The business laptop niche has really evolved. While previously all you had to do was provide security and stability, now you have to put in a lot more effort, especially if you target the high-end market, which is very competitive and already has a top dog, which for a while has felt like it is unmovable.
The Dell XPS lineup has cemented itself as the best in terms of business ultrabooks, having a recognizable name and brand. Their latest device, the Dell XPS 13 9310 (2-in-1), evolves the premium business market, introducing a 2-in-1 folding mechanism, which looks to be the future.
To challenge it today, we have the MSI Summit E13 Flip Evo, which brings unmatched style and build quality to the table, along with high-end hardware. So far it has been the most capable challenger against the XPS 13. Both laptops have a lot of similarities, using the same exact family of chips and display types, so it will be good to compare how each manufacturer uses the hardware that is available to them.
Design and construction
If we could describe the MSI Summit E13 Flip Evo with a single word, we would choose “luxury”. The laptop is built incredibly well, using aluminum for its whole body, which was incredibly resilient to flex. Our laptop had a white exterior, with glossy sides, which look and feel like chrome. In terms of dimensions, the laptop weighs only 1.35 kg and has a profile of 14.9 mm. Its lid can be opened with one hand and the lid itself works as a lever, lifting up the rear of the laptop, which increases the effectiveness of the cooling.
The XPS 13 9310 (2-in-1) adds carbon fiber to the aluminum mix, using it to reinforce the base, which contrasts the silver exterior nicely. The laptop is more prone to flex than the Summit, which might come as a result of the thinner profile and lighter weight, which stand at 1.32 kg and 14.35 mm, respectively. The lid can be opened with one hand, but the lid itself is a bit hard to grip. The lid here also lifts up the rear end of the notebook, which happens at around 80°-85°.
Keyboard and touchpad
The Summit’s input devices are pretty good, considering the dimensions of the laptop itself. The keyboard has large keycaps, which is great to see at this form factor. Furthermore, the feedback is clicky and the key travel is longer than we expected. The touchpad here is protected by glass and has a very wide aspect ratio. Regardless, we have a smooth texture that is easy to glide on and accurate tracking.
The XPS 13 features a keyboard that has super short key travel and clicky feedback. In fact, it reminds us a lot of Apple’s Butterfly switches, with key travel that is slightly longer than that of a capacitive button. The keycaps are pretty large, but there is a lot to be desired in terms of comfort. The touchpad has a longer click travel than the keyboard, along with a smooth gliding surface.
The I/O on the MSI device consists of two Thunderbolt 4 ports, a USB Type-A 3.2 (Gen. 1) port, and a USB Type-C 3.2 (Gen. 2), a 3.5 mm audio jack, a camera shutter switch, and a MicroSD card reader.
The XPS 13 is a lot less populated, with only two Thunderbolt 4 ports, a MicroSD card reader, and a 3.5 mm audio jack.
Disassembly, upgrade options
The MSI device is easy to take apart, being held together by four Phillips-head screws, which are hidden behind the rear rubber feet. Then, you have to pry away the bottom panel, using a plastic pry tool, otherwise, you risk scratching the panel itself. In terms of upgradeability, there is only a single M.2 PCIe x4 slot for SSD upgrades.
In order to disassemble the XPS 13, you have to undo 8 Torx-head screws, after which you also have to pry away the bottom panel with a pry tool. However, you don’t have anything to mess around with on the inside, as both the RAM and the storage are soldered onto the motherboard.
Both laptops use very similar displays, with an FHD+ resolution, a 13.4-inch diagonal, and a 16:10 aspect ratio. Both of them have a pixel density of 169 PPI, a pitch of 0.15 x 0.15 mm, and a Retina distance of 50cm (from this distance, the human eye cannot distinguish individual pixels).
Both displays have excellent viewing angles. We offer images at 45° to evaluate image quality.
The display on the Summit E13 has a max brightness of 516 nits in the middle of the screen and 497 nits average across the surface with a maximum deviation of 9%. The contrast ratio calculates to 1470:1.
The XPS 13 does appear to have a slightly brighter panel, with 551 nits in the middle of the screen and 514 nits average across the surface with a maximum deviation of 13%. It also has a higher contrast ratio of 1720:1.
