A few months ago we took a look at the latest XPS 13 laptops from Dell (XPS 13 2-in-1, XPS 13 9305) and were very impressed with what Dell had to offer. With the XPS 13s, for a not-so small fee you get a relatively small laptop that packs a surprisingly large amount of grunt. But therein lies the problem, it is a relatively small laptop.
Some people want a bigger laptop. Something that has a big enough to display to comfortably game on but still suitable for productivity work. Dell sent us their latest 17-inch laptop, the 9710. Sure, the laptop is not cheap but can be configured to suit your requirements to make it a bit more affordable. Dell obviously thought we needed the best as they sent us one of their highest configured 9710s. So obviously we put it through its paces as best we could.
Hardware and design
The XPS 17 9710 is very Dell XPS. It has the silver outer shell with the Dell logo in the centre and once you open it you are greeted with the usual XPS display and keyboard. Of course, the laptop is rather large to begin with, measuring 19.5mm(H) x 374mm (W) x 248mm (D) — considering what is in it, the height of just 19.5mm is extraordinarily small. It is a bit heavy to be carting around everywhere in your backpack at around 2.4kg for the touch variant but to sit down on the couch or at the dining table to use it is actually pleasant.
This surprised me because I’d always thought that a 17-inch laptop seemed too large and unwieldy but in 2021 there are so many options and to be honest this gives a near-desktop experience. I don’t know about you, but I do my best work on a desktop.
The keyboard is standard size with the stereo speakers located either side of it — there are in fact four speakers, 2.5W x 2 woofers with 1.5W x2 tweeters for a total of 8W total peak output. This is a 17-inch laptop so gaming should be fun on it — the speakers will help with that. For music it was decent enough too but let’s face it most people use headphones these days if you want decent sound. Without skipping over the keyboard too much it is a standard Dell XPS keyboard which has soft keys which make minimal noise while still having decent travel. Even if you haven’t used one before it won’t take you long to get used to it and begin to love it.
Directly below the keyboard is one of the biggest touchpads I have ever seen on a laptop. It is huge and extremely functional, although your muscle memory will take a bit of getting used to such a large touchpad, mostly if you still use the right hand click on the touchpad for the right click menu rather than the two finger tap for the right click menu — use the two finger tap and you won’t have any issues.
The power button on the top right of the keyboard doubles as a fingerprint sensor which worked well when used but to be honest, with a Windows Hello camera built-in my requirement of a fingerprint sensor was nearly non-existent.
Each side of the laptop has two Thunderbolt 4 (USB Type-C) on each side — yes that is a total of four Thunderbolt 4 ports all with DisplayPort and Power Delivery. There is a full-sized SD card reader on the right-hand side along with a headphone jack but still not a single USB-A port in sight. Dell has you covered though with the inclusion of a USB-C to USB-A v3.0 and HDMI v2.0 adapter that ships standard with the laptop.
The massive 17-inch display
The display is what sells this laptop for me. The sheer amount of real estate makes it such a joy to use and comparable to using a desktop PC. Not only is the display massive but the 4k resolution makes is high resolution and comfortable on the eyes. The refresh is a sensible 60Hz — if you want more than that you should be looking at a specific gaming laptop.
The display has HDR and touch support but comes in a non-touch variant as well. I love the touch displays on laptops but I’m not sure I use them enough to justify paying extra for it. In any case, the touch was sensitive and accurate at all times. Touch may work well with a finger but there is no pen support I’m afraid.
The display has the usual tiny XPS bezels we have come to expect. In the top bezel is once again the webcam — a 720p, 30 fps HD IR camera suitable, and perfect for, Windows Hello sign in. I usually find Windows Hello to be accurate and fast and once again found it to be so on this Dell laptop.
