Dell vs. Apple: 2021 XPS 13 or MacBook Air M1?

“MacBook Air or XPS 13?” It’s become something of an age-old question in tech circles.

With 2021 now well underway, and new models introduced by both Apple and Dell late last year, are we any closer to a definitive answer on which one’s best?

Apple Versus Dell: a Little Laptop History

Dell first squarely locked horns with Apple over its iconic MacBook Air offering almost a decade ago. The multinational computer corporation unveiled its debut so-called ultrabook back in 2012.
However, by this point, Apple had already reigned supreme over the high-performance, super-skinny laptop market for several years. The consumer electronics, software, and online services brand’s first-generation MacBook Air landed in January 2008. At the time it was hailed as the world’s thinnest notebook.
Dell initially hit back a little over 12 months later with what was marketed as a slim and luxurious super-portable sub notebook – the Adamo. Soon discontinued, though, it wasn’t until the XPS 13 arrived in 2012 in all of its certified ultrabook glory that Apple’s crown looked like it might be up for the taking.
What’s ensued has been a series of back-and-forth product launches. Each new generation of laptop from the two manufacturers in the space now, predominantly occupied by the MacBook Air and XPS 13, has seen greater and greater efforts by either side to one-up the competition.

MacBook Air vs. Dell XPS 13

Still today, both have remained largely on par with one another in many respects. Apple, of course, has long benefited from its name, reputation, and the desirability of its products.
With that said, and as Dell continues to win over legions of new fans with an ever-growing and increasingly desirable product lineup, the MacBook Air and XPS 13 may, as it stands today, never have been quite so evenly matched.
Even long-standing Apple devotees, it appears, have started to come around to the idea of the XPS 13 and its stablemates, with Dell’s share of the laptop market continuing to grow while its competitor’s share declines.
So, which is best – California’s finest Apple’s super-skinny MacBook variant or Texas-headquartered technology giant Dell’s latest 13-inch XPS ultrabook?
Let’s take a closer look at precisely what’s on offer in the shape of Apple’s MacBook Air M1 and the latest incarnation of Dell’s XPS 13 flagship to find out.

Battle of the Ultrabooks

With relatively little to separate the two beyond brand allegiance and operating system preferences, the MacBook Air M1 and the 2021 model Dell XPS 13 share a wealth of similarities.
For starters, both are priced from $999. That’s for each manufacturer’s roughly 13-inch model – the MacBook having a 13.3-inch display and Dell boasting one a fraction larger, at 13.4 inches. Each measures just 0.6 inches thick and weighs a feather-light 2.8 pounds.
Other similarities are plentiful in terms of under-the-hood specs, too.


Both the MacBook Air M1 and the 2021 model Dell XPS 13 enjoy identical storage and RAM figures in their standard guises. Furthermore, both offer matching storage and RAM upgrades, from 256GB to 2TB and 8GB or 16GB, respectively.
Near-identical, save for a mere fraction of an inch screenwise, Apple’s offering comes with the brand’s now ubiquitous Retina display. The XPS 13, meanwhile, bears Dell’s comparable Infinity Edge display.
In terms of ports, each packs a pair of Thunderbolt connections. Dell trumps Apple here, though, with Thunderbolt 4 connectivity on the XPS 13, compared to the MacBook’s provision of Thunderbolt 3. The flagship ultrabook from Dell also features a microSD slot – something lacking on the comparable Apple notebook.


Apple’s latest-generation MacBook Air does stand out, it has to be said, on the basis of its blisteringly fast M1 chip. Purely in terms of top-end performance, this puts it ahead of the i7-powered XPS 13 on a variety of more strenuous benchmark tests, according to Tom’s Guide.
At the same time, the difference between one top-of-the-line chip and another isn’t necessarily enough to help cement a decision one way or the other.
With that in mind, and to help really differentiate between the two, it’s necessary to dig a little deeper. Next we’ll take a look at the battery life, build quality and warranty options.

Build Quality and Battery Life

Both the MacBook Air and Dell XPS 13 boast excellent build quality. A hallmark of Apple products across the board, top build quality is also to be expected of any competing Dell flagship. Neither device disappoints in this regard, nicely fitting of their matching $1,000-or-so price tags.
Elsewhere, both laptops claim an impressive battery life, with Dell promising up to 14 hours and Apple suggesting that even 18 hours between charges is possible.
Under testing, the reality appears to be that around 11 hours and between 13-14 hours respectively are more realistic figures. Still, impressive numbers for both, with a demonstrated battery life, again courtesy of Tom’s Guide, of 14:41 from the MacBook, putting it around 30% ahead of Dell’s latest XPS 13.

XPS 13 or MacBook Air Warranty Information

As you might expect, Apple and Dell both provide comparable one-year limited warranties on their popular feather-light premium notebook offerings. A bonus of choosing an Apple product is access to the 500+ worldwide retail stores and their Genius Bars. Dell, by comparison, offers its own support remotely with troubleshooting via telephone.
Yet, neither warranty is as comprehensive as it needs to be. With this and their ultimately delicate nature in mind, extended protection against a variety of potential accidents is advisable.
Similar in price, Apple offers a range of ongoing AppleCare plans, while Dell users can upgrade to Dell Premium Support or Premium Support Plus plans. Alternatively, those looking for a more cost-effective proposition with the same or better coverage may wish to seek the protection of a laptop warranty from an independent third-party provider.
Upsie offers a variety of laptop warranty options, fully customizable for notebooks including the MacBook Air and XPS 13. Upsie warranties can save customers up to 70% by cutting out the middleman. And they do this while providing coverage that’s identical or superior to mainstream manufacturers’ extended warranty packages, including Genius Bar repairs for Apple devices. Their deductible are low and there are never hidden charges or fees.
Better still, on new or used laptops covered solely by any manufacturer’s limited warranty, Upsie’s extended warranties offer complete peace of mind with added insurance against accidents such as drops and spills.


Both the MacBook Air M1 and the 2021 model Dell XPS 13 are at the top of their class. Whether one is truly better than the other ultimately hinges on how important various factors are to individual users.
Purely based on its faster M1 chip and 30% longer battery life under testing, Apple, on paper at least, takes the crown this time.
Beyond that, it’s largely down to personal preference. Dell or Apple? Windows or Mac? What’s more, when factoring in things like software availability and port connectivity, it becomes an even more personal choice.
The age-old question, then, of which is genuinely best overall, remains to be answered in a manner that’s completely definitive… at least for now.
What is clear, however, is the benefit of an extended laptop warranty, especially with Upsie. Remember that they offer savings of up to 70% on comprehensive protection against just about any accident life has to throw them. This includes battery, power, and mechanical failures, plus drops, spills, and cracked screens – and all with a deductible of just $25.

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* This article is over 6 months old and may or may not be updated.