MacBook Pro 2021 (16-inch) vs Dell XPS 15 OLED: Which laptop wins?

MacBook Pro 2021 (16-inch) vs Dell XPS 15 OLED: Which laptop wins?

(Prototype credit: Future)

The Dell XPS 15 OLED and Apple’south MacBook Pro 2021 (16-inch) are ii of our favorite laptops of 2021 hither at Tom’s Guide. Both sport gorgeous displays and evangelize excellent performance in slim, elegant chassis that are surprisingly portable for their size.

These are hands two of the best laptops you can buy correct now, and both cost about the same, since upgrading the XPS 15 with an OLED display brings its toll up to that of an entry-level sixteen-inch MacBook Pro. So how do you lot decide which is the correct laptop for you lot?

To help you decide, nosotros’re pitting the 2 against ane some other to highlight each laptop’s strengths and weaknesses. This face up-off will show y’all which has the best display, the best performance, the best battery life, and ultimately the best value for your needs.

MacBook Pro 2021 (xvi-inch) vs Dell XPS 15 OLED: Specs

Dell XPS 15 OLED vs 16-inch MacBook Pro 2021 specs
Dell XPS 15 OLED sixteen-inch MacBook Pro 2021
Starting price ~$2,299 with OLED upgrade $ii,499
Screen fifteen.half dozen-inch OLED display (iii,456 ten two,160 pixels) sixteen.2-inch Liquid Retina XDR brandish (3456×2244 pixels)
CPU Intel Core i7-11800H | Intel Core i9-11900H M1 Pro (10-core CPU, xvi-core GPU) | M1 Max (10-core CPU, 32-core GPU)
GPU Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 | Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti M1 Pro (10-core CPU, 16-core GPU) | M1 Max (x-core CPU, 32-core GPU)
Storage 512GB to 8TB 512GB to 8TB
Memory 16GB to 64GB 16GB to 64GB
Ports USB 3.2 Blazon-C (1), Thunderbolt 4 (2), SD card reader (one), headphone jack Thunderbolt four (3), HDMI, MagSafe iii, headphone jack, SD retentiveness card slot
Webcam 720p webcam 1080p FaceTime Hd camera
Wi-Fi 802.11ax Killer Wi-Fi 6 802.11ax Wi-Fi 6
Bluetooth Bluetooth 5.1 Bluetooth 5.0
Dimensions thirteen.57 10 ix.06 10 0.71 inches 14 x nine.8 x inches
Weight 4.2 pounds pounds (M1 Pro) | 4.8 pounds (M1 Max)

MacBook Pro 2021 (16-inch) vs Dell XPS 15 OLED: Cost

With a starting price of effectually $1,200 (depending on when and where you purchase) the Dell XPS 15 is the cheaper laptop past a wide margin, equally an entry-level xvi-inch MacBook Pro 2021 costs $2,499.

All the same, the entry-level XPS 15 ships with a FHD+ (1,920 x ane,200 pixels) LCD display, which is enough good plenty but lacks the eye-catching vibrancy and contrasts you get with an OLED display. If you configure the XPS fifteen with its optional 3.5K OLED brandish (which is what our review unit had, and what we recommend if you can afford it) the cost goes upward to roughly $two,299, though the price regularly fluctuates past a few hundred bucks due to seasonal deals.

When nosotros reviewed the Dell XPS 15 OLED early in 2021, its toll was closer to $ii,400, making this a much closer competition. Only unlike Apple, Dell has a habit of regularly discounting its products, making the XPS 15 OLED the clear winner here in terms of affordability.


Dell XPS 15 OLED

MacBook Pro 2021 (16-inch) vs Dell XPS xv OLED: Pattern

Both the Dell XPS xv OLED and the 16-inch MacBook Pro feature elegant designs that manage to cram big, beautiful displays, comfy keyboards, and decent port arrays into thin and (relatively) calorie-free chassis less than one inch thick.

