Dell vs Apple, which is the better desktop?

Picking between Dell vs Apple desktop computers is certainly a big enough decision to warrant a guide such as this.

Both are great manufacturers, but there are plenty of differences on the micro and macro levels that can make picking a winner an entirely subjective choice. Aside from the hardware differences (which are plentiful), there’s also the consideration of macOS vs Windows.

While the former is great for ease of use for many (and a huge selection of apps), Windows is more ubiquitous for gaming. There are positives and negatives for each, but for the purposes of this discussion, we’ve picked two similarly-priced, all-in-one desktop computers - the iMac with M1 chip, and the Dell Inspiron 27. Both retail for around $1200, but which offers the best bang for your buck and will help you get your work done better?

Both come with everything you need to get started creating, playing, or browsing. Here’s our rundown of the Dell Inspiron 27 vs the Apple iMac M1.

Looking for more tech comparison content? Be sure to check out our guide to whether you should buy an iPad or a Chromebook. If you're looking for more desktop recommendations, check out our best home computers buying guide.

Dell vs Apple: Design

Both machines are all-in-one computers, meaning all of the innards are within the screen itself. That makes either ideal for desk setups that don’t have room for a tower or separate unit.

Both take slightly different routes with their design, though. The Dell Inspiron 27 has thinner bezels, and the 1080p camera pops up from behind the screen. That makes it easier to get lost in that 27-inch display.

We’re less keen on the two legs of the stand, but it does mean you can slide the keyboard between them for more desk space.

On the other hand, the iMac’s camera is buried in its bezels, which are a little larger than we’d like. As lovely as the display is, it feels a little antiquated when surrounded on all sides.

Still, it does come in some lovely colors, with this base version available in Blue, Green, Red, or Silver. More colors are available for the next model up.

Still, for the sheer sleekness of the machine and the way it puts the screen front and center, it’s a win for Dell here.

Winner: Dell Inspiron 27 

Dell vs Apple: Display

This comparison shows that bigger isn’t necessarily better, and while the Dell's 27-inch display is sizeable, you’ll lack the sharpness of other models with the 1080p resolution.

The 24-inch display on the iMac is smaller, but it offers a 4.5K screen with True Tone technology that adjusts to the surrounding light, and supports 1 billion colors.

It’s a big win for the Mac in this category, and while the Dell is solid, Apple’s 4480x2520 resolution is spectacular by comparison.

Winner: iMac M1 

Dell vs Apple: Audio

Both machines offer sophisticated audio setups, with a soundbar-style setup on both. While the iMac’s are built into the chassis, there’s a more distinct divide with the Dell, but both are great for watching movies or listening to music.

We’d give the iMac the edge here, with a six-speaker array that’s great for music across all genres, although both may tempt you to pick up external speakers just for a smidge of additional bass.

Still, the Dell Inspiron 27 roars back with the option to use its speaker system via Bluetooth – meaning you can connect your phone and stream audio to it.

Winner: Tie

Dell vs Apple: Performance

It’s here that Apple’s M1 chip can stretch its legs a bit, but it comes with the caveat that if you need Windows, you’ll be better suited to the Dell (or another Windows option).

With the M1, though, the CPU and GPU are all in the same system on a chip (SoC). This makes it more power efficient (less important than in, say, a laptop), but also considerably quicker.

That, matched with the SSD drive, make it a much more capable machine than the Dell Inspiron 27. Sadly, the 256GB at the base end is woefully inadequate in today’s world.

While the Dell does offer 1.5TB of storage out of the box, it’s split into an SSD for system files and a now massively outdated spinning hard drive for the bulk of the storage. That means it’s cheaper now but could fail in the years to come.

When it comes to complex workflows and creative work, the iMac will likely come out on top – there’s an 85% bump from the prior Intel versions in terms of CPU speed.

For gaming, though, we’d always recommend going for a Windows machine – we’d just pick one with a better GPU, sadly.

One area where the iMac does fall short is in its ports, especially with the base configuration. There’s a pair of USB-C ports at Thunderbolt speeds, but that’s it unless you move to the next version – which adds an additional two USB-C ports.

The Dell Inspiron 27, on the other hand, has USB-A, USB C and HDMI ports. Still, the sheer performance of the M1 makes this another win for Apple.

Winner: iMac M1

Dell vs Apple: Value

This is a little on the subjective side, because it may just come down to how big you want your display. In that case, the Dell Inspiron 27 is the way to go, but the higher resolution of the iMac is a much more compelling prospect for a similar price.

Still, the lack of ports and the measly 256GB storage means we’re going to put this one down as a tie.

Winner: Tie

Dell vs Apple: Verdict

While we have to maintain it should be starting with at least 512GB of storage, we feel the iMac 24-inch is the better machine in this comparison.

It may be leapfrogged by an M2 variant in the coming months, but even now it’s more powerful than the Dell Inspiron and it scales more handily to creative tasks, too – without needing a dedicated GPU.

Lloyd Coombes
Customer Advisor, Computing

Lloyd Coombes is Top Ten Reviews' Computing Customer Advisor, and a freelance writer with a specialism in tech, gaming, and fitness. Since starting out as a blogger, he’s written for sites like IGN, TechRadar, and more.

An expert on all things Apple ever since he got a second-hand iMac, Lloyd can regularly be found testing software on iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch and Mac — when he’s not testing the platforms themselves, that is. He’s also’s Games Editor, and a podcaster.

When he’s not writing, you can probably find him running after his son, playing Destiny 2, or at the gym.