Surface Laptop Studio vs Dell XPS 15: Which premium PC is best?

Surface Laptop Studio vs Dell XPS 15: Which premium PC is best?

The Surface Laptop Studio is replacing the Surface Book product line. It’s honestly the refresh we’ve wanted to see for quite awhile, including an all-new sleeker design. But there are a number of excellent options to consider when picking a high-end Windows laptop. Microsoft has a lot of nice productivity features specific to the surface line, but the Dell XPS 15 brings a lot of custom configurations to suit almost any need. The Surface Laptop Studio has a few less SKUs, but plenty of other features for creatives, students, and everyone in between.

In this comparison we’ll look at how these laptops stack up and discuss which one is best for your use case. This is the Surface Laptop Studio vs Dell XPS 15.

Surface Laptop Studio vs Dell XPS 15: Specifications

SpecificationSurface Laptop StudioDell XPS 15
Dimensions & Weight
  • 12.7” x 9.0” x 0.7”
  • Intel Core i5 models 3.83 lb (1742.9 grams)
  • Intel Core i7 models 4.00 lb (1820.2 grams)
  • 13.57 x 9.06 x 0.71 in (344.72 x 230.14 x 18 mm)
  • 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)
Display
  • Screen: 14.4
  • PixelSense Flow touch display
  • Up to 120Hz Refresh Rate
  • Resolution: 2400 x 1600 (201 PPI)
  • Aspect ratio: 3:2
  • Contrast ratio: 1500:1
  • Touch: 10-point multi-touch
  • Dolby Vision support
  • 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
Processor
  • Quad-core Intel 11th Gen Intel Core H35 i5-11300H
  • Quad-core Intel 11th Gen Intel Core H35 i7-11370H
  • 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)
RAM & Storage
  • 16GB or 32GB LPDDR4x RAM
  • 256 GB, 512 GB, 1TB, 2TB SSD removable SSD.
  • up to 64GB RAM
  • up to 8TB storage
Graphics
  • Intel 11th Gen Intel Core H35 i5-11300H models:
    Intel Iris Xe Graphics
  • Intel 11th Gen Intel Core H35 i7-11370H models:
    NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3050 Ti laptop GPU with 4GB GDDR6 GPU memory
  • Commercial only: NVIDIA RTX A2000 laptop GPU with 4GB GDDR6 GPU memory
  • Intel UHD Graphics
  • NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3050 4GB GDDR6 (45W)
  • NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3050 Ti 4GB GDDR6 (45W)
Battery and Charging
  • Intel Core i5: Up to 19 hours of typical device usage
  • Intel Core i7: Up to 18 hours of typical device usage
  • 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
Webcam 
  • Windows Hello face authentication camera (front-facing)
  • 1080p resolution front facing camera.
  • 2.25mm, 720p HD 30fps camera with IR
Colors
  • Platinum
  • Platinum Silver exterior + black interior
  • Frost exterior + Arctic White interior
Port(s)
  • 2 x USB 4.0 with Thunderbolt 4 technologies support
  • 3.5mm headphone jack
  • 1 x Surface Connect port
  • 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
Audio
  • Dual far-field Studio Mics
  • Quad Omnisonic speakers with Dolby Atmos
  • Quad stereo speakers (two 2.5W woofers, two 1.5W tweeters)
Connectivity
  • Wi-Fi 6: 802.11ax compatible
    Bluetooth Wireless 5.1 technology
  • Killer Wi-Fi 6 AX1650 (2×2), Bluetooth 5.1
Pricing      Starting at $1599      Starting at$1,299.99
Other Features
  • Dynamic woven hinge
  • Precision haptic touchpad
  • Surface Slim Pen 2 support for Studio mode.
  • Windows Hello IR camera
  • Fingerprint reader

Surface Laptop Studio vs Dell XPS 15: Design and build

If you’re thinking about buying a premium laptop like either of these two, you usually expect a metal build of some sort. That still applies to the Dell XPS 15, but there’s a twist. The Dell XPS 15 comes in two color variants — Platinum Silver/Black and Frost/Arctic White. This is where things get rather interesting. The chassis is built from different materials, depending on the color you go with.

The Platinum Silver/Black model uses a darker shade of silver for the external shell, which is made from aluminum. In all seriousness, this look much closer to the color of a Space Gray Macbook Pro, but Dell named it Platinum Silver. The black is on the inside of the laptop, on the keyboard deck. Here, Dell uses carbon fiber, giving the Dell XPS 15 a very unique look. Carbon Fiber honestly looks super sweet on a laptop, so kudos to Dell on this decision.

