Best Dell laptops to buy for Holiday 2021

Best Dell laptops to buy for Holiday 2021

The laptop market is vast and varied, but there are only a few brands that are as popular as Dell. One of the most well-known companies in the space, Dell has consistently made some of the best laptops you can buy, and it’s really no surprise. Whether it’s the XPS, Inspiron, or Latitude series, all of the company’s lineups are almost instantly recognizable names.

Dell is particularly popular for its business and premium laptops, with the XPS family being one of the most notable ones. But the company also makes high-end gaming PCs under the Alienware brand, and they’re fantastic too. If you’re looking for an upgrade this holiday or you want to gift a loved one, there are plenty of options for different kinds of users. To help you choose the right one, we’ve rounded up the best Dell laptops you can buy right now, so you can make a more informed decision.

Before we get started, we’ll point out that most of these laptops are already available with Windows 11 out of the box, and those that aren’t will support the upgrade for free, so you don’t have to worry about using an old version of Windows. If you’re more interested in Chrome OS, check out our list of the best Chromebooks so you can find something for yourself.

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Best overall: Dell XPS 13 9310

Dell XPS 13 9310

The Dell XPS 13 is a common pick for one of the best laptops out there, not just from Dell, but in general. As we said, the XPS lineup is incredibly popular, and there’s good reason for it. This is a very compact laptop that still packs all the performance you could need and simply looks fantastic.

The latest generation of the Dell XPS 13 comes with Intel’s 11th-generation Core processors up to an Intel Core i7-1185G7, which is a four core, eight thread CPU capable of boosting up to 4.8GHz. It also includes Intel Iris Xe graphics, so you can feasibly run some older games or even newer ones with low settings. More powerful integrated graphics can also accelerate tasks like video rendering or image editing. You also get up to 32GB of RAM and 2TB of storage, a powerful combination that ensures you can easily run multiple apps at the same time and work on large projects like coding, but also that you can store all your files for years to come.

The display is also fantastic, especially if you choose to upgrade. It has a 16:10 aspect ratio, meaning it’s taller and gives you more surface area than a typical 16:9 display. That extra vertical space is great for reading, browsing the web, and writing, as you can see much more of the screen this way. The base configuration, with a 1920 x 1200 resolution, is already great, but it’s the upgrade to a 3.5K (3465 x 2160) OLED panel that’s truly special. This is not only incredibly sharp, but it also gives you amazing contrast ratios, vivid colors, and true blacks since individual pixels can simply be turned off on demand. There’s also an Ultra HD+ option (3840 x 2400) if you want the extra resolution and don’t find OLED that appealing.

The big compromise with this laptop is that thanks to the tiny bezels around the display, the webcam is very small, and thus, camera quality isn’t great. Plus you don’t get Windows Hello facial recognition. Webcam quality isn’t a big deal if you’re not making a lot of calls, but you do miss out on some convenience without facial recognition (although the laptop does have a fingerprint reader instead). If these features are important to you, consider checking out our list of the best webcams so you can improve your experience.

As far as ports go, every member of the XPS family is heavily reliant on Thunderbolt, and the XPS 13 has two Thunderbolt 4 ports. These allow you to connect all kinds of external devices, from something as simple as a Thunderbolt dock that gives you more ports, additional monitors, or even an external GPU. Yes, you can turn the XPS 13 into a reasonably powerful gaming PC using a Thunderbolt cable, and that’s awesome. You also get a headphone jack and a microSD card reader, and while that’s not a wide range of ports, it’s acceptable for a tiny compact laptop like this. The laptop also includes a USB Type-C to Type-A adapter, so you’re not completely out of luck if you want to connect a legacy peripheral.

Looks-wise, the XPS 13 (and the rest of the XPS lineup) is one of the more unique laptops out there, thanks to the materials on the keyboard deck. You get your choice of black carbon fiber or “arctic white” woven fiber glass composite, both of which give very distinct looks to the XPS 13 compared to just about every other laptop out there. Plus, those materials will also feel different from standard metal laptops. On the outside though, you still get an aluminum chassis, so the laptop looks as professional as any other.

