Update for September 2021: This review has been revised with the new XPS 17 9710 model (up from the XPS 17 9700 from 2020). New benchmarks, pricing, configurations, and parts of this review have been updated to reflect what is new and improved.
One of the best side effects of laptops shrinking bezels and switching to taller 16:10 displays is seeing the return of 17-inch laptops. In the past, only the most hardcore would carry around a 6-pound behemoth that aggressively challenged the laptop naming convention. But now, there have been attempts by LG (who make the ridiculously light, albeit underpowered, gram 17), Razer (their super-powerful gaming Blade Pro 17), and now Dell with the XPS 17, which sits nicely in between.
The XPS 17 is arguably one of the best and most exciting laptops in what is already one of the most exciting years for PCs to date. But, while you gain power, size, and one of the best portable displays, the tradeoff is increased weight and size. That means it is not for everyone, but for those who yearn for a mobile desktop PC, the XPS 17 is an attractive option.
I've been using the XPS 17 since late summer, and here is what you need to know about it and how it compares to the highly touted XPS 15.
Bottom line: The XPS 17 9710 is a monster of a laptop with parts that outshine every other mobile PC on the market. The biggest (and best) display, superb audio, excellent typing, and enough graphics power to keep anyone happy. It may be heavy, but it's no wimp.
- 17-inch 16:10 HDR400 display is gobsmacking delightful
- Excellent keyboard, trackpad
- Powerful quad audio
- Octa-core CPU and RTX-level graphics
- Looks fantastic, feels great
- Heavy and dense
- Below average web camera; IR is finicky
- No inking
Dell XPS 17: Price and availability
The XPS 17 9710 is now available from Dell, Amazon, and Best Buy.
The best deal is through Dell's website, as you can configure the machine you want to fit your budget and needs. Pricing now starts at $1,600, whereas the older 9700 model was $1,350. But Dell has gotten rid of the smaller 56WHr battery model and only offers the better 97WHr one. It also ditched 256GB storage for 512GB. That model has a Core i5-11400H processor, Windows 10 Home, 8GB RAM, Intel UHD graphics, and a full HD+ (1920x1200) display, making it quite powerful.
Amazon and Best Buy both sell select pre-configured models that often start higher with beefier hardware. Amazon's build features Windows 10 Pro, UHD+ (3840x2400) display, the new Core i7-11800H, RTX 3050, 16GB of RAM, and 512GB of storage, making it a perfect choice for $2,200 (Dell has the same model for $2,559).
Best Buy offers a higher-end model with Windows 10 Home, an RTX 3060, UHD+ (3840x2400) display, 1TB of storage, 16GB of RAM, and the same Core i7 for $2,950 (Dell has it for $100 cheaper at $2,849).
Maxed out with an 11th Gen Core i9-11980HK, Windows 10 Pro, 64GB RAM, 8TB of storage, RTX 3060 GPU, and UHD+ (3840x2400) display is an eye-watering $5,495.
You can still find the older 9700 model with 10th Gen Intel and last-gen RTX 20xx graphics, and they may be cheaper if you're on a budget.
The XPS 17 9700 and newer 9710 models can receive the Windows 11 update due on Oct. 5, 2021.
Dell XPS 17: Specs and features
Classifying the XPS 17 is a bit difficult since, between its size and power, it can do a bit of everything, including video editing, some decent gaming, productivity, engineering, music creation, and anything that requires both a lot of processing oomph and a massive 17-inch screen. It is a workstation, but one that leans into the prosumer and premium angle instead of pure business.
For mid-2021, Dell has added options for Intel 11th Gen H-series processors (up from 10th Gen) and NVIDIA GeForce RTX 30xx GPUs instead of last year's RTX 20xx series. RAM is also now faster, going from 2,933MHz to 3,200MHz. There is also now an option for 8TB in storage (dual 4TB SSD drives).
For this review, I am using a model configured with Windows 10 Home, a Core i7-11800H, 32GB RAM, 1TB-SSD, RTX 3060 (70W) GPU, 17-inch UHD-touch display, and costs $2,249. That is certainly not cheap, but any self-respecting PC user should be drooling at that spec list.
|Category||Dell XPS 17 9710|
|Operating system||Windows 10 Home|
Windows 10 Pro
|Display||17-inch 4K UHD+; InfinityEdge touch; HDR400 + Dolby Vision, 500 nits; 94% DCI-P3; anti-reflective|
17-inch FHD+; InfinityEdge; Dolby Vision, 500 nits; 100% sRGB minimum; anti-glare
|Processor||Up to 11th Gen Intel Core-11980HK|
|Graphics||Intel Iris Xe|
NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3050 or 3060 (70W)
|Memory||Up to 64GB DDR4-3200MHz|
|Storage||From 512GB to 8TB|
|Security||Windows Hello camera|
Windows Hello fingerprint reader
|Connectivity||Killer Wi-Fi 6 AX1650 (802.11AX) built on Intel chipset|
|Ports||4x Thunderbolt 4 (power delivery + DisplayPort)|
1x Full-size SD card reader
1x 3.5mm headphone/microphone jack
1x USB-C to USB-A 3.0 & HDMI 2.0 adapter included
|Audio||Studio quality tuning w/ Waves MaxxAudio Pro & Waves Nx 3D audio|
1.5W x2 tweeters
2.5W x2 woofers
|Dimensions||0.77 x 14.74 x 9.76 inches (19.5mm x 374.45mm x 248.05mm)|
|Weight||4.65 pounds (2.11 kg) to 5.53 pounds (2.51 kg)|
Regarding design, if you are having a tough time discerning the XPS 17 from the XPS 15, you're not alone. The two laptops are nearly indistinguishable for the overall design, but the XPS 17 is notably more massive (and heavier). Considering how well refined the XPS line is, this is an excellent decision by Dell. You are getting a premium all-metal exterior, soft-touch interior with carbon fiber, and four USB Type-C ports, all of which support Thunderbolt 4. There is also a handy SD carder reader, which makes sense for creative professionals.
