Tuesday, February 27, 2024

The XPS 16 is facing an uphill battle against the MacBook Pro

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Dell XPS 16 sitting on desktop with flowers.Dell

It took a few years, but Dell finally updated the design of its two largest XPS laptops. The XPS 15 gave way to the XPS 14, while the XPS 17 was replaced by the XPS 16. The latter gained the ultramodern look of the XPS 13 Plus, complete with a glass palm rest, a hidden haptic touchpad, and a row of LED function keys.

Contents

  • Specs and configurations
  • Design
  • Performance
  • Display
  • Portability
  • The MacBook Pro 16 remains a challenging matchupShow 1 more item

It’s a significant update but places the XPS 16 in direct competition with the Apple MacBook Pro 16. That’s an excellent match-up with proven performance and battery life and an elegant design that’s solid, if a lot more conservative. Does the XPS 16 stand a chance?

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Specs and configurations

 
Apple MacBook Pro 16
Dell XPS 16

Dimensions
14.01 inches x 9.77 inches x 0.66 inches
14.1 inches by 9.4 inches by 0.74 inches

Weight
4.8 pounds
4.8 pounds

Processor
Apple M3 Pro (12-core)
Apple M2 Max (14-core, 16-core)
Intel Core Ultra 7 155H
Intel Core Ultra 7 165H
Intel Core Ultra 9 185H

Graphics
Apple M3 Pro (18-core)
Apple M3 Max (30-core, 40-core)
Intel Arc Graphics
Nvidia GeForce RTX 4050
Nvidia GeForce RTX 4060
Nvidia GeForce RTX 4070

RAM
18GB (M3 Pro)
36GB (M3 Max 14/30)
48GB (M3 Max 16/40)
64GB (M3 Max 16/40)
96GB (M3 Max 14/30)
128GB (M3 Max 16/40)
16GB
32GB
64GB

Display
16.2-inch 16:10 Liquid Retina XDR (3456 x 2234), 120Hz
16.3-inch 16:10 FHD+ (1920 x 1200) IPS non-touch, 120Hz
16.3-inch 16:10 4K+ (3840 x 2400) OLED touch, 120Hz

Storage
512GB SSD
1TB SSD
2TB SSD
4TB SSD
8TB SSD
512GB PCIe Gen4 SSD
1TB PCIe Gen4 SSD
2TB PCIe Gen4 SSD
4TB PCIe Gen4 SSD

Touch
No
Optional

Ports
3 x USB-C 4 with Thunderbolt 4
1 x HDMI 2.0
1 x 3.5mm audio jack
1 x SD Card reader
3 x USB-C with Thunderbolt 4
1 x 3.5mm audio jack
1 x microSD card reader

Wireless
Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.3
Wi-Fi 7 and BlueTooth 5.4

Webcam
1080p
1080p with infrared camera for Windows 11 Hello

Operating system
MacOS Monterey
Windows 11

Battery
100 watt-hour
99.5 watt-hour

Price
$2,499+
$1,899+

Rating
4.5 out of 5 stars
Not reviewed

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We don’t know much about the XPS 16’s pricing except that it will start at $1,899 for a Core Ultra 7 155H, 16GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD, Intel Arc graphics, and a 16.3-inch FHD+ IPS display. More powerful configurations will be increasingly expensive, and it’s worth noting that the current XPS 17 maxes out at $4,399 in its highest-end configuration.

The MacBook Pro 16 starts at a more expensive $2,499 for an M3 Pro chipset, 18GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD, and a 16.2-inch Mini-LED display. Pick up its most powerful configuration with an M3 Max 16/40, 128GB of RAM, and an 8TB SSD, and you’ll spend a whopping $7,199.

Design

Mark Coppock / Digital Trends

The MacBook Pro 16 retains the new design introduced in 2021, with straight edges and a rounded yet blocky aesthetic that somehow still manages to come across as exquisite. The Space Grey color scheme was dropped in favor of a gorgeous new Space Black, while the same Silver color is still available.

Inside, the MacBook has a traditional black keyboard flanked by large speaker grills to go with a traditional palm rest and separate touchpad. The XPS 16 looks a lot like earlier models on the outside, with a silver lid and bottom chassis and anodized chrome accents across the sides. Open it up, and you’ll find an ultramodern look complete with a glass palm rest and hidden touchpad, a keyboard with zero key spacing that also sports large speaker grills to each side, and LED touch keys in place of physical function keys.

While the XPS 16’s insides are modern, the new design features make less sense on such an expansive laptop. Many users will prefer the MacBook Pro 16’s more traditional and arguably functional components. The XPS 16 retains the tiny display bezels that are hallmarks of the XPS brand, while the MacBook Pro’s are nearly as small but Apple used an equally controversial notch to fit everything in.

The XPS and MacBook brands have both been extremely solid in terms of their build qualities, and we’re sure the XPS 16 will follow suit. Meanwhile, we can say that the MacBook Pro 16 offers an excellent build that’s as solid as you can buy.

