Dell XPS 15 (2020) vs. MacBook Pro 16-inch: Which laptop wins?

Dell XPS 15 (2020) vs. MacBook Pro 16-inch

The and are both powerful big-screen laptops that can handle any task. Whether it’s photo editing, video editing or juggling dozens of browser tabs — or even some gaming — these systems will rarely flinch. And they shouldn’t, given their premium prices. But which laptop is right for you?

The Dell XPS 15 ($1,349 starting, $2,349 as tested) and MacBook Pro 16-inch ($2,399 starting, $2,799 as tested) are both absolute beasts and make our list, but they excel in different areas. The Dell XPS 15 is sleeker and is almost all screen and yet packs in more ports, and you get a touchscreen option. The 16-inch MacBook Pro is all about pure performance, backed up by a gorgeous Retina display, amazing sound and long battery life.

Our Dell XPS 15 vs MacBook Pro 16-inch face-off will tell you which laptop is the overall winner and which is a better fit for your needs.

Dell XPS 15 2020 vs. MacBook Pro 16-inch: Specs

Dell XPS 15 2020 vs. MacBook Pro 16-inch: Price and value

The Dell XPS 15 2020 is the more affordable of these two laptops, with a wallet-friendly starting price of $1,349. For that price, you get pretty solid specs, including a 10th-gen Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD. However, that system comes with integrated Intel UHD graphics and just a full HD screen.

You’ll want to step up to the $1,799 configuration for a discrete Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 Ti GPU (which also bumps you up to a Core i7 chip) and all the way up to $2,499 for a 4K touch display (which also includes 32GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD.

The most comparable MacBook Pro 16-inch configuration to the top-end XPS 15 is the $2,799 MacBook Pro, which packs a 8-core Core i9 processor, AMD Radeon Pro 5500M graphics, 16GB of RAM and 1TB of SSD storage. Apple doesn’t offer a 4K display option or touchscreen, and you’ll need to pay an extra $400 to get 32GB of RAM. The entry-level MacBook Pro 16-inch is not cheap; that $2,399 laptop has a 9th-gen Core i7 CPU, 16GB of RAM, 512GB of storage and AMD Radeon 5300M GPU.

Dell XPS 15 2020 vs. MacBook Pro 16-inch: Design

The Dell XPS 15 2020 looks like a laptop from the future and the MacBook Pro does not. Yes, Apple trimmed the bezels a bit on its machine, but the XPS 15 is almost all screen, thanks to its improved InfinityEdge display with 92.9% screen-to-body ratio The MacBook Pro’s top bezel is still pronounced compared to the Dell.

In terms of portability, the Dell XPS 15 is lighter with its 1080p display than the MacBook Pro 16-inch (4 pounds vs 4.3 pounds) but the XPS 15 is a heavier 4.5 pounds if you opt for the 4K touch screen. Dell also gets points for creating a system that’s a little more eye-catching, complete with a black carbon fiber palm rest and chamfered sides.

The 16-inch MacBook Pro looks pretty much like every Apple laptop from the past several years, which is getting boring.

Dell XPS 15 2020 vs. MacBook Pro 16-inch: Ports

The Dell XPS 15 has two Thunderbolt 3 ports, a USB-C port and a full-size SD card slot, which photographers should appreciate. Dell also includes a USB-C to USB-A dongle for connecting full-size peripherals.

The MacBook Pro 16-inch has four Thunderbolt 3 ports, so it’s not as versatile. Both systems have headphone jacks.

Dell XPS 15 2020 vs. MacBook Pro 16-inch: Display

The Dell XPS 15 2020 has a full HD option for those looking for a more affordable system, but we tested the 4K touchscreen model, which has a resolution of 3840 x 2400. The MacBook Pro 16-inch Retina Display is not quite as sharp at 3072 x 1920 pixels.

Both of these screens deliver excellent color reproduction and are quite bright. Dell’s 4K panel registered 132% of the sRGB color gamut, compared to 114% for the 16-inch MacBook Pro. The two displays are evenly matched in terms of color accuracy as the Dell and Apple turned in Delta-E scores of 0.26 and 0.27, respectively. A score of zero is perfect.

In terms of brightness, the Dell XPS 15’s 4K display averaged 434.2 nits, while the MacBook Pro 16-inch was not far behind at 429 nits. 

