Forget the old stereotypes of "boring black plastic finish" and "inch-thick" chassis usually associated with big-screen laptops, the last year has seen a slew of sexy, slim and super-charged 15.6-inchers appear on the laptop scene.

Two of those have been particularly well received: the Apple MacBook Air 2013 and the Dell XPS 15 2013, both of which have been updated over the last few weeks.

While they will certainly not generate the amount of buzz as the latest iPad or Galaxy smartphones, digital content creators and power users will certainly keep a keen eye on how they compare.

Engineers on both teams have managed to cram the latest Intel Haswell processors with plenty of storage and displays that pack more than 5MP into chassis that are less than 20mm thick.

Apple MacBook Pro Retina Display
Apple's refreshed MacBook Pro is a beauty

Apple MacBook Pro vs Dell XPS 15: Price

We compared the £1,699 Apple MacBook Pro and the £1,749 Dell XPS 15 as they were the two closest models on each side as far as price is on concerned, both being the top of the range versions.

Needless to say that they are far more expensive than your average laptop but then bear in mind than you get a lot of hardware for your money.

Apple MacBook Pro vs Dell XPS 15: Display

The headline feature of both laptops is the screen. The Dell one is slightly bigger with a 15.6-inch diagonal compared to Apple's 15.4 inches, and the former trumps the latter with a resolution of 3,200 x 1,800 pixel (compared to 2,880 x 1,800 pixel).

That's 11% more pixels and a pixel density of 235ppi and 220ppi respectively. What's even more incredible is that both laptops will also be able to drive at least one additional 4K monitor with a combined total of more than 13MP. Oh and Dell's one is a touch-capable model.

Apple MacBook Pro vs Dell XPS 15: Processor

Intel's fourth generation Core i7 processors power both rival laptops: Dell uses a Core i7-4702HQ (6MB cache and TB up to 3.2GHz with a base speed of 2.2GHz) while Apple opted for the Core i7-4750HQ, which has similar features bar a slower base clock speed but offers an Iris Pro 5200 GPU rather than Intel HD Graphics 4600.

Apple allows you to update to a 2.3GHz and a 2.6GHz CPU for an extra £100 (around £161, or AU$168) and £300 (around $484, or AU$505) respectively, both with IP5200.

Apple MacBook Pro vs Dell XPS 15: Battery life

While the XPS 15 has a battery with a marginally smaller capacity (91Whr vs 95Whr), it manages to significantly outperform Apple's, although we'd probably wait on actual endurance tests to make up our mind. Apple quotes a battery life of up to eight hours while Dell says that its XPS 15 will last a whopping 11 hours.

Dell XPS 15

Apple MacBook Pro vs Dell XPS 15: Graphics

Graphics is likely to be the most important component given that the GPU will need to have enough grunt to drive more than five million pixels. And here, Dell wins hands down thanks to a dedicated Nvidia Geforce GT 750M GPU with 2GB of GDDR5 RAM. That model was launched earlier this year and should be more than twice as powerful as the Iris Pro 5200 that powers the MBP.

Apple MacBook Pro vs Dell XPS 15: Storage

Dell's model comes with 16GB of system memory and a 512GB PCI-e SSD, twice what its Apple rival offers. You can upgrade the latter to match Dell's offering for an additional £400. Note that both devices do not come with an optical drive and that Dell allows you to pair the SSD drive with a traditional spinning model to get the best of both worlds.

Apple MacBook Pro vs Dell XPS 15: Connectivity

The XPS 15 has four USB ports, all with charging capabilities, a mini DP connector, a card reader, Bluetooth 4.0, a HDMI port and NFC. Apple's candidate swaps two USB ports for two Thunderbolt 2 ones, leaving users with only two USB ones and keeps . There's a card reader, HDMI and 802.11ac. Note that both come without an Ethernet port so you will have to buy a converter should you want to remain wired. Sad but true.

Apple MacBook Pro vs Dell XPS 15: Software

Apple has the upper hand when it comes to applications. Other than Windows 8.1, Dell chose to bundle Waves MaxxAudio pro, an odd choice as nothing really destined the XPS 15 to be an audiophile machine and pretty poor compared to the deluge of software included with the MacBook Pro: iPhoto, iMovie, GarageBand, Pages, Numbers & Keynotes.

Apple MacBook Pro vs Dell XPS 15: Conclusion

Apple has had a head start when it comes to designing slim, sexy and powerful laptops but it is nice to see that Windows-based notebooks are finally catching up.

If money (and platform) is no object, the MBP is probably the better choice given that it can be upgraded to an even more powerful beast. Users sticking to Windows (or looking for the better value-for-money factor) will love the Dell's XPS 15 combination of unassuming charm, touch screen capabilities and fantastic hardware.