Back in 2012, Apple wowed the world with the launch of the MacBook Air. It was a culmination of many things that Apple had been working for years. It gave the original MacBook Air design function – in the same svelte frame, there was this computer which was powerful enough for mainstream work and packed insane 13 hours of battery life. It also had one of the nicest keyboards around while packed a design that wasn’t just slim but iconic and functional. It heralded a generation of computers propelled by Intel’s new low-power CPUs and Windows popularly called UltraBooks, but nothing came close to the original for a couple of years, till of course 2015.
Apple decided to do a design refresh for its entire notebook line. Over the course of 3 years, Apple completely overhauled the design of its entire MacBook line up starting with the MacBook Retina Display, then the MacBook Pro and finally last year, the MacBook Air. While these were modern notebooks, they came with some huge design idiosyncrasies which have made modern Apple portables less desirable. Things like the butterfly keyboard and the dearth of USB Type-A ports made these laptops irritating for most users.
While all this happened, most Windows-based notebooks improved by leaps and bounds. Their keyboards were now better than the MacBook, while their trackpads improved. In the display department too you got higher resolutions, more modern bezel-free designs with touchscreens and more importantly more ports in the package alongside tons of firepower.
Despite, the late 2018 MacBook Air being one of the better laptops Apple has designed in the last couple of years, it is the Dell XPS 13 which is the true successor to the modern classic MacBook Air from circa 2012. It is a blend of balance between pragmatic functional utility and just some good old class. Let me elaborate on why.
- The keyboard on the XPS 13 is just delightful. It has nice travel, it is spacious and it is quiet. You get all your work done with utter ease. And the best part, there is no learning curve to this keyboard. And of course, I’d be remiss to point out, there are no functional failures with this keyboard with dust getting jammed because of the traditional scissor switch-based design. People who are coming from the older MacBook Air will actually find this keyboard to be better. Heck, this review has been written fully on this machine, which I can’t say about most of my reviews.
- You get this rubberised finish on the base of the keyboard so you get an inviting warm feeling which is nice because some notebooks like the MacBook or even the HP Spectre can feel very cold and uninviting because of their all-metal designs. Overall too, the design is plain and simple classy with its compact size, brushed aluminium finish on the top and svelte form which is similar to the latest MacBook Air whilst proving a more regal assortment of ports.
- The trackpad is also pretty decent. Sure, it is not MacBook trackpad. Apple is almost unbeatable in that regard, however, now for people coming from a MacBook, the Windows trackpad scene isn’t a deal-breaker. You also get a multitude of easy to learn gestures which are part of Windows 10 and you can execute them with a degree of ease.
- Perhaps the most impressive thing about this machine is that it packs Intel’s latest 10th generation core i7 processor which is paired with 16GB RAM. Without running synthetic benchmarks, but rather focusing on real-world workloads, I can tell you it can knock the pants out of anything Apple has short of the 15-inch MacBook Pro. Be it Photoshop, light video editing on Premier or even some casual gaming it can handle stuff with grace. And if you’re in it just work inside your web browser, then it is even better, especially if you use Edge, but it will do fine even with Chrome.
- The display on this new XPS 13 is gorgeous. You get a crisp 1080p resolution which is going to be enough for most people, however, you’ll get a bezel-free panel and a touch screen to boot something you’ll probably never get on a Mac. It just goes beyond what you get from a modern Mac.
- There are certain advantages of being on Windows over a Mac. For instance, if you’re a Microsoft Office user, these apps are just better designed for Windows which is kind of obvious. Even Adobe’s suite of Creative Cloud applications just work better on Windows these days. If you’re into gaming, then you’ve hit the jackpot as Windows is the home to triple-A titles that you probably wouldn’t get on the Mac.
- The Dell XPS 13 is certainly going to be a more agreeable computer if you work for a corporate with IT managers generally preferring Windows because their applications are tuned for the platform and Windows security being more robust for enterprise based clients.
- Dell has conjured a thermally efficient design because this notebook is quite silent even while batch processing more than 100 photos on Adobe Lightroom from the recently concluded U2 concert. Doing the same on the MacBook Air definitely made it groan.
- The Dell XPS 13 has a more agreeable assortment of ports than the MacBook Air. You get a total of 3 USB Type-C ports which is one better than the MacBook Air. On top of this, there is also an SD card reader built-in which has been exorcised from all modern Macs to the dismay of creators.
- Perhaps the biggest fundamental disadvantage of all PCs that aren’t Macs is the trackpad. The trackpad on modern Windows PCs like the XPS 13 have improved a lot, there are still nowhere close to the smoothness of the glass trackpad you get on modern Macs. This is an area Apple has everyone beat. It’s going to be a jarring and unpleasant transition and probably, it will result in you using an external mouse.
- The simplicity and synchronicity between iOS and macOS is godly. You don’t get that on Windows and Android or iOS. That being said, there is the “my phone” app which works quite decently if you are a Samsung Galaxy Note 10 user, however, the iCloud sync of Macs is insane you don’t get that on any Windows machine.
- The battery life isn’t what’s advertised or what you generally expect from a MacBook Air. With the modern MacBook Air, you are generally looking in at 10 hours of battery life. With this Dell XPS 13, you wouldn’t get more than 7-8 hours on normal use which is also a function of Windows being less battery efficient and it having a more powerful 10th generation Intel chip.
- The last salvo is the eternal Windows vs macOS debate. You tend to attract more malware with a Windows notebook by default as opposed to a mac. Even on a top tier notebook like the Dell XPS 13, you are looking at preloaded crapware like McAfee antivirus which is preloaded which is honestly not needed if you have good internet hygiene with the basic Windows virus protection that’s built-in.
- The design is starting to age even if it looks more modern than the latest MacBook Air. Dell has had this design for around the last 3 years, which means it is not starting to look boring. There are more modern-looking Windows notebooks like the Lenovo IdeaPad and the new HP Spectre X360.
All in all, you are basically looking at one of the best Windows notebooks of all time which packs a slick, yet ageing design, incredible horsepower which makes it a stupendous mobile workstation while also having the mobility of something that’s close to an iPad or Microsoft Surface. In a nutshell, if you’re looking for a balance of this functionality there is no better notebook in India right now, heck, if you’re a MacBook Air user who is looking to upgrade, I’d encourage you to bite the Windows pill and give this notebook a chance because it will be rewarding.