Large, attractive display
Mediocre battery life
About the Dell XPS 17 9710 (2021)
Here are the specs of the laptop we tested:
- Processor: Intel Core i7-11800H
- Graphics: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060
- RAM: 32GB
- Storage: 1TB SSD
- Display: 17-inch 3840 x 2400 LCD
- Wireless connectivity: Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.1
- Wired connectivity: 4x Thunderbolt 4, 1x 3.5mm audio, SDcard
- Webcam: 720p
- Battery: 97 watt-hour battery
- Weight: 5.34 pounds
- Size: 14.74 x 9.76 x 0.77 inches
Dell offers numerous alternative configurations. Pricing starts at $1,599.99 for an Intel Core i5-11400H processor, Intel integrated graphics, 8GB of RAM, and a 512GB SSD. Our model here is priced at $2,799.99 thanks to several upgrades. Additional upgrades can include an Intel Core i9 processor, 64GB of RAM, and 8TB of storage, leading to a maximum price of $5,199.99.
What we like
Huge display, loud speakers
The XPS 17 has a 17-inch display with a 16:10 aspect ratio, which means it’s taller and more square than a 16:9 widescreen. It also has about 25% more display space than a typical 15.6-inch laptop, which makes viewing two documents side-by-side easy. Snapping a program window to each corner, such that four are visible at once, is viable with some applications, too. (That’s not true of most laptops.) Put simply, the display is huge, and demanding owners should love its size.
The optional 3840 x 2400 display is excellent due to its accurate color, wide color gamut, and a high maximum brightness of 548 nits. The contrast was great for an LCD laptop display with a standard backlight. It lacks HDR support, however. Dark scene performance falls short of an OLED display, like that available in the Dell XPS 15, or a Mini-LED display, like that in the new MacBook Pro 16.
Dell pairs the display with an outstanding sound system that offers top-facing stereo tweeters and internal stereo woofers. The sound system is never dampened by the laptop's surface or your hands on the keyboard. The maximum volume is high, yet clear, with an excellent balance between high and bass tones.
The Dell XPS 17, like all XPS laptops, is a luxury. No one needs an XPS. They’re not the quickest or most portable, and certainly don’t have the most ports, but they are definitely nice to look at.
The silver, minimalist exterior, adorned only by a subtle Dell logo, is elegant and refined. Inside, you’ll find Dell’s signature carbon fiber weave in full force. It appeared on the original XPS 13 over six years ago, yet still stands out from competing laptops. The XPS 17’s interior looks high-end and has a soft, warm feel that’s more pleasant than the cold, sterile interior of Apple’s MacBook Pro line.
The XPS 17 is a sturdy laptop for the most part. If you pick it up from a single corner (while open) the chassis will flex, but only a hint, and it feels rock-solid in normal use. Display flex is tame, lacking noticeable bend or wobble when adjusting the screen. The display hinge is tuned to let you easily open the laptop with one hand when it’s on a desk or table.
The thin display bezels are another highlight of this XPS 17. They measure only four millimeters along the top and bottom, and three millimeters along each side, keeping the laptop’s footprint slim.
It’s almost identical in width, and barely larger in depth, than a mid-range 15-inch laptop like the Asus Chromebook Flip CX5. The XPS 17 is less than an inch wider than Apple’s new MacBook Pro 16 but has 12% percent more display space (and no notch).
Awesome keyboard, good touchpad
Despite its size, the Dell XPS 17 doesn’t try to squeeze a Numpad alongside the keyboard. It delivers a spacious, comfortable, center-aligned keyboard and touchpad. This is the best layout for most people. It feels familiar and doesn’t force Dell to downsize or relocate keys, not to mention typing feels wonderful.
Each key offers significant travel and a crisp, taut bottoming action that provides some tactile feel without much noise. I found the layout instantly familiar and could touch type at full speed right out of the box.
The touchpad is nothing to write home about, but it still has a few pers. It’s large, measuring six inches wide and over three inches deep, and is responsive in day-to-day use. The touchpad did occasionally mistake the edge of my palm as a click, causing a window to close unexpectedly or a website to scroll without warning.
Still, the large touchpad surface provides plenty of room for Windows’ multitouch gestures, which feel particularly useful on a large laptop. Most people are not familiar with Windows’ touchpad gestures, but you can flick through windows just as quickly as on a MacBook once you understand them.
Blazing fast Wi-Fi
Intel’s Killer Wi-Fi AX1650 is standard on the Dell XPS 17 and delivers excellent performance at short to medium distances from a router or access point. Using Ookla’s Speedtest benchmark, which tests an internet connection speed through a web browser, I hit download speeds of 793.81Mbps. That’s an excellent result for a laptop and close to my internet connection’s maximum supported speed of one gigabit.
This has serious real-world benefits. Game downloads from Steam exceeded 110 megabytes per second. I was able to download and install Control, a 43GB game, in less than 10 minutes. Civilization VI was playable in a hair over three minutes.
This performance can justify the laptop’s lack of an Ethernet port. While wired Ethernet technically scores better in Speedtest, achieving 950Mbps over my Gigabit Internet service, my desktop computer can’t exceed 90MB/s when downloading a game from Steam. You won’t need to buy an Ethernet dongle for the XPS 17—if you have a capable Wi-Fi 6 wireless router, at least.