The XPS 16 on the left, the XPS 14 on the right. Luke Larsen / Digital Trends

The MacBook’s Magic Keyboard is perhaps the best available on a laptop today, with large keycaps, a spacious layout, and the snappiest switches around. We’ll have to wait until we’ve had a chance to test the XPS 16’s close-set keyboard. If the switches are the same as on the XPS 13 Plus, they’ll feel fine, if not as good as Apple’s.

The MacBook Pro 16’s Force Touch touchpad is also the best we’ve used, with a large, responsive surface and quick, natural haptic key clicks. The Force Click function also adds easy access to additional functionality with a slightly “firmer” press, and we’ll have to wait until we try out the XPS 16’s version to see how it compares. The XPS 13 Plus’s haptic touchpad is, once again, okay but no match for Apple’s class-leading version.

The XPS 16 retains the minimal connectivity of the XPS 17, albeit with one less Thunderbolt 4 port and dropping a full-size SD card reader for a microSD reader. The MacBook Pro 16 offers as many Thunderbolt 4 ports but adds an HDMI port and a full-size SD card reader. The XPS 16 has the most cutting-edge wireless connectivity, however.

Both laptops have 1080p webcams, while the XPS 16 adds an infrared reader for facial recognition. The MacBook has Apple’s Touch ID built into the power button, while the XPS also offers a fingerprint reader in the same location. Dell includes user presence sensing technology that can put the XPS 16 to sleep when a user walks away, wake it back up, and log back in when the user returns. That functionality joins other areas where the XPS 16 uses the Neural Processing Unit (NPU) built into Intel’s Meteor Lake chipset, such as various performance tuning capabilities. The MacBook Pro 16 has none of these features.

Performance

Mark Coppock / Digital Trends

We’ll have to wait until we review the XPS 16 to evaluate its performance at the high end. So far, we’ve only tested the 28-watt Intel Core Ultra 7 155H with 16 cores and 22 threads and the new Intel Arc graphics. In the HP Spectre x360 14, Asus Zenbook 14 OLED, and Acer Swift Go 14, the chipset provided excellent productivity performance but suffered from the relatively slow integrated graphics in creative applications. In apps like Adobe’s Premiere Pro that can use a discrete GPU, the XPS 16 will benefit from that faster 45-watt Core Ultra 9 185H and the available Nvidia GeForce RTX 4070.

Meanwhile, the MacBook Pro 16 offers the ultrafast M3 Max chipset with up to 16 CPU and 40 GPU cores. This configuration scored one of the highest laptop results we’ve seen in the Pugetbench Premiere Pro benchmark that runs in a live version of Premiere Pro. It’s unlikely that the XPS 16 will match it, but it might offer enough performance to justify what will certainly be a lower price.

Display

The XPS 16, XPS 14, and XPS 13 on a wooden table, left to right. Luke Larsen / Digital Trends

The MacBook Pro 16 has an excellent 16.2-inch Mini-LED display running at 3456 x 2234 and up to 120Hz. It’s bright, offers excellent colors and deep contrast, and the best high-dynamic-range (HDR) performance we’ve seen in a laptop.

Dell offers two display options with the XPS 16, a 16.3-inch FHD+ (1920 x 1200) IPS display at up to 120Hz and a 4K+ (3840 x 2400) 120Hz OLED panel. The OLED display will likely offer even wider and more accurate colors than Apple’s Mini-LED display with equally deep contrast, but it won’t be as bright, so its HDR quality won’t be as good. The XPS 16’s IPS panel will offer better battery life but won’t be in the same class regarding overall quality.

Notably, the XPS 16’s high-end display option is touch-enabled, while Apple still doesn’t offer a touch display.

Portability

Dell

The XPS 16 and MacBook Pro 16 are similarly sized and weigh the same, while the MacBook is thinner. Both are large laptops, though, that you’ll notice as you cart them around.

However, battery life matters, and the MacBook Pro 16 is a standout performer. It lasted 19 hours in our web browsing test and 27 hours (!) in our video looping test, and in real-world use, it lasts well into a second day of reasonably demanding work. Even when performing demanding tasks like video editing, the MacBook can last a meaningful portion of a full workday.

It’s unlikely that the XPS 16 will match it, judging by the results we’ve seen with other Meteor Lake machines. But once again, we’ll have to wait for our review to know for sure.

The MacBook Pro 16 remains a challenging matchup

Luke Larsen / Digital Trends

The XPS 16 will likely round out into a well-built, if controversially designed, laptop with solid performance and an excellent high-res OLED display option. It’ll probably be a very competitive large-screen Windows laptop.

But the MacBook Pro 16 is so fast and lasts so long on a charge while offering such an excellent keyboard, touchpad, and mini-LED display that it will most likely retain its top-place finish among 16-inch laptops. The XPS 16 will have to be a very pleasant surprise if it’s to take over that spot.

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