Microsoft Surface Book 3 vs New Dell XPS 13 2-in-1: which hybrid is right for you?

The Surface Book 3 vs New Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 just got more interesting: the Dell's had a spec bump. Is it the better buy?

Surface Book 3 vs New Dell XPS 13 2-in-1
(Image credit: Microsoft)

The best 2-in-1 laptops are fantastically versatile devices, delivering a proper laptop experience and then transforming into a tablet when you don’t need the keyboard.

That functionality comes in handy for all kinds of things: not just kicking back on the sofa but travelling or commuting and for any environment where a clipboard is more practical than a traditional computer.

We rated Microsoft’s Surface Book 3 as the best premium 2-in-1 laptop you can buy, but the refreshed Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 is a serious rival – and its entry level model delivers a higher specification for less money.

So, simply put, which one is best? If you're shopping for a new 2-in-1 laptop then this comparison feature is a must read.

Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 2020

(Image credit: Dell)

Surface Book 3 vs New Dell XPS 13 2-in-1: design

Both laptops transform into a tablet, but the Surface goes further by enabling you to instantly detach the screen from the keyboard to reduce its bulk. The XPS 13 is a 13-inch device (the XPS 15 is currently unavailable on the Dell website) but the Surface Book 3 comes in 13.5 and 15-inch versions. The 13-inch weighs 1.5kg and the 15-inch 1.9kg compared to 1.32kg for the Dell.

The Dell is made from aluminium and the Surface is magnesium.

Surface Book 3

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Surface Book 3 vs New Dell XPS 13 2-in-1: performance and specifications

The Surface Book 3 has a choice of 10th-generation Intel Core processors: a Core i5-1035G7 or a Core i7-1065G7. Graphics options range from Intel Iris Plus graphics to GeForce GTX 1650 or GTX 1660 Ti graphics. Memory is 8, 16 or 32GB of 3733Mhz LPDDR4x and you can have 256GB to 1TB of SSD storage.

The Dell offers a choice of 11th-generation Intel chips: a Core i5-1135G7 or a Core i7-1165G7. All models have Intel Iris Xe graphics. You can specify the Dell with 8, 16 or 32GB of 4267MHz LPDDR4x RAM and up to 1TB of SSD storage. 

Surface Book 3

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Surface Book 3 vs New Dell XPS 13 2-in-1: connectivity and cameras

The Surface has three USB 3.1 Gen 2 sockets, two in USB-A format and one USB-C with power delivery. There are two Surface Connect ports, a headphone jack and an SDXC card reader. Wireless is 802.11ax and Bluetooth 5.0.

The Surface has a 5.0MP front-facing camera with 1080p HD video recording and an 8MP rear-facing camera, also with 1080p, with dual far-field studio microphones and front-facing Dolby Atmos speakers.

The Dell has two Thunderbolt 4 ports with power delivery, one headphone/microphone port and a microSD card slot. Its Wi-Fi is also 802.11ax and its Bluetooth is 5.1. It has a single camera, a 720p webcam with infrared and dual-array digital microphones and dual stereo speakers with high definition audio support.

Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 (2020)

(Image credit: Dell)

Surface Book 3 vs New Dell XPS 13 2-in-1: pricing and verdict

The Surface Book 3 has a RRP of £1,599 for the 13.5 inch, Core i5 model with 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD. The equivalent Dell is £200 cheaper at £1,399.

These are both very capable and flexible machines, but at the entry level the Dell is significantly cheaper: it might not have the Surface’s detachable display and you can’t spec your Dell with a GeForce GPU but this year’s model has a better processor and faster RAM. If you’re buying the entry level the decision really comes down to whether you think a detachable screen is worth an extra £200.

Carrie Marshall

Writer, musician and broadcaster Carrie Marshall has been covering technology since 1998 and is particularly interested in how tech can help us live our best lives. Her CV is a who’s who of magazines, newspapers, websites and radio programmes ranging from T3, Techradar and MacFormat to the BBC, Sunday Post and People’s Friend. Carrie has written more than a dozen books, ghost-wrote two more and co-wrote seven more books and a Radio 2 documentary series; her memoir, Carrie Kills A Man, was shortlisted for the British Book Awards. When she’s not scribbling, Carrie is the singer in Glaswegian rock band Unquiet Mind (unquietmindmusic).