Dell XPS 15 vs Surface Laptop 4 15-inch: Which should you buy?

Dell XPS 15 vs Surface Laptop 4 15-inch: Which should you buy?

Everyone has different criteria when choosing a new laptop, and even the best laptops aren’t all the same. Some need more power for intensive tasks like gaming, and others want something they can take to school or work every day. But for many, one of the primary deciding factors is the screen size. While some may be happy with a 13 inch display, others (such as myself) prefer the additional real estate of bigger laptops. If you’re looking for a 15 inch laptop, two of the best options you can find today are the Dell XPS 15 and the Surface Laptop 4.

Aside from the screen size though, these are two very different laptops. The first is focused on delivering more power for tasks like video editing, while the other is more of an everyday laptop you can take anywhere. Right there, that might make the choice for you, but we’re going to take a closer look at these two laptops to help you decide which one to buy.

Dell XPS 15 vs Surface Laptop 4: Specs

First off, let’s take a look at the rundown of the specs inside the Dell XPS 15 and Surface Laptop 4 15. We’re focusing on the 15 inch model of the Surface Laptop 4, not the 13.5 inch.

Dell XPS 15Surface Laptop 4 15-inch
Processor
  • Intel Core i5-11400H (up to 4.5GHz, 6-core)
  • Intel Core i7-11800H (up to 4.8GHz, 8-core)
  • Intel Core i9-11900H (up to 4.9GHz, 8-core)
  • Intel Core i7-1185G7 (up to 4.9GHz, 4-core)
  • AMD Ryzen 7 4980U Microsoft Surface Edition (up to 4.4GHz, 8-core)
Graphics
  • Intel UHD Graphics
  • NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3050 4GB GDDR6 (45W)
  • NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3050 Ti 4GB GDDR6 (45W)
  • Intel Iris Xe Graphics
  • AMD Radeon Graphics
RAM
  • 8GB
  • 16GB
  • 32GB
  • 64GB
  • 8GB
  • 16GB
  • 32GB
Storage
  • 512GB
  • 1TB
  • 2TB
  • 4TB
  • 256GB
  • 512GB
  • 1TB
Display
  • 15.6 inch, Full HD+ (1920 x 1200), InfinityEdge, anti-glare, non-touch, 500 nits
  • 15.6 inch, 3.5K (3456 x 2160) OLED, IndinityEdge, anti-glare, touch, 400 nits, 100% DCI-P3
  • 15.6 inch, Ultra HD+ (3840 x 2400), InfinityEdge, anti-glare, touchscreen, 100% Adobe RGB, 94% DCI-P3, 500 nits
  • 15 inch PixelSense (2496 x 1664), touch
Audio
  • Quad stereo speakers (two 2.5W woofers, two 1.5W tweeters)
  • Omnisonic stereo speakers with Dolby Atmos
Webcam
  • 2.25mm, 720p HD 30fps camera
  • 720p HD webcam
Biometric authentication
  • Windows Hello IR camera
  • Fingerprint reader
  • Windows Hello IR camera
Battery
  • 3-cell 56Whr battery
  • 6-cell 86Whr battery
    • Up to 13 hours and 20 minutes with Full HD+ display
    • Up to 9 hours and 13 minutes with OLED display
    • Up to 8 hours and 42 minutes with Ultra HD+ display
  • 47.4Whr battery
    • Intel processor: Up to 16.5 hours of use
    • AMD processor: Up to 17.5 hours of use
Ports
  • 2 Thunderbolt 4 (USB Type-C) ports
  • One USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C port
  • SD card reader
  • 3,5mm headphone jack
  • USB Type-C to Type-A and HDMI 2.0 adapter included
  • 1 Surface Connect port
  • 1 USB Type-A (3.2 Gen 2 / 10Gbps)
  • 1 USB Type-C (3.2 Gen 2 / 10Gbps)
  • 3.5mm headphone jack
Connectivity
  • Killer Wi-Fi 6 AX1650 (2×2), Bluetooth 5.1
  • Wi-Fi 6 + Bluetooth 5.0
Colors
  • Platinum Silver exterior + black interior
  • Frost exterior + Arctic White interior
  • Platinum
  • Matte Black
Size (WxDxH)13.57 x 9.06 x 0.71 in (344.72 x 230.14 x 18 mm)
  • 13.4 x 9.6 x 0.58 in (339.5 x 244 x 14.7 mm)
WeightStarting at:

  • 3.99 lbs (1.81 kg) (non-touch, 56Whr battery)
  • 4.22 lbs (1.91 kg) (non-touch, 86Whr battery)
  • 4.31 lbs (1.96 kg) (OLED, 86Whr battery)
  • 4.42 lbs (2.01 kg) (UHD+, 86Whr battery)
  • 3.4 lbs (1.54kg)
Starting price$1,299.99$1,299.99

Performance: The Dell XPS 15 is on a different level

It’s evident right off the bat the Dell XPS 15 and Surface Laptop 4 are different beasts entirely. It starts with the CPU where the Dell XPS 15 makes use of 45W Intel Core processors, versus the 15W processors of the Surface Laptop 4. These CPUs have very different performance levels, but also different levels of power consumption, which we’ll get to in a bit.