    Dell XPS 13
    The Dell XPS 13 is a compact laptop with high-end specs, a fantastic display, and a unique premium design.

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Best business laptop: Dell Latitude 7420

Dell Latitude 7420

In some ways, the Dell XPS 13 could pass for a business laptop, but if you want the real deal, the Dell Latitude 7420 might just be what you’re looking for. It’s still a sleek and portable machine, but it brings along some features you might appreciate, including more ports out of the box.

Performance-wise, the Latitude 7420 isn’t far off from other flagship laptops. It comes with the latest Intel processors up to a Core i7-1185G7 with vPro technology, so not only do you get high-end performance, but also additional security features that tend to be important for businesses. You can also configure it with up to 32GB of RAM and 1TB of SSD storage, so you get plenty of power for multitasking and space for your files. It’s not quite as impressive as the XPS 13, but it’s far from a bad performer.

The display on the Latitude 7420 is a 14 inch panel, and it comes in the more traditional 16:9 aspect ratio. This is slightly less modern than something like 16:10, but it’s still the most common aspect ratio, and that may help some users feel more comfortable. You have a few configurations available, including whether or not you want touch support or if you want it in a 2-in-1 form factor instead of a typical laptop. There’s also an option for a 4K display, although this isn’t available with any of the touch-enabled options.

One big advantage of the Latitude 7420 over the XPS lineup however, is the webcam. You actually get a Full HD (1080p) webcam with this laptop, making this much more suitable if you’re a remote or hybrid worker taking video calls on a regular basis. Plus, it even includes human presence detection, so the laptop can wake up and sign you in automatically when you approach it. However, if you’re worried about privacy, there’s a physical shutter for the webcam, too.

Another business feature is connectivity, and the Latitude 7420 is a more versatile PC in that regard. In terms of physical ports, you get two Thunderbolt 4 connections, and as a bonus, there’s one on each side of the laptop — USB Type-A, HDMI, a microSD card reader, and a headphone jack. That covers pretty much all the basics, so whether you need a legacy peripheral or you want to connect a monitor without needing a Thunderbolt dock, you can do that out of the box. But connectivity isn’t just wired, and if you want an internet connection anywhere, you can also add LTE support with up to Cat16 speeds (up to 1Gbps downloads).

Design-wise, the Latitude 7420 looks as standard as business laptops get. It uses a solid all-aluminum chassis, so it’s going to look and feel premium, but it only comes in a dark silver color with no special flair, which is expected for a business laptop. Overall, this is one of the best business laptops from Dell, and an easy recommendation if you want something that looks professional and performs well. The full suite of configuration options is on Dell’s website, but you can also buy it below.

    Dell Latitude 7420
    The Dell Latitude 7420 is a premium business laptop with solid connectivity options and high-end performance.

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Best gaming laptop: Alienware m15 R6

Alienware m15

For the gamers out there, the Alienware m15 R6 is one of the best laptops you can get from Dell today. True to the Alienware brand, it packs a lot of power into a chassis that’s bound to turn some heads and delivers all the performance you could ever need.

Let’s start with that last point — performance. You can get the Alienware m15 R6 with up to an Intel Core i7-11800H, an eight core, 16 thread CPU that can boost up to 4.6GHz, and is backed up by dedicated NVIDIA graphics, up to a GeForce RTX 3080. This is a true gaming laptop, so while we might see laptops with similar specs later on in this list, this one comes with all the cooling chops needed to keep things running smoothly for longer, so your gaming sessions won’t be ruined by frame rate drops over time. In addition to that, you get up to 32GB of RAM and 2TB of SSD storage, meaning you can run most modern games without a problem, while also getting plenty of space to store them (albeit with many games today, that can still fill up rather quickly).