Dell XPS 15 2020 vs. MacBook Pro 16-inch: Audio 

This one was almost too close to call –– almost. Both systems have top-mounted speakers that deliver loud, rich audio directly to the listener’s ears. In the case of the MacBook Pro, you’ve got a six-speaker setup compared to XPS 15’s quad speaker setup that includes two primary speakers and a pair of tweeters. The XPS 15 also has the added benefit of Waves MaxxAudio Pro software. which comes with 23 presets designed to cover a multitude of musical genres. Or you can create your own custom equalizer to suit your tastes.

My colleague Sherri Smith conducted this sound-off, and she started with Chris Stapelton’s “Tennessee Whisky,” noticing immediately that the MacBook Pro was a tad louder than the XPS 15 — not enough to drown it out, but it’s definitely noticeable. She could hear the gentle strumming of the bass and acoustic guitars against Stapelton’s soulful vocal and when the female backup singer joined in it was like musical honey. Although it was slightly quieter, the XPS 15 offered more detail. Switching the EQ preset to Folk, the strumming was clearer as were the cymbals and drums. 

Next, she listened to “Time Won’t Wait” by Jamiroquai and switched over to the Dance preset and jammed out to the bongos, full synths and horns. Thanks to the tweeters, lead singer Jay Kay’s vocals were full and vibrant. Switching over to the MacBook, it offered a more dynamic soundstage with a fuller performance on the bass guitar, although the bongos weren’t as clean as we would have liked.

Dell XPS 15 2020 vs. MacBook Pro 16-inch: Keyboard and touchpad

The Dell XPS 15 2020 now has larger keys, but overall we prefer the feel of Apple’s Magic Keyboard on the MacBook Pro 16-inch.

Apple’s keyboard feels a bit more solid, while the keys on the Dell XPS 15 are a bit mushy by comparison.

The touchpads on both laptops are nice and large, but the MacBook Pro’s trackpad is a bit more fluid and responsive based on our tests.

Dell XPS 15 2020 vs MacBook Pro 16-inch: Performance

Both the Dell XPS 15 2020 and MacBook Pro 16-inch are very powerful laptops. We tested the $2,349 XPS 15 with a 10th gen Core i7 CPU, 32GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD and Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 Ti graphics. Our test MacBook Pro was equipped with a 8-core 9th gen Core i9 CPU, 16GB of RAM, 1TB of storage and AMD Radeon 5500M GPU.

On Geekbench 5, which measures overall performance, the XPS 15 scored 6,174, compared to a much higher 7,250 for the MacBook Pro. The MacBook Pro continued to dominate on our video editing test, which involves transcoding a 4K video to 1080p using Handbrake software. Apple’s laptop took only 8 minutes, while the XPS 15 took 10:06, which is over 2 minutes longer.

Dell XPS 15 2020 vs MacBook Pro 16-inch: Battery life

The Dell XPS 15 2020 we tested did not fare well on our battery test, which involves continuous web surfing at 150 nits of screen brightness. The laptop lasted just 8 hours and 1 minutes, while the MacBook Pro 16-inch endured for 10 hours and 55 minutes.

So Apple’s laptop lasted nearly three hours longer. However, keep in mind that the lower-resolution full HD version of the Dell XPS 15 should last longer on a charge. We have not yet tested that version of this notebook.

Dell XPS 15 2020 vs MacBook Pro 16-inch: Verdict

At the end of our very close Dell XPS 15 vs MacBook Pro 16-inch contest, the XPS 15 emerges as the winner. It offers a sleeker design with a true edge-to-edge display, a SD Card slot and sharper and brighter 4K display. Plus, Dell offers a lot more configuration options, starting as low as $1,349. It’s definitely the better value. However, the XPS 15 doesn’t win on all counts.

The MacBook Pro 16-inch is the better overall performer, both in terms of real-world tests and synthetic benchmarks, so it’s a great choice for creative pros who need the most possible speed. The MacBook Pro also wins on battery life by a significant margin, at least when you compare the highest-res displays for both laptops. We also slightly prefer the MacBook Pro’s keyboard and touchpad, and it offers better speakers.

Overall, the MacBook Pro is an amazing powerhouse of a laptop — if you’re willing to splurge — while the Dell XPS 15 gives you more bang for your buck. But you’ll be happy with either system.

Mark Spoonauer is the global editor in chief of Tom’s Guide and has covered technology for nearly 20 years. In addition to overseeing the direction of Tom’s Guide, Mark specializes in covering all things mobile, having reviewed dozens of smartphones and other gadgets. He has spoken at key industry events and appears regularly on TV to discuss the latest trends. Mark was previously editor in chief of Laptop Mag, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc. Follow him on Twitter at @mspoonauer.