dell xps lead
CNN  — 

Dell’s XPS line has grown up. As we mentioned in our review of the Dell XPS 15, the XPS line has traditionally been focussed on providing a stellar entry-level experience. But with this year’s batch of XPS models, Dell has upped the ante.

The XPS 17 is fully loaded and completely capable of running hardcore games like Call of Duty: Warzone or powering through any photo or video editing, thanks to its 10th-generation Intel Core i7 processor and Nvidia RTX-2080 with Max-Q GPU. To sweeten the deal, you’ll be looking at a 17-inch 4K InfinityEdge display.

We’ve been testing one of the higher-end configurations for a while now, and we can’t lie: It’s fantastic but not perfect.


dell xps side keyboard view

Immediately after unboxing the XPS 17, you’re greeted with Dell’s staple silver laptop lid with the company logo in the middle. The machined aluminum housing has a premium feel to it that carries over to the rest of the design but also adds some weight to the laptop. Overall, the XPS 17 measures 14.74 by 9.76 by 0.77 inches and weighs 4.65 pounds for the non-touch-screen version with the 56 Whr battery, or 5.53 pounds for the touch-screen model with a 97 Whr battery.

We’ve been testing the latter option and can confirm it’s low-key heavy. The compact design that squeezes a 17-inch display into a nearly 15-inch housing leaves an impression of portability, but you’ll definitely feel it when carrying it around in your backpack.

There are a total of six ports on the XPS 17. Four USB-C Thunderbolt 3 ports, split equally between the right and left sides of the bottom deck. All four ports support DisplayPort and power delivery, meaning you can charge the laptop or connect an external display to it through any available port.

Joining the USB-C ports on the right side is an SD card reader for transferring files from your camera, along with a 3.5mm headphone jack.

Not everyone is ready to make the switch to Thunderbolt displays and USB-C accessories, so Dell includes a USB-C to HDMI and USB Type-A dongle in the box with the XPS 17. If you’re anything like us, you’re going to need more than one full-size USB port. Thankfully, we’ve found plenty of hubs and connectors that aren’t terribly expensive.

dell xps extension cord

But you can’t truly appreciate the design of the XPS 17 until you open the lid and see the carbon fiber palm rests that surround the trackpad, just below the full-size keyboard, with more carbon fiber above the keyboard near the hinge. It’s a sleek look that we’re really into.

The keyboard and trackpad are both smooth and responsive, although it took us a few days to adjust to the XPS 17’s keyboard. The keys are a little soft and seem to blend together. We struggled the most with finding the home keys when we would first start typing, but after a few days, we adjusted and have no issues.

The 17-inch display has almost no bezels, thanks to Dell’s InfinityEdge display technology. The bezel at the top of the display is the thickest of the group, making room for a Windows Hello camera that uses facial recognition to unlock the XPS 17.

The keyboard sticks to the all-black theme, with the power button in the top-right corner pulling double duty with a built-in fingerprint sensor that can also be used to unlock the XPS 17, either as a sole Windows Hello authentication method or as a backup to the camera system up top.

In some ways, the design of the XPS 17 feels as if Dell is trying to compete with the premium design and feel we see in Microsoft’s Laptop 3. That is to say, it looks fantastic, and we have no complaints if that is indeed the case.


dells xps side screen view

There are several different configurations you can choose from when building your own XPS 17. On the low end, you can get an XPS 17 with an Intel Core i5-10300H with 8GB of memory and 256GB of storage for $1,371.99.

On the high end, which is more in line with what we’ve been testing, you can get an XPS 17 with a 4K UHD+ touch display, Intel Core i7-10875H processor, Nvidia RTX-2060 with Max-Q GPU, 32GB of memory and a 1TB SSD for $2,939.99.

The specifications for the first build are more than enough for an everyday, work or school laptop, with Office use and web browsing, while the high-end build competes with gaming laptops from companies like MSI or Razer.

The cooling system does a good job at keeping the XPS 17 running smoothly without overpowering whatever task is at hand. When you really push the graphics, like playing a round of Fall Guys, the fans are a little louder, but nonetheless, they’re not overpowering. We didn’t have a USB-C handy to test AAA games, complete with a gaming mouse and headset, but based on the spec sheet alone, you should have zero issues hiding 60 frames per second at 1080p in games like Fortnite or Warzone.

The display is gorgeous. Photos and videos are clear and crisp, and with a total brightness of 500 nits, if you wanted to take a break and work outside, you’d have no issues seeing the screen to do so.

Everyday tasks like managing multiple tabs in Microsoft’s Edge browser while looking at an Excel spreadsheet and streaming music were quick and without issue or lag.

As we do with all Underscored reviews, we put the XPS 17 through a series of benchmark tests. These tests push the XPS 17’s performance to its limits, mimicking real-world use and giving us a series of numbers to compare between different models.

Using Geekbench 5, the XPS 17 scored 1,326 in the single-core test, with a score of 8,034 in the multi-core test. That’s slightly higher than the XPS 15 we reviewed in June, and faster than the 13-inch MacBook Pro and Surface Book 3.

We ran Geekbench 5’s compute test twice: once to test Intel’s integrated graphics, then again to test the RTX 2060 with Max-Q. The former saw a score of 6,054, while the far more powerful GPU scored 68,004. The final test was to run PCMark 10’s Extended test that simulates someone using the laptop over a workday, watching videos and editing documents. The XPS 17’s score of 6,318 is at the top of the list when compared to the rest of the laptops we’ve tested.

dell xps keyboard

In other words, all of those numbers confirm what we experienced when testing. Tasks like photo or video editing are quick and seamless, and doing more mundane things like shopping on Amazon while listening to Spotify isn’t something that will even begin to tax the XPS 17.

For battery life, Dell estimates the 4K model will last 14 hours and eight minutes in daily workflow, or seven hours and 28 minutes when streaming Netflix. Using our benchmark test of playing a video on loop with the display’s brightness set to 50% and airplane mode enabled, the XPS 17 fell short of those estimates — which is almost always the case — and turned off after 7 hours and 50 minutes.

That’s still impressive, especially when you look at the battery life of gaming laptops that oftentimes don’t hit 120 minutes.

Bottom line

The Dell XPS 17 is a fantastic laptop, especially when it’s maxed out like the unit we tested. We do wish Dell would have swapped in one or two full-size USB ports instead of going all in on USB-C, but that’s just us being picky.

If you’re in the market for a 17-inch laptop that’s well designed and has plenty of configuration options, then the XPS 17 is definitely worth looking at.