When comparing MacBook Air vs Dell XPS 15, the Slant community recommends Dell XPS 15 for most people. In the question“What is the best laptop for programming?” Dell XPS 15 is ranked 4th while MacBook Air is ranked 5th. The most important reason people chose Dell XPS 15 is:
Two display choices are available for the XPS 15, an Ultra HD touchscreen or a Full HD non-touch screen. Both screens have a very wide array of colors as they cover approximately 100% of sRGB color space. The viewing angle is around 170 degrees. However, at 45 degrees, slight color change can be noticed. With around 350 nit output for brightness, it’s a viable choice for outdoor usage. All of this makes it an amazing display.
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Pro Great battery life
This laptop is great for programming on the go as you don't have to worry about the battery dying. It lasts for over 10 hours of continuous web browsing before needing a recharge.
Pro Light and portable
With dimensions measuring just 8.9x12.8x0.7" and weighing 3 lbs, it's great for working virtually anywhere.
Pro Great trackpad
MBA (MacBook Air) has an excellent button-less muti-touch trackpad that's highly accurate and comfortable to use. Apple continues to make some of the best trackpads available in any laptop.
Pro Solid build quality and elegant design
Macbook Air has a high quality all-aluminum body that looks great and is sturdy enough that worries of accidentally damaging are mostly alleviated. It has a robust lid, well-spaced back-lit keyboard and an excellent button-less trackpad.
Pro OSX is developer-friendly
OSX is based on XNU (Darwin) kernel, it's certified Unix and arguably a lot more developer friendly than Windows. Development for Unix is native on OS X.
There's a large selection of great development tools available for OSX. The operating system itself comes bundled with a powerful terminal emulator, called Terminal. Additionally, Apple provides tools, like Xcode, an IDE that contains a comprehensive collection of tools for developing OSX and iOS software, for free.
Pro Great keyboard
The MBA has a well-spaced, back-lit keyboard with convex keys and placed in way that the resting arms on the sides of the trackpad is comfortable.
Pro Amazing display
Two display choices are available for the XPS 15, an Ultra HD touchscreen or a Full HD non-touch screen. Both screens have a very wide array of colors as they cover approximately 100% of sRGB color space.
The viewing angle is around 170 degrees. However, at 45 degrees, slight color change can be noticed.
With around 350 nit output for brightness, it’s a viable choice for outdoor usage. All of this makes it an amazing display.
Pro Good battery life if you pick the 1080p display
Models with the 1080p screen last about 10 hours with general usage. Naturally, if more intensive tasks are involved, the battery will be drained faster.
Pro Solid keyboard and trackpad
The keyboard and trackpad are reliable and solid all-around. The keyboard is responsive but is not super “clicky”, rather a bit soft. It has a white backlight on black keys that illuminates them at night. The touchpad is rather large while having no buttons. Despite this, the XPS 15 can reliably distinguish between the left and right clicks which are done on the trackpad itself.
Pro Very well-rounded laptop
The cheapest configuration is a great choice for general non-intensive use - things like internet browsing, watching movies and similar tasks.
Whereas the more expensive configurations are gradually more capable of intensive tasks, like video editing or gaming. It’s not as good as a specialized computer built for a specific purpose, like a video editing laptop with an enormous RAM size or a gaming laptop with a superior graphics card, but it’s a very well-rounded, reliable laptop.
Pro Operates well on a Linux system
All essential things, like network connectivity, ports and sound, work right “out-of-the-box” with a Linux operating system. There is a compatibility issue on the new 9560 model with its graphics card but the laptop is still very usable with its integrated Intel graphics card.
Pro Optional password-free-sign-in via a fingerprint reader
For an additional $25 it’s possible to enjoy a password-free-sign-in by having a fingerprint reader. It will keep your laptop safe while still providing convenient access to it.
Pro Can run most modern games
Being an excellent all-rounder, it can be used as a gaming laptop for games that are not exceptionally demanding, like Overwatch or Dota 2. Unless you’re using the cheapest model, you can expect a reasonable 60 frames per second for almost all modern games, provided that you’re willing to lower the game’s settings.
Pro Slick design
The whole design is quite stylish. The aluminium chassis provides a very clean look while the black carbon fiber palm rest with an almost borderless display cements it as a visually modern laptop. All of this is made with a premium build quality.
Con Low resolution screen
The 1440 x 900 screen is behind the expected 1080p screens of most modern ultrabooks.
For a laptop with relatively low specs, the price is quite high.
Con TN LCD Panel
Being a cheaper variant of MacBooks, it uses TN LCD panel instead of IPS. That means it has worse color accuracy and significantly narrower view angles. The panel only musters 60% of the colours in the sRGB gamut, and falls particularly short in the blue regions. As a result, the MacBook Air's struggles to reproduce a huge swathe of blue shades
Con Requires the use of proprietary firmware
The source code of the firmware isn't available for users to audit or modify and libre firmware is not supported.
Con Only 8GB of RAM
8GB RAM is way too little these days.
Con Comes with macOS
macOS is great for a user that doesn't have much clue about using a computer, but for an advanced user that wants to tinker it tries to hinder you in many ways. To be able to install reasonably newer versions of important dev tools you have to install hacks like homebrew, managed by third partys.
Con Battery doesn’t hold long with the Ultra HD screen
If you’re choosing the configuration with an Ultra HD screen, expect a very short battery life of around 6 hours for general usage. With more intensive tasks it's even less than that.
Con 9560 model's GPU has compatibility issues on Linux
The new 9560 model has some trouble accepting its GTX 1050 Ti video card while running a Linux operating system. Fortunately, the integrated Intel graphics card is capable enough to substitute it. The manufacturers are probably aware of the issue and will, most likely, release an update for it.
Con Palmrest collects sweat
The palm rest is made from carbon fiber which attracts fingerprints and sweat. After some time it gets kind of unpleasant to touch and needs to be cleaned.
Con Some ghosting in games
The display is not intended for gaming purposes so it can produce an effect called “ghosting”. Ghosting is when the pixels are not able to change their colors fast enough, so the color of the preceding frame can still be slightly seen on the next frame. This causes a blurring effect. Note that it only happens on high framerates coupled with fast objects.
Con Noisy fans
The laptop is very quiet during idle and light usage but when there is some workload, the fans get quite loud and distracting.
Con Awkward webcam location
The webcam is located under the screen instead of on top. It means that your face will be shown from a lower angle which can seem a bit weird. It also means that your fingers can partially obstruct the webcam while you’re typing.
Con Audible coil whine
Coil whine can be heard when it’s generally quiet and the fans are not running. Audible when the laptop is connected to the power supply. The manufacturers have acknowledged it as a problem and, if possible, will push out an update which should eliminate it. Until then, it’s still a gripe.