Home Web graphics Microsoft Surface Pro 9 vs. Dell XPS 13 2-in-1

Microsoft Surface Pro 9 vs. Dell XPS 13 2-in-1

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Microsoft has had nearly a decade to perfect the detachable Surface Pro tablet, culminating in the Surface Pro 9 that promises to retain the laptop’s place as the best 2-in-1. Dell has just introduced the all-new XPS 13 2-in-1 Detachable Tablet, a complete overhaul of the previous 360-degree convertible 2-in-1.

Challenging such an established standard with so many years to refine its design is no small feat. Does the XPS 13 2-in-1 have what it takes to replace the Surface Pro 9 as the best 2-in-1 detachable tablet?

Specifications

Microsoft Surface Pro 9 Dell XPS 13 2-in-1
Dimensions 11.3 inches by 8.2 inches by 0.37 inches 11.5 inches x 7.9 inches x 0.29 inches
lester 1.94 pounds 1.23 pounds
Processor Intel Core i5-1235U
Intel Core i7-1255U
Microsoft SQ 3 (5G models)
Intel Core i5-1230U
Intel Core i7-1250U
Chart Intel Iris Xe
Microsoft SQ 3 Adreno (5G models)
Intel Iris Xe
RAM 8GB to 32GB LPDDR5
8 GB or 16 GB LPDDR4x (5G model)
8 GB or 16 GB LPDDR4x
Display 13 inch 3:2 PixelSense 2880 x 1920 IPS up to 120Hz 13 inch 3:2 2880 x 1920 IPS
Storage 128GB to 1TB Removable PCIe SSD
128GB to 512GB removable PCIe SSD (5G models)
512 GB or 1 TB PCIe SSD
To touch Yes Yes
Ports 2 USB-C ports with Thunderbolt 4
1 Surface Connect port
1 Surface Keyboard Port
1 x nano SIM (5G models)
2 USB-C 3.2 ports (5G models)
2 USB-C ports with Thunderbolt 4
1 USB-C to USB-A adapter
1 USB-C to 3.5mm audio jack adapter
1 x nano SIM (optional)
Wireless Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.1
Optional 5 Gb WWAN
Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.1
Optional 5 Gb WWAN
webcam 1080p with infrared camera for Windows 11 Hello
10MP rear-facing
1080p with infrared camera for Windows 11 Hell0
2160p rear-facing
Operating system Windows 11 Windows 11
Battery 60 watt hour 49.5 watt hour
Price $1,000+ $1,000
Evaluation 3.5 out of 5 3.5 out of 5

Price and configuration

The entry-level configuration based on Intel Surface Pro 9 costs $1,000 for a Core i5, 8GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD. The most expensive model costs $2,600 for a Core i7, 32GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD. The ARM-based 5G model starts at $1,300 for a Microsoft SQ 3 processor, 8GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD and goes up to $1,900 with 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD. You’ll spend an additional $280 for the Surface Signature Type Cover and Surface Slim Pen 2.

The XPS 13 2-in-1 starts at the same $1,000 for a Core i5, 8GB of RAM and four times the storage at 512GB. Fully configured, Dell’s tablet costs $1,500 for a Core i7, 16GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD. The XPS Folio and XPS Stylus cost an additional $100 when configured with the system. This makes the XPS 13 2-in-1 a better value in the entry-level configuration, thanks to the extra storage, and is considerably cheaper for the top-end, but with less RAM.

Design

The Surface Pro 9 retains the rounded edges, aluminum build and smaller bezels of the previous generation, with the usual Surface build quality that ranks the tablet among the most attractive and strongest you can buy. It is available in Platinum, Sapphire, Forest and Graphite colors in the Intel version and Graphite in the 5G version. The XPS 13 2-in-1 is also solidly built, with square corners, even smaller bezels, and an aluminum frame around a glass back that maximizes wireless connectivity. It’s available in Sky and Slate, with its 5G version only available in Slate.

The biggest point of distinction between convertible tablets is the Surface Pro 9’s built-in kickstand with its wide range of angles. The XPS 13 2-in-1 lacks this feature, which means Microsoft’s tablet is much easier to use on its own. With Dell’s model, you have to attach the folio to support the tablet and you only get three angles determined by magnets on the back of the tablet.

Plus, the Microsoft Surface Type Cover tilts for more comfortable typing, while the Dell XPS Folio keyboard only lays flat. It’s a lot less comfortable, though the edge-to-edge XPS Folios keyboard with precise and quick switches may be more comfortable than the deeper but not as precise versions of the Type Cover. The touchpads of both are similar in size and work well.