The size is deceptive, however. While it is big and bulky, it's not that much larger than a Surface Book 3 15-inch.
Dell lets you open the display with one hand, and while carrying around a 5.5-pound (2.51kg) laptop is not light, it feels astonishingly dense thanks to it being packed to the gills with a giant 97WHr battery.
There's not a whole lot else to say here. Dell's XPS design is exceptional on the XPS 13 and XPS 15, and that carries over to XPS 17 with much success.
A wall of pixels
Dell XPS 17: Display
The 17-inch Sharp IGZO display is the centerpiece of the XPS 17. It is the reason you should want to buy this laptop. This screen is simply the best-looking laptop display of any PC on the market right now, period. Here's why.
Dell gets a commendation for being the first to re-embrace 16:10 aspect ratios, which is found here too (most laptops still use 16:9). When opened, the XPS 17 is a wall of pixels with razor-thin bezels on all four sides. There is more to see with this screen aspect, especially at 17 inches and a spectacular 3840x2400 resolution. When using the XPS 17 on your lap (yes, it does fit), the screen creates a very immersive experience.
This screen also has the color accuracy chops to back up its size with 100% sRGB, 100% AdobeRGB, and 97% DCI-P3. Those numbers are some of the highest I have seen in a laptop, and it is significantly better than the XPS 15 (80% Adobe RGB and 76% DCI-P3).
Brightness is rated for 500 nits, and my measurements come in just shy of that at 495 nits. The XPS 17 also supports streaming HDR video, HDR, and wide color gamut (WCG) apps. There is also built-in Dolby Vision support, which can be combined with Dell PremierColor (professional color profile settings) and Dell CinemaColor (presets for various video playback scenarios).
Other bells and whistles include supporting touch and an anti-reflective coating to reduce glare, crucial for when doing sensitive photo work or even typing a paper.
Typing is satisfying, the camera, not
Dell XPS 17: Keyboard, trackpad, camera
Looking down at the XPS 17's massive deck and the keyboard is sized perfectly with decent-to-shallow travel for the keys. Again, Dell is not doing anything radically different from the XPS 15, matching a recent (and welcomed) redesign for 2020 with slightly larger keycaps making them easy targets for your fingers. It's not only a good-feeling keyboard but is fast too.
There is a little flex with the keyboard deck and ample two-stage backlighting, which provides superb contrast against the dark keys.
Fans of number pads are going to lose their minds looking at the XPS 17. In some ways, it is a fair point as laptops this huge almost always include that feature. I do not miss it one bit. I never use number pads, and the near-perfect symmetry of the keyboard, massive flanking speakers, and trackpad are a much better tradeoff for creative professionals. If you need a number pad, you can buy one as an accessory.
The trackpad is huge going wider than the spacebar by three more keys. It is exceptionally smooth and powered by Microsoft Precision drivers. I had no issue with palm rejection, although I could see where it may be a concern depending on how you type. Clicking is consistent with no dead zones (save for the upper corners), and it is thankfully not very loud. Unlike the early builds of the XPS 15, I had no loose or rattle issues with the XPS 17's trackpad.
The camera is where things get a bit dicey. Dell uses a micro cam to fit in the ultra-thin bezel. It is just 720P and not of good quality. It gets the job done, but since web cameras are significantly more critical in 2021, it would be nice to see Dell try a bit harder on the next version for quality. There is no privacy shutter — physical or digital — to disable the camera, though there is a white LED to let you know it is in use.
For Windows Hello and password-less logins, Dell does provide an infrared (IR) sensor for facial recognition and a fingerprint reader built into the power button (which is on the keyboard deck). Users can use both, either, or none. Due to the low quality of the web camera, the XPS 17 sometimes struggled in low light conditions or distance. The fingerprint reader is "always on," meaning if your laptop is open, the reader is active. Still, if the computer is on standby, you can lightly press the power button/reader to wake and log into Windows automatically.
Huge speakers for a big laptop
Dell XPS 17 9710: Audio
It is hard to miss the ideally placed massive speaker grills on the XPS 17's top keyboard deck. Behind those laser-drilled grills lie two 1.5-watt tweeters and two 2.5-watt woofers making fair use of this laptop's size. While web camera quality has not been a priority for Dell, sound quality has seen enthusiastic development. The XPS 17 features "studio-quality tuning" with Waves MaxxAudio Pro and Waves Nx 3D audio.
Waves had this "3D" audio feature on older laptops, but it was limited to just headphone usage. That now changes with the XPS 15 and XPS 17 as the laptop's speakers can now better simulate 3D surround sound. The technology can optionally use your web camera to see and track your head to position the audio in a customized sound stage correctly. However, it does not work with UWP apps (including the Movies & TV app) for some reason.