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Dell XPS 17 review

The Dell XPS 17 is a true MacBook Pro alternative

Dell XPS 17 review
Editor's Choice
(Image: © Laptop Mag)

Our Verdict

The Dell XPS 17 is a seamless combination of power, endurance and beauty that can handle just about anything you can throw at it.

For

  • Attractive, compact chassis
  • Powerful overall and graphics performance
  • Great battery life
  • Excellent audio
  • Beautiful display

Against

  • Expensive
  • Lacks legacy ports
Dell XPS 17 specs

CPU: 2.3-GHz Intel Core i7-10875H processor
GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 Max-Q GPU, 6GB of VRAM
RAM: 32GB
Storage: 1TB M.2 PCIe SSD
Display: 17-inch, 3840 x 2400
Battery: 9:05
Size: 14.7 x 9.8 x 0.8 inches
Weight: 5.5 lbs

Whoever said bigger is better must have been referring to the Dell XPS 17. The laptop takes everything I loved about its smaller sisters and supersizes it –– but not really, because despite wielding a magnificent 17-inch, 4K panel, the XPS 17 is smaller than most 15-inch systems. And if that isn’t impressive enough, the performance of its 10th Gen Intel Core i7 processor and Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 GPU should be. And let’s not forget the speedy SSD, bumping sound, and highly efficient thermal system. However, the $3,049 ($1,449 starting) price is going to give a lot of consumers pause. 

Still, the Dell XPS 17 has earned its place on our best laptops 2020 page and is a great investment for anyone looking for a portable powerhouse. 

Dell XPS 17 pricing and configuration

You can get the base model of the XPS 17 for $1,449 with a 2.5-GHz Intel Core i5-10300H processor with 8GB of RAM, a 256GB M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD, an Intel UHD Graphics GPU and a 17-inch 1920 x 1200 non-touch display. For $2,349, you get a more powerful 2.3-GHz Intel Core i7-10875 CPU, double the RAM and storage, as well as an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 Max-Q GPU with 6GB of RAM.

My $3,049 review unit is a bit pricey, but it kicks things up a notch with a 2.3-GHz Intel Core i7-10875H CPU, 32GB of RAM, a 1TB M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD, an Intel UHD Graphics GPU, an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 Max-Q GPU with 6GB of VRAM and a 17-inch 3840 x 2400 touchscreen. Want even more bells and whistles? The $3,649 model bumps the RAM and storage up to 64GB and 2TB, respectively.

Dell XPS 17 design

Typically, 17-inch laptops are relegated to the home as they’re rather bulky. Not so with the XPS 17. At 5.5 pounds, I’d have no problem taking this 14.7 x 9.8 x 0.8-inch notebook on a commute. It’s a bit heavier than the 16-inch MacBook Pro (4.3 pounds, 14.1 x 9.7 x 0.6 inches), but lighter than the HP Envy 17t (6 pounds, 15.7 x 10.2 x 0.8 inches). 

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

Using its design know-how, Dell managed to create the smallest 17-inch laptops on the market. In fact, the notebook is 48% smaller than most 15-inch laptops

Aesthetically, the XPS 17 is a big, beautiful version of the XPS 13 and 15. That means the external portion of the laptop’s frame is made from elegant anodized platinum silver CNC aluminum. The lid is bare except for the glossy Dell emblem stamped into the center. The sides of the notebook are slightly chamfered, giving the laptop a touch of sparkle when the light hits the system just the right way. 

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

The XPS 17’s palm rest and keyboard deck are covered in black carbon fiber. The keyboard is sandwiched between two thick speaker grilles and placed directly above an absolutely massive touchpad. Outside of that, you get a huge display with almost no bezels that doesn’t even leave room for a logo on the bottom chin. 

Dell XPS 17 security

Dell outfitted the XPS 17 with a few security measures, including a fingerprint reader embedded in the power button. You also get an IR webcam, which, like the fingerprint scanner, is Windows Hello-compliant.

Dell XPS 17 ports

I wish Dell found a way to squeeze a few legacy ports onto the XPS 17 like a USB Type-A port. Instead, you get four Thunderbolt 3 ports, a headset jack and a wedge lock slot. However, Dell is one of the few companies out there that’s kind enough to bundle a USB Type-C dongle with the system.

Dell XPS 17 display

That’s a lot of screen. Thanks to the four-sided, near bezeless InfinityEdge design, the XPS 17 has a 17-inch panel squeezed into a 14.7-inch frame. The laptop has a 93.7% screen-to-body ratio with a 16:10 aspect ratio, which means instead of your normal 4K panel (3840 x 2160), the XPS 17’s panel has a resolution of 3820 x 2400, making it one of the highest resolution displays on the market. And since it’s made of Corning Gorilla Glass 6, the panel can take a bit of abuse.