The XPS 13 2-in-1 has fairly typical stylus support with the XPS stylus and its 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity and tilt functionality. The Surface Slim Pen 2 has these features along with haptic feedback that makes the experience more realistic, and the Surface Pro 9’s 120Hz display allows for smoother inking.

Both tablets feature 1080p webcams with infrared cameras for Windows 11 Hello password-less login via facial recognition, while the XPS 13 2-in-1 also has a fingerprint reader. The Surface Pro 9 specs show a 2160p rear camera while the XPS 13-in-1 has a 10MP camera.

Both the XPS 13 2-in-1 and the Surface Pro 9 Intel version have the same number of Thunderbolt 4 ports, and neither has a 3.5mm audio jack. The Surface Pro 9 5G version has USB-C 3.2 instead, thanks to the Qualcomm Snapdragon chipset. Microsoft’s tablet also has a Surface Connect port for power, while the XPS 13 2-in-1 has to use one of its USB-C ports to charge. The XPS 13 2-in-1 offers optional 5G WWAN connectivity, while you need to buy the ARM-based 5G Surface Pro 9 for always-on internet.

Performance

Side view of the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 showing the edges.
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

The Surface Pro 9 uses Intel’s 12th Gen U-series 15-watt processor, specifically the 10-core/12-thread Core i5-1235U and Core i7-1255U. We reviewed the XPS 13 2-in-1 which uses 9-watt chips, the Core i5-1230U and Core i7-1250U with 10 cores and 12 threads, and the tablet with the Core i5.

Unsurprisingly, the Surface Pro 9 was faster in our benchmarks. The differences between Geekbench 5 and our Handbrake test which encodes a 420MB video in H.265 weren’t as big as the huge gap between Cinebench R23. The XPS 13 2-in-1 is fanless, which may have caused bottlenecks in this CPU-intensive benchmark.

Note that there is also a 5G Surface Pro 9 running a Microsoft version of the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 ARM processor. This machine is likely to be considerably slower than the two Intel tablets.

Microsoft Surface Pro 9
(Core i7-1255U)
Dell XPS 13 2-in-1
(Core i5-1230U)
Geek Bench 5
(single / multiple)
Balance: 1,170 / 6,518
Performance: 1,598 / 8,165
Balance: 1,435 / 6,099
Performance: 1,572 / 7,028
Hand brake
(seconds)
Ball: 166
Performance: 127
Ball: 139
Performance: 144
Cinebench R23
(single / multiple)
Balance: 1,124 / 7,537
Performance: N/A
Balance: 1,064 / 3,032
Performance: 1,065 / 3,009
Full PCMark 10
(the higher, the better)
4,045 4,535

Display

The Surface Pro 9 screen on a table.

Both laptops use 3:2 2880 x 1920 IPS displays, but the XPS 13 2-in-1’s panel is slightly smaller and sharper. The Dell also had significantly higher brightness and contrast and better color accuracy, making it a nicer display for demanding productivity work. Neither laptop has wide enough colors for creators.

Where the Surface Pro 9 display wins out is in its 120Hz refresh rate. This allows for better inking and a smoother overall Windows 11 experience. higher images. While none of these laptops are designed with this in mind, their integrated GPUs are sufficient for very light esports gaming.

Microsoft Surface Pro 9
(IPS)
Dell XPS 13 2-in-1
(IPS)
Brightness
(nits)
409 480
AdobeRGB Range 80% 78%
sRGB gamut 99% 99%
Precision
(DeltaE, lower is better)
1.24 0.8
Contrast ratio 1050:1 1840:1

Portability

Left side view of Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 showing ports and speaker.
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

The XPS 13 2-in-1 is slightly thinner than the Surface Pro 9 at 0.29 inches versus 0.37 inches and lighter at 1.23 pounds versus 1.97 pounds. Both are light and small enough to slip comfortably into a backpack, but the Surface Pro 9 is more comfortable to use without the clutter of its detachable keyboard.

The Surface Pro 9 was longer in battery life thanks to its larger battery. It lasted about eight hours in our web browsing test, for example, compared to the XPS 13 2-in-1 at just six hours. The 5G Surface Pro 9 would likely have significantly better battery life overall.

The Surface Pro 9 is better, but much more expensive

The Surface Pro 9 is the best 2-in-1 detachable tablet, in terms of inking experience, performance, and battery life. It’s also more expensive than the XPS 13 2-in-1, which offers 5G connectivity in its Intel version.

Overall, Microsoft’s Surface Pro 9 is the better machine – just be prepared to pay a lot more for it.

Editors’ Recommendations