Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 (2022) vs iPad Pro 12.9-inch: Which tablet is best for you?

Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 (2022) vs iPad Pro 12.9-inch: Which tablet is best for you?

Dell recently launched the XPS 13 2-in-1 for 2022, and it’s a radical departure from what we’ve seen the company do in the past. Instead of a typical convertible design, Dell has opted to make a detachable tablet, with a keyboard cover you can easily remove. This makes for a more portable laptop than ever, but it also means the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 now competes with a range of other compelling devices, including the 12.9-inch iPad Pro. So how does it compare?

That’s a pretty loaded question, especially because there’s more to it than the form factor. These devices run different operating systems, and they’re meant for different types of use cases. But let’s take a closer look at what makes each of these devices unique so you can choose which one is best for yourself.

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Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 vs iPad Pro 12.9-inch: Specs

Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 iPad Pro 12.9-inch
CPU
  • 12th Generation Intel Core i5-1230U (9W, 10-core, 12-thread, up to 4.4 GHz, 12MB cache)
  • 12th Generation Intel Core i7-1250U (9W, 10-core, 12-thread, up to 4.7 GHz, 12MB cache)
  • Apple M1 (8-core CPU)
Graphics
  • Intel Iris Xe (up to 96 EUs, 950MHz)
  • 8-core GPU
Display
  • 13-inch 3:2 3K (2880 x 1920), 500 nits, DisplayHDR 400, anti-reflective, anti-smudge, Corning Gorilla Glass 7, Dolby Vision, touch and pen support
  • 12.9-inch  Liquid Retina XDR, 2732 x 2048, 1600 nits, True Tone, ProMotion (120Hz), touch, supports Apple Pencil 2
Storage
  • 256GB PCIe 4 SSD
  • 512GB PCIe 4 SSD
  • 1TB PCIe 4 SSD
  • 128GB
  • 256GB
  • 512GB
  • 1TB
  • 2TB
RAM
  • 8GB dual-channel LPDDR4x 4266MHz
  • 16GB dual-channel LPDDR4x 4266MHz
  • 8GB unified memory
  • 16GB unified memory
Battery
  • 49.5Whr battery
    • 45W charger
  • 40.88Whr battery
    • 20W USB-C charger
Ports
  • 2 Thunderbolt 4 (USB Type-C) ports
    • USB Type-C to Type-A adapter included
    • USB Type-C to 3.5mm adapter included
  • 1 x Thunderbolt/USB4, 40Gbps
Audio
  • Dual stereo speakers with Waves MaxxAudio Pro and Waves Nx 3D audio
  • Dual-array microphones
  • Quad-speaker system
  • Five studio quality microphones
Camera
  • 5MP/1080p front-facing webcam
  • 11MP/4K world-facing camera
  • Front: 12MP ultra-wide camera (122º), f/2.4, Smart HDR3, 1080p video, TrueDepth (Face ID)
  • Rear: 12MP wide camera, f/1.8, Smart HDR 3, 4K video + 12MP ultra-wide camera (125º), Smart HDR 3, 1080p video
Biometric authentication
  • IR camera
  • Fingerprint reader in XPS Folio keyboard
  • Face ID with TrueDepth camera
Connectivity
  • Intel Wi-Fi 6E AX211
  • Bluetooth 5.2
  • Optional (only in Slate model): 5G (Intel 5000)
  • Wi-Fi 6
  • Bluetooth 5.0
  • Optional: 5G (sub-6GHz and mmWave)
Color
  • Sky
  • Slate
  • Silver
  • Space grey
Size (WxDxH)
  • Sky (Wi-Fi only): 292.5 × 201.2 × 7.4 mm (11.5 × 7.9 ×0.29 inches)
  • Slate (5G)292.5 x 201.2 x 7.8 mm (11.5 x 7.9 x 0.31 inches)
  • 280.6 × 214.9× 6.4 mm (11.04 × 8.46 × 0.25 inches)
Dimensions
  • Sky (Wi-Fi only): Starts at 736 grams (1.6 lb)
  • Slate (5G): Starts at 811 grams (1.8 lb)
  • Wi-Fi only: Starts at 682 grams (1.5 lbs)
  • 5G model: Starts at 685 grams (1.51 lbs)
Price $1,099.99 (includes XPS Folio) Starting at $1,099 (no keyboard)

Operating system: Windows is still best for work

The first – and probably biggest – thing to note when comparing these two devices is the operating system. The Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 runs Windows 11, and the iPad Pro runs iPadOS, and they’re on completely different levels. It’s one thing to compare Windows and macOS, which are very different operating systems that are geared more-or-less towards the same kind of work. With iPadOS, it’s clearly meant for a different type of user, otherwise Apple wouldn’t need to keep it alongside macOS.

