Microsoft Surface Pro 9 vs. Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 - Digital Trends (2023)

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Microsoft has had almost a decade to perfect the Surface Pro detachable tablet, culminating in the Surface Pro 9 that promises to hold on to the laptop’s place as the best 2-in-1. Dell just recently introduced the brand-new XPS 13 2-in-1 detachable tablet, a complete redesign from the previous 360-degree convertible 2-in-1 format.
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 detachable tablet 2-in-1?
The Surface Pro 9 Intel-based entry-level configuration is $1,000 for a Core i5, 8GB of RAM, and a 128GB SSD. The most expensive model is $2,600 for a Core i7, 32GB of RAM, and a 1TB SSD. The 5G ARM-based model starts at $1,300 for a Microsoft SQ 3 CPU, 8GB of


, and a 128GB SSD and ranges up to $1,900 with 16GB of


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 is $1,500 for a Core i7, 16GB of


, and a 1TB SSD. The XPS Folio and XPS Stylus are an additional $100 when configured with the system. That makes the XPS 13 2-in-1 a better value at the entry-level configuration, thanks to the additional storage, and is considerably less expensive for the high end, albeit with less


The Surface Pro 9 retains the rounded edges, aluminum construction, and smaller bezels of the previous generation, with the usual Surface build quality that ranks the tablet as one of the most attractive and solid you can buy. It’s 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 optimizes for wireless connectivity. It’s available in Sky and Slate, with its


version available only in Slate.
The biggest point of distinction between the convertible tablets is the Surface Pro 9’s integrated kickstand with its wide range of angles. The XPS 13 2-in-1 lacks that feature, meaning Microsoft’s tablet is much easier to use on its own. With Dell’s model, you must attach the folio to prop up the tablet and you get just three angles determined by magnets on the tablet’s rear side.
In addition, the Microsoft Surface Type Cover props up at an angle for more comfortable typing, while the Dell XPS Folio keyboard only lies flat. That’s much less comfortable, even though the XPS Folios edge-to-edge keyboard with precise, snappy switches might be more comfortable than the Type Cover’s deeper but not as precise versions. The touchpads on both are similar in size and work fine.
The XPS 13 2-in-1 has fairly typical pen support with the XPS Stylus and its 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity and tilt functionality. The Surface Slim Pen 2 has those features as well as haptic feedback that makes for a more realistic experience, and the Surface Pro 9’s 120Hz display provides for smoother inking.
Both tablets have 1080p webcams with infrared cameras for Windows 11 Hello passwordless login via facial recognition, while the XPS 13 2-in-1 also features a fingerprint reader. The Surface Pro 9 specs show a 2160p rear-facing 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, whereas the XPS 13 2-in-1 must use one of its USB-C ports to charge up. The XPS 13 2-in-1 offers optional


WWAN connectivity, while you have to purchase the ARM-based

5G Surface Pro 9

for always-connected internet.
The Surface Pro 9 uses 15-watt Intel 12th-gen U-series CPU, specifically the 10-core/12-thread Core i5-1235U and Core i7-1255U. We reviewed the XPS 13 2-in-1 that uses 9-watt chips, the Core i5-1230U and Core i7-1250U with 10 cores and 12 thread, and the tablet with the Core i5.
Unsurprisingly, the Surface Pro 9 was faster in our benchmarks. The differences in Geekbench 5 and our Handbrake test that encodes a 420MB video as H.265 weren’t as significant as the huge discrepancy in Cinebench R23. The XPS 13 2-in-1 is fanless, and perhaps that caused some throttling in this CPU-intensive benchmark.
Note that there’s also a 5G Surface Pro 9 running a Microsoft version of the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 ARM processor. That machine is likely to be considerably slower than both Intel tablets.
Both laptops utilize 3:2 2,880 x 1,920 IPS displays, but the XPS 13 2-in-1’s panel is slightly smaller and so sharper. The Dell also had significantly higher brightness and contrast and better color accuracy, making it a more pleasant 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. That makes for better inking and an overall smoother Windows 11 experience. It’s also great for gaming at higher frame rates. Though neither of these laptops is designed with that in mind, their onboard GPUs are enough for very lightweight esports play.
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 in a backpack, but the

