Dell and HP are on our list of the best laptop brands for a reason. In recent years, both of these laptop manufacturers have consistently produced some of the most well-designed machines you can buy. So it’s understandable if you’re shopping for a new laptop, and you’re having trouble deciding between these two huge, highly-rated brands. Both brands have a lot to offer and it can be overwhelming to sift through all of the cool features, price points, and other factors you might want to consider before purchasing a laptop from either of these manufacturers.
And if you do need help picking the right laptop brand for yourself, you’ve come to the right place. In this comparison guide, we’ll show you everything you need to know about the differences between HP’s best laptops and Dell’s best laptops. Specifically, we’ll go over how they differ in design, their respective features, their price ranges, and which brands are best for certain use cases like school, business, video editing, and gaming.
Laptop brands are defined by their flagships, so for HP in 2021, that’s its Elite Dragonfly and Spectre x360 series. The Elite Dragonfly range are all exceedingly lightweight laptops (the Dragonfly Max is just 2.49 pounds) with a solid magnesium alloy build and a display with a mix of thick and thin bezels. But you’ll also get a laptop that packs in a lot of interesting features in an ultra-portable package; features such as: a webcam cover, a dedicated keyboard button for the microphone, a high-resolution 5 megapixel webcam, comfortably-sized keycaps, and a port selection that includes Thunderbolt 4 and HDMI 2.0. The Spectre x360 line also has it’s own unique contributions to HP’s laptop design innovations. Looking at the HP Spectre x360 14, you’ll notice that the laptop is outfitted with features such as an easy-to-open yet firm dual-zone hinge, a display with a 3:2 aspect ratio, an infrared camera, and an OLED display.
But the Spectre x360 14 also shares features with the Dragonfly series, including a fingerprint reader, a spacious keyboard and touchpad, and dedicated buttons and shutter features to turn off microphones and cover webcams. Those 2-in-1 designs are also light and portable, facilitating their use as a tablet when needed.
Dell’s best known laptops are the XPS line of laptops and its gaming laptop offerings, like its Alienware brand. With the XPS line you can generally expect to see a sleek and streamlined aluminum chassis, ultra-thin bezels on all four sides of its display, a backlit keyboard, a port selection that includes Thunderbolt 3 or 4 ports, and a 16:10 aspect ratio display. There aren’t as many bells and whistles on the XPS laptops as you’d find on the HP laptops we mentioned earlier, but you can still get a great all-purpose laptop (XPS 13) or a video-editing powerhouse (the XPS 17) from Dell, with a clean aesthetic and solid build quality that makes them rival the best Apple has to offer.
Dell’s Alienware brand offers specialized, heavy-duty gaming laptops and such comes with its own distinctive features to optimize your gaming experience. Features such as: Nvidia G-SYNC technology, dual fan design for better cooling, a customizable lighting system called AlienFX, a wide variety of ports (including Thundebolt 4, a headset jack, and HDMI 2.1), a magnesium alloy chassis, programmable keyboards (for gaming shortcuts), and eye tracking tools.
Both brands have laptops that top some of our best of lists, with Dell outperforming HP in certain categories and HP outshining Dell in others. In this sense, picking the right laptop for yourself really does come down how you plan on using it.
There are all sorts of ways you might choose to use your new laptop, but let’s take a look at few of the most common uses for them, namely: for business and work, for school, for content creation (like video editing), or gaming.
With HP, you have four great business laptop options, including the HP Elite Dragonfly, HP ZBook Studio, HP Pro C640, and the HP Envy x360. With Dell, the XPS range is a fantastic alternative, but there isn’t the same breadth of choice.
The HP Elite Dragonfly is the current winner of the “best business laptop” category of our Best Laptops list. It’s perfect for remote workers and those who travel frequently for business. This laptop features a sleek, lightweight design, a 1080p display, a privacy screen to help keep what you’re working on away from prying eyes, a quiet keyboard, a stylus, and an office-ready port selection that includes USB-A, HDMI, USB-C 3.1, and Thunderbolt 3. At the time of our initial review, the Dragonfly was sporting an older eighth generation Intel processor, but since then, HP announced at CES 2021 that two newer models of the Dragonfly will feature upgraded Tiger Lake processors, so the newer Dragonfly G2 and G2 max models are definitely worth exploring.
Our Best Business Laptops list is dominated by other HP laptops, too. The HP ZBook Studio, HP Pro C640, and the HP Envy x360, all feature. If you need a beast of a workstation that can power through tasks like video editing and 3D modeling, then look no further than the HP ZBook Studio. If you still want the robustness of a Windows PC but still prefer the lightweight and easier to use Chrome OS, HP’s Chromebook offering, the Pro C640, might be your best bet. And rounding out our HP business laptop picks is the HP Envy x360, which is best for those who need a 2-in-1 business laptop at a budget-friendly price. With a six-core processor and 8GB of RAM, you’re not exactly sacrificing power and speed for a cheaper business laptop. You’re actually getting the best of both worlds.
