The Dell XPS 17 is one of the families that helped define what the modern Windows laptop looks like. It’s all about high-end features, and it’s been one of the few Windows that’s managed to appeal to others MacBooks.
The latest Dell XPS line has started to deviate from the trends it’s held for a decade – but the Dell XPS 17 is solid. How you feel about this depends on whether you think this laptop is a fantastic alternative to all things laptop, or “new” of course, considering the price.
It starts at $2049/£2299, but for most machines like my current workstation, you’ll pay $3149/£3499. Or a few hundred dollars less than the regular sales Dell seems to be running. Should you buy it? This is how I got on with it.
Dell XPS 17 (2023)
The combination of power and style makes the Dell XPS 17 the most direct Windows alternative to the MacBook Pro 16. But it has the same price tag.
- High quality XPS design
- All day light uses battery life
- A bright, beautiful painting
- 720p webcam
- In theory, they use less GPU iteration power
- Aluminum bag
- 2.44 kg
- 374 x 248 x 19.5mm
If you’ve owned or used a Dell XPS laptop before, the XPS 17 might look familiar. It has a wide range of aluminum and carbon-fiber reinforced polymer.
You get metal on the lid and bottom, and a soft, warm-feeling plastic to reinforce the keyboard.
This combination screams squeamishness and boldness of some sort – but it doesn’t aim to make the smallest and lightest laptop around. If that’s what you want, look for something like LG Gram 17. It is also not compact, with a hinge that only opens at the corner of the laptop, not 180 degrees.
The Dell XPS 17 is very similar MacBook Pro 16, a laptop where the feel of the material and its rigidity are part of the appeal. It also weighs in at 2.3-2.44kg (depending on specifications), way too heavy to be suitable for portable use.
However, the Dell XPS 17 will fit in a regular rucksack unlike the 17-inch giants of the past. Just look at the screen – the small margins on all sides mean that the feet of XL laptops are not as comfortable as they used to be.
You won’t find any USB-A ports, but the four USB-C ports are all high-speed Thunderbolt 4 connectors. And Dell includes an adapter in the box that converts one of those ports to HDMI and USB-A. In addition, the XPS 17 has an SD card reader and a headphone socket, rounding out the connectivity of this type of laptop.
- Up to 4K LCD display
- 500-nit brightness
- Touch screen
The Dell XPS 17 is almost as good a screen as you would expect without jumping to what could be the next series: OLED. It has an LCD screen with a 16:10 Full HD panel or 4K which I currently have.
No OLED means no perfect black, and you’ll notice this in dark rooms, where black people pick up a bit of gray light. Contrast is good but not too much.
Everything else is good, though. The Dell XPS 17 reaches about 500 nits output, enough for use outside in the sun even with half the brightness of the MacBook Pro, which can be very bright when playing an HDR video.
Color depth is excellent. It’s rich and accurate enough for pro-grade graphics, though Dell doesn’t make much noise on the quality of its XPS displays.
High resolution is good for creative software too, more than games. It makes the screen look sharp and clear even at this magnification.
The stylus is the biggest advantage the Dell XPS 17 has over the MacBook Pro 16. However, you won’t get a working stylus in the box – that’s something you’ll have to do separately.
Touchpad and keyboard
- Glass touchpad
- White keyboard backlight
Elsewhere in the XPS, Dell has started experimenting a bit with modern features such as the keyboard and touchpad. The XPS 17 remains, fortunately, unaffected by this.
There are always teething problems with this young form of technological change, that’s why I say ‘thank you’. The Dell XPS 17 has a touch screen, instead of a haptic style, and it feels great.
Its keyboard has a slightly darker vibe that looks bigger than a light click, and the touchpad on top is smooth glass. There is plenty of that too.
