Live Science Verdict
The Dell XPS 17 is one of the most desirable workstation-like style laptops, even if its design may seem a little conservative to some at this point.
Attractive and well-made
All-day battery life for light tasks
Uses a lower-power GPU
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The Dell XPS 17 is a laptop that wants to be virtually all things to all people. Well, all people aside from those on a tight budget.
It has style, serious productivity power, it can play games up there with some of the best, and we've even used it as an ultraportable as part of our testing. That huge screen and powerful hardware means it's a perfect laptop for coding and programming. We're sure that it'd be an amazing student laptops too, but at the price Dell is asking, it's limited to a select few.
Still listening? If you're looking to drop that much cash on a laptop, we think you'll find a lot to like here.
Dell XPS 17: Price and availability
The Dell XPS 17 series began in 2020. You might recall hearing about this range a decade or more ago, but this giant model is relatively new.
This particular iteration was announced in February 2023, and rolled out to markets across the world a little after.
As is common with Dell PCs, there are several specs available, but like the MacBook Pro range, none come cheap. The most affordable costs £2299 in the UK at the time of review, $2049 in the US.
Our review spec has an official price of $3,549.00/£3699 and sold direct from Dell for $2,999/£3299 at review.
Dell XPS 17: Design & usability
- Aluminum and carbon fiber weave design
- A little too heavy for all-day portability
- Excellent build quality
Dell has started to mess with elements of its classic laptop design recently, with the mildly wild XPS 13 Plus. But the Dell XPS 17? This is the Dell style we know and, mostly, love.
Its lid is aluminum, as is the underside. The inside is decked out in a carbon fiber weave, designed to boost rigidity. It's an elegant, serious-looking design. And while it has been around for ages, the Dell XPS 17's super-slim screen borders mean you aren't going to mistake this for something released years ago.
But is it actually portable? Not in a traditional sense. The Dell XPS 17 weighs 2.44kg, a full kilo more than what we consider ideal for everyday roving use. However, its small screen borders and sub-2cm thickness mean it will fit into a normal-size rucksack just fine.
We spent a week using the Dell XPS 17 out and about with no issue, but do have a think about whether it might be too heavy if that is your plan week-after-week. Think about something like the LG Gram 17 or 16 if you want true low-weight portability.
Still, we had no worries about its resilience out on the road. The metal lid is sturdy, the keyboard plate lovely and stiff. It's what we expect from Dell's venerable XPS line.
Dell XPS 17: Display
- Up to 4K resolution
- Good maximum brightness
- Excellent color saturation
One key reason to put up with that weight is the Dell XPS 17's XL-size screen. It comes in two flavors, a Full HD style display and the 4K 3480 x 2400 monster we have here. This is of the increasingly popular 16:10 ratio, which makes busy apps feel more roomy while leaving just small black bars above and below widescreen videos.
The Dell XPS 17's color depth is fantastic, covering 99.9% of the Adobe RGB gamut according to our colorimeter tool. It's pro-grade color saturation. Maximum brightness of 544 nits makes light work of writing documents outdoors on a sunny day, and is almost 10% higher than Dell's own claim.
Of course, the MacBook Pro 16 can go much brighter still, with 1000-nit standard brightness and 1600-nit HDR. But on the Windows side, this is among the brightest large-screen laptops we've seen.
There's just one slight weakness. Contrast is just OK at 1000:1 to 1370:1 depending on the screen brightness. If you use the Dell XPS 17 in a darkened room to watch a movie, you are going to notice that the "blacks" aren't really that black. While this is normal for an LCD, we're now in an age where OLED screens, which have near-perfect black levels, are quite common in laptops. It'd certainly be a capable laptop for photo editing, but if you're serious about it, we'd recommend springing for something with an OLED display like the HP Spectre x360 16.
Other parts to note here include that the Dell XPS 17 has a touchscreen, lovely-looking edge-to-edge glass, and uses a standard 60Hz refresh rate. We don't think that's much of an issue for work, but gaming laptops typically have much faster-reacting displays these days.
Dell XPS 17: Keyboard & touchpad
- Top-tier glass touchpad
- Good, although fairly normal, keyboard design
- Powerful speakers
The Dell XPS 17 doesn't take the usual approach to keyboard design for a laptop this size. You'd usually see a separate NUM pad off to the side, as was once the convention for anything 15.6-inch or larger. Here, you just get the core array of buttons, in order to keep the keyboard centered with the screen.
The keys aren't quite as deep as those of a Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon, and not quite as snappy as the mechanical designs of some gaming laptops. But they are deeper than those of a MacBook, and feel great for long-form typing.
Their feel is slightly mushy rather than clicky, and typing isn't too noisy, until you start hammering the space bar, which can generate a good clack when whacked. The keyboard also has a multi-stage white backlight, as you'd hope.
The spare space to the left and right of the keys is given over to the speaker array, a quad-driver setup that sounds good. There's real volume and projection here, plus a good amount of bass for a laptop.
It's a little less of a well composed and integrated sound than the MacBook Pro 16, but that laptop set a very high bar.