The display is also a big factor in making this a great choice for gaming, and you get a few options to choose from. The entry-level option is a Full HD panel with a 165Hz refresh rate, but you can upgrade all the way to a 360Hz panel, or upgrade the resolution to get a Quad HD display with a 240Hz display. It all depends on your priorities — if you need the absolute fastest reaction times, 360Hz might be your best option, but we’d personally recommend the Quad HD option since it’s a great balance of image quality and smoothness. For sound, you get two 2W stereo speakers, which should give you a fairly immersive experience.

In terms of looks, the Alienware m15 R6 doesn’t stray far from the Alienware identity. The back of the laptop houses large exhaust vents, with air intakes on each side to keep air flowing through the internals. Many ports are also on the back, freeing up space on the sides if you want to game with a mouse that’s moving all around. You’ll find a Thunderbolt port, USB Type-A, HDMI, and proprietary barrel charging port. For some extra personality, the back houses an RGB ring light that you can customize to suit your style, and no matter your choice, you’re bound to get some looks if you bring this laptop out in public. The Alienware logo and the keyboard keys are also RGB backlit for an even more customized look.

There are still a few ports on the sides of the laptop though. Two extra USB Type-A ports are on the right, and the left side has a Gigabit Ethernet port along with a 3.5mm headphone jack. The Alienware m15 also includes some goodies you might not expect from a gaming laptop, like an IR camera for Windows Hello (although the webcam itself is just 720p). This is a classic gaming laptop, which means it’s quite thick at around 23mm, and it’s not exactly light considering it starts at 5.34lbs. But that’s to be expected, and that extra thickness helps make room for a mechanical keyboard co-developed with Cherry, offering an impressive 1.8mm of key travel.

If you’re looking for a gaming laptop that delivers top-tier performance, smooth and sharp visuals, plus bonuses like flashy RGB lighting and Windows Hello facial recognition, the Alienware m15 brings that all together in a fantastic package.

    Alienware m15 R6
    The Alienware m15 R6 is a powerful gaming laptop with the latest Intel CPUs, NVIDIA graphics, and other high-end gaming features.

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Best laptop for creators: Dell XPS 17 9710

Dell XPS 17 on white counter

Just like the Dell XPS 13, this larger sibling is an incredibly compact laptop with a unique premium design, but this one might actually be more impressive. It truly offers a combination of performance and portability you don’t see much, and it does so while still looking like a laptop you could easily find in an office.

Let’s start with performance. It might not look like it, but the Dell XPS 17 comes with Intel’s 11th-generation processors, specifically the 45W H-series, which is much more powerful than the 15W processors inside the XPS 13. It comes with up to an Intel Core i9-11980HK, an eight core, 16 thread processor that can boost up to 5GHz and even supports overclocking. But that’s not all, because you also get dedicated NVIDIA RTX graphics up to an RTX 3060 with 70W of power.

Between that processor and GPU, you already have a lot of power for all kinds of content creation, be it video editing or 3D rendering. You can also get up to an insane 64GB of RAM and 8TB of storage (if you buy from Dell’s website), so there’s no way you’ll be missing out on performance. If you think Dell charges a bit much for those upgrades, you can always upgrade the RAM and storage on the XPS 17 yourself later down the line.

The display is also incredibly impressive, especially if you spring for any of the upgrade options. It’s a 17 inch panel with a 16:10 aspect ration, and the base configuration comes with Full HD+ resolution (1920 x 1200), which isn’t bad, but the upgrades are really where it’s at. You can choose a 3.5K (3456 x 2160) OLED panel, which is going to get you incredible contrast ratios, vivid colors, and pure blacks, or a 4K+ (3840 x 2400) LCD, which covers 100% of Adobe RGB. In fact, we’ve reviewed the 4K+ variant Dell XPS 17, and it covers pretty much the entirety of sRGB, Adobe RGB, DCI-P3, and NTSC, so this is truly ideal for content creation. Plus, both of these upgrade options also include touch support. For sound, you get quad stereo speakers for an immersive audio experience that most other Windows laptops can’t match.

