“The Dell XPS 17 is a remarkably small 17-inch laptop with incredible performance.”
Almost perfect screen
Four Thunderbolt 3 ports
Keyboard and touchpad are excellent
Disappointing battery life
If you told me that you bought a 17-inch laptop in 2020, I would call you crazy. There are only a handful of 17-inch laptops, and with the good 15-inch laptops, they are hardly worth your time.
That said, unless you’re talking about the new Dell XPS 17. Unlike most 17-inch models, the XPS 17 is more than just a large screen. It increases performance. Serious performance. The kind that even the XPS 15 cannot offer.
I expect a lot from a laptop that costs nearly $ 3,000, but with the Nvidia RTX 2060 under the hood and a sprawling 17-inch screen, this could be the ultimate content creation workstation.
17-inch laptops are massive. This is one of the reasons why they have gone out of style. However, Dell engineers and designers always strive to ensure that the laptops are as small as possible, and these principles apply here too.
The case is only slightly larger in width and depth than the 16-inch MacBook Pro. You won’t notice a big difference if you push it into your backpack even though you have an inch more screen. I was surprised to see that the XPS 17 fits in the pocket of my backpack, which is only suitable for laptops up to 15 inches. This is impressive.
As always, the screen bezels on the laptop are key. With thinner edges around each side of the screen (including the lower chin), the XPS 17 can reduce its overall footprint. The display feels full. It’s not as big a difference as upgrading from XPS 13 to XPS 15, but every inch counts. You will appreciate the extra screen, whether you are playing, editing videos, or just scrolling a website.
If you don’t use a mouse often, you will appreciate the spacious and responsive touchpad.
Thickness is the only dimension in which the MacBook Pro 16-inch is even smaller. It measures at 0.64 inches and weighs 4.3 pounds. The XPS 17 is slightly larger at 0.77 inches and weighs 4.65 pounds. That’s up to 5.53 pounds for the touchscreen option. It’s not easy, although the new Razer Blade Pro 17 is still almost half a pound heavier.
However, if you’ve already seen the new XPS 15, nothing will surprise you. Many of the same design elements have been adopted into the larger form factor, including the keyboard, touchpad, 16:10 aspect ratio, and carbon fiber fabric in the palm rests.
The keyboard and touchpad are highlights. If you’re like me and don’t use a mouse often, you’ll particularly appreciate the spacious and responsive touchpad. The click is quiet and the tracking is almost perfect. The loose mechanism in my test device of the XPS 15 was fixed in the XPS 17.
Ports and connectivity
Connectivity has been added to highlight the “Pro” nature of the Dell XPS 17. It has four Thunderbolt 3 ports, two on each side. That means you have access to display output, superfast transfer speeds, charging, and more.
These are two more Thunderbolt 3 ports than the Dell XPS 15 and even a 16-inch MacBook Pro with a full-size SD card slot. Photographers and videographers should be enthusiastic.
If you come from an older XPS, MacBook or even Razer Blade, older ports may be missing. If you need HDMI or USB-A connections, you have to rely on dongles or a Thunderbolt 3 hub.
The XPS 17 also features Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5, the latest wireless connections designed to provide strong network performance and a reliable Bluetooth connection.
The Dell XPS 15 is already an extremely powerful laptop. When I heard that the XPS 17 would improve things a bit, I was curious how this could be achieved. After all, the two laptops have the same processor options. The basic model includes the Intel Core i5-10300H and extends to the Intel Core i9-10980HK with eight cores.
The Core i5 model only has four cores and integrated graphics, so you shouldn’t expect anything special in terms of performance. It starts at $ 1,372, more than a base XPS 15, and you pay for the bigger screen. Laptops like the LG Gram 17 or the HP Envy 17 follow this approach – and remain relatively niche products.
The processor performance is not found in smaller laptops like the Dell XPS 15.
However, the processor used in my test device was the Intel Core i7-10875H, an 8-core piece of silicon. Together with 32 GB of RAM, the XPS 17 achieved impressive results in Geekbench 5 and Cinebench R20. It is 8% faster in the multi-core Cinebench R20 than in the 16-inch MacBook Pro with Intel Core i9-9980HK. Geekbench 5 single-core is also 9% ahead.
Laptops with the AMD Ryzen 7 3800H or the Intel Core i9-10980HK offer a slightly faster processor performance. However, a Core i9 variant of the Dell XPS 17 will close the gap. In the meantime, this upgraded Core i7 is very powerful, even for content creators, developers, designers, and anyone else running heavy-duty applications.
However, processor performance is not something you cannot find in the XPS 15. For me alone, this does not justify the larger space requirement and the higher price of the XPS 17. The graphics hardware is a different story.
The Dell XPS 17 features a brand new heat solution that uses a combination of steam chambers and a redesigned airflow system. Better cooling enables the use of more power-hungry components like the Nvidia RTX 2060. We are not talking about such a powerful graphics card for such a thin and light laptop.
The XPS 17 outperforms the Nvidia GTX 1650 Ti of the XPS 15 in 3DMark Time Spy by 35%. It’s even on par with the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14, a gaming laptop that uses the same RTX 2060 GPU. In contrast to the XPS 15, which always had limited gaming performance, the XPS 17 is a fully-fledged gaming laptop. It plays Assassin’s Creed Odyssey at 41 FPS (frames per second) at 1080p and ultra detail, and this is an extremely challenging game. That’s 37% better than the XPS 15 and just a few frames behind the ROG Zephyrus G14.
Of course, performance in lighter games like Fortnite, which was playable at almost 60 FPS, even held up to 1440p with Epic graphics settings. If you want to connect an external monitor with a high refresh rate, you can even enjoy frame rates of up to 116 at a resolution of 1080p with settings for high details. Of course it’s not a good experience at 4K, but that’s not surprising.