But because of those differences, it’s clear the Dell XPS 15 is much faster on average. Let’s take a look at some benchmark scores to get an idea of the differences.

Intel Core i7-1185G7 (average)AMD Ryzen 7 4980UIntel Core i5-11400H (average)Intel Core i7-11800H (average)
GeekBench (single-core/multi-core)1,419 / 4,8591,058 / 6,670 1,367 / 5,8311,493 / 8,082

This isn’t including the Intel Core i9-11900H in the Dell XPS 15, but you can already see quite a difference in performance, especially comparing the higher-end models (Core i7 and Ryzen 7).

The difference in performance grows even bigger when you consider the Surface Laptop 4 only has integrated graphics, be it from Intel or AMD. The Dell XPS 15 can be configured with NVIDIA GeForce RTX graphics, up to an RTX 3050 Ti. That means you can actually do things like play top-tier games on the Dell XPS 15, while only very simplistic or older titles can run well on the Surface Laptop 4.

Dell XPS 15 9510 angled view

Dell XPS 15

That trend continues with the Dell XPS 15 offering up to 64GB of RAM and 4TB of storage, which leaves the Surface Laptop 4 in the dust with a maximum of 32GB of RAM and 1TB of storage.

(…)the Surface Laptop 4 can last up to 17.5 hours on a charge for the AMD-based model, or 16.5 hours for the Intel model(…)

The Surface Laptop 4 turns things around when it comes to battery life though. Having a lower-power processor and no dedicated graphics means the Surface Laptop 4 can last up to 17.5 hours on a charge for the AMD-based model, or 16.5 hours for the Intel model, all with a 47.4Whr battery. By comparison, the Dell XPS 17 promises up to 13 hours and 20 minutes, but that’s only if you upgrade to the Intel Core i7 models — which have an 86Whr battery — and stick with the Full HD+ non-touch display. If you upgrade the display, that promise falls under 10 hours of use. That makes the Surface Laptop 4 ideal for taking with you to school or on a trip.

Display: You can get an OLED on the Dell XPS 15

Both the Dell XPS 15 and the Surface Laptop 4 can give you great display experiences, but on the Dell XPS 15, it requires you to pay a bit extra. The base configuration includes a 15.6 inch Full HD+ (1920 x 1200) LCD, and while that’s perfectly acceptable, it’s not amazing.

However, you can get a stunning 3.5K (3456 x 2160) OLED display, or an Ultra HD+ (3840 x 2400) LCD. Those are incredibly sharp displays, and the OLED specifically is rare among laptops. This is also a 16:1- display, and that taller aspect ratio is great for productivity.

Surface laptop 4 display

Surface Laptop 4

On the other hand, the Surface Laptop 4 only has one display option, and it’s a 15 inch display with a resolution of 2496 x 1660. That’s also a very sharp panel and likely more than good enough for a display of this size. It’s definitely better than the Full HD+ configuration on the Dell XPS 15, but when you consider the upgrades Dell offers, the XPS 15 can look much better. Still, you’re getting a good display with the Surface Laptop 4, and it’s a 3:2 aspect ratio, which is even taller. Plus, you get touch support by default, as well as support for the Surface Pen.

Around the display, the Dell XPS 1 has very tiny bezels, and that unfortunately means the camera is also very tiny. It’s a 720p camera and just 2.25mm in size, so it’s hard to capture a lot of light, and the image quality is notorious sub-par. The camera on the Surface Laptop 4 is also 720p, but the quality is still much better. Both laptops come with Windows Hello facial recognition, too.

Dell XPS 15 Black Top-Down View

As for audio, both laptops will also sound great, but the XPS 15 is likely going to be better. The Dell XPS 15 has a quad-speaker setup with two woofers and two tweeters, with speaker grills flanking the keyboard. With a total of 8W of power, this is a powerful and immersive sound system for a laptop, especially one this size.

The Surface Laptop 4 uses an unconventional setup where the speakers face upward from under the keyboard, which serves as the speaker grill. There are only two speakers here though, which is why you won’t get the same level of audio experience.

