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XPS 13 vs. XPS 15 vs. XPS 17: Which Dell laptop is better for you?

Dell Xps 15 9500 Review Hero
(Image credit: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

Dell's XPS laptops have long been near the top of the overall best Windows laptop stack, bringing premium build quality, beautiful display options, comfortable keyboard with large touchpad, and powerful hardware configurations. XPS laptops were once available only in 13- and 15-inch sizes, but a 17-inch model has entered the fray for anyone who wants a huge screen. If you're interested in a new XPS laptop but don't know where to start, we've put together this guide to help you decide which Dell laptop is for you.

Why buy the Dell XPS 13?

XPS 13 Plus (9320) keyboard (Image credit: Windows Central)

We've gone hands-on and tested every XPS 13 model that's come out in the last few years, and it's safe to say this is the best Dell laptop available. The latest XPS 13 Plus (9320) is a major refresh of the previous XPS 13 (9310) model, though you can still find plenty of the older models for sale. In many cases, you can save some money if you don't want the latest advancements.

Dell also recently launched the XPS 13 (9315) as a truer successor to the XPS 13 (9310). It doesn't have the same haptic touchpad or edge-to-edge keyboard, but it's nevertheless a fine laptop that now has 12th Gen Intel Core U-Series CPUs, human presence detection, Wi-Fi 6E, faster PCIe 4.0 storage and DDR5 RAM, and an updated cooling system. Check out our XPS 13 (9315) vs. XPS 13 (9310) comparison for more details.

You're in for a treat if you do go with the XPS 13 Plus (9320). It comes at you with larger keycaps that spread the keyboard from edge to edge, capacitive function buttons above, and a new haptic touchpad that's covered by a full glass palmrest. Underneath the keyboard are new speakers to boost audio quality, and the IR and RGB cameras have been separated for a better picture.

On the performance side, processors (CPU) have been bumped up to Intel's 12th Gen mobile chips. They offer far better performance, ideal for anyone who likes to tackle work head-on. The CPUs are joined by integrated Intel Iris Xe graphics, up to 32GB of LPDDR5x-5200MHz RAM, and up to a 2TB M.2 PCIe 4.0 solid-state drive (SSD). If you're not getting into specialized work where a discrete GPU is necessary, the XPS 13 should handle anything you throw its way.

The XPS 13 is the smallest and lightest of all the XPS laptops. Even the new Plus 9320 model still weighs in around 2.71 pounds (1.23kg) and measures just 0.6 inches (15mm) thin. The full aluminum body is firm and not prone to flexing, and it just looks fantastic. You can get it in platinum or graphite colors.

XPS 13 Plus (9320) (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

The XPS 13 Plus (9320) is available with the same four displays that are still available with the older 9310 model. The most affordable has a 1920x1200 (FHD+) resolution, is non-touch, and has an anti-glare layer with brightness up to 500 nits. Going a step up, there's an FHD+ touch option with 500 nits brightness and an anti-reflective layer for better glare mitigation. It hits 100% sRGB color reproduction.

The most expensive options are a touch display with 3840x2400 (UHD+) resolution and a touch display 3.5K resolution and OLED panel. They both have an anti-reflective finish, Dolby Vision, and excellent color reproduction. The UHD+ model also comes with VESA DisplayHDR 400 certification.

XPS 13 9300 (Image credit: Windows Central)

Ports on the XPS 13 are comparatively limited, even more so with the XPS 13 Plus (9320). Gone is the 3.5mm audio jack and microSD card reader, leaving you with two Thunderbolt 4 and some included adapters. Rounding out features on the XPS 13 is Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.2 connectivity, fingerprint reader, and IR camera.

Dell XPS 13 9310 models are still readily available if you don't want to pay top dollar for the latest XPS 13 Plus (9320) or the XPS 13 (9315). In any case, you're generally going to pay the least for the XPS 13 compared to its siblings. Our guide on which Dell XPS 13 you should buy has more information about whether or not this is the laptop you should choose.

Bottom line

Due to the XPS 13's size and hardware options, it's best suited for professionals or casual users who like staying as mobile as possible. It's also one of the best laptops for college students. There's no dedicated GPU option for getting into heavier specialized work, but Intel Iris Xe graphics and the 12th Gen Core CPUs will handle photo editing and even some light gaming. Rest assured, the XPS 13 is loaded with extra features that make it the best 13-inch Ultrabook on the market today.

Why buy the Dell XPS 15?

Dell XPS 15 (9500) (Image credit: Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

The XPS 15 is larger and heavier than the XPS 13, but that doesn't mean it's not thin and light in its own right. It's just 0.73 inches (18mm) thin and weighs about 4 pounds (1.84kg) for the non-touch models with an 86Wh battery. Its CNC-machine aluminum chassis comes with a Platinum Silver finish and black carbon fiber palm rest.

The keyboard and Precision touchpad make great use of space, and you should have no issues typing all day on the XPS 15. Instead of the keys reaching from edge to edge like on the XPS 13, the larger chassis has room for top-firing speakers along the sides of the keyboard. These are combined with dual down-firing speakers, for a total of 8W of output. The audio is excellent with this setup.

Dell XPS 15 (9500). (Image credit: Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

The XPS 15 has also made the move to displays with a 16:10 aspect ratio. It's sized at 15.6 inches and is available in a few different types. The most affordable has an FHD+ resolution, 500 nits brightness, 100% sRGB color reproduction, and anti-glare finish without touch. If you're not interested in upping to 4K, this is still a beautiful display that will suck up less battery life.

