Dell XPS 13 vs. Samsung Series 9: Business Ultrabook Battle

by Reads (40,607)

We recently reviewed these two 13.3-inch business-oriented Ultrabooks and now put them head-to-head in our comparison test.

If you are interested in taking a closer look at either of these Ultrabooks, you can read our full reviews of the notebooks here:


Dell XPS 13 Review

Samsung Series 9 Review

 

Dell XPS 13

Samsung Series 9

Starting Price

$999.99

Price as Configured

$1,499.99

$1,399.99

Operating System

Windows 7 Home Premium

Windows 7 Home Premium

Screen

13.3″ 720p glossy

13.3″ 900p anti-glare

Processor

Intel Core i7-2637M dual-core

Intel Core i5-2467M dual-core

RAM

4GB

4GB

Storage

256GB Samsung SSD

128GB SanDisk SSD

Graphics Card

Integrated Intel

Integrated Intel

Battery

6-cell, non-replaceable

6-cell, non-replaceable

Optical Drive

None

None

Weight

3.0 lbs.

2.54 lbs.

Thickness

0.24~0.71″

0.6″

Wireless

Intel Centrino Advance-N 6230

Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6230

Ports

USB 3.0, USB 2.0, mini-DisplayPort, microphone/headphone combo jack

USB 3.0; micro HDMI; micro VGA and micro Ethernet via dongle; microphone/headphone combo jack, SD card reader

Keyboard

Backlit

Backlit

Warranty

1-year limited

1-year limited

These Ultrabooks are more expensive than we’re used to seeing. At $1,499 the XPS 13 is $100 more than the Samsung however it’s less than a 10 percent difference. For almost the same money the XPS 13 offers a more powerful processor, twice the drive space and mini-DisplayPort but weighs a half-pound more than the Samsung and doesn’t have nearly as nice of a display. The Samsung has more available ports though it requires using a dongle for most of them and lacks DisplayPort. Besides its wonderful screen (which I’ll get to in a minute), the Samsung’s biggest advantage is the fact that it includes a memory card reader. Dell left this out and it’s a huge oversight. Every notebook I’ve purchased since 2004 has included one.

Design

Winner: Samsung Series 9

These notebooks look similar at first glance though the Samsung is both classier and sleeker. I like the raised keyboard surface and silver lining around the edge of the chassis and touchpad. Additionally the Samsung has a nicer hinge design; it pushes the display slightly further back from the user for a more relaxed feel. Lastly there’s the attention to detail; while I didn’t find any build quality flaws in either notebook, there’s no mistaking the precision cuts on the sides of the Samsung’s aluminum chassis. Samsung stereotypically put a lot of effort into the design of this notebook and it shows. Samsung leans more towards the consumer in terms of design than Dell does (for better or worse).

Screen

Winner: Samsung Series 9

The only thing the XPS 13 has going for it here is the hard Gorilla Glass display surface; otherwise the Samsung has a better display in nearly every way. To start with, it has an anti-glare coating; that means no reflections. The XPS 13’s display reflects like a mirror and anytime there’s a light source behind the screen, so it’s a usability issue. Secondly is the resolution; the XPS 13’s 1366×768 is as low as it gets. The 1600×900 resolution on the Samsung is noticeably better and it’s actually possible to use two windows side-by-side. Lastly there’s the quality of the display; the XPS 13 uses a run-of-the-mill TN panel, which has washed out colors and poor viewing angles; the Samsung uses an PLS display with almost unlimited viewing angles, better color and contrast, and far brighter backlighting. It’s one of my favorite displays to date, on any notebook. For business and consumer use, the Samsung is the clear winner.

Keyboard

Winner: Dell XPS 13

The keyboard is the area most Ultrabooks seem to have trouble with; fortunately the two we’re comparing fare rather well. Of the two I prefer the XPS 13; its keyboard sits more recessed in the chassis surface compared to the Samsung allowing it longer key travel and therefore more communicative feedback. The feel is almost too soft, but I’ll take too soft over too hard. Additionally, the backlighting on the XPS 13 is superior; there’s no light leakage around the edge of the keys and it’s more even.

Touchpad

Winner: TIE

Both of these Ultrabooks include “clickpads,” which have a clickable surface and no physical buttons. I’m not a fan of these setups; they may look clean but lack in usability and I had accuracy problems on both. The only notebook maker that seems to get clickpads right is Apple.

Input/Output Ports

Winner: Samsung Series 9

This section is a crapshoot; to be frank, I don’t like the port configuration on either Ultrabook. The Samsung has the most impractical setup I’ve seen in a while. A dongle to make use of the micro Ethernet port is included but dongles for the micro VGA and HDMI ports are NOT (they’re expensive and must be purchased separately). Therefore, there’s no way to get video out of the Samsung in its standard configuration. And on top of that, Samsung clusters all the ports together so things can get crowded if more than one device is plugged in. The Dell XPS on the other hand includes a mini-DisplayPort (which, depending on the output device may require a dongle, but at least they’re easy to find) but completely falls on its face by not including a media card reader. This oversight is inexcusable on a modern notebook and the reason Samsung wins this category. For business use, however, the media card reader is arguably unnecessary.

Performance

Winner: Dell XPS 13

The XPS 13 as configured outpaces the Samsung by a significant margin; this is mostly due to the fact that the XPS 13 includes a much faster 256GB SSD (ironically made by Samsung). The i7-2637M processor is marginally faster than the Samsung’s i5-2467M, but it’s doubtful 99% of users will ever notice the difference between the two processors. For most uses, the performance difference between these Ultrabooks will be insignificant regardless of how they are configured.

Battery Life

Winner: Dell XPS 13

This isn’t even a comparison — the XPS 13 went for 7.5 hours whereas the Samsung managed just five using our standard test. The XPS 13’s battery has about 20% more capacity but it’s a moot point considering the battery is not replaceable in either notebook. For businesses and consumers alike, an extra two and a half hours of battery is a big difference.

The Winner?

Despite the fact I love the Samsung’s display and design, this one goes to the Dell XPS 13; Samsung made one too many design compromises to make it recommendable over the XPS 13. My only real gripes with the XPS 13 are its lack of a media card reader and glossy display surface. Otherwise, the XPS 13 has a superior keyboard with better quality backlighting, eons better battery life (7.5 hours vs. 5), and better video output options. These are critically important items in a portable notebook. The Samsung by far has the better display and slightly lighter weight but in terms of practicality, that’s it. Unless the display matters to you that much, we’d stick with the XPS 13, especially for business where the media card reader might not be so important.


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