Surface Pro 9

is more comfortable to use without the bulk of its detachable keyboard.
The Surface Pro 9 was stronger 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 get significantly better battery life overall.
The Surface Pro 9 is the better detachable tablet 2-in-1, in terms of its inking experience, performance, and battery life. It’s also more expensive than the XPS 13 2-in-1, which does offer 5G connectivity in its Intel version.
Overall, Microsoft’s Surface Pro 9 is the better machine — just be ready to pay a lot more for it.
If you like the idea of MacBook devices but aren’t as appreciative of their price or the need to be in the Apple ecosystem, Dell has your back with their XPS lineup of devices. In fact, Dell just put out some truly excellent discounts across the three different sizes; the XPS 13, 15, and 17, so you have a lot of choices to pick from! That said, it’s always worth checking out these otherlaptop deals as well if you want some variety.
Dell XPS 13 — $849, was $1,099
The Dell XPS 13 is Dell’s answer to the MacBook Air, and while it doesn’t have the latest and most advanced M1 or M2 chips, it’s still relatively robust and, equally important, much cheaper. Under the hood, you’ll find the 12th Gen Intel Core i7-1250U, a mid-to-high tier chip that will easily handle all the productivity tasks you throw at it and some editing tasks. The 16GB of DDR5 RAM is plenty fast, and the 512GB of storage should be more than enough for most folks. While the screen only runs at an FHD+ resolution, it can hit a whopping 500nits of peak brightness, which means you can use it almost anywhere, including outside during the day. As for battery life, you’re looking at around 16 hours or so, depending on use and screen brightness, but either way, it’s still going to be more than enough for most folks!
There’s no shortage of 2-in-1 laptop deals online, but few will match the popularity of Microsoft’s Surface Pro line of devices. If you want to get one for cheap and you don’t mind going for an older model, you should take advantage of Best Buy’s $230 discount for the Microsoft Surface Pro 7+ with Type Cover, which brings the bundle’s price down to $700 from $930. We’re not sure when the offer expires though, so it’s highly recommended that you purchase it now so that you don’t miss out.
Why you should buy the Microsoft Surface Pro 7+ with Type Cover
The latest version of Microsoft’s Surface Pro devices is the Microsoft Surface Pro 9, but even with the nearly two-year gap, the Microsoft Surface Pro 7+ will still prove to be a dependable device for daily use. A mid-cycle upgrade of the Microsoft Surface Pro 7, the Microsoft Surface Pro 7+ features improved components with the 11th-generation Intel Core i3 processor and 8GB of RAM. The device is powered by Windows 11 Home, as expected, with the operating system pre-installed in its 128GB SSD that will provide ample space for your apps and files.
The ThinkPad X1 Yoga is Lenovo’s business-oriented 360-degree 2-in-1 laptop. I underwent a significant upgrade in its 6th generation, with the ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 7 model upgrading the components for faster speeds and better battery life. Now, Lenovo has released the 8th generation, and again it switches up the internals and leaves the external chassis alone.
But the changes in CPUs weren’t simply an upgrade to the 13th-gen versions of the previous model’s processors. Instead, Lenovo switched to 13th-gen low-power CPUs in most configurations. Was this an upgrade or a downgrade for this well-built business machine?
Specs and configurations

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Microsoft Surface Pro 9 vs. Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 - Digital Trends? ›

The Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 (2022) and the Dell XPS 13 (2021) are very similar premium ultraportable laptops. However, there are some small differences. The Surface Laptop 5 has a sturdier build and a better webcam, while the XPS 13 has a brighter display, better reflection handling, and longer battery life.

Is Dell or surface better? ›

The Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 (2022) and the Dell XPS 13 (2021) are very similar premium ultraportable laptops. However, there are some small differences. The Surface Laptop 5 has a sturdier build and a better webcam, while the XPS 13 has a brighter display, better reflection handling, and longer battery life.