Dell XPS 15 Black Top-Down View

On the other hand, the Frost/Arctic White model exterior uses a lighter shade of silver (which Dell calls “frost”), but it’s still made of aluminum. The inside is the more interesting part since the keyboard deck uses a woven glass fiber composite material, which comes in an arctic white color. While carbon fiber is rare, this color combo is something you literally won’t find on any other laptop out there. Unfortunately, the Frost model also adds $50 to the cost and isn’t available in all configurations.

The Surface Laptop Studio is an entirely different form factor altogether. Microsoft’s vision here was to create something closer to a minature Surface Studio. You can use it like you can a regular laptop, and then the display pops out and you can fold it down to be used as a tablet. It still has a premium build, but it’s more portable and versatile than the Dell XPS 15. Unfortunately, if the exciting color options and varying materials of the XPS 15 are your jam, you won’t find that with the Surface Studio Laptop. As with previous Surface Book models, this laptop only comes in Platinum.

Display pulled forward on Surface Laptop Studio

Microsoft also took steps to make sure the Surface Laptop Studio is easier to type while on your lap. Previous iterations of the Surface Book were simply too top-heavy. One other thing that’s changed about the design is how the new Slim Pen 2 is stored. There’s a cut-out for it under the base of the Surface Laptop Studio, rather than the old method of magnetically attaching the Surface Pen to the side. This method should more convenient and easier to store your pen with the laptop when you put it in your backpack or briefcase.

Both of these have quite a wow factor from a design perspective. Whether it’s the unique materials and color combos on the XPS 15, or the versatile form factor on the Surface Laptop Studio, you’ll definitely impress your friends and family with either of these laptops.

Surface Laptop Studio vs Dell XPS 15: Display

The Dell XPS 15 gives you a lot of options for the display. Like many of the specs on the XPS 15, you have quite a few configurations available. The size and format is always the same – a 15.6 inch panel with a 16:10 aspect ratio. That’s already a good starting point since taller screens give you more screen area and are better for productivity. This should be a good compromise between a media/gaming machine and a productivity powerhouse.

The base configuration is a Full HD+ panel with a resolution of 1920 x 1200. Along with that, it covers 100% of the sRGB color gamut, and has a maximum brightness of 500 nits. What it doesn’t have is touch support, which is a shame given the rather high starting price of the XPS 15. If you want to bump things up a notch, there are several upgrades available.

Front view of Surface Laptop Studio

There’s an Ultra HD+ panel with a resolution of 3840 x 2400. This is not only an incredibly sharp display for its size, but it includes other benefits, like covering 100% of the Adobe RGB color gamut. This panel also comes with touch support, HDR, and it keeps the 500 nits of brightness so you can see it comfortably outside.  The last option is an OLED panel with touch support. You can equip the Dell XPS 15 with an OLED display with a resolution Dell calls 3.5K, which is actually 3456 x 2160.

On the other hand, the Surface Laptop Studio only comes with a single display configuration across all SKUs. The good news is that the display has been significantly upgraded from the Surface Book line. You get an all-new 14.4″ display at 2400 x 1600 resolution. That’s a 3:2 aspect ratio for those keeping track. If you’re needing a laptop for productivity purpose, I’d argue that 3:2 is the best aspect ratio to go with, especially for writing or working with spreadsheets.

Dell XPS 15 9510 angled view

The biggest upgrade though is that the screen goes up to 120Hz refresh rate. The spec sheet actually says “up to 120Hz” though, and that’s because it actually ships at 60Hz. You’ll have to turn on the 120Hz refresh rate. Dynamic refresh rate, like you’ve seen on many smartphones, should be coming later on. Microsoft didn’t really give a firm timeline, but we should hear more about that in the near future.

Surface Laptop Studio vs Dell XPS 15: Performance and battery

Just like the display configurations, the Dell XPS 15 has an absolute ton of configurable options when it comes to processor, RAM, and storage. On the processor side, you get to choose from three of Intel’s 11th-generation 45W processors. These are some of the most powerful processors you can get on a laptop, especially the higher tiers.

The base configuration includes an Intel Core i5-11400H, a CPU with six cores and 12 threads. If you choose this processor, you’re also going to get Intel UHD Graphics, 8GB of RAM, and 256GB of storage by default, which is probably not enough for most people looking for a laptop of this caliber. You can upgrade to 512GB of storage, but that’s about all the customization available on the base model.