Just like the XPS 13, the minimal bezels around this display mean the webcam is tiny and only supports 720p. However, you do get facial recognition on this one, so logging in is that much more convenient. But it’s these minimal bezels and some engineering magic that make this laptop even more impressive. This 17 inch laptop is thinner and lighter than the 15 inch gaming laptop we mentioned above. It’s still somewhat heavy, but it’s incredibly impressive how so much power fits into this chassis.

As for ports, you have four Thunderbolt ports, with an adapter for USB Type-A and HDMI included in the box so you can still easily connect legacy peripherals and non-Thunderbolt monitors. It would have been nice to have those options built-in, but that would probably have made this a thicker laptop. Looks-wise, the XPS 17 is just like the smaller siblings — you get two options for the interior material, which help the laptop stand out from other all-metal premium devices.

    Dell XPS 17 9710
    The Dell XPS 17 is an incredibly powerful 17-inch laptop that still fits in a compact and slim chassis. It has Intel H-series processors, RTX graphics, and space for a lot of RAM and storage.

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Best detachable: Dell Latitude 7320 Detachable

Angled view of Dell Latitude 7320 Detachable

Dell is very well-known for its laptops, but the company also makes detachable PCs in the form of the Latitude 7320 Detachable. This business-oriented tablet is a fantastic option if you want something that’s easy to carry anywhere and transform from a tablet into a laptop on the fly. We’ve actually reviewed the Dell Latitude 7320 Detachable and found it to be a fantastic competitor to the Surface Pro lineup.

Performance-wise, it’s not far off from the premium laptops we’ve looked at so far. It’s using 11th-generation Intel Core processors, but there is a notable difference — these are from Intel’s low-power lineup, which used to be called the Y-series. However, unlike previous Y-series processors, these are actually not that far from the 15W processors in something like the XPS 13, so you still get a great experience in a more compact package. Plus, this still includes Iris Xe graphics if you need some extra GPU power for certain tasks. Aside from that, you can get up to 16GB of RAM and 1TB of SSD storage, making this a very powerful tablet that can easily handle most day-to-day tasks.

For the display, the Dell Latitude 7320 Detachable uses a 13 inch panel and it comes in the 3:2 aspect ratio, making it one of the tallest screens on this list. That’s a good thing though, because you get even more surface area than the 16:10 displays we’ve seen so far. The resolution is Full HD+ (1920 x 1280) and while that’s not overly sharp, it should be just fine for a screen of this size. Of course, it supports touch and active pens, and it’s a decently bright screen too, at 500 nits. However, you don’t get any configuration options for it.

Above the display, there’s a Full HD/1080p webcam, and it includes both Windows Hello facial recognition and presence sensing, so the device can wake up and unlock automatically when you approach it.

Moving on to the design, the Latitude 7320 Detachable is of course a tablet, and it’s very lightweight at under 800 grams (1.7lbs). It’s also just 8.44mm thin, so it’s extremely portable and it can easily fit anywhere. Of course, if you add the detachable keyboard, it becomes heavier and thicker, but it’s still easy to carry with you wherever you go. A potential problem with this is the keyboard isn’t included in the package, and considering the starting price, that might be hard to swallow.

As for ports, tablets typically don’t have the widest selection available, but the Latitude 7320 Detachable does give you two Thunderbolt 4 ports, so you can connect a Thunderbolt 4 dock if you want more ports, including for external displays. You could even connect an external GPU and use the tablet for gaming, though the CPU probably wouldn’t do that well in most modern games.

Overall, this is a great detachable tablet, and if you want something that’s easy to carry and still powerful enough for all your daily tasks, this is one of your best options.

    Dell Latitude 7320 Detachable
    The Dell Latitude 7320 Detachable is a lightweight tablet with powerful internals and expansion options available via Thunderbolt.

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Best convertible: Dell XPS 13 2-in-1

Dell XPS 13 2-in-1

We may be cheating a little bit with this one, but the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 does a fantastic job of taking the standard XPS 13 and turning it into a convertible. It’s not exactly the same device, but it shares almost all the good — the high performance, premium design, and stellar display options, all with the versatility of a hybrid PC.

