When I started my career as a tech journalist, I used to get requests from laptop makers to review their 17-inch notebooks. Now there aren’t many 17-inch laptops available in the market, and it makes me wonder why. I know consumers who wish to have a high-performance laptop with a plus-sized screen, and the lack of options makes them settle for 13-inch options. But when Dell informed me about sending the new 17-inch XPS for review, I got excited. Dell’s decision to revive the 17-inch XPS seems fairly self-explanatory: the market for premium 17-inch notebooks is there, and laptop makers need to look at this space more seriously than ever.
Dell XPS 17 (9700) price in India: Rs 2,14,105 onwards
Dell XPS 17 (9700) review: What’s new?
The XPS 17 looks like any other XPS machine, and I am glad Dell didn’t mess with the design. The chassis is made of CNC-machined aluminum with a silver lid and the keyboard deck has carbon fiber palm rests. The XPS 17, even though aimed at professionals, does not look boring. For a 17-inch notebook with a discrete GPU, the XPS 17 feels light and sleek. The laptop weighs 2.4 kg and has dimensions of 14.7 x 9.8 x 0.8 inches. Yes, it is not as light as the 16-inch MacBook Pro but that’s okay. Being a productivity laptop, the XPS 17 has plenty of connectivity ports, including four USB-C ports with Thunderbolt 3, a full-size SD card reader, and a headphone jack. The HDMI and USB-A ports are missing, though Dell does provide a dongle inside the box.
Dell XPS 17 (9700) review: What’s good?
I really liked the XPS 17’s display. Dell has cut down the top and side bezels, resulting in a 16:10 display. Having an edge-to-edge display has its own advantages, as you get extra screen real estate. The nearly-bezel-less display gives a whole new aesthetic to the machine. The model I tested had the 4K UHD InfinityEdge touch-screen display (3840 x 2400p resolution) and featured Corning’s Gorilla Glass 6. That translates to 500 nits of brightness, which outranks average laptop displays that are limited to 350 nits.
The screen gets so bright indoors that I had to reduce the brightness level to less than 50 per cent. Look, there are advantages to the 4K screen over the FHD screen. If you are into editing photos or videos, I would encourage you to opt for the XPS 17 with the 4K UHD screen. The 4K UHD option costs more (There’s also a model with an FHD panel) but it’s worth it if you use Adobe Premiere Pro and other editing software.
Opening the display lid reveals the keyboard deck with carbon-fiber palm rests and a large touchpad. The keys are large, and you feel it. They are easy to hit and have an excellent 1.3mm of travel, ideal for writing. The keyboard lacks a dedicated number pad, though. The glass touchpad is extra-large and is smooth and responsive. The power button is on the top right of the keyboard and doubles as a fingerprint reader. And in case you don’t want to use the fingerprint reader, the infrared webcam supports Windows Hello facial recognition.
On either side of the keyboard are two powerful upward-facing speakers that feature a 2.5-watt woofer and a 1.5-watt tweeter on each side. This results in audio quality that is close to the audio system inside a 16-inch MacBook Pro. Not only are these speakers great for watching movies and listening to music, but they also do a decent job of video or audio conferencing.
I tested the model that costs Rs 2,35,685. It includes a Core i7-10750H CPU (10th gen), 16GB RAM, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 Ti 4GB GDDR6, and 1TB SSD. This configuration is more than enough to handle my type of work. I managed to run 20-25 Chrome tabs open in the background, edited lots of photos, browse the web throughout the day, write and edited stories, chatting with colleagues on WhatsApp Web, and watching movies and videos.
I even ran Yakuza 5 at 1080p, and even though the XPS 17 is not a gaming machine, the notebook does the job fine. See, the XPS 17 is a work machine first and its customers would want to use this machine to encode videos and multitask on the laptop. If you are a developer or a graphic designer, the XPS 17 acts as a mobile editing machine. The good news is that the XPS 17 remained cool, and I never experienced any slow down while testing the device.
As for the battery life, it lasted between 8 and 9 hours on most days. That level of battery life for a laptop with the 4K UHD display is respectable. I believe the battery life for the model with a 1900 x 1200p non-touch display would last even longer, though I have not tested it.
Dell XPS 17 (9700) review: What’s not good?
The real weakness of the Dell XPS 17 is its webcam. The 720p HD underperforms, and it’s a shame. At a time when Zoom video calls have become mainstays due to the pandemic, here is an expensive laptop that has an average web camera.
Dell XPS 17 (9700) review: Should you buy it?
The Dell XPS 17 seems to be a fairly well-designed desktop replacement that many pro consumers might be looking for. Its beautiful 4K display, slim and light form factor, satisfactory performance, premium design language, dual upward-facing speakers, carbon fiber keyboard, and massive trackpad makes it a Windows machine that puts in the category of the 16-inch MacBook Pro. If you want the best Windows laptop, the Dell XPS 17 is for you. It is an expensive machine but for creators and professional consumers, the sticker price is justified. Average consumers should rather settle for the XPS 13.