Apple vs. Dell: Battle of the 13-inch notebooks

Since my last comparison, Apple and Dell have both come out with even smaller notebook computers to tempt you away from your old fashioned desk-bound workstation. How do they stack up?
Written by Ed Burnette, Contributor

Since my last comparison, Apple and Dell have both come out with even smaller notebook computers to tempt you away from your old fashioned desk-bound workstation. How do they stack up? Today I look at the low end MacBook White and Dell Inspiron 13 to find out.

Physical dimensions

The whole reason for getting a notebook is so you can carry it around with you. Every pound of weight or inch of depth you can shave off your load makes it that much easier to get through your day, whether you're sitting on a plane or just schlepping it back and forth to the office.

Apple MacBook White Dell Inspiron 13
Height 1.08" (2.75 cm) flat 1" (2.54 cm) front / 1.51" (3.84 cm) back
Width 12.78" (32.5 cm) 12.52" (31.8 cm)
Depth 8.92" (22.7 cm) 9.37" (23.8 cm)
Volume 2028 cm^3 2414 cm^3 (approx)
Weight 5.0 lbs. (2.27 kg) 4.9 lbs. (2.22 kg)
All measurements are for the 6-cell battery pack.

Winner: Apple. The MacBook White is slightly less bulky due to its flat design. And a pencil can sit on it without rolling off.

Battery options

Battery life is going to depend entirely on what you're doing, but as a very rough rule of thumb you can divide the WHr (watt-hour) rating by 10 to get the battery life in hours.

Apple Dell
4-cell 37WHr Li-Ion - Yes
6-cell 56WHr Li-Ion Battery - Yes
9-cell 85WHr Li-Ion Battery - Yes
56WHr Li-Polymer Yes -
Winner: Dell. More options, including a 9-cell battery for road warriors get the nod. I do like the MacBook MagSafe power port though, for those times when you're charging the battery and get your feet tangled up with the cord. Not that I'd every do that, of course.


Both computers feature a 13.3-inch (diagonal) glossy widescreen TFT display with LED backlighting. Both have a native resolution of 1280 by 800. Both use the Intel® Integrated Graphics Media Accelerator X3100.

Winner: Tie. You won't be playing Crysis on these machines but for non-gamers either one will be fine.


Apple Dell
USB 2.0 ports 2 2
FireWire 400 port 1 1
ExpressCard slot 0 1
8-in-1 Media Card Reader 0 1
Mini-Card internal slots 0 3
Video connector Mini-DVI VGA
Winner: Dell. The built-in card reader, Express Card slot, and internal mini-card slots make the Inspiron much more expandable.The only place Dell falls short is the lack of DVI-out. If digital video output is important to you, that could be a deal breaker.


Apple Dell
120GB SATA Hard Drive (5400RPM) Yes -
160GB SATA Hard Drive (5400RPM) Yes Yes
250GB SATA Hard Drive (5400RPM) Yes Yes
320GB SATA Hard Drive (5400RPM) - Yes
Both have a standard 8X Slot Load CD/DVD Writer (DVD+/-RW)

Winner: Dell. Both offer generous hard disk storage but Dell has a little more leeway on their options. It would be nice to see a solid-state option in here too, but it's not available on these models.


Both companies use Intel dual-core processors:

Apple Dell
Pentium® Dual Core T2390 (1.86GHz/533Mhz FSB/1MB cache) - Yes
Pentium™ Dual Core T3200 (2.0GHz/667Mhz FSB/1MB cache) - Yes
Core™ 2 Duo T5850 (2.16GHz/667Mhz FSB/2MB cache) - Yes
Core™ 2 Duo T8100 (2.1GHz/800Mhz FSB/3MB cache) Yes Yes
Core™ 2 Duo T8300 (2.4GHz/800Mhz FSB/3MB cache) - Yes
Winner: Dell. You can go faster or slower, depending on your budget.


I configured two machines for software developers, with plenty of memory and disk space:

  • 4GB of memory
  • 64-bit operating system (Vista 64 or Mac OSX Leopard)
  • 250GB hard drive
  • 2.1GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T8100
  • Wireless-N capability
  • Bluetooth 2.0 EDR
  • No extra software or warranty

Apple MacBook White Dell Inspiron 13
Price (as configured) $1,374 $1,347
Price (after discount) $1,374 $1,044
Winner: Dell. Before discounts they cost about the same, but Dell's promotions can save you almost 30%.


Winner: Dell. Overall results: Dell (5), Apple (1), Tie (1)

If you're doing iPhone development you don't have a choice - you have to go with the Mac. And many Java developers swear by the Mac as a development platform. In general, though, the Dell Inspiron 13 offers a lot of bang for the buck, especially when you factor in Dell's promotional pricing.

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