So what are the differences? Well, Windows is still primarily designed with traditional computers in mind. It assumes you have a mouse, a keyboard, and you might want to have multiple displays and run a lot of apps at the same time. Productivity is what Windows is good at, and if you want to work, it’s absolutely the way to go. You can have various apps on screen at the same time – plus you can easily have multiple screens with various apps in each of them – switch between apps easily, and the whole interface works well with a mouse and keyboard, though it’s also possible to use touch. In fact, Microsoft made some improvements to touch support with Windows 11, and even more of them are coming with Windows 11 version 22H2.

Windows 11 Snap Layouts

It’s also worth mentioning that Windows will probably have more apps focused on productivity, specifically for certain workloads like coding or video editing. We wouldn’t consider this a huge advantage seeing as the XPS 13 2-in-1 isn’t a very fast laptop for those workloads, but the possibility is there. You might have a hard time finding tools on par with what you can on Windows on iPadOS.

Windows is better for laptops; iPadOS is better for tablets.

But while that makes the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 a better laptop, what you’re buying is also a tablet, and that means you might want to do tablet things. And for that, iPadOS is better. You have an experience that’s completely designed around touch, so gestures and actions are all designed to be easier to perform with touch. Apps for iPadOS are often built natively for that platform, and they also favor touch input. iPadOS is just better for things like media consumption, casual web browsing, and using all kinds of apps. And when you need it to be a laptop, it can do that to some extent, thanks to some improvements in recent years to let you see more apps at once, in addition to adding support for mice and touchpads.

iPadOS 16 Home Screen with Settings app highlighted

So, if you’re choosing between these two devices, the first thing you really have to ask yourself is what do you want to do with it? Are you going to be working or typing a lot? Do you need to open and switch between apps very frequently? Maybe the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 is the best choice for you. If you’re mostly browsing the web, watching media, and you only occasionally need to work on documents, then the iPad Pro might be a more compelling proposition.

Performance: The Apple M1 is really impressive

Now, as we’ve just mentioned, the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 and the iPad Pro 12.9-inch are very different devices in regards to their target audience, and that means comparing the performance is never going to be a very apples-to-apples comparison. Raw performance isn’t going to make a specific operating system better at tasks it’s just not meant to handle.

Still, you have to give credit to Apple – the M1 chip is incredibly impressive, and the fact that we’ve seen in everything from this iPad Pro to a 24-inch iMac shows just how powerful and efficient it can be. This is an 8-core CPU with four performance cores and four efficient cores, but it’s really fast. The Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 uses 12th-generation Intel Core U9-series processors, and while they’re also very capable, they can’t quite match what the Apple M1 offers. Check out these benchmark results:

12.9-inch iPad Pro
Apple M1 (average)
Intel Core i7-1250U
(see test)
Geekbench 5 (single-core/multi-core) 1,705 / 7,207 1,634 / 4,517

To be clear, these are very early numbers from Intel’s processors, and the Geekbench database has very few scores we can pull from. Still, that’s the best one we could find right now, and it’s still far behind the Apple M1.

That difference extends to the GPU, too. Back when it introduced the M1 in October 2020, Apple claimed to have the fastest integrated graphics on a laptop, and Intel integrated graphics haven’t evolved much with 12th-generation processors. In fact, because the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 has a U9-series processor, GPU performance might be even worse due to the lower clock speeds. Of course, with the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1, you can always use Thunderbolt to plug in an external GPU, so that might be an advantage if you want to think about more serious gaming.