The XPS 15 9510 model also introduced a 3.5K OLED display, which has continued over to the latest 9520 model. It comes with touch support, anti-reflective coating, and 400 nits brightness. It's a great option if you want darker darks and lighter lights. The XPS 15 9500 model, which is still available from Dell, doesn't have the OLED option.

The other option is a touch display with a UHD+ resolution, 100% AdobeRGB color reproduction, 500 nits brightness, and anti-reflective coating. While both displays include Dolby Vision, only the higher-res option is VESA certified DisplayHDR 400. It's going to use a lot more battery compared to the FHD+ version, but if you're getting into specialized work or need the touch function, it should be worth the upgrade.

Dell XPS 15 (9500) (Image credit: Windows Central)

Performance hardware is where the XPS 15 really starts to pull away from the XPS 13. The XPS 15 (9520) is equipped with Intel 12th Gen H-Series CPUs, while the XPS 15 9510 has 11th Gen H-Series chips. Not only that, but the XPS 15 9520 and 9510 are also available with up to a dedicated NVIDIA GTX 3050 Ti Laptop GPU.

Whether you're looking at some gaming or intensive tasks, the XPS 15 is much more cut out for the job. The XPS 17 is going to beat out all XPS models in terms of maximum performance, but the XPS 15 is still impressive.

Configure an XPS 15 with up to 64GB of DDR5-4800MHz RAM and a 2TB M.2 PCIe SSD, and rest assured you can upgrade both SSD and RAM in the XPS 15 after purchase. The larger chassis allows for more ports, including two Thunderbolt 4, USB-C 3.2 (Gen 2), UHS-II SD card reader, and 3.5mm audio jack. Rounding out features is Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.2, IR camera, and fingerprint reader.

Bottom line

The XPS 15 is larger and more expensive than the XPS 13, but anyone who wants the extra screen real estate and boost to performance from Intel H-Series CPUs and dedicated GPU will undoubtedly opt for this choice. It's still not as powerful as the XPS 17, but it's more mobile and doesn't cost as much.

If you can't decide between two smaller models, our Dell XPS 13 vs. XPS 15 comparison can help.

Why buy the Dell XPS 17?

Dell XPS 17 (9700) (Image credit: Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

The Dell XPS 17 is the newest addition to the XPS family, but it is instantly familiar. It has a CNC-machined aluminum chassis that's strong and relatively light, with Platinum Silver outer finish and black carbon fiber palm rest. It's the largest and heaviest XPS on the market, coming in at about 4.87 pounds (2.21kg) for the non-touch version and measuring 0.77 inches (19.5mm) at its thickest point.

Like the XPS 15, it includes dual 1.5W tweeters and dual 2.5W woofers, split between down-firing speakers on the sides and top-firing speakers along the edges of the keyboard. With the same MaxxAudio Pro by Waves mix and Waves Nx 3D audio as the XPS 15, you can expect some truly impressive sound. The keyboard and Precision touchpad are comfortable to use for long periods, and anyone typing all day shouldn't have an issue.

Dell XPS 17 (9700) (Image credit: Windows Central)

If you'd like the biggest display possible in your laptop, the XPS 17 delivers. It has a 17-inch Sharp IGZO display with a 16:10 aspect ratio and almost no bezel at all, making it an excellent option for serious multitaskers and those involved in specialized work. In the 9710 and the 9720 versions it is available in two different flavors — no 3.5K OLED option here. The more affordable FHD+ non-touch display hits 500 nits brightness, 100% sRGB color reproduction, anti-glare layer, and Dolby Vision.

There's also a UHD+ touch version, with VESA certified DisplayHDR 400, 100% AdobeRGB and 94% DCI-P3 color reproduction, 500 nits brightness, and Dolby Vision. It also has an anti-reflective display to cut down on glare. The UHD+ model is going to cost more, and it will drain the battery faster, but it's definitely the right choice for designers and developers.

Dell XPS 17 (9700) (Image credit: Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

The new XPS 17 9720 has been refreshed with 12th Gen Intel Core H-Series CPUs, with up to an i9-12900HK. Pair it up with an NVIDIA RTX 3060 discrete laptop GPU, and add in up to 64GB of DDR5-4800MHz RAM and a 2TB M.2 PCIe SSD.

Older XPS 17 9710 configurations with 11th Gen Intel Core CPUs, NVIDIA RTX 3060 Laptop GPU, and DDR4 RAM are still available, though the jump between processor generations is huge. If you want the absolute best performance, going with the XPS 17 9720 model is advised. That much power beats out even the XPS 15, making the XPS 17 the new top performer in this group.

All the extra room in the chassis means Dell has included four total Thunderbolt 4 ports, as well as an SD card reader and 3.5mm audio jack. Like the other models, it includes Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.2, a fingerprint reader, and an IR camera for Windows Hello.

Bottom line

Dell's XPS 17 is designed to be the ultimate XPS laptop with creators in mind. The display, design, and performance hardware all come together to deliver a truly potent laptop that can replace your desktop. It's a lot bulkier than the other models, but the tradeoff is no doubt worth it for those who need the oversized features. If you don't need all it has to offer, you'll be able to save some money and go with the XPS 13 or XPS 15.