Performance and internals
With Dell’s XPS series you never have to worry about performance — they pack some high end specs into their laptops and this XPS 17 is no different. This review unit houses an 11th Gen Intel Core i7-11800H @ 2.30GHz with a NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3060, 6 GB GDDR6 GPU alongside 32GB of RAM and a 1TB M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD. Of course you can downgrade the specs a bit if you want to save a few dollars — you can opt for a 3050 4GB GPU and 16GB of RAM but you can also opt for an i9 processor, 64GB of RAM and a 2TB M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD — keep in mind that is going to be extremely expensive if you opt for that and I cannot see why you would ever need to.
Using the laptop day to day was a breeze, with browsing with heaps of tabs open as seamless as you would expect with these specs. Video editing was also accomplished easily and gaming was decent too.
Gaming with just 60Hz may not be quite the experience as you see with a gaming laptop with 160 or even 320Hz refresh rate display but for the casual game it was fine and to be honest I didn’t notice any issues with any games I threw at it. In saying that if you are serious about your gaming you would be going first for a gaming laptop and just using that as a workhorse as required.
I really didn’t expect a laptop with such a large display to last any decent amount of time but the 94Whr battery allowed me just over 9 hours of battery life while browning and working online. Add in some gaming and media streaming and the time drops quite a bit as you would expect. With a 4K display gaming and media streaming is going to consume a lot of resources.
9ish hours which is decent but to be honest, as a rule you are not going to be using this when you are that far from a power socket so it isn’t a huge deal. I was able to charge it using my Dell portable charger which is handy. For those who will be taking it away from the home to use just make sure it’s charged before you go — 9 hours of surfing time should be enough for most people.
Just after booting the XPS 17 up for the first time I was greeted with the Windows 11 update so I figured why not? After updating the laptop ran smoothly and seamlessly with all drivers seemingly not having any issues at all (well, none that I noticed). Dell has done a good job making sure their laptops will run Windows 11 so if you want to do that I wouldn’t be concerned about updating the XPS 17 if you purchase one.
Dell also includes all of their using apps and system tweaks which can be tweaked even further to what you desire using their easy-to-use apps. Once again there is McAfee installed but that can be easily uninstalled if you prefer to not use it as I do.
How is it to use?
Way better than I thought it would be. The extra screen real estate made it easy to work with multi-windows. Not portable at all but if you just want one to work near home or in different locations around your home then it is perfect.
The massive trackpad makes it easy to navigate, along with the touch display and the 17-inch display is great. I used to think a 13in XPS was in my future (and it is currently my go-to laptop) but I can easily see a time when I buy a 17-inch to use at home — either sitting outside, at the kitchen table or on the couch so I can hang with my family while working and not be stuck away in the office. For portability or working away from home I think a small 10-inch Chromebook would be perfect.
The larger display just adds a lot more functionality to the display — of course that depends on when you are using your laptop for — but for reading and working from source material such as media releases from companies regarding the latest laptop/phone/headphones etc it is perfect for me.
Should you buy it
This is a tough one. If you know you definitely want a 17-inch laptop then I can highly recommend the Dell XPS 17 9710 — especially in this expensive $6,500 configuration they sent me. At that price though you had better be sure this is what you want. After using it I can definitely say that it is for me, although I would still have a hard time forking over that kind of money for a laptop.
If you are used to a smaller laptop but are hamstrung by its dimensions not allowing enough multi-tasking or multi-window usage then a 17-inch laptop is definitely something you should consider. If you can afford it, Dell’s XPS laptops have great reputations for a reason — they are just that good.
The cheapest config for the Dell XPS 17 9710 is a tick over $4,000 but you can spec it up to over $7,000 depending on what you want/need in your laptop. If you are working from home a lot and have nowhere for a desktop then a 17-inch laptop would be perfect for you. It can be carried around to different sites but I wouldn’t recommend carrying it too far nor for too long if you like your back as straight as it currently is.
If you need a high-powered laptop with a decent dedicated GPU and a massive, beautiful display then this is one laptop that will be difficult to go past. For more information head on over to the Dell website and keep an eye on the pricing as you spec it out to your requirements.