If you’re still keen on getting a Dell for your work setup, we do have one recommendation: the Dell XPS 13. It’s not a true “business laptop,” but it is a fantastic all-purpose laptop that’s perfect for those who need portability above all else. Plus, because it’s designed for general use, it can easily be the laptop that enhances your productivity and helps you relax when the work day is done. (Especially when you have a display that features Dolby Vision.)
Like business, school laptops can be varied, depending on the type of work you want to do on them. Both HP and Dell have excellent laptops for all sorts of ages and abilities.
For college students, our favorite laptop is the Dell Inspiron 14. It’s a 2-in-1 laptop that features a large display and tons of great features at a price point that’s easy on a college student’s wallet. For less than $750, the college student in your life will get a laptop with an 11th generation Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, 256GB of solid-state drive (SSD) storage, a 14-inch HD touch display, Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1 connectivity, a privacy camera shutter, and a wide variety of ports. The Dell Inspiron 14 isn’t the most powerful laptop, but it does have everything you need for school assignments, browsing the internet, and streaming your favorite shows and movies.
For high school students, HP has a great option with its Chromebook 14. It’s an exceedingly affordable, lightweight, and easy to use laptop thanks to the simplicity of Chrome OS. If your high school student doesn’t require any non-Chrome OS and non-Android apps to complete their assignments, access their online classes, or collaborate with their peers, then the HP Chromebook 14 is a solid option. For just $300, your high schooler will get a laptop with a 14-inch non-touch HD display, an Intel Celeron N4000 processor, 4GB of RAM, 32GB of eMMC storage, an HP Wide Vision HD webcam, and Wi-Fi 5 and Bluetooth 5 connectivity.
Video editing is an intensive task, so the Dell XPS 17 is our top pick overall because it pairs a huge display with high-end hardware. This laptop has a jumbo-sized display at 17 inches and features a six-core 10th generation Intel Core i7 processor, 16GB of RAM (it can be upgraded up to 64GB), a roomy 512GB of SSD storage (which can also be upgraded to 2TB), and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650Ti video card. It also sports a fingerprint reader, four Thunderbolt 3 ports, a full-size SD card reader, and Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1 connectivity.
When we reviewed the XPS 17, we were particularly impressed with its “incredible” performance, its “nearly perfect screen,” and its “spacious and responsive touchpad.” We even went so far as to say that the XPS 17 outperforms Apple’s MacBook Pro 16.
If you still need a powerful laptop for video editing but would rather stick with HP, a comparable pick would be the HP Envy 15. The Envy 15 is great for those who need strong performance at a lower price point. When reviewing the HP Envy 15, our review unit was configured with a 10th generation Intel Core i7 processor, 512GB of SSD storage, 16GB of RAM, a 4K AMOLED display, and a RTX 2060 Max-Q GPU. Overall, this laptop received a glowing review from us as we praised its performance, its build quality, and its AMOLED display. The main drawbacks we saw were that it was on the heavy side and that it didn’t have a full size SD card slot.
Our current list of the Best Gaming Laptops doesn’t include a single HP laptop, which doesn’t mean you can’t game with them, but they just don’t tick the same boxes Dell’s do. Of those laptops, we particularly like the Dell G5 SE and the Alienware Area-51m R2.
The Dell G5 SE gaming laptop may not be the best gaming laptop you can buy (that honor goes to the Razer Blade 15), but it’s a solid entry-level option for beginner gamers and gamers on a budget. What it lacks in style, it makes up for in specs. The Dell G5 SE gaming laptop has an eight-core AMD Ryzen 7 4800H processor, 16GB of RAM, 512GB SSD, an AMD Radeon RX 5600M graphics card, and a 144Hz 1080p display. When we reviewed this laptop, we praised its 144Hz refresh rate and its game and CPU performance.
If you have a bigger budget to work with, Dell’s Alienware Area-51m R2 gaming laptop is worth a look. At its lowest priced configuration, it features a 10th generation Intel Core i7 processor, a Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 Super graphics card, 16GB of RAM, 512GB of SSD storage, and a 17.3 inch FHD display. It’s a heavy-duty gaming laptop in every sense of the word, including its actual weight: a little over 9 pounds. Think of it as more of a replacement for a desktop setup.
HP’s gaming laptops are good, too, especially at lower prices. The HP Pavilion 17 and the HP Omen 15 both feature in our Best Gaming Laptops Under $1,000 list. Dell just has a stronger gaming pedigree overall, with excellent options at all sorts of costs, including the very high-end.