Spec shootout: MacBook Pro takes on Dell

Stacking up the new 15-inch MacBook Pro against a Dell laptop.

With new MacBook Pros hitting the streets packing faster silicon, it's a good exercise to see how Apple stacks up against the competition.

Note that this is not a performance comparison--though I've include links at the bottom--but a quick side-by-side comparison that a buyer might do upon walking into Best Buy (which I've witnessed before).

And the usual disclaimers apply about price. MacBook Pros are relatively pricey, top-notch laptops designed to exude chic: aluminum enclosures, high-performance LED displays, and a fit-and-finish that is better than most competitors.

That said, some customers (surprise, surprise) are swayed by price, particularly when there's a gaping spread between two systems with roughly similar specifications.

And that seems to be the case here. Take a look and you decide.

Note that the Dell has a quad-core Core i7, the Apple a dual-core i7. But don't be deceived by core counts. The Core i7-based MacBook Pro does very well in performance benchmarks. Moreover, the Pro has Intel graphics integrated into the CPU package along with the dual-core processor, allowing it to switch between Intel and Nvidia discrete graphics to save power--which results in much better battery life compared to the Dell. In Dell's favor, the Studio XPS 16 has options for a Blu-ray optical drive and a 3G modem (both included below). The MacBook Pro doesn't.

Apple 15-inch MacBook Pro:

  • Operating system: Mac OS X Snow Leopard
  • Processor: 2.66GHz Intel Core i7, dual-core
  • Display: 15-inch 1440-by-900-pixel LED-backlit glossy w/camera
  • Graphics chip: Nvidia GeForce GT 330M w/ 256MB plus Intel graphics (switchable)
  • Hard disk drive: 500GB 5400RPM hard disk drive
  • Memory: 4GB DDR3
  • Optical drive: SuperDrive 8x (DVD+R DL/DVD+RW/CD-RW)
  • Communications: Gigabit Ethernet, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
  • 3G: N/A
  • Sound: Stereo speakers with subwoofers
  • Ports: FireWire, Mini DisplayPort, 2 USB 2.0
  • Stated battery life: Between 8 and 9 hours
  • Enclosure material: Aluminum
  • Price: $2,199

Dell Studio XPS 16:

  • Operating system: Windows 7 Home Premium, 64-bit
  • Processor: 1.6GHz Core i7-720QM, quad-core
  • Display: 15.6-inch WLED LCD (1920x1080) w/ camera
  • Graphics chip: ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4670 w/ 1GB
  • Hard disk drive: 500GB 7200RPM hard disk drive
  • Memory: 4GB DDR3
  • Optical drive: Blu-ray (Reads BD and Writes to DVD/CD)
  • Communications: Gigabit Ethernet, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
  • 3G: ATT Internal Mobile Broadband Card with GPS (5540)
  • Sound: Soundblaster X-Fi Hi Def Audio, subwoofers
  • Ports: 2 USB 2.0, 1 USB 2.0 / e-SATA, Express Card slot, Display Port, HDMI
  • Stated battery life: 4 hours +
  • Enclosure material: plastic, "leather," other
  • Price: $1,666

Additional benchmark results for the 15-inch Apple MacBook Pro are here. And test results for the Dell Studio XPS 16 are here.

About the author

Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.



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