The Dell XPS 15 OLED is slightly smaller and lighter than the 16-inch Pro, and the bezels around its InfinityEdge are so thin it’south easy to forget they’re fifty-fifty there. Having the OLED display is peculiarly overnice in this regard, considering when you’re watching something with blackness effectually the edges the bezels alloy right in, effectively disappearing from view. At 4.two pounds, it’s not exactly the lightest laptop, but in our hands-on testing we establish the XPS fifteen OLED wasn’t as well painful to carry around in a backpack or messenger purse all 24-hour interval.

Dell XPS 15 OLED review

If you lot hate thick blackness bezels, Dell’southward InfinityEdge brandish blueprint is a godsend

(Image credit: Time to come)

Apple’southward 16-inch Pro is a bit bigger and heavier, though Apple tree’southward done a lot to improve its pattern compared to prior models. While it’s roughly the same size and weight as prior 16-inch Pros, the 2021 model has been improved with a flatter lid, a row of function keys that supervene upon the controversial Touch Bar, and thinner bezels around the display. They’re non quite as thin equally those on the Dell XPS 15 OLED, but unless you lot’re a real stickler for screen infinite it doesn’t make a big difference.

What might make a difference is how y’all feel almost the pocket-size black notch which extends downwards past the top bezel on the 2021 MacBook Pros to firm the webcam. In my hands-on testing I plant the notch piece of cake to ignore, and after a while I even grew to appreciate how it makes the Pro stand out from other laptops.

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MacBook Pro 2021 (16-inch) review unit sitting on a coffee table

The notch on the 2021 MacBook Pros might look odd at first, merely if you’re anything like me you’ll quickly adapt

(Image credit: Future)

Both of these laptops are well-designed, with spacious, comfortable keyboards and easy-to-apply trackpads. Merely the Dell XPS 15 OLED is just a bit lighter and smaller than the 16-inch Pro, with a slightly more than attractive display design. It’s cervix-and-neck, only we take to give this i to the XPS xv OLED.


Dell XPS 15 OLED

MacBook Pro 2021 (xvi-inch) vs Dell XPS 15 OLED: Display

Both of these laptops sport big, beautiful displays, making them great for watching videos, playing games, or (if you absolutely have to) getting work done. They employ two different display technologies (OLED vs. mini-LED) that both evangelize higher brightness levels, better dissimilarity, and more vibrant colors than y’all’ll see on traditional LCD displays.

The OLED display is an optional upgrade for the Dell XPS 15, but later on spending fourth dimension with a number of both OLED and non-OLED XPS laptops I highly recommend you invest in OLED if you can afford it. The 3.5K OLED touchscreen on the XPS 15 makes just about everything yous exercise on it look better, in office because each pixel on an OLED screen is its own individual calorie-free source that can exist switched on or off independently. That means that when a pixel is blackness, it’due south switched off and thus very, very black, which allows the display to achieve much better contrasts between calorie-free and nighttime than well-nigh non-OLED displays.

In my experience, that means that when you’re watching something (especially 4K HDR content) on the Dell XPS fifteen OLED you’ll find more subtle gradations in the color and effulgence of the paradigm than y’all would on a non-OLED model. It’south a small but significant difference, and ane that’s made it hard for me to become back to using non-OLED displays. In fact, after reviewing the XPS 15 OLED I went ahead and upgraded my 4K Roku Television set to an LG CX OLED TV, simply to bask the same display quality on a much bigger screen.

Dell XPS 15 OLED review

(Prototype credit: Future)

As good as the XPS 15 OLED is, the Liquid Retina XDR brandish on Apple’s 2021 MacBook Pro is no slouch either. It’s a mini-LED display, which means the LEDs used to backlight the screen are about a fifth the size of those used in about LCD displays. Since they’re much smaller, Apple can squeeze a lot more of them backside the screen, and that gives the MacBook Pro much finer command over which pixels are lit and which are nighttime. This in plough allows it to achieve much brighter brights, darker darks, and amend contrasts than displays with bigger LEDs. Mini-LED displays can deliver image quality that’southward competitive with OLED displays, and they’re cheaper to make than OLED screens.