Design: The Surface Laptop 4 is much more portable

Finally, we come to the Surface Laptop 4’s unquestionable victory — it’s easily the easiest to carry of the two. It’s not as wide and it’s much thinner than the Dell XPS 15, although it’s noticeably taller too. But the big difference is the weight. The starting weight of the Surface Laptop 4 is 3.4lbs, versus the 3.99lbs of the XPS 15. And that’s assuming you get the base model of the XPS 15 with a smaller battery, a non-touch Full HD display, and an Intel Core i5. The Dell XPS 15 can go as high as 4.42lbs, which is a very noticeable difference if you’re carrying it in a backpack all day.

The starting weight of the Surface Laptop 4 is 3.4lbs, versus the 3.99lbs of the XPS 15.

With that being said, the Dell XPS 15 also has an advantage in terms of ports. With two Thunderbolt 4 ports, one extra USB Type-C port, and an SD card reader, you already have decent connectivity, plus you get a USB Type-C to Type-A and HDMI adapter in the box. With the Surface Laptop 4, you get one USB Type-C port, one USB Type-A, and one Surface Connect port.

Having a USB Type-A port built-in is useful, but Dell still offers you that option with a free adapter, and you get things like HDMI and an SD card reader too. With the Surface Laptop 4, you have to go out and buy a hub separately if you want to use an external monitor. And while both the Surface Connect port and Thunderbolt offer great expandability, Thunderbolt is a standard adopted by more devices, so it’s easier to find devices that work with it.

As an extra, the Dell XPS 15 also includes a fingerprint sensor built into the power button if you prefer that over facial recognition. The Surface Laptop 4 doesn’t give you that option.

Finally, let’s talk looks, and both laptops give you a couple of options. The Dell XPS 15 is more unique because of the materials used. One model comes with a platinum silver exterior made of aluminum, along with a black carbon fiber interior. The other model has a “frost” aluminum exterior and an “arctic white” interior made from woven glass fiber composite. The use of different materials for the keyboard deck is very unique to the Dell XPS 15, but the exterior is mostly two different shades of grey.

Surface Laptop 4 Matte Black lid

The Surface Laptop 4 has a fully aluminum chassis, but the color options are more distinct on the outside as well as inside. You can get it in either platinum — the signature color of Surface devices — or matte black. These are still very neutral and subdued color options however, and it would have been nice if the sandstone and ice blue colors of the 13.5 inch model were also available on the 15 inch. Ultimately, it’s up to you which one looks better, and each laptop has something going for it with its design.

Dell XPS 15 vs Surface Laptop 4: Bottom line

If there’s one thing that’s evident by this analysis is that these laptops are made for different kinds of users, even if they have similar screen sizes. The Dell XPS 15 is easily more powerful, and if your work is more stationary, it’s probably the way to go. You can use the Dell XPS 15 for everything from video editing and rendering to gaming, and it’ll handle it just fine. Plus, it has the option for a super sharp OLED display, which is hard to overlook.

It packs a lot of power into a compact chassis, but it does make some sacrifices to get there. The Dell XPS 15 has a below-average webcam, and it’s also noticeably heavier, especially if you want one of the better configurations. On top of that, battery life isn’t amazing, thanks to the power-hungry hardware inside.

You can use the Dell XPS 15 for everything from video editing and rendering to gaming, and it’ll handle it just fine.

Conversely, the Surface Laptop 4 isn’t as powerful, but it wins out in portability. It’s not only lighter and thinner, but even with a much smaller battery, it lasts longer on a charge. Microsoft claims up to 17.5 hours for the AMD-powered model or 16.5 hours for the Intel one. That means if you want to take your laptop with you often, you can count on it to last you through the day, which you can’t say as much for the XPS 15. For college students, office workers, or occasional users, there’s still more than enough performance here to get things done.

As such, it’s up to your individual needs to decide which one is truly better. Once you’ve made your choice, you can use the links below to buy either one. You can also fully configure the Dell XPS 15 on Dell’s website and if you want to explore other options from either Dell or Microsoft, we can help too. We have a list of the best Surface PCs you can buy today, as well as one for the best Dell laptops.

    Dell XPS 15
    The Dell XPS 15 is a powerful 15 inch laptop, packing 45W 11th-generation Intel Core processors, discrete NVIDIA graphics, and powerful configuration options. You can even get it with a 3.5K OLED display.
    Surface laptop 4 15-inch
    With a high-resolution PixelSense touch display, high-end processors, long-lasting battery, and a premium build that's still fairly light, the Surface Laptop 4 is great for students and casual users.

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.