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

When I watched the trailer for Tijuana Jackson, I was happy with how well the display captured everyone’s skin tone. Actor Romany Malco’s warm brown skin really shined against his gold shirt, which was accentuated by his navy blue pinstripe suit. Details were so sharp I could clearly read the sign on the side of the bus advising riders to let customers in wheelchairs board first.

Whew, this screen is vivid! Measuring for color reproduction, the XPS 17 hit 172% of the sRGB color gamut, matching the Envy 17t. Both systems were more vivid than the MacBook Pro (114%) and the premium laptop category average (121%). If the display is too vivid or not vivid enough, you can adjust the color temperature, gamut and brightness with Dell Premier Color. And in case you’re worried about eye strain, the laptop also has Dell CinemaColor with a relaxing Evening setting as well as, Movie, Sports and Animation options. 

The XPS 17’s screen is also extremely bright, averaging 505 nits of brightness. It outshined the Envy, MacBook and category average, which reached 433, 429 and 371 nits, respectively.

And despite that glossy display, the XPS 17 has an anti-reflective coating that allowed me to see clearly from every angle –– even when I decided to work in my backyard. 

The 10-finger capacitive touchscreen offers seamless, agile response, keeping pace with me as I scribbled Laptop Mag across the panel in cursive. 

Dell XPS 17 audio

Just like the XPS 15, the XPS 17 is equipped with a top-firing quad-speaker system (2 primaries, 2 tweeters) that’s incredibly loud. But not in an ear-grating way. On the contrary, when I listened to TeaMarr’s “100 Yu-Gi-Oh Cards” on the Waves Nx speakers I was treated to a robust horn section, punctuated by a tenor saxophone. From there, there was a moody guitar with sparse drum accompaniment and lingering reverb. The singer’s vocal vacillated between a deep-throated alto to a lilting soprano.

Black Thought’s dazzling lyricism took front stage on “Fentanyl.” The artist’s powerful baritone punched through the organ and the hi-hats. My only complaint is that the notebook lacks a subwoofer so it can deliver deep lows. Even with the myriad of equalizer presets, I couldn’t get the boom bap to pop as I wanted. 

Dell XPS 17 keyboard and touchpad

Clicky, deep travel and just a bit mushy. That’s what you can expect from the XPS 17’s Chiclet-style keyboard. The keys are large and well-spaced with backlighting bright enough to easily type in a darkened environment. 

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

Typing on the keyboard was comfortable, although I would have liked a bit more feedback. Still, I hit my 70 word-per-minute on the 10fastfingers typing test without any extra effort.

Again, Dell went for the bigger is better approach on the XPS 17, outfitting it with a 3.5 x 6-inch touchpad. Thankfully, the smooth pad has excellent palm rejection, allowing me to type without accidentally activating the cursor. Performing Windows 10 gestures like pinch-zoom and three-finger flick was quick and responsive.

Dell XPS 17 performance

With its 2.3-GHz Intel Core i7-10875H processor, 32GB of RAM and a 1TB M.2 PCIe SSD, the XPS 17 is an undeniable powerhouse. The laptop ripped through nearly every test we threw at it, starting with our real-world test. I launched my typical 40 tabs in Google Chrome, but loaded it up with a couple of Twitch streams and YouTube videos. The XPS 17 took it all in stride with no signs of slowing down. 

The notebook kept up its performance on our synthetic benchmarks. When we ran Geekbench 5.0, an overall performance test, the XPS 17 achieved 7,740, pushing past the 4,278 premium laptop average. The MacBook Pro and its Intel Core i9-9980HK CPU wasn’t too far behind, at 7,201. The Envy 17t (Core i7-1065G7 CPU) hit 3,272.

On the Handbrake test, the XPS 17 transcoded a 4K video to 1080p in 8 minutes and 41 seconds. It was faster than the 18:41 average and the Envy 17t’s 22:23. The MacBook Pro was a bit faster at 8 minutes flat.

When we ran the File Transfer test, the XPS 17’s SSD clocked a transfer speed of 620.6 megabytes per second, beating the Envy 17t’s 390 MBps. Still, it was short of the 692.1 MBps average. The MacBook Pro scored a whopping 1,1017.9 MBps, but keep in mind that this was on the BlackMagic Read/Write test, a different benchmark than our usual test (duplicating 4.97GB of multimedia files). 

Dell XPS 17 graphics

Dell is targeting creative professionals with the XPS 17. To that end, the company outfitted the laptop with an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 Max-Q GPU with 6GB of VRAM. The notebook also has an integrated Intel UHD Graphics GPU for those moments you aren’t video editing or gaming. 