That’southward a long way of proverb the 2021 MacBook Pro’s display makes photos, videos, and games look about every bit expert as they practice on the XPS 15 OLED. I reviewed both laptops, and if you displayed the same content on both side-by-side I’d have a hard time telling you which was amend. They’re well-nigh the same resolution too, though Apple tree’s laptop has a slight border in terms of how many pixels information technology can display (3456 x 2234 pixels for the 16-inch MacBook Pro 2021 vs 3,456 x 2,160 pixels on the XPS 15 OLED). Apple’s laptop also has a higher refresh charge per unit than the Dell XPS 15 OLED, which is stuck at sixty Hz compared to the MacBook Pro 2021’s 120 Hz adaptive refresh charge per unit.

MacBook Pro 2021 (16-inch) sitting on a table, Knives Out playing on the screen

(Epitome credit: Hereafter)

We subjected each laptop to a battery of brandish tests in our lab, and we found that the 16-inch MacBook Pro 2021 tin can achieve higher brightness levels than the XPS 15 OLED. Both deliver pretty practiced color accuracy, as each earned a Delta-E score of 0.21 (the closer to 0, the better). The Dell XPS 15 OLED achieved slightly more than vibrant colors than the 16-inch Pro, displaying of the sRGB color spectrum compared to the 2021 Pro’due south 109.3%. Notwithstanding, that’s not necessarily a good thing, as a score of 100% is considered nigh authentic.

Given those scores and the college refresh charge per unit of the MacBook Pro’s display, nosotros have to give this category to Apple. It’south dainty that the OLED display on the XPS fifteen is also a touchscreen, but as beautiful as it is (one time you lot wipe off the fingerprints), if you care nearly brightness, color accuracy, or refresh charge per unit the MacBook Pro is the better laptop for y’all.


Apple MacBook Pro 2021 (16-inch)

MacBook Pro 2021 (16-inch) vs Dell XPS 15 OLED: Ports

Having a variety of ports makes a laptop a more versatile and useful device, which is why information technology was so prissy to see Apple add an HDMI out and an SD carte reader to the lineup of Thunderbolt 4/USB4 ports on the 2021 MacBook Pros.

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Alongside those two welcome additions, the xvi-inch MacBook Pro 2021 sports three Thunderbolt 4/USB4 ports spread across both sides, which gives y’all some options near what to plug in where. Yous can also charge via these ports, for fifty-fifty more than flexibility. Apple’s too brought dorsum MagSafe charging with a MagSafe 3 charging port, which is nice to have since the magnetic connector is both easy to plug in and quick to break away in the event something yanks on the laptop or charging cord. Plus, there’s a headphone jack, which isn’t always guaranteed on Apple products.

The MacBook Pro 2021 (14-inch)

MagSafe is back, baby

(Image credit: Henry T. Casey)

The Dell XPS xv OLED doesn’t offer quite as many port options, but what it has is good enough for about people. Specifically, it has 3 USB-C ports spread across both sides, which again gives you lot a lot of flexibility on where to plug in your charger and accessories. It also offers an SD menu reader and a headphone jack, also as a Kensington security slot that y’all tin slide a Kensington lock into to preclude theft.

Dell also packs in a USB-C to USB-A adapter with the XPS 15 OLED, a nice bear upon that saves you having to buy one of your own if you lot want to plug in an older accessory. I wish Apple had shown MacBook Pro 2021 customers the same courtesy. All the same, the Pro’s HDMI out and MagSafe charging port requite information technology a slight edge in terms of port options.


Apple MacBook Pro 16-inch (2021)

MacBook Pro 2021 (16-inch) vs Dell XPS 15 OLED: Performance

Both of these laptops are powerful enough to handle just well-nigh anyone’due south daily workload without complaint. But when we compare the operation of these two laptops, there’s no question the 2021 MacBook Pro beats the XPS 15 OLED in just most every exam we put them through. That’s largely thanks to the remarkable power and efficiency of Apple tree’due south M1 Pro and M1 Max chips, which make their debut in these 2021 Pros.

For the purposes of this comparing we’re going to utilize the benchmark results of the 14-inch Pro with the weaker M1 Pro because that’s the scrap you lot’ll get with an entry-level 16-inch MacBook Pro, whereas our 16-inch MacBook Pro review unit arrived with an upgraded M1 Max scrap. However, based on our testing the M1 Pro is nearly as powerful every bit the M1 Max in most applications, then don’t experience similar you’re missing out if you choose non to upgrade to an M1 Max.

