Dell XPS 15 vs Surface Book 3 15-inch: Which one should you buy?
With the many great laptops you can buy today, it can sometimes be difficult to find the one that’s right for you. It’s obviously great to have so many choices since it means you’re more likely to find something that’s just right, but it can still be difficult to choose. If you’re looking for a productivity machine, specifically one that can handle tasks like video editing, two options you’re likely to come across are the Dell XPS 15 and the Surface Book 3.
However, while these laptops are both adequate for creative professionals, they’re radically different machines in many ways. Choosing one is dependent on what you need the laptop for, but in general, it’s also important to remember the Surface Book 3 is packing some older hardware. The laptop was refreshed over a year ago, while the Dell XPS 15 is newer. Plus, there are some other big differences, but we’ll get into those later on.
Dell XPS 15 vs Surface Book 3: Specs
As usual, we’ll start with a simple look at the spec sheet of these two laptops. We’re focusing on the 15 inch version of the Surface Book 3 here, not the 13 inch model.
|Dell XPS 15||Surface Book 3 15-inch|
|Size (WxDxH)||13.57 x 9.06 x 0.71 in (344.72 x 230.14 x 18 mm)|
Performance: The Dell XPS 15 is far more powerful
If you’re looking at those specs and thinking the Surface Book 3 doesn’t stand a chance here — you’re right. Let’s focus on the CPU first, and there are two big factors there. First, there’s age. As we’ve already mentioned, the Surface Book 3 was last refreshed in May 2020, so it’s still using Intel Ice Lake processors, while the XPS 15 now has Tiger Lake. But the second big thing is that the Dell XPS 15 uses H-series processors, which have a TDP of 45W. The Surface Book 3 uses U-series processors, which typically have a TDP of around 15W. That gives the Dell XPS 15 far more power to work with.
These processors have more cores and faster clock speeds, so it’s no surprise to see the Dell XPS 15 dominate completely here. Looking at the benchmark scores below, it’s not even close — and we picked one of the best results for the Surface Book 3 instead of an average value here.
|Main Header 1||Surface Book 3 (Intel Core i7-1065G7)||Intel Core i5-11400H (average)||Intel Core i7-11800H (average)|
|GeekBench score (single-core/multi-core)||1315 / 4554||1366 / 5824||1493 / 8080|
That’s not all either, because the GPU is also drastically different. Because it’s newer, the Dell XPS 15 is using NVIDIA’s GeForce RTX 3050 or 3050 Ti GPUs, which were released earlier this year. Being older, the Surface Book 3 is still using GeForce GTX 1660 Ti graphics, so naturally they’re not as good. Business users can also get it with a Quadro RTX 3000 GPU, but it’s still not as fast. However, it’s likely this is a component that will get updated in a potential Surface Book 4, which we’re expecting to hear about soon.
The Surface Book 3 is still more powerful than most other Surface devices, and you can still use it for creative work or gaming. It’s just nowhere near as powerful as the Dell XPS 15. Waiting for a refresh might make the most sense here.
Dell is also ahead when it comes to RAM and storage. You can get the Dell XPS 15 with up to a whopping 64GB of RAM and 4TB of storage, which is frankly far more than most users would ever need, but its good to have the option. The Surface Book 3 is still pretty good, but maxes out with 32GB of RAM and a 2TB SSD. Also, upgrading components is much harder and voids the warranty on the Surface Book 3, since it’s not designed to be opened.
“Microsoft promises up to 17 and a half hours of typical device usage with the Surface Book 3 15 inch.”
One area where the Surface Book 3 wins is battery life. Using a lower-power chipset helps with that, too. Microsoft promises up to 17 and a half hours of typical device usage with the Surface Book 3 15 inch, as long as you have the keyboard base attached. The Dell XPS 15, on the other hand, promises up to 13 hours and 20 minutes, but you have to settle for the much less appealing Full HD+ display without touch support. If you want the sharper display options, you’re going to have less than 10 hours on a charge.
Design: The Surface Book 3 has a detachable screen
While both the Dell XPS 15 and the Surface Book 3 can be used as traditional laptops, they’re designed in completely different ways. The Dell XPS 15 is just a clamshell laptop. You can add a touchscreen, but that display is always going to be limited to opening like a clamshell. With the Surface Book 3, you can separate the screen from the keyboard base and use the screen as a tablet.
Most of the components of the Surface Book 3 are in the display portion, though a bigger battery and the NVIDIA GPU are in the keyboard base. You can also reattach the screen backwards, so you get the extra battery life or GPU performance while only using the display. That makes the Surface Book 3 much more flexible.
Depending on your configuration, the Surface Book 3 may also be lighter. The Dell XPS 15 does start at a lower weight, but that’s without a discrete GPU, with a smaller 56Whr battery, and using the Full HD+ display without touch support. Upgrading the internal components makes both laptops start at around the same weight, but again, that’s without a touchscreen for the Dell XPS 15. Once you do add a touchscreen to the XPS 15, it’s always going to be heavier than the Surface Book 3. It’s not a huge difference, though, so you can carry either one just as easily. As for the rest of the dimensions, the Dell XPS 15 is not as tall or thick as the Surface Book 3, so it might fit more easily in some bags.