Starting with performance, the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 is very close to the clamshell version, although it maxes out with an Intel Core i7-1165G7. It may be slightly slower than the highest configuration available for the regular XPS 13, but this is still a four core, eight thread processor and still includes Iris Xe graphics. You won’t really be missing out on performance with this model in that regard. You also get up to 16GB of RAM and 1TB of SSD storage, which again is a step down from the clamshell variant, but far from a bad combination, You’ll still be able to multi-task easily here, and this is more than enough space for documents and all kinds of files.

As mentioned above, the display is also great, but you don’t get all the same options as with the standard model. Here, you can choose between a Full HD+ (1920 x 1200) which is already fairly sharp at this size, or you can spring for the Ultra HD+ (3840 x 2400) model if you want the extra sharpness. There’s no OLED option here, but it’s not like these panels will give you a bad experience either.

The webcam is also the same 2.25mm sensor that only captures 720p images, which isn’t going to make you look your best during video calls. However, the convertible model at least includes Windows Hello facial recognition, so you get the most convenient way to sign into your PC.

The design too is similar to the standard clamshell of the XPS 13. You get an aluminum chassis on the outside, and a black carbon fiber material for the keyboard deck. While there’s no option for an arctic white interior, this version is also the most distinct, and it’s still going to look great. Measuring 14.35mm in thickness and 2.9lbs in weight, this is still a very portable laptop, and it definitely feels premium all round.

As for ports, it’s the exact same setup as the regular XPS 13 — two Thunderbolt 4 sorts give you all the expansion options you might want, and you’re going to need a dock if you want to connect any legacy peripherals. You get a 3.5mm headphone jack and a microSD card reader, and that’s it. This is understandable for a thin device like this, but it’s something you’ll need to keep in mind.

Overall, this is one of the best laptops Dell makes, and if you want a convertible, you can’t go wrong with this one. It doesn’t reach the heights of its clamshell counterpart, but the trade-offs are worth it if you want a convertible form factor.

    Dell XPS 13 2-in-1
    The Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 takes the best from its clamshell sibling and puts it into a convertible form factor with high-end performance and a premium design.

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Best workstation: Dell Precision 7760

Dell Precision 7760 back view

Some of us need more than a traditional laptop, and even more than the power of an XPS 17. Workstations are incredibly powerful PCs for the most demanding types of workloads, and the Dell Precision 7760 is one of the best mobile workstations you can find. It’s incredibly powerful, but it manages to look good at the same time.

Workstations are all about performance, and the Dell Precision 7760 delivers. You can get it with up to an Intel Xeon W-11955M, an eight core, 16 thread processor that can boost up to 5GHz and includes vPro technologies. That already gives you plenty of power to do just about anything you’d want to do on a PC. In addition to that, you can add an NVIDIA Quadro RTX graphics card, up to a Quadro RTX A5000 with 16GB of video memory. If that doesn’t sound powerful enough yet, you can configure the Precision 7760 with up to 128GB of ECC memory, with four sticks of 32GB each. For storage, you can get up to 14TB by combining up to four SSDs. Suffice to say, this is a powerful workstation, and you’ll be able to do just about anything with it.

The display is a 17.3 inch panel, and it comes in a 16:9 aspect ratio, which may be a negative to some. The base configuration includes a Full HD display with 220 nits of brightness, but you can upgrade to a brighter display if you need it. The most noteworthy upgrade is the 4K display option with a 120Hz refresh rate, an extremely rare combination on any laptop. This display also supports HDR400, and covers 100% of Adobe RGB, making this a great choice for color-sensitive work.

Connectivity is also plentiful on the Dell Precision 7760. You get three USB Type-A ports, two Thunderbolt 4 ports, Ethernet, HDMI, mini DisplayPort, a headphone jack, SD card reader, and a proprietary barrel charging connector. You can also add things like a SmartCard reader, a fingerprint sensor, and NFC support. There’s not much more you can ask for with a configuration like this. If you plan to work away from the office or home, you can also add 5G support to this laptop with a Snapdragon X55 modem.

