Apple launches its next-gen MacBook Air, which could be as soon as this spring. 

So far, we’ve seen two Macs designed around Apple Silicon—the MacBook Pro and the 24-inch iMac. Like the iMac, the MacBook Air will prioritize thinness and looks over the extra ports added to the MacBook Pro, but thanks to the M1 (or possibly M2) chip, it’ll be thin, fast, and cool. It may also adopt the sharp-edged, flat-sided design used in the iPads, iPhone 12 and iPhone 13, and MacBook Pro. And it will probably get iMac-like colors and perhaps even the incredible XDR display from the MacBook Pro.

Dell might have beaten Apple, looks-wise, with this latest laptop, but it might not last long. Then again, who cares? All computers should look this good, all the time.

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