As for ports, the Dell XPS 15 is arguably more capable. It has two Thunderbolt 4 ports, which give you 40Gbps of bandwidth to connect peripherals and external displays. Microsoft continues to use its magnetic Surface Connect port, and it’s not completely transparent with the specs for that port. The company does say it supports dual 4K displays at 60Hz on the Surface Book 3 using a Surface Dock 2, so you’re still getting a solid amount of bandwidth.
“Microsoft continues to use its magnetic Surface Connect port, and it’s not completely transparent with the specs for that port.”
As for other ports, the Dell XPS 15 has another USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C port, an SD card reader, and a headphone jack, plus it includes an adapter to turn a Type-C port into USB Type-A and HDMI 2.0. The Surface Book 3, on the other hand, has one USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C port, two USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A ports, as well as an SD card reader and headphone jack. The big problem here is the lack of display outputs out of the box, while Dell at least offers the HDMI adapter so you can plug into a TV or monitor.
Both laptops also come with Windows Hello facial recognition, but the Dell XPS 15 also has a fingerprint reader on the power button. When you have facial recognition, a fingerprint reader loses some of its luster, but it’s a nice option to have, especially if you’re the kind of person that puts tape over your webcam.
Finally, it’s worth pointing out that the Surface Book 3 comes in a single color — platinum — which is kind of the signature color of Surface devices. However, it’s pretty basic and doesn’t stand out much. The Dell XPS 15 comes in two versions: one with a “platinum silver” exterior and a black carbon fiber interior, and one with a “frost” silver exterior and an arctic white interior made from woven fiber glass composite. If you want something that looks more unique, the Dell XPS 15 is definitely the way to go here.
Dell XPS 15 vs Surface Book 3: Display
Both the Surface Book 3 and the Dell XPS 15 have great displays, but they are very different in terms of configurations. For one thing, the Surface Book 3 has no configuration options. You’re always going to get a 15 inch, 3240 x 2160 detachable display with touch and pen support. That means you’ll get a great experience across the board, and it arguably makes the choice easier.
The Dell XPS 15, on the other hand, gives you three options. The base configuration is a Full HD+ (1920 x 1200) panel with no touch support, and while that’s not bad, it’s definitely not the best. However, the XPS 15 offers two fantastic upgrade options. First, there’s a 3.5K (3456 x 2160) OLED display, and that’s going to look fantastic. It’s even sharper than the Surface Book 3, and being OLED means you get true blacks, vivid colors, and a very high contrast ratio.
If OLED isn’t for you, there’s also an Ultra HD+ (3840 x 2400) panel, which is even sharper but won’t have the same level of contrast. These are two fantastic options, and a bit better than the Surface Book 3, too. But both laptops will give you a great display experience.
It’s also worth pointing out the size and aspect ratio of these screens. Both laptops have taller displays than usual, but the Surface Book 3 is the taller of the two. It has a 3:2 aspect ratio, while the XPS 15 uses 16:10. A taller display is usually great for reading and writing, but it’s up to you if you prefer 3:2 or 16:10.
The sound experience will be better on the Dell XPS 15 too. This laptop has a quad-speaker system with a total 8W of power, so you get much more immersive sound. The Surface Book 3 has two front-facing speakers which are also good, but not on the same level.
Finally, let’s talk webcams. Surface devices have some of the best webcams on Windows laptops, and the Surface Book 3 comes with two 1080p cameras. For pictures, the front-facing camera has a 5MP resolution, and the rear-facing camera is 8MP, plus it supports autofocus. The Dell XPS 15, on the other hand, uses a tiny 2.25mm camera, which is why it’s such a compact laptop in the first place. This camera is only 720p, and it’s notoriously not very good. If you care about webcam quality, the Surface Book is the way to go here.
The bottom line
It’s apparent comparing the two laptops that the Dell XPS 15 is easily more powerful, and if you need to buy a laptop today, we’d recommend going with that. It has better processors, better graphics, potential for a better display, a better sound system, and it costs less for the same specs. This is one of Dell’s best laptops, and you can’t go wrong with it as far as performance goes.
That’s not to say the Surface Book 3 is a bad laptop by any means though — it’s just not up-to-date. It still offers better battery life and great performance, plus it has the versatility of being a convertible laptop in some capacity. For most users, the Surface Book 3 is going to be more than powerful enough for daily use, but we’d still recommend holding off a while longer.
“It’s apparent comparing the two laptops that the Dell XPS 15 is easily more powerful, and if you need to buy a laptop today, we’d recommend going with that.”
With Windows 11 around the corner, and with rumors of the Surface Book 4 going around, it’s likely that Microsoft will introduce new devices sometime soon. You should wait to hear about what might be new for Surface devices before making the purchase. If you can’t afford to wait, you can buy your preferred laptop using the links below, or fully configure the Dell XPS 15 on Dell’s website. Or check out our list of the best Surface PCs you might want to consider instead of the Surface Book 3.