Speed came at the expense of reliability. I found the XPS 17’s Wi-Fi unreliable when far from a router. It often lost connection when used in my detached office, which is about 50 feet from my router and separated by several walls. Acer’s Predator Helios 300, which has the same Intel Killer Wi-Fi AX1650, was reliable in this location.
What we don’t like
Even though this Dell XPS 17 is a high-end model with an Intel Core i7-11800H processor, Nvidia RTX 3060 graphics card, and 32GB of memory, its performance is, well, fine.
The Geekbench 5 processor benchmark turned in a single-core score of 1564 and a multi-core score of 7999. That’s not bad but falls behind the similarly-priced AMD-powered MSI Delta 15 and the Asus ROG Strix G15 AMD Advantage Edition. (Both of those laptops have an AMD processor.) The Cinebench benchmark told a similar story with its score of 1057—an acceptable but unimpressive score that again comes behind MSI’s Delta 15, which scored 11923.
Our real-world tests fell in line with our synthetic benchmark results. Rendering a 3D image in Blender took four minutes and five seconds, a result once again behind some thicker, heavier laptops. The Asus ROG Strix G15 AMD Advantage Edition finished this task in three minutes 19 seconds. A 4K transcode of a 12-minute film finished in six minutes and 17 seconds.
Gaming performance was a bit better. Far Cry 5 averaged 71 frames per second at 1080p resolution and the Ultra detail preset. Total War: Warhammer II averaged 80 fps at the same settings. Shadow of the Tomb Raider only averaged 59 fps, however, and Control could not exceed an average of 60 fps at any detail setting beyond low.
These are respectable results for a thin, premium laptop, especially over the smaller Dell XPS 15. However, we’ve recorded better performance from Acer’s Predator Helios 300, a gaming laptop with an RTX 3060 GPU that retails for $1,300, which is a full $1,500 cheaper than the Dell XPS 17 we tested. The Predator Helios 300 beat the XPS 17 in every game and game benchmark we tested.
The Dell XPS 17’s overall performance is disappointing. It will churn through most tasks without issue but doesn’t provide a boost over less expensive laptops with similar hardware.
Short battery life
The Dell XPS 17’s 97 watt-hour battery is a large battery for a laptop, yet it struggles to match the machine’s power-hungry hardware.
We recorded six hours and 43 minutes in our web browsing battery benchmark, which loops through a selection of websites to simulate real-world web browsing in Google Chrome. That’s a usable result, but behind other laptops we’ve recently tested. The MSI Delta 15 lasted nine hours and 40 minutes in the same test. Asus’ ROG Strix G15 AMD Advantage Edition also hit nine hours of endurance.
Apple continues to lead in this area. Apple’s MacBook Pro 14 achieved 10 hours and 25 minutes in our web browsing battery benchmark, beating the Dell XPS 17 by about three and a half hours. We have not tested the MacBook Pro 16 in our benchmark but expect a similar advantage.
The XPS 17’s real-world battery life felt a bit short of the benchmark result. It was able to handle about five hours of heavy use, which included some photo editing. An afternoon of web browsing and document editing left me with 40% of the battery remaining.
The Dell XPS 17 seems to be playing (and winning) bad webcam bingo. Fuzzy, grainy 720p video? Check! Blown-out highlights? Check! Unattractive color? Check! Bad detail in dark areas? Check!
Dell’s competition has it beat. Apple’s latest MacBook Pro 14 and 16 introduced a new 1080p webcam. Microsoft’s Surface Laptop Studio also has a 1080p camera. Both deliver a huge improvement in clarity, color reproduction, and brightness.
At least the XPS 17 supports Windows Hello. An IR depth-sensing camera is standard, unlocking login through facial recognition on Windows 10 and Windows 11. It’s a useful feature that makes the laptop feel quicker when opening the lid since the camera automatically detects your face and logs you in.
Should you buy it?
Maybe, if you prefer style over performance
Dell’s XPS 17 is easy to like. The display is excellent, it feels solid, and it looks gorgeous.
However, its performance doesn’t stand out from the crowd. The same applies to battery life. Many owners won’t notice the XPS 17’s limits, but they’re noticeable when you push the laptop hard. Dell’s pricing makes that a problem. An entry-level Dell XPS 17 with an Intel Core i5 processor and integrated graphics starts at $1,599.99, but the laptop we tested here retails for $2,799.99. That’s a lot for a machine with so-so performance and ho-hum battery life.
Apple’s MacBook Pro 14 has an edge. It delivers way better battery life and improved performance in many situations, though the Dell XPS 17 will lead in gaming. If gaming is your top priority, however, you’ll see more value from a dedicated gaming laptop like the Razer Blade Advanced.
The XPS 17’s saving grace is, well, its grace. It is (along with the XPS 13 and XPS 15) the most luxurious Windows laptop you can buy. Even Apple could learn from the XPS 17’s soft-touch interior and razor-thin bezels. Want a laptop that will impress when you take it out of your bag? Buy the XPS 17. If you want a laptop that will impress when you launch Adobe Premiere Pro or your favorite PC game, look elsewhere.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.
Meet the tester
Matthew S. Smith
Matthew S. Smith is a veteran tech journalist and general-purpose PC hardware nerd. Formerly the Lead Editor of Reviews at Digital Trends, he has over a decade of experience covering PC hardware. Matt often flies the virtual skies in Microsoft Flight Simulator and is on a quest to grow the perfect heirloom tomato.
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