But that brings us to efficiency, which is something else the Apple M1 is really good at. Out of its 40.88Whr battery, the iPad Pro promises up to 10 hours of video playback, according to Apple’s official claims. Meanwhile, Dell claims up to 9 hours of Netflix video playback, depending on the configuration you choose. Even though it has a physically larger battery, Dell’s tablet still comes up short, and that’s because Arm-based processors like the Apple M1 are very power-efficient.

As for RAM, both devices can have up to 16GB, but it’s actually cheaper to get 16GB on the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1, since you can upgrade the RAM and leave other components unchanged. On the iPad Pro 12.9-inch, 16GB of RAM are included if you opt to get the model with 1TB or 2TB of storage, which will cost you at least $1,799. But again, since the iPad Pro isn’t as focused on multi-tasking, you might not need that much RAM in the first place.

The Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 has more storage for less money,

On the topic of storage, the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 can have up to a 1TB SSD, so the iPad Pro is a bit more capable there. However, it’s also worth keeping in mind that for the official $1,099 starting price, the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 already gives you 512GB of storage (plus this includes an XPS Folio cover). To get that much storage on the iPad Pro, you need to pay $1,399, and you’ll still need to buy a keyboard separately if you want it.

Display: The iPad Pro has a mini-LED panel

Moving on to the display, things sway even more in favor of the iPad Pro. To be clear, Dell typically uses fantastic displays on its XPS laptops, and this is far from a bad one. It’s a 13-inch IPS panel with a resolution of 2880 x 1920, which makes it incredibly sharp already. Plus, up to 500 nits of brightness is already enough to ensure outdoor visibility in most cases. The screen also supports touch and the Dell XPS Stylus (as well as other Wacom AES 2.0 pens).

Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 2022 display angled view

The iPad Pro can reach up to 1600 nits of brightness and it has a 120Hz refresh rate.

However, when you put it side-by-side with the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 is a lot less impressive. Apple’s tablet comes with a 2732 x 2048 resolution, which is about as sharp, though it comes in an aspect ratio closer to 4:3 rather than 3:2, meaning it’s a bit more square-like. The big differences start to show in the other specs. The 12.9-inch iPad Pro uses a mini-LED panel with 2,596 dimming zone,s which gives it some of the same benefits as an OLED panel, like true blacks and very high contrast ratios. It also allows the display to reach a maximum 1000 nits of full-screen sustained brightness in HDR mode, or 1600 nits peak brightness.

On top of that, the iPad Pro also comes with a ProMotion display, which gives it a refresh rate up to 120Hz. The refresh rate automatically adjusts to save battery when it’s not needed, but at 120Hz, it looks much smoother than the 60Hz panel of the XPS 13 2-in-1. It’s just a superior display experience overall, and if media consumption is your priority, then the iPad Pro is definitely the way to go.

The iPad Pro 2021's Liquid XDR display.

The iPad Pro also has a more advanced audio system, with four stereo speakers providing a very immersive experience, especially compared to the dual-speaker system on the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1. It also has five microphones, so recordings are likely to sound a lot better, too.

Cameras: They’re barely on the same level

If you look at the PC landscape, you’ll notice that cameras are rarely a priority for companies, and it makes sense. The only camera you need on most laptops is a webcam for video calls, and until a couple of years ago, not many people were making video calls frequently. Webcams were always neglected. But tablets have typically been more tied to the mobile space, so while cameras aren’t usually as good as the best smartphones, they’re generally much better than any laptop would give you.

By making a tablet, Dell tried to adapt, and the XPS 13 2-in-1 does have better cameras than most. You get a 5MP front-facing camera with 1080p video, and on the back, an 11MP camera that can record 4K video. For a laptop, that’s actually very good, but again, comparing it to the iPad Pro, it’s a stark contrast.

Starting with the front-facing camera, the iPad Pro has a 12MP ultra-wide sensor, which is already a big bump up compared to Dell’s tablet. This wide-angle camera enables features like Center Stage, so the camera actually zooms in on you to keep you in focus while still looking sharp. You can move around a bit and the camera can still keep you in the frame, and if more people join you, the camera will zoom out to fit everyone.