The Dell XPS 17’s keyboard is a little smaller. The feel isn’t far off from the design of Apple’s latest keyboard, but it’s a much needed move and a little more control. There’s nothing wrong with either of these changes, but, as before, if you want a smaller keyboard you might want to check out Lenovo’s more rugged ThinkPad laptop. Or a gaming version with a mechanical keyboard.
There are two white lights on the back here, which makes it easy to use in the evening.
- Up to Intel Core i9-13900H CPU
- Up to 64GB RAM (32GB recommended)
- Up to Nvidia RTX 4080 GPU (RTX 4070 reviewed)
The Dell XPS 17 is a very functional laptop, within reason. It comes in a bunch of products and my review model is one of the top ones. It packs an Intel Core i9-13900H processor, 32GB RAM, 1TB SSD and an Nvidia RTX 4070 graphics card.
This is as powerful as laptops of this size get, and the CPU is essentially the same chipset used in more expensive laptops. It makes the Dell XPS 17 ideal for work like video editing, if you don’t want to jump into a desktop computer.
There are a few minor flaws here. The Dell XPS 17 doesn’t have the same kind of RTX 4070 graphics card as the fastest laptop, so it’s a lower power version. Why? If you want a more powerful GPU, you’ll need a bigger laptop because it needs a cooler to match.
Dell XPS 17 is 2cm black. It can have a stable performance through other eyes, but there are limits. I’ve seen it go up to 70W, 60W all the time, while some models go up to 140W.
You can still play games like Cyberpunk 2077 well, especially since the latest graphics cards support Nvidia’s jaw-dropping technology. It can more than double the frame rate, without causing the kind of blurry effects seen in the frame rate control used on TVs.
A cooling system that matches the actual form factor also means that there is also a higher pitch to the fan noise, which can be more noticeable than the lower tones of a workstation or gaming PC. You only have to worry about this if you want to ride the Dell XPS 17 hard all day, and I find this design to be simply ‘must have’.
Battery life and webcam
- 97Wh battery
- 130W USB-C charging
- 720p webcam
The Dell XPS 17 has a large 97Wh battery. That’s about as much as a laptop battery can take when you’re allowed to board an airplane.
Although this type of power does not go very far in most used gaming computers, the Dell XPS 17 makes fun of the power of using the strongest light out there. Even though I was using a power-hungry Core i9 CPU and a 4K display, which usually uses more juice than a 1080p alternative, I saw almost dead at 10.5 hours of use between cases.
This was for a production benchmark, however, if your browser’s performance is bad or you want to overclock the processor a bit, the robustness will be difficult. It’s an area where Dell can’t compete with Apple yet: resilience under pressure. Apple’s processors currently do not excel in reducing power consumption even when performing complex tasks.
I saw a Dell XPS 17 last about six hours of light typing work with the screen brightness showing. Take care and you can take the laptop for a full day’s work, which is impressive considering what’s inside.
This isn’t a bad laptop to take on occasional business trips or vacations, though it’s a family affair. And it has great speakers for watching movies in the hotel.
They have a small section of real bass, a lot of volume and a clear image. Apple’s MacBook Pro 16 sounds great, but the first time I heard it sounded too close to a wireless speaker.
The XPS 17’s web browser is underpowered. It’s a 720p camera, at a time when almost all new and expensive laptops have switched to 1080p, or something better.
Indeed, the social media image is soft and static, a story that is also shown with a large display. Dell should fix this sometime around, but it should have done so with this generation.
The Dell XPS 17 is a laptop that can accommodate multiple people. It’s a style PC, it’s a work station, an entertainment center when you don’t have a TV nearby, and a more respectable laptop than a respectable one.
Of course, it costs a lot of money, and does not represent the high-end technology that the XPS series should have. This design, while beautiful, may seem a little long in the tooth to some. And using a low-end webcam is disappointing when almost every other major release this year uses high-end sensors.
You probably shouldn’t buy this laptop for everyday use. Although I did this for testing, more than 2kg is too heavy for this job. Did I like using it, though? Absolutely.