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

Speaking of gaming, the laptop turned in some respectable results. When we ran the Dirt 3 test, the XPS 17 produced 112 frames per second at 3840 x 2400. That was enough to surpass the 65-fps premium laptop average. The Envy 17t wasn’t too far behind (GeForce GTX MX330 GPU) hitting 105 fps.

On the Shadow of the Tomb Raider benchmark, the XPS 17 hit 48 fps at 1080p, beating the 41-fps category average. At 4K, the frame rate fell to 12 fps, which is a frame shy of the 13-fps category average. 

During the Hitman test, the XPS 17 reached 74 fps at 1080p, cruising past the 70-fps category average. At 4K, the notebook got 36 fps, staving off the 35-fps average. 

Dell XPS 17 battery life

Typically, a laptop with a 4K display doesn’t last past 8 hours on the Laptop Mag Battery Test. But after continuous web surfing over Wi-Fi at 150 nits of brightness, the XPS 17 lasted 9 hours and 5 minutes. It outlasted the Envy 17t (6:12) and the premium laptop average (9:02). The MacBook Pro, however, was the last laptop standing at 10:55.

Dell XPS 17 heat

More power calls for better cooling systems. Dell delivers with a unique thermal system that consists of a vapor chamber, Gore thermal insulation, dual opposite output fans and a bunch of cleverly hidden vents. The work seems to have paid off because when we ran our heat test (15 minutes of playing a fullscreen full HD video), the XPS 17 largely kept its cool.

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

When we measured the touchpad, it registered 80 degrees Fahrenheit. The center of the keyboard and undercarriage were warmer at 92 and 93 degrees, respectively. The hottest point of the notebook, near the bottom bezel above the F4 key, measured 96 degrees, which is just above our 95-degree comfort threshold. 

Dell XPS 17 webcam

The XPS 17’s 720p webcam does a great job of reproducing accurate color. Details could be better, however. My rust-red shirt looked great and, to my chagrin, the shooter also captured the faded color in my locks. Details were fairly fuzzy, making my locs look like long blobs on my head. 

Dell XPS 17 software and warranty

The Dell XPS 17 is pretty light on software. What Dell did include are primarily useful utilities such as Dell Power Manager, which manages power consumption to either extend battery life or squeeze out every bit of performance. Customer Connect connects you with a Dell technician in case you run into trouble. Digital Delivery maintains your software downloads and restores them after a system wipe or crash. 

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

Third-party apps include Killer Control Center, which lets you set network bandwidth priority. The laptop also comes with a 20GB of free Dropbox storage for a year. There is, of course, some Windows 10 bloatware, such as Netflix, Farm Heroes Saga and Candy Crush Friends.

The Dell XPS 17 ships with a one-year hardware warranty with onsite and in-Home service after remote diagnosis. See how Dell fared during our annual special reports: Tech Support Showdown and Best and Worst Brands.

Bottom Line

If you’re looking for a true competitor to the 16-inch MacBook Pro, look no further. The $3,049 Dell XPS 17 can handle all of your productivity/creativity/multimedia needs thanks to its 10th Gen Intel processor and Nvidia RTX 2060, two powerful components that help the XPS 17 surpass its competitors in many categories. Plus, you get a stunning display, excellent sound system and an agile SSD –– all in a chassis that’s 48% smaller than most 15-inch laptops on the market. And despite its super high-res display, it lasted over 9 hours on our battery test. 

If you want a laptop with a lighter footprint and longer battery life with a lightning-fast SSD, consider shelling out $3,899 for the 16-inch MacBook Pro. True, the price of our configuration makes the XPS 17 an expensive proposition. But consumers looking for a true MacBook Pro alternative will be hard-pressed to do better than the Dell XPS 17.

Dell XPS 17 Specs

BluetoothBluetooth 3.0
BrandDell
CPU2.30-GHz Intel Core i7-2820QM
Card Slots9-1 card reader
Company Websitehttp://www.dell.com
Display Size17.3
Graphics CardNvidia GT 555M
Hard Drive SizeDual 750GB
Hard Drive Speed7,200rpm
Hard Drive TypeSATA Dual Drive
Native Resolution1920x1080
Operating SystemMS Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)
Optical DriveBD-R/DVDRW
Optical Drive Speed8X
Ports (excluding USB)Microphone, Kensington Lock, Headphone, HDMI, USB/eSATA, USB 3.0, Mini DisplayPort
RAM16GB
RAM Upgradable to16GB
Size16.3 x 11.3 x 1.4 - 2.3 inches
Touchpad Size3.9 x 2.2 inches
USB Ports4
Video Memory3GB
Warranty/SupportDell Basic 1-Year Limited Hardware Warranty
Weight8.4 pounds (9-cell battery)
Wi-Fi802.11b/g/n
Wi-Fi ModelIntel Centrino Advanced-N 6230
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