A close-up of the camera bump on the 2021 Apple iPad Pro

And over on the back, the iPad Pro actually has two cameras, both of them 12MP sensors. The main camera supports 4K video, while the ultra-wide camera goes up to 1080p, but image quality from either of them is still great. You get more versatility with this camera setup, and it’s just bound to look better. Plus, Apple has put a lot of effort into features like Smart HDR 3, something we don’t really see in the Windows space. Again, the iPad Pro is a better tablet, while the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 is a better laptop, and you see that permeate through everything about these devices.

Design and ports: The Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 comes in more interesting colors

Rounding things out with the design, Apple managed to once again best Dell when it comes to the more technical side of things. The 12.9-inch iPad Pro is thinner and lighter than the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1, and a big part of that actually has to do with the specs. Intel processors are a bit harder to cool, and they require a more robust thermal design, so laptops are almost always thicker compared to what you can get with an Arm-based processor. Plus, of course, it has a larger battery, which certainly adds to the size.

Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 2022 rear view in Sky Blue

However, on a more subjective note, the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 looks a little bit nicer. The 12.9-inch iPad Pro is available in the classic Silver and Space Grey color options Apple always offers, and while they’re fine, they probably feel a bit stale. Dell at least gives you a hint of color with the Sky variant of the XPS 13 2-in-1, though it’s still very subdued.

The Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 supports external GPUs and multiple external displays via Thunderbolt.

And in terms of ports, Dell actually has a major advantage. For one thing, it has two Thunderbolt 4 ports, compared to just one on the iPad Pro. Dell also includes an adapter for USB Type-A if you have peripherals that still use it. But most importantly, the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 actually supports the full suite of Thunderbolt features, including external GPUs and up to two 4K monitors at 60Hz. The iPad Pro has Thunderbolt, but it can only connect one external display (regardless of resolution), and external GPUs aren’t supported at all.

This comes back to the idea that the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 is a better laptop, and you can do laptop things on it – like gaming or video editing – even if it requires expensive peripherals. You just don’t have those options on the iPad Pro.

As for wireless connectivity, the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 supports Wi-Fi 6E, while the iPad Pro is still only compatible with standard Wi-Fi 6. On the other hand, the 5G variant of the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 (which isn’t available yet) will only support sub-6GHz 5G, while the iPad Pro can use mmWave 5G, which may be useful in specific scenarios.

Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 vs iPad Pro 12.9-inch: Final thoughts

After taking a look at everything we’ve gone over, it should be very apparent which device is best for you. The Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 is clearly a work device – it’s more of a laptop with a removable keyboard than it is a tablet. It runs Windows, so it’s more set up for productivity, and with two Thunderbolt 4 ports, it can connect to multiple external displays or even external GPUs.

On the other hand, the iPad Pro is clearly a better tablet, because it’s more rooted in the mobile industry than in the commuting space. It has a super-efficient processor, a phenomenal display for media consumption, and pretty good cameras for both photos and video. Plus, it’s more portable. You can add a keyboard to it and try to use it as a laptop, but it’s a laptop first and foremost.

Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 with attachable keyboard and pen attached

But there’s something else to consider, and that’s price. The spec sheet mentions the same starting price for these devices, but the spec sheet at that price is very different. For one thing, the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 already includes a keyboard for that price (it’s $999 without it) so you get a full laptop by default. Plus, this model already includes 512GB of storage. Meanwhile, the iPad Pro charges at least $200 more for the keyboard (if you want an official one), and it only starts with 128GB of storage. Again, that ties into how much you need that keyboard and storage – if media consumption and web browsing are your priority, 128GB may be just fine, and the iPad Pro is better in every other way.

Regardless of your preference, you can buy either of these devices using the links below. Or, if you want to check out some other options, take a look at the best Dell laptops, or maybe check out the best Macs if you want to see what Apple has to offer in terms of more traditional computing devices.

    The new Dell XPS 13 comes with a complete redesign, coming in Sky and Umber colors. It's also the thinnest and lightest XPS laptop ever.
    The 12.9-inch iPad Pro comes with the powerful Apple M1 processor and a stunning mini-LED display.

About author

João Carrasqueira
João Carrasqueira

Editor 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.

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