Sci-Tech

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.