The Dell XPS 17's touchpad is excellent too. It's a large, ultra-smooth pane of textured glass with a classic mechanical clicker, rather than the haptic kind Apple has used since 2015, and others have experimented with in more recent years.
There's nothing wrong with this older style. The Dell XPS 17's pad has a velvety-feeling clicker, similar to those of Microsoft's top Surface laptops before the company started playing around with largely inferior haptic designs.
Working on this laptop feels great, with one issue.
The Dell XPS 17’s webcam is behind the times in tech terms. It’s a 720p camera, at a time when most premium laptops have started to use at least 1080p cams. There’s more to camera image quality than resolution, but the soft image here doesn’t sit well with the laptop’s price and its otherwise consistent high quality level.
Dell XPS 17: Performance & features
- Excellent all-round performance
- Not ideal for hardcore gamers thanks to lower-power GPU
The Dell XPS 17 is a real performance laptop, particularly in the spec we have. It uses Intel's top-end Core i9-13900H CPU, 32GB RAM, a 1TB SSD and the Nvidia RTX 4070 graphics card.
This sounds like a killer line-up, and it is. But you should bear one important thing in mind if you are interested in graphics performance.
Dell uses a power-limited version of the Nvidia RTX 4070 that puts a significant limit on performance. For example, in 3DMark's Time Spy test the Dell XPS 17 scores 8799 points. A maxed-out gaming laptop with an RTX 4070 that can draw up to 140W might score as much as 12000 points. And a desktop RTX 4070? You're looking at 16000 points.
Dell says it is limited to 60W. Using the MSI Afterburner app we actually saw it regularly reach 70W when there was power to spare i.e when the CPU was using very little. But, sure, 60W is the conservative max.
High power and low-power cards all bear the "RTX 4070" name, but the Dell XPS 17 only offers a little over 50% of a home gaming PC with such a card.
But does it matter? The Dell XPS 17 is clearly not a laptop made primarily for gaming. And it can still play Cyberpunk 2077 comfortably, not least because this generation of cards has a feature called frame generation. This is similar to the frame interpolation used in TVs, but much smarter, and can well over double frame rates in supported games.
Of course, if you’re the XPS 17 owner Dell actually has in mind, you are more likely to use the GPU power for video editing or 3D modeling more often than gaming.
The Dell XPS 17 can play games, but isn’t specifically made for the job. You can hear this in its fan behavior too. The most sensible workstations and gaming laptops sacrifice slimness in order to house a cooling system that is subtle, and avoids the high-pitch whine common in slim PCs. Dell’s XPS 17 does not whine, but it does have a treble component that is harder to ignore as the fans start to pick up the pace.
Dell XPS 17: Battery life & connectivity
- All-day battery life for light jobs
- You’ll need an adapter or dock for older connectors
The Dell XPS 17 has an XL-size 97Wh battery. Add just 10% more and you wouldn’t legally be able to take this laptop on a plane.
We have seen reports that this laptop only lasts 3.5 hours between charges, but that has not been our experience at all. In PC Mark's Modern Office it lasted 10.5 hours exactly. This test is designed to emulate normal office job workloads, if admittedly including periods of sitting around doing nothing.
After using it outside at maximum brightness, working without breaks, our testing says you can expect the Dell XPS 17 to last just under six hours of light work. This is all good news considering this laptop has a fairly bright screen of 4K resolution. These high-res displays can at times be serious power hogs.
Like all laptops this powerful, the Dell XPS 17 needs a larger, heavier power supply than, say, a MacBook Air. It’s a 130W supply, but is still much trimmer than the average gaming laptop PSU.
You might expect classic USB-A ports in a laptop of this style, but there are none. There’s plenty of potential to extend this with a dock, though, because the Dell XPS 17 has four ultra-fast Thunderbolt 4 connectors. Dell throws in a basic dongle to turn one of these into a USB-A and HDMI 2.0 port.
Other connectors on the Dell XPS 17 include a combi headphone/mic jack and a full-size SD card slot.
Should you buy the Dell XPS 17?
The Dell XPS 17 is a powerful, stylish laptop that impresses on multiple fronts, and faces two main roadblocks.
This is an expensive laptop, just like the Apple MacBook Pro 16, and more workstation-style power is available for less from some enthusiast gaming laptops. The Dell XPS 17 is also not that portable-friendly, unlike the smaller models in this family.
However, laptops like this show that the outer elements of design and build are more than just superficial. As well as feeling solid, the Dell XPS 17 has a quality keyboard and an excellent touchpad, which levels-up the everyday feel of using the PC. If you want a powerful, well-built laptop with a large screen and you can stomach the price, then the Dell XPS 17 is a fantastic choice.
Andrew Williams is a freelance journalist based near London. He has written about tech for over a decade, contributing to sites such as WIRED, TechRadar, TrustedReviews, Wareable, Stuff, T3, Pocket-lint and many others. When he's not covering fitness tech, he writes about mobile phones and computing, as well as cameras.