MacBook Pro 2021 (16-inch) review unit on a table

The M1 Pro and M1 Max fries assistance the 2021 MacBook Pro deliver best-in-class performance.

(Prototype credit: Future)

Outset, allow’s compare the results we saw when we put each laptop through the Geekbench 5.iv multicore CPU benchmarking test. Our Dell XPS fifteen OLED review unit (Intel Core i7-11800H CPU, Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti GPU, sixteen GB of RAM, 512 GB SSD) earned a score of 7,477, which is quite good for an ultraportable laptop. But our 14-inch MacBook Pro 2021 review unit of measurement (M1 Pro w/ 10-cadre CPU and xvi-core GPU, 32 GB of RAM, 1 TB SSD) achieved a remarkable score of 12,477, handily beating the XPS 15 OLED.

In our video editing test, which tasks each laptop with transcoding a 4K video file down to 1080p using Handbrake, the 2021 MacBook Pro was most twice as fast every bit the XPS 15 OLED (4:55 vs 8:x).

And while the XPS 15 OLED is improve equipped to play most PC games thanks to its discrete Nvidia GPU, the 2021 MacBook Pros are no slouch in the gaming department either. Instead, they’re handicapped by the fact that many game developers don’t port their games to Macs and don’t optimize them for Apple tree silicon.

Go on that in mind when I say that when we tasked each laptop with running the graphical performance examination in Sid Meier’due south Civilization Six: Gathering Storm (which we employ every bit a benchmark because it runs on a broad variety of machines), the Dell XPS xv OLED was able to deliver more frames per second than the M1 Pro-powered MacBook Pro. Specifically, the Pro accomplished 46.19 frames per second running the benchmark at i,512x 982 (the maximum resolution the game would allow us run the examination at) while the XPS 15 OLED delivered 67.ane fps at 1080p (1,920 10 i,080 pixels) and 41.9 fps at iii.5K (3,456 x 2,160 pixels).

Dell XPS 15 OLED on a table running Crusader Kings III

Our Dell XPS 15 OLED review unit was able to run even graphically demanding games like Noon Legends at a solid 30 frames per second, so of grade it had no trouble with less demanding titles like Crusader Kings 3.

(Image credit: Future)

Absolutely, it’s very odd that nosotros couldn’t convince Civ VI to run its graphical benchmark in a higher resolution on the 14-inch Pro. Nosotros were able to convince information technology to run in 1080p on the 16-inch Pro with its improved M1 Max scrap, only even and so the Pro achieved just 46.i frames per second. This is a good instance of how hard it tin can exist to get the best gaming performance out of a MacBook, for reasons that aren’t entirely Apple’s fault.

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So while you’ll get improve gaming performance out of the Dell XPS fifteen OLED, overall we have to declare the MacBook Pro the clear winner here. Nosotros didn’t even mention the operation benefits of its xvi-core Neural Engine (which helps out with machine learning tasks and epitome signal processing) and dedicated media encode/decode engines, which tin help boost performance when editing video.


Apple MacBook Pro 2021 (sixteen-inch)

MacBook Pro 2021 (sixteen-inch) vs Dell XPS 15 OLED: Audio

Speakers are rarely the commencement thing nosotros think about when we’re talking almost buying a new laptop, but unless you ever work with headphones (or in silence) they’ll accept a big impact on your daily life.

Both of these laptops feature decent speaker setups, with special cutouts on either side of the laptop (just beneath the keyboard deck) that help the audio quality remain loud and clear even when you have them on a table or lap. The Dell XPS fifteen OLED gets quite loud, and its four-speaker array delivers treble and vocals that sound not bad even from several rooms abroad, though the bass lacks punch.

MacBook Pro 2021 (16-inch) review unit sitting on a patio table

If you lot had to pick ane laptop to host a listening political party on, the xvi-inch MacBook Pro 2021 would be a great selection.