If you want to upgrade from the base configuration, you can get either the Intel Core i7-11800H or the Core i9-11900H processor. This also expands your graphics, RAM, and storage options on the XPS 15. For graphics, you can go with either an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3050 or a 3050 Ti if you get the Core i7 processor, or only the 3050 Ti if you get the Intel Core i9 processor.

The RAM options start at 16GB for the upgraded processors and storage is configurable up to a ridiculous 8TB SSD. With all that storage, you can download every Netflix show you ever watch on your laptop. Overall, the XPS 15 has a configuration for everyone, whether you need lots of power and gaming performance, or just a capable laptop for everyday tasks.

Dell XPS 15 Arctic White Right Angle View

The Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio comes with Intel’s Tiger Lake H35 processors, along with up to an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3050 Ti, or an RTX A2000 in the business model. H35 processors are new to Intel’s 11th-generation lineup. The H35 processor enables a powerful laptop that’s still thin and light. Having the H-series chip with dedicated graphics should be a big deal for an ultra-portable and adaptable machine like the Surface Laptop Studio. It might not be quite as powerful as some of the high-end XPS 15 configurations, but it can certainly compete at a much higher level than other ultrabooks out there.

You can configure the RAM up to 32GB on the Surface Laptop Studio. Not quite as high as the 64GB on the XPS 15, but still plenty of RAM for most daily tasks. The Surface Laptop Studio also technically has removable SSD storage. While the storage is removable by Microsoft or other service technician, there isn’t an easy way to remove it yourself for a quick swap. The SSD can be configured up to 2TB, which should be enough to satisfy most users.

Front view of Surface Laptop Studio with display pulled forward

Battery life on the XPS 15 is going to come down to which display panel you choose. With the FHD+ panel you should be able to squeeze out around 13 hours of use. For the high-end OLED panel with 3.5K resolution, you can expect closer to nine hours of use on a single charge. The Dell XPS 15 includes a 90W charger or a 130W charger, depending on your battery size as well. Both models should take about three hours to fully charge with the laptop powered off.

Microsoft claims the Surface Laptop Studio will get between 18 and 19 hours of usage depending on which processor you choose. The displays are the same among all configurations, so that won’t be a factor here. Honestly, 18 hours sound pretty far-fetched, so we’ll need to see how realistic those numbers are when we get units in for review.

Surface Laptop Studio vs Dell XPS 15: Cameras and audio

The audio experience on the Dell XPS 15 is great across the board. This is a laptop with a quad stereo speaker setup, with two 2.5W woofers and two 1.5W tweeters. That’s a total of 8W of audio output, which is bound to give you an immersive experience be it for music or video. On the Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio, you get Quad Omnisonic speakers with Dolby Atmos, which should be excellent for watching Netflix, YouTube or other streaming content.

Side view of Surface Laptop Studio

As for webcam quality, the Dell XPS 15 has a 2.25mm webcam, and it’s just 720p resolution. The problem with having a camera that small is that cameras require a lot of light, which you can’t get if the lens is too small. Overall, this is a fairly disappointing webcam in the age of Zoom, Teams, and Meet work sessions. The Surface Laptop Studio has a much more respectable 1080p resolution on the Windows Hello webcam on the front. If you’re someone that works remotely, this could actually be a fairly significant deciding factor between these two laptops.

Conclusion

If you’re looking for the most customizable machine with plenty of power, the XPS 15 is probably going to be the way to go. It has a distinctive look, plenty of storage options, and graphics that will still handle most games you want to play. On the other hand, if you’re a creative professional that can use the Slim Pen 2, value versatility over raw power, or just love the Microsoft design aesthetic, the Surface Laptop Studio is an absolute masterpiece from Microsoft.

Both of these devices are quite expensive, so price isn’t too much of a consideration (unless you want 8TB of storage on the XPS 15). Overall, either laptop will last you for years. It’s really a matter of your workload and personal style when making a final decision.

    Dell XPS 15
    With an Intel Core i7 processor, 16GB of RAM, and NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3050 Ti graphics, this version of the Dell XPS 15 can deliver a fantastic performance for gaming and other demanding tasks. It's a reasonably-priced configuration too, and cheaper than buying from Dell directly.
    Surface Laptop Studio
    The Surface Laptop Studio comes with an all-new design, more powerful internals, and more.

About author

Jeff Springer
Jeff Springer

Applied mathematician with a love for Android. I am interested in inverse problems for imaging and integration with camera software for mobile phones.