Both panels have generally good brightness uniformity, making them suitable for color-sensitive work.
To make sure we are on the same page, we would like to give you a little introduction to the sRGB color gamut and the Adobe RGB. To start, there’s the CIE 1976 Uniform Chromaticity Diagram that represents the visible specter of colors by the human eye, giving you a better perception of the color gamut coverage and the color accuracy.
Inside the black triangle, you will see the standard color gamut (sRGB) that is being used by millions of people on HDTV and on the web. As for the Adobe RGB, this is used in professional cameras, monitors, etc for printing. Basically, colors inside the black triangle are used by everyone and this is the essential part of the color quality and color accuracy of a mainstream notebook.
Still, we’ve included other color spaces like the famous DCI-P3 standard used by movie studios, as well as the digital UHD Rec.2020 standard. Rec.2020, however, is still a thing of the future and it’s difficult for today’s displays to cover that well. We’ve also included the so-called Michael Pointer gamut, or Pointer’s gamut, which represents the colors that naturally occur around us every day.
The yellow dotted line shows the color coverage of both the MSI Summit E13 Flip Evo and the Dell XPS 13 9310 (2-in-1).
Both laptops show near full sRGB coverage, with 99% for the MSI Summit E13 and 94% for the Dell PS 13 9310.
We tested the accuracy of the display with 24 commonly used colors like light and dark human skin, blue sky, green grass, orange, etc. You can check out the results at factory condition and also, with the “Design and Gaming” profile.
Below you can check the results from the test of both laptops, with both the factory settings (left) and with our “Design and Gaming” profile applied (right).
Response time (Gaming capabilities)
We test the reaction time of the pixels with the usual “black-to-white” and “white-to-black” methods from 10% to 90% and vice versa.
As these arent gaming notebooks, they don’t have the fastest displays. Both displays have a Fall + Rise time of around 26-27 ms with the MSI Summit having a faster panel with a Fall + Rise Time of 26.0 ms.
Health impact / PWM (Blue light)
PWM – Screen flickering
Pulse-width modulation (PWM) is an easy way to control monitor brightness. When you lower the brightness, the light intensity of the backlight is not lowered, but instead turned off and on by the electronics with a frequency indistinguishable to the human eye. In these light impulses, the light/no-light time ratio varies, while brightness remains unchanged, which is harmful to your eyes. You can read more about that in our dedicated article on PWM.
In terms of flickering, the Summit shows no PWM usage across all brightness levels. On the other hand, the XPS 13 flickers up until 140 nits of brightness.
Blue light emissions
Installing our Health-Guard profile not only eliminates PWM but also reduces the harmful Blue Light emissions while keeping the colors of the screen perceptually accurate. If you’re not familiar with the Blue light, the TL;DR version is – emissions that negatively affect your eyes, skin, and your whole body. You can find more information about that in our dedicated article on Blue Light.
Buy our profiles
Here at LaptopMedia, we create a set of custom-tailored profiles for every notebook we review. They boost the productivity of display and reduce negative effects such as blue light emissions and PWM. You can read more about them here.
MSI Summit E13 Flip Evo 13.4″ Sharp LQ134N1JW53 (SHP1512) (FHD+, 1920 × 1200) IPS panel: Buy our profiles
Dell XPS 13 9310 (2-in-1) 13.4″ Sharp GRNPP-LQ134N1 (SHP14F7) (FHD+, 1920 × 1200) IPS panel: Buy our profiles
Both notebooks have bottom-firing speaker setups. The MSI Summit’s setup has deviations in the lows, mids, and highs, but delivers a sound of decent quality, especially when compared to other 13-inch notebooks. With that said, the setup on the XPS 13 is noticeably better, showing no deviations, while also producing quality and clear audio.
Now, we conduct the battery tests with Windows Better performance setting turned on, screen brightness adjusted to 120 nits, and all other programs turned off except for the one we are testing the notebook with. The MSI laptop does have a bigger battery pack of 70Wh, compared to the XPS battery unit of 51Wh. Despite that, both laptops deliver pretty even battery life. Still, the MSI Summit lasts for 50 minutes more in the Web browsing test, while the XPS 13 lasts longer in the video playback test with a lead of 14 minutes.