(Image credit: Future)

As good equally they are, in my experience the Dell XPS 15 OLED’s speakers can’t quite match the six-speaker setup in the sixteen-inch MacBook Pro 2021. Not only does it deliver warm, resonant vocals even at high volume, but the 2021 Pro kicks out deeper, more than impactful bass than the XPS 15 OLED or, indeed, any Windows laptop I’ve tested. So if audio quality is important to yous, the winner here is Apple’southward laptop.


Apple MacBook Pro 2021 (16-inch)

MacBook Pro 2021 (16-inch) vs Dell XPS 15 OLED: Webcam

If you care about how you lot expect on video calls, the Dell XPS fifteen OLED’s 720p webcam might leave yous feeling a bit underwhelmed. While it’south completely serviceable (indeed, I use it for a lot of my weekly meetings), in my experience it captures images and video that look done-out and grainy.

Dell XPS 15 OLED review: webcam test

Bad haircut aside, you tin can see that even under good lighting weather the XPS 15 OLED’s webcam has a tough time accurately capturing colors and detail. The shirt I was wearing here is blue while the couch arm is yellow, if that helps y’all meet the discrepancies.

(Image credit: Future)

The 2021 MacBook Pro’due south 1080p webcam makes you look quite a flake amend by comparison, as it does a amend job of capturing details and gradations in light and shadow.

The MacBook Pro 2021 (14-inch) on a desk showing an image captured via the webcam

As you can run into, the 2021 MacBook Pro’s 1080p webcam does a cracking job of capturing fine details and subtle changes in light and shadow in this shot captured by Tom’s Guide senior editor Henry T. Casey.

(Image credit: Henry T. Casey)

Still, note that the XPS 15 OLED besides has an IR camera that lets you lot use Windows How-do-you-do to log in via facial recognition, if you lot then choose. The MacBook Pro 2021, by comparison, offers no option to log in via Face ID. Still, unless y’all really love logging in with your face nosotros accept to say the winner here is Apple’southward laptop.


Apple tree MacBook Pro 2021 (16-inch)

MacBook Pro 2021 (16-inch) vs Dell XPS 15 OLED: Battery life

We test the bombardment life of every laptop nosotros review at Tom’s Guide by tasking it with endlessly browsing the web over Wi-Fi, with its screen brightness set up to 150 nits. The Dell XPS 15 OLED performed well enough in that test, lasting half dozen hours and 58 minutes, just that’southward non really enough to keep yous from having to worry about finding a place to plug in during a decorated workday.

Apple’s xvi-inch MacBook Pro absolutely smoked the XPS 15 OLED in this regard, as information technology lasted 15 hours and 31 minutes in the same examination. That beats even Apple tree’s 14-hour guess, and it’due south nearly double the bombardment life of the XPS 15 OLED.

So if y’all care about being able to use your laptop all twenty-four hours without worrying about carrying a charger, Apple tree’s MacBook Pro 2021 has you covered — and it’s the clear winner in this category.


Apple MacBook Pro 2021 (16-inch)

MacBook Pro 2021 (16-inch) vs Dell XPS 15 OLED: Verdict

If you’ve made it this far y’all tin can hopefully see that both of these laptops are excellent, well-rounded devices that are powerful enough to handle demanding work like video editing and game development, while still being svelte enough to carry effectually all solar day without too much trouble. They both offer gorgeous displays, comfy keyboards, good speakers and a solid array of ports packed into well-designed chassis that await good on a desk.

But unless yous plan to do a lot of gaming on your new laptop, the 16-inch MacBook Pro 2021 has a winning edge over the XPS 15 OLED. While Dell’southward laptop is a chip more than affordable, Apple’s latest MacBook Pro offers better performance in virtually every regard, better battery life, and a broader array of ports. The 120Hz adaptive refresh charge per unit and higher meridian brightness on its Liquid Retina XDR display is also nice to accept, especially if you program to edit HDR content, though personally I’m quite happy with the vibrant colors and beautiful contrasts of the XPS 15’s OLED display.

Alex Wawro is a lifelong tech and games enthusiast with more than a decade of experience covering both for outlets like Game Programmer, Black Hat, and PC Earth magazine. He currently serves as a senior editor at Tom’s Guide roofing all things computing, from laptops and desktops to keyboards and mice.