The XPS 17 had similar frame rates in Battlefield V. 4K is prohibited, but the 1440p gameplay was smooth and looks crisp.
The lack of a higher refresh rate or G-Sync support is the only function missing in the gaming experience. Limiting the frame rate and enabling V-Sync is probably the best way to avoid screen tears in most games, but it’s not quite the experience of a high-end gaming laptop. As much as I wish all new laptops had 120 Hz or 144 Hz screens, we are not there yet.
But here, too, the XPS 17 is not labeled as a gaming laptop, and these inflated graphics have many other uses. It is blown through 3D modeling and AutoCAD and is an extremely powerful option for video editing.
The Dell XPS 17 cannot stand the performance of the Apple MacBook Pro 16-inch.
I tried some video renderings in Adobe Premiere, in which the graphics card can be fully used on some laptops. The XPS 17 was one of the fastest laptops in our test that exported a two-minute 4K video clip to ProRes 422. The task was completed in just five minutes and 47 seconds, and the XPS 15 was exceeded by three minutes. With an Intel Xeon processor, you might get more out of a chunky workstation, but the two are hardly worth comparing.
The Apple MacBook Pro 16-inch doesn’t hold a candle for the XPS 17 despite the recent graphics card upgrade. The only device that could hardly beat in this test was the Microsoft Surface Book 3 15. In this 2-in-1 Device, the graphics card is in a separate housing. It’s not a fair fight, but it shows how powerful graphics cards can be if the software is optimized for them.
The new Razer Blade Pro 17 can outperform it as a video editing option when it launches later this year. It offers the same eight-core processor in addition to the much more powerful Nvidia RTX 2080 Super Max-Q graphics card. I won’t know for sure how it will work until I test it myself, but the specs look promising.
The base model of the XPS 17, of course, uses built-in Intel graphics, which means that you can’t expect to be a slot machine. There’s also an option for an Nvidia GTX 1650 Ti graphics card if you want a little more performance at a lower cost. The GTX 1650 Ti option can serve you well if you want to play games with medium detail settings.
Display and speakers
Like the Dell XPS 15, the XPS 17 offers two display options. One is 1,920 x 1,200, which comes in the base model. It’s more pixels than a standard 1080p screen, but most people will want to choose the 3840×2400 display. It is almost perfect. It’s the most color accurate screen I’ve ever tested, and its color gamut is up to 96% in the Adobe RGB color space. Not even the MacBook Pro 16-inch can compare it, although it is known to be a leader in picture quality.
The XPS 17’s 4K display never has as high a brightness and contrast ratio as an OLED screen, but the XPS 17 isn’t a problem there either. The contrast ratio is 1530: 1, which makes it a beautiful screen for games and films and produces a wide range of color depths. With a maximum of 491 nits, I never had a problem with screen glare even when working outdoors.
The speaker grille is larger, but the sound itself is not.
I had high hopes for the rest of the multimedia experience on the XPS 17. Like the XPS 15, the speakers are hidden under a series of laser-cut holes on the keyboard deck. Here the speaker grille is larger, but the sound itself is not.
The audio of the XPS 17 sounds almost identical to that of the XPS 15, which offers a little bass and a decently rounded sound profile. It’s better than many laptops, even expensive options like the Razer Blade Pro 17. But do they compete with the MacBook Pro 16-inch or even the MacBook Air? Unfortunately not. The bass and the abundance of audio quality are simply not there.
I didn’t expect the Dell XPS 17 to offer good battery life. Most laptops with 4K screens don’t last long on a single charge, and adding an extra 5 cm screen doesn’t help. I didn’t expect it to be that bad.
Despite a massive 97 watt-hour battery, the XPS 17 only lasted about four and a half hours on my normal day of use. My workflow is not overly large and mainly consists of web applications, dozens of tabs, and video or audio streaming.
If your workload is simple, endurance will improve significantly. In our video playback test, in which a local 1080p video is repeated until the battery is empty, the XPS 17 took almost seven hours. But in everyday use, the MacBook Pro 16-inch will still outlast it.
I also tested it on the Basemark 3.0 web benchmark, which simulates battery life and puts a heavy load on the CPU at the same time. The XPS 17 only lasted three hours. This is a poor score for a modern mainstream laptop and is more like dedicated gaming laptops.
Of course, if you choose a lower resolution screen, you should see at least a few hours of extra battery.
If the Dell XPS 17 had been nothing more than the XPS 15 with a larger screen, I would not have been impressed. However, if you’re looking for absolute performance, there’s a new king in town – and it’s nowhere near as big as you might think.
It is not cheap and the battery life is disappointing. However, if you’re looking for a sleek, professional laptop that can handle heavy workloads, the Dell XPS 17 is the all-in-one package.
Are there alternatives?
The MacBook Pro 16-inch is the main competitor of this laptop. However, it’s more expensive and doesn’t offer as powerful graphics performance.
The Razer Blade Pro 17 poses a major threat to the XPS 17. The updated model now offers the same eight-core Intel processor, but can be configured up to an Nvidia RTX 2080 Super Max-Q graphics card. It also has a much faster 300 Hz refresh rate screen for smoother games. The Razer Blade Pro 17 is bigger and heavier and can only be configured with a 4K screen starting at a whopping $ 3,800.
Finally, the Dell XPS 15 should be considered as an alternative. It’s a little cheaper, smaller, has better battery life, and is still quite powerful.
How long it will take?
The Dell XPS 17 should last for at least five years. It is a well built and powerful laptop. You can even update the memory or memory later if necessary. It comes with a one-year warranty, although Dell offers an extended accidental damage service or premium hardware support up to four years.
Should you buy it
Yes. The Dell XPS 17 is an extremely powerful laptop specially designed for content creation.