In order to simulate real-life conditions, we used our own script for automatic web browsing through over 70 websites.
For every test like this, we use the same video in HD.
We use F1 2017’s built-in benchmark on loop in order to simulate real-life gaming.
Both laptops are equipped with the Tiger Lake G-series from Intel. The MSI Summit offers the Core i5-1135G7, Core i5-1155G7, Core i7-1185G7, and Core i7-1195G7, along with their respective iGPUs, the Iris Xe Graphics G7 (80EU) and the Iris Xe Graphics G7 (96EU). The XPS 13 gets the Core i3-1115G4, Core i5-1135G7, Core i7-1165G7, and Core i7-1185G7, while also adding the Iris Xe Graphics G4 to its arsenal.
Here we tested the Core i5-1135G7 in both laptops. The one inside the MSI Summit performed 22% better in 3D Rendering and was 0.4 seconds faster in Adobe Photoshop.
Results are from the Cinebench 20 CPU test (the higher the score, the better)
Results are from the Fritz chess benchmark (the higher the score, the better)
Les résultats sont issus de notre test de référence Photoshop (plus le score est bas, mieux c’est)
Here we tested the Iris Xe Graphics G7 (80EU). In all of our GPU tests, the iGPU inside the MSI Summit performed better, with leads of 16%, 12%, and 6% in 3DMark Fire Strike, Unigine Heaven 4.0, and Unigine Superposition, respectively.
Results are from the 3DMark: Fire Strike (Graphics) benchmark (higher the score, the better)
Results are from the Unigine Heaven 3.0 benchmark (higher the score, the better)
Results are from the Unigine Heaven 4.0 benchmark (higher the score, the better)
Results are from the Unigine Superposition benchmark (higher the score, the better)
Temperatures and comfort
In terms of cooling, both laptops bring a unique approach. The MSI Summit has two heat pipes connected to two fans, which keep the CPU and its integrated GPU cool. The XPS 13 switches things up and uses a vapor chamber with two fans.
Max CPU load
In this test we use 100% on the CPU cores, monitoring their frequencies and chip temperature. The first column shows a computer’s reaction to a short load (2-10 seconds), the second column simulates a serious task (between 15 and 30 seconds), and the third column is a good indicator of how good the laptop is for long loads such as video rendering.
The MSI Summit E13 reached higher clock speeds during the entirety of the test. Especially, in the end, it had a way higher clock speed, at the expense of a higher temperature.
Comfort during full load
The MSI Summit also had a lower outside temperature, with a difference of around 4°C.
In the end, we see two capable laptops, each with its respective pros and cons. Both laptops are well built, using premium materials. The MSI Summit is more elegant and the new MSI wordmark does look fantastic. In terms of build quality, both are fantastic, with slight flexing, but nothing to worry about. Their dimensions are also pretty similar. The keyboard and touchpad on the MSI device are better, featuring longer key travel and clicky feedback, while the touchpad is covered in glass. The Summit also has a wider I/O.
Moving over to the upgradeability, the MSI Summit offers more, featuring a single SSD slot, while the XPS 13 has everything soldered onto the motherboard. Both devices have equally good displays, with near full sRGB coverage and adequate color accuracy using our Design and Gaming profile. The MSI does have a slight edge, with its panel using no PWM across all brightness levels. The XPS 13 does flicker when the panel is below 140 nits. It also has a better sound system, showing no deviations from clarity.
The battery life is pretty even for both laptops, despite the Dell XPS 13 having a smaller battery pack of 51Wh. Moving to the performance, the Summit E13 shows better performance both in the CPU, GPU, and gaming tests.
Lastly, we have the cooling. The Summit allows its CPU to hit much higher frequencies while running at a higher temperature. The laptop also has a lower outside temperature. After all, we thought that the vapor chamber inside the XPS 13 would allow its CPU to perform better.
All in all, the Summit does seem like the wiser choice. It brings more power to the table, along with features that will make your work easier, such as a more comfortable keyboard and a wider I/O.