Dell XPS 17: The ultimate content creation laptop
PCWorld|October 2021
With a giant screen and thin profile, the Dell XPS 17 is perfectly built for content creators on the go.
GORDON MAH UNG

Warning: Dell’s XPS 17 9710 is no gaming laptop (go. pcworld.com/nogl). If you just wrinkled your nose up in disapproval, that’s fine—from Dell’s point of view, anyway. That’s because the XPS 17 9710 is seemingly designed to appeal to content creators, not those focused only on gaming.

You might have difficulty wrapping your head around the concept since gaming laptops with a higher-resolution screen typically pass as content creation laptops. We admit we thought that too, but over time, we’ve come to finally understand what Dell is doing here—very successfully too. Adobe users in particular will love this notebook.

SPECS

CPU: Intel 8-core 11th gen Core i7-11800H.

GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 Laptop at 70 watts TGP.

RAM: 32GB DDR4/3200 in dual-channel mode.

Storage: 1TB Samsung P9A1 PCIe Gen 4 SSD (up to 2 M.2 drives).

Battery: 97 watt-hours.

Network: WiFi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1.

Panel: 17-inch touch screen with 10-bit color depth and 3840x2400 resolution.

Webcam and biometrics: 720p IR camera with Windows Hello support and fingerprint reader.

Weight and size: The laptop is 14.74x9.76x0.77 and 5.4 pounds with touch screen (4.9 pounds without) and 1 pound for 130-watt power brick.

Ports: We’ll let the pictures do the talking but there are four Thunderbolt 4 ports, a UHS-II SD Card reader, and a combo analog audio jack and wedge lock port, which you can see below.

The right side of the XPS 17 9710 features two more Thunderbolt 4 ports, a UHS-III SD Card reader and an analog headphone jack. SD Card readers can vary in speed (go.pcworld.com/vary), but the XPS 17’s is top notch. We saw read and write performance near the maximum speed of our UHS-II card.

There’s no USB-A port, but Dell does at least include a USB-A and full-size HDMI dongle. While we understand why PC makers are giving USB-A the boot—although we still don’t agree with it—we think it’s an oversight of Dell not to include a gigabit ethernet adapter too. Content creation people love high-speed LAN transfers, Dell.

Content creators will love the star of the show, though. While the 11th-gen Intel CPU and Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 GPU are indeed attention getters, the real feature that sets the Dell XPS 17 9710 apart is its giant 17-inch screen.

SCREEN SIZE

Don’t let that number fool you. You may be thinking it’s “only” a 17-inch screen going up against laptops with 17.3-inch panels, but the 16:10 aspect ratio of the XPS 17 matters. Yes, we know, 17.3 is more than 17—but if you actually measure the vertical and horizontal height of the 17-inch 16:10 panel on the XPS 17, it’s actually slightly larger than 17.3-inch panels in terms of viewable area.

The other natural competitors to the XPS 17 are recent crops of 16-inch notebooks using 16:10 aspect ratio screens as well. But while a 16-inch screen sounds pretty close to a 17-inch screen, in actual real estate the Dell XPS 17’s display is almost 13 percent bigger than a comparable 16-inch screen, such as the ones in the MSI Creator Z16 (go.pcworld.com/ cz16) or Asus ROG Zephyrus M16 (go. pcworld.com/zm16).

To give you an idea of how much larger, we physically measured the XPS 17’s panel to compare it to the physical dimensions of other popular screen dimensions.

What’s impressive about the XPS 17 9710 is that while it offers a screen slightly larger than that of a 17.3-inch 16:9 laptop, its footprint is only an inch wider than that of most thin-profile 15.6 gaming laptops. That’s 26 percent more viewable screen space in a laptop just an inch wider. So yes, if you want as much panel packed into the tiniest possible laptop, the XPS 17 is your answer.

KEYBOARD, TRACKPAD, AND AUDIO

Keyboards and trackpads matter. The keyboard on the XPS 17 isn’t our favorite—it’s a tad bouncy and a little stiff—but it’s fine. The trackpad is ginormous, but palm rejection seems to work well enough and we didn’t experience any cursor jumps even while intentionally mashing our palms on the trackpad.

The keyboard doesn’t feature a 10-key setup, which some people will complain about, but that keeps it centered—a good thing that also allows more space for top firing speakers. While most thin gaming laptops tend to have pretty poor audio, the XPS 17 gets loud and offers a decent midrange and bass. In fact, you can feel the laptop vibrating when you crank up the sound. Some might say that’s too loud, but we’d take it over some gaming laptops that are tuned by an angry librarian.

PERFORMANCE

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