Introduced last year and sharing a chassis design, the sleek XPS 17 and its slightly smaller XPS 15 sibling jolt new life into the niche category of large-screen laptops known as desktop replacements. While there are plenty of gaming rigs that offer Intel’s most powerful H-series processors and GeForce RTX graphics, very few of them look nearly as sleek and modern as the XPS duo. Dell also offers a 13.4-inch ultraportable XPS 13, which is a perennial recommendation of ours. All feature nearly borderless screens with a slightly taller 16:10 aspect ratio instead of the more common 16:9 profile.
Updated for 2021 with Intel’s 11th Generation “Tiger Lake” processors and Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 30 Series GPUs, the Dell XPS 17 is the best big-screen content-creator laptop you can buy if money is no object. The $1,549 starting price is palatable, but a decently powerful configuration like the one reviewed here is $2,949.99. If you don’t need the extra horsepower that its Core i7-11800H CPU and GeForce RTX 3060 graphics chip offer, the less expensive but still excellent LG Gram 17 might be a better choice. Otherwise, it’s hard to go wrong with the ultra-modern chassis and gorgeous 4K display that the XPS 17 offers.
But go ahead and splurge on the 4K screen if you can. It’s worth the extra weight and the $400 it adds to the XPS 17’s price. Thanks to its 16:10 aspect ratio, the panel has even more pixels than standard 4K screens—3,840 by 2,400 pixels instead of 3,840 by 2,160. The full HD screen offers 1,920-by-1,200-pixel resolution, which we don’t recommend at this screen size since pixels are more annoyingly visible than they are on a smaller panel. Both screens have 1,600:1 contrast ratios, are rated for a sunny 500 nits of maximum brightness, and support Dolby Vision for viewing HDR content.
Aimed squarely at people who might otherwise choose the 16-inch Apple MacBook Pro, both the XPS 15 and XPS 17 are best suited for CPU- and GPU-intensive workflows that also require tons of screen real estate. These are tasks like rendering video, working on massive spreadsheets, or compiling large amounts of code. All three notebooks have power and style to spare, and all have sky-high prices in their best-equipped configurations. While the MacBook Pro is the obvious choice if you prefer macOS to Windows, choosing between the XPS 15 and XPS 17 largely comes down to which screen size you prefer, since the specs are otherwise similar. Our XPS 17 review unit measures 0.77 by 14.7 by 9.8 inches (HWD) and weighs 5.34 pounds, which is exceptionally compact for a laptop with a 17-inch display. Gaming laptops in this size class are typically larger and sometimes downright enormous. The 17.3-inch Asus ROG Zephyrus S17, which is quite trim for a giant gaming rig, measures 0.78 by 15.5 by 10.4 inches. On the other hand, the XPS 17 isn’t the trimmest machine in its category—the Gram 17, currently our top pick for general-purpose desktop replacements, is a bit thinner at 0.7 inch and much lighter at 2.98 pounds. You can get the Dell’s weight down to 4.87 pounds if you choose the entry-level configuration, which has a non-touch full HD screen instead of the touch-enabled 4K one.