Why is Dell XPS 13 so popular? ›

The Dell XPS 13 has long been one of the top recommendations for Windows users looking for a MacBook Air alternative. The model I reviewed in 2020 was one of the best gadgets I've ever reviewed; everything from the screen to the build to the performance and battery life was exceptionally strong.

Who are the competitors of XPS 13 2-in-1 laptop? ›

That's a move that puts the XPS 13 2-in-1 squarely up against detachable rivals such as Microsoft's recently updated Surface Pro 9. Dell has risen to the challenge, though, as the new XPS 13 2-in-1 combines an admirably sleek and slim design with a competitive price that gives the Surface Pro a real run for its money.

What is the Dell equivalent to the Surface Pro? ›

The newest XPS 13 two-in-one from Dell looks and feels a lot like the Surface Pro from Microsoft.

Why should I buy a Surface Pro 9? ›

Pros: good 120Hz screen, good Intel performance, Thunderbolt4/USB-4, excellent keyboard (essential additional purchase), excellent kickstand, Windows Hello, solid build, great stylus (optional purchase), removable SSD, easier to repair.

What laptop is better than Dell XPS 13? ›

The Framework Laptop (2022) is better than the Dell XPS 13 Plus (2022) for most uses. Although both laptops are available with Intel 12th Gen. CPUs, the Framework Laptop performs significantly better, as its CPU doesn't lose as much performance under load as the XPS 13's.

Why Dell XPS 13 is the best laptop? ›

The Dell XPS 13 is the best Windows laptop you can buy, offering a stunning display, a great keyboard and long battery life within an attractive, slim design that's easy to take anywhere.

What is the difference between XPS 13 and XPS 13 2in1? ›

While the Dell XPS 13 can be configured with touch, the 2-in-1 model supports touch and pen input in every configuration (as you'd expect for a tablet). It's also protected by Corning Gorilla Glass Victus, since the display is much more likely to be subject to damage from touch input.

Why buy a Surface Pro over a laptop? ›

If you need a machine for work, you can really buy either a Surface Laptop or a Surface Pro as they'll both do well with productivity. But if you specifically need an ultra-portable work PC, Surface Pro PCs are the better buy — they're lighter, and they'll still help you get your work done and help you relax later.

Can I replace my laptop with a Surface Pro? ›

If you spend most of your time doing simple office tasks like browsing and streaming, then the Microsoft Surface Pro is a smart choice. This device offers a lag-free experience when multitasking. In that sense, a Microsoft Surface Pro tablet can definitely replace a laptop computer.

What is a good alternative for Microsoft Surface Pro? ›

Just take a look at our roundup of the best alternatives to a Surface Pro:
  • Best Overall: HP Spectre X360.
  • Best Ultrabook: Acer Spin 3.
  • Best Budget: SAMSUNG Galaxy Tab S8.
  • Best Build and Design: Dell XPS 13.
  • Best Performance: Apple iPad Pro.
  • Best Workstation: Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio.
Sep 8, 2023

Which laptop brand is better than Dell? ›

Surprisingly, HP is considered a better option than Dell when it comes to budget-friendly laptops because Dell focuses on maximizing its laptop's performance at a higher cost.

Which laptops are better than Dell? ›

HP laptops tend to be pricier than Dell laptops, but they offer greater innovation and style. These features make them popular among professionals who appreciate high-end technology. Due to their sleek and sophisticated design, HP laptops become status symbols in the eyes of many.

Is Microsoft Surface made by Dell? ›

Microsoft Surface is a series of touchscreen-based personal computers, tablets, and interactive whiteboards designed and developed by Microsoft, most of them running the Windows operating system.

Is Dell better than other laptops? ›


Moreover, the quality of Dell laptops is strong due to faster chipsets and more RAM than some of the less expensive rivals. Overall, they are an excellent option for low-end laptops because a number of their models are designed to provide optimum performance at the lowest possible price.


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