Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook vs Apple Macbook Air | Day 1


Hey everyone, you may have seen the marketing hype in the last few days for the Dell XPS 13″ Ultrabook. Professionally, I have been using a first generation Macbook Air with Bootcamp running Windows 7 on it for a while now. Yes I know many Mac users might be upset by this. Too bad, Windows 7 is fantastic and far greater then OSX (let the comments begin).


Windows 7 on the MacBook Air:

Windows has never had a good notebook like the MacBook Air to run on (other than the Air of course.) The experience has been fantastic other than a few things that I can’t stand.

1) The FN key is where the Control key should be. It drives me nuts although I am just about used to it now.

2) The ALT key and the Windows Key (the command key for you Mac users) are swapped and in the wrong position. Thankfully I was able to reprogram Windows to swap them back. I wish I could have done the same for the FN and CRTL keys.

3) No backlit Keyboard. I could have used it many times. Apple has put this in newer MacBook Airs.

4) No grip on bottom. The Air slides all over the place, not unmanageable but not perfect ether.

The fact is I LOVE the experience I got from the MacBook Air. However I have wanted to get a non-Apple notebook for some time now. I work as a Windows IT Manager and I hate the elitist feel I get from owning the Air. Additionally, I don’t like the looks I get when I go to Microsoft Conferences. I also want to support the Windows OEM’s. I want to believe that freedom of choice yields better options.

Did Dell come through?  Read on………..




First, I got to say my hats off to Dell. They finally got the packaging right. The outer box leads to an inner box that is high quality and even opens at a hinge.


First Impressions

Well, its pretty nice. I was worried it would have a plastic, not so solid feel to the unit but thankfully it feels like a rock (that weighs almost nothing). The Aluminum edging gives it a very solid feel to the touch.

The keys are slightly rounded in the corners, I haven’t decided if that’s a good thing or not. But what is really nice is the plastic / rubber area around the keys. Its has a very nice feel to it.


The touch pad seems perfect to the touch.

The carbon fiber bottom is really nice and in my opinion perfect. It’s a very nice touch and it has rubber strips that keep a nice grip on whatever its sitting on.


Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook vs. MacBook Air

I will not be covering everything each notebook has. Instead I will be covering items of high contrast between the two. If I didn’t mention something it is likely because they are very similar.

Screen Resolution

The Dell has a smaller height and this smaller size means it had to lose some rather important screen real-estate vs. the MacBook Air.


Due to its reduced size, the Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook only has a 1366 x 768 screen resolution. The MacBook Air has an impressive 1440 x 900 screen resolution.

1366 x 768 puts this unit firmly in the Netbook consumer range not the pro-sumer Ultrabook range. In fact, Windows 8 minimum requirements will be 768. It is the lowest possible resolution that will be supported with the up and coming release of Windows 8.

Display Quality

One of the things that made me think Dell was focusing more on quality was the screen was covered in Gorilla Glass. That would be the same stuff on the iPhone, iPad, and other mobile devices.

Unfortunately though, the display behind that glass is awful. To a uneducated consumer I would think it would be fine, however anyone that truly enjoys or works in computing will notice the display is low quality. Image reproduction is terrible.

The Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook at any angle other then dead center is hard and almost impossible to see. Even then the colors are just okay.

The MacBook Air has a simply beautiful screen. The colors and contrasts are perfect at any viewing angle.

Additionally the Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook has a much higher glare then the MacBook Air. Many people noticed it while sitting in my office which has dimmed lighting and tinted Windows. I can only wonder what outside in the light will look like.

Look and Feel

As I have said the Dell is smaller. I guess that could be a good thing. The only reason I can think why they did this was to make it less expensive (smaller screen) and to make it easier to use on a airplane (although I never had a problem with the MacBook Air).


Here is a little side by side. Notice the additional length at the top and bottom of the units.



Perhaps the Dell feels a little fatter on its underside.



The power adapter is kind of junky too. Maybe I am just spoiled by the MagLock adapter from Apple but given Dell had to create a new adapter for this form factor I was hoping they would come up with something a little more useful. At least provide a way to wrap the cord around it. However all we got was this:


Battery Meter

I should point out there is a button on the side of the unit you can press to get the power level of the battery. This was a nice touch, good job Dell!


Not going to spend too much time on this but the Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook with i5 and 256GB SSD is blazing fast. It is a pleasure tinkering on it. Things load just as fast as my i7 desktop with 8GB of RAM and a SSD.



It kills me that Dell has taken so much effort to make this a quality notebook then turns around and dumps an inferior display in it. I am not just talking about screen resolution, the quality of image reproduction is just awful.  Maybe if you are used to Dell displays its not that bad but if you are coming from a MacBook Air (or any MacBook really) then you are in for a real shock.

Its also sad that Dell didn’t do more with the power adapter. It could have been much more functional.

Its not all bad though.  The rest of the unit really looks promising. I will mention that I am running into a lot of issues with finding drivers for Windows 8 (blog post about that to follow) but that shouldn’t be used when trying to decide to make the move.

The Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook has a good solid feel to it. I am going to use it over the next week and see if I can live with the few things I thought were not up to par. If not, however, its going back. Check back to see if I switch back to the MacBook Air or not.

Net Net…

If you can deal with the less then eye popping image reproduction, then this might be the right notebook for you. The price is great for what you are getting and its very fast.

Windows 7 performance on your next Netbook?

So I recently got a new Dell Mini 10 notebook. I had always planned to rebuild it on Windows 7 but before I did I thought I would take a benchmark test. Everyone thought that Windows 7 would be slower on a Netbook. The following test shows otherwise.

Turns out it was almost twice as fast.

Windows XP Windows 7

Total Performance Rating



I don’t have much to explain it. The only thoughts I have are that Windows 7 was designed to run on Netbooks. Also given that selling point they may have tweaked Windows 7 to run better on benchmark tests giving an inflated result. Also the XP benchmark was taken with all of the Dell preloaded software on it which could have been slowing the system down.

In any event, that should show everyone that if you are thinking of upgrading to Windows 7 but are worried about speed, you have nothing to worry about.

Test Name

Windows XP

Windows 7

CPU – Integer Math



CPU – Floating Point Math



CPU – Find Prime Numbers



CPU – Multimedia Instructions



CPU – Compression



CPU – Encryption



CPU – Physics



CPU – String Sorting



Graphics 2D – Solid Vectors



Graphics 2D – Transparent Vectors



Graphics 2D – Complex Vectors



Graphics 2D – Fonts and Text



Graphics 2D – Windows Interface



Graphics 2D – Image Filters



2D Graphics – Image Rendering



Graphics 3D – Simple



Graphics 3D – Medium



Graphics 3D – Complex



Memory – Allocate Small Block



Memory – Read Cached



Memory – Read Uncached



Memory – Write



Memory – Large RAM



Disk – Sequential Read



Disk – Sequential Write



Disk – Random Seek + RW



CPU Mark



2D Graphics Mark



Memory Mark



Disk Mark



3D Graphics Mark



Total Performance Rating



  • Dell Inspiron 1010
  • Inspiron 1010, Intel Atom Processor Z530, 1.6GHz, 533MHzFSB, 512K L2 Cache
  • 1GB RAM
  • 10.1 Inch High Definition Widescreen Display (1366×768)
  • Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 500
  • 160GB, 2.5inch, 5400RPM SATA Hard Drive
  • Genuine Windows XP Home Edition SP3
  • Dell Wireless 1510 802.11n Half Mini Card
  • Integrated 1.3M Pixel Webcam
  • 56WHr Lithium-Ion (larger batter)

Dell Mini 10 Review

Dude I got a Dell! Thanks to my work I was able to get a Dell Mini 10 fully loaded for around $125. Because I was buying two other very expensive computers they were giving away a Mini for 50$. After I added extra features it ended up costing me $125.

Here are the quick specs.

  • Dell Inspiron 1010
  • Inspiron 1010, Intel Atom Processor Z530, 1.6GHz, 533MHzFSB, 512K L2 Cache
  • 1GB RAM
  • 10.1 Inch High Definition Widescreen Display (1366×768)
  • Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 500
  • 160GB, 2.5inch, 5400RPM SATA Hard Drive
  • Genuine Windows XP Home Edition SP3
  • Dell Wireless 1510 802.11n Half Mini Card
  • Integrated 1.3M Pixel Webcam
  • 56WHr Lithium-Ion (larger batter)

What is a Netbook?

A Netbook is simply a really small and low cost computer. Now if you are telling yourself that sounds really good, there is a catch. Its really slow by design. They should only be considered a good idea if all you do is browse the web and check your email. Even installing office on a Netbook may be too much for it to handle.

So how slow is it?

Well it seemed very sluggish but Dell had loaded a lot of junk software on it. It definitely could be used for the home research terminal. You know, looking up stuff on Google, keeping some recipes, that kind of thing.

Why the Dell Mini?

It was Dell because of the deal I got, however, I had my choice of the Dell 9, 10, or 12. There was two reasons why I picked the 10. First was that it’s a Netbook and the smaller the better. The only reason I didn’t pick the 9 was that it doesn’t have the function key row and the keys are too tiny for my fingers. The second reason was because it has an HDMI port.

What did I want it for?

My plan was to use it with a software called Boxee to watch Hulu and other internet TV. However the Video card (Intel GMA 500) just isn’t strong enough to stream video. Real bummer.

Other bad things?

Yeah the touch pad sucks, the buttons are built into it and because of that you keep moving the mouse by accident.

The bad video card really sucks, and the other downside is it’s the only Netbook in the world with non-removable memory. With most you can take out the 1GB stick and upgrade to 2GB.

What now?

Well its useless to me for what I really wanted it for but I got lucky. I found out they make a Dell Mini 1010v which ironically is cheaper and has a better video card (the Intel GMA 945) and can be upgraded to 2GB. The only downside? Can’t get the HD screen, but if my real goal is to hook it to the TV then I am cool with it. I will be returning this one and should have the new one next week.

Below is a comparison between the two.