Of course, something this powerful isn’t going to fit into a slim and lightweight chassis. The Dell Precision 7760 is up to 28mm thick, and its starting weight is 6.65lbs — and that’s for its base configuration. So it can certainly get heavier than that. Still, it manages to look premium and modern, so it’s not going to stick out in an office.

Overall, this is an incredibly powerful laptop, and if that’s what you want, you have plenty of options here. You’ll be paying a pretty penny if you want to max out all the specs, however.

    Dell Precision 7760
    The Dell Precision 7760 is a powerful workstation you can configure with incredibly high-end specs while still having a premium and modern design.

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Best budget laptop: Dell Inspiron 15 3511

Dell Inspiron 15 3511

Want a capable laptop that doesn’t break the bank? The Dell Inspiron 15 is a fantastic choice if you’re looking for something that delivers great performance for day-to-day tasks while also being affordable.

It may be surprising, but a lot of what drives the cost up in premium laptops is the design, so in terms of performance, the Inspiron 15 3511 isn’t that far off from many flagship laptops. It comes with Intel’s 11th-generation Core processors, up to an Intel Core i7-1165G7, the same maximum configuration as the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1. That’s a four core, eight thread CPU that can boost up to 4.6GHz, so you’re going to get some solid performance out of it. Plus, with Intel Iris Xe graphics, you should have enough power to handle some older games and more modern lightweight titles at lower settings. Additionally, you can get up to 12GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD, which is perfectly acceptable for a student or occasional user.

The display is also surprisingly good for a budget laptop like this. Many others in this price range opt for a lower resolution like 1366 x 768, but the Inspiron 15 comes with a Full HD display by default, so you’re already going to have a solid experience. You don’t get any upgrade options for it, but it’s already a solid display to begin with. For sound, you get two 2W speakers, which is a decent output for an affordable laptop like this. Above the display, there’s a 720p camera, which is forgivable considering the price point and that even Dell’s premium laptops often use 720p webcams.

The overall design is where you see most trade-offs with this laptop, but it’s not like it looks bad by any means. It uses an all-black plastic build, which means it looks fine but doesn’t stand out all that much. It also doesn’t pack convenience features like a fingerprint reader or IR camera for Windows Hello. It also doesn’t try to be particularly thin or light, measuring up to 18.99mm in thickness and weighing 3.82lbs. What it does have is a full number pad, something most other laptops on this list can’t say.

As for connectivity, you get three USB Type-A ports, HDMI, a headphone jack, and an SD card reader, plus a barrel charger port. This is a decent selection, but the lack of any USB Type-C ports and Ethernet is a bit surprising. Still, most peripherals should work with the ports you have here, and you can easily connect a second monitor too.

While it isn’t the flashiest and most premium laptop around, the Dell Inspiron 15 offers a solid experience all around, and it’s very affordable. At the time of writing, the top-tier configuration costs just under $700, a great deal for what you get. The base model is available for as low as $349.99.

    Dell Inspiron 15 3511
    The Dell Inspiron 15 is an affordable laptop that still delivers solid performance and a Full HD display.

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Those are our choices for the best Dell laptops you can buy today. The Dell XPS 13 takes our best overall pick thanks to its fantastic blend of portability, a premium design, and performance, packing everything you’d want out of a 13 inch ultrabook into a smaller size than you’d expect. But portability isn’t the number one priority for everyone, so the other options are equally great. I’m personally smitten by the Dell XPS 17 and how much power it crams into a relatively small chassis. Everyone will have different priorities, but as long as you have an idea of what you need, you’re bound to love the options on this list.

About author

João Carrasqueira
João Carrasqueira

Writer at XDA Computing. I've been covering the world of technology since 2018, but I've loved the field for a lot longer. And I have a weird affinity for Nintendo videogames, which I'm always happy to talk about.