Review Dell XPS 17 Notebook

Florian Glaser (translated by Liala Stieglitz), 12/21/2010

Bigger, faster, better? After recently looking closer at the 15 inch alternative from Dell's newest multimedia offspring, the 17 inch, XPS 17 now has to prove itself in the editorial office. Find out if the premium product of Dell's multimedia notebook range can meet the high expectations in this review.

Dell XPS 17

Dell currently offers four XPS 17 alternatives on its German homepage. We grabbed the strongest model, with the cryptic name N00XL706, right away. It is equipped with a GeForce GT 445M (3GB DDR3 VRAM), unlike the less expensive models with a GeForce GT 435M (1 GB DDR3 VRAM). A current quad core from Intel serves as the processor. The customer has to choose between the Core i7-740QM (1.73 GHz, 6 MB L3 cache) and the Core i7-840QM (1.86 GHz, 8 MB L3 cache). Then there are also two options for the operating system – Windows 7 Home Premium and Ultimate (both 64 bit).

Dell gives potential buyers more freedom with the random access memory. The assortment ranges from 4 to a maximum of 16 GB of DDR3 RAM (1333 MHz). We don't quite understand the decision to offer only one hard disk in the online shop. The XPS 17 actually has two hard disk bays (our test device is an exception). However, the available HDDs already bid a good amount of memory with a capacity of 500, respectively 640 GB (7200 rpm). Finally, friends of high definition videos are waited on with the optional Blu-Ray player (burns DVDs/CDs).

The top XPS 17 alternative currently starts at a fair 949 euro. The price can however skyrocket to the level of the one or other high-end notebook with the according equipment. The configuration we were provided with had a GeForce GT 445M, Core i7-840M, a four GB DDR3 RAM, a 500 GB HDD (x2), Blu-Ray drive, Bluetooth 3.0 and Windows Home Premium 64bit. At the time of the test it added up to a steep 1419 euro.

Case

Unique design
Unique design

Dell displays courage for individuality in the case's design. While the lid and the bottom gleam in subtle silver, the top is made in a gray-black color. Workmanship and material impression are on a high standard and are clearly superior to some competitors. Dell relies on high-end anodized aluminum.

Since the surfaces do without a high-gloss coating, the notebook is very resistant against outer influences. Micro-scratches, dust and fingerprints hardly show up. In terms of design, opinions will likely drift apart quite a bit. Dell has opted for a fairly round appearance, which rather more enhances the dimensions than hides them. The case is relatively bulky and heavy with a height of 5.8 cm and a weight of 3.6 kg. We would first call the XPS 17 portable without the battery (height: 3.9 cm, weight: 3.1 kg).

We can issue an overall good rate for stability. The surfaces yield slightly only under strong pressure. Merely the wrist-rest has to accept reproach, since it sometimes emits an intense creaking sound. The hinges show a good functionality. Opening is possible without the base unit lifting massively. Additionally, the display stays more or less in position during ground vibrations.

Connectivity and Communication

USB 3.0 Performance
USB 3.0 Performance: Transcend StoreJet TS500GSJ25D3 500 GB USB 3.0 HDD

Connectivity

Dell does a good job on connectivity. With exception of an ExpressCard slot and a FireWire port, the manufacturer has accommodated almost all interfaces that you can expect on a notebook these days. The XPS 17 has two cutting edge USB 3.0 ports beside a 9in1 cardreader, a Kensington lock, a RJ45 Gigabit LAN port and two USB 2.0 ports (1 eSATA combo). Beyond that, a mini display port out and three audio sockets (two outs & one in) also allow the use of external monitors or (5.1 sound systems.

We quite liked the port distribution. Dell follows the example of desktop replacements and positions most interfaces on the rear. This way, their use is sometimes a bit fiddly, but the sides aren't massively taken up by cables. This is beneficial for mouse use in the end.

Wireless Communication

While a WLAN module belongs to the basic configuration (Intel Centrino Wireless N 1000), Bluetooth v3.0 is only available for a surcharge.

Left: USB 2.0, 9in1 cardreader
Left: USB 2.0, 9in1 cardreader
Rear: Mini display port, HDMI, RJ45, Kensington lock, DC-in, two USB 3.0
Rear: Mini display port, HDMI, RJ45, Kensington lock, DC-in, two USB 3.0
Right: Optical drive, three audio sockets, eSATA/USB 2.0 combo
Right: Optical drive, three audio sockets, eSATA/USB 2.0 combo
Software installation
Software installation

Software

Dell pretty much restrains itself in matters of software installation. The one or other bloatware can be found on the system, but the notebook is quite clearly arranged. In order to exhaust the XPS 17's system and not be harassed by peeving popup messages, we would nevertheless recommend freeing Windows from superfluous ballast in time.

Scope of Delivery

The XPS 17 is unfortunately not treated to a lavish scope of delivery. Apart from the battery, the adapter and a driver & tool DVD, Dell merely adds a manual and a few info brochures in the box. If you don't want to pay an additional five euro for the system recovery DVD, you'll have to burn it yourself.

Warranty

The XPS 17's basic warranty is granted for 12 months (collect & return). When required, the service options "Extended" or "Premium" can be selected. They include an onsite repair for 12 up to 48 months (next business day with Premium).

Input Devices

Keyboard

The keyboard made a split impression. On the one hand the well-conceived layout, the presence of a dedicated number pad and the good size, with exception of the arrow keys, respectively F keys, have to be praised. On the other, the typing feel proves to be rather spongy. We find, the key pressure point and stroke too undefined. A somewhat loud and clattery typing noise joins in.

The keyboard also doesn't live up to our expectations. A slight yielding can be determined during normal use. The XPS 17 is miles away from the crisp Clevo keyboard (e.g. mySN XMG P500 Pro).

Touchpad

In return, the slightly sunken and rimmed by a narrow line touchpad, which can be deactivated, has to be seen as a success. Due to a generous size of 10 x 5.5 cm, even vast display distances can be crossed without problem. The smooth surface thrills with excellent gliding traits. The skin feel is very pleasant. The supported gestures are triggered reliably; there is nothing to reproach in terms of precision. Merely the touchpad keys weren't able to convince us. The trigger quality is quite soft and undefined.

Keyboard
Keyboard
Touchpad
Touchpad

Display

Before we look at the given image quality, a bit of general information about the display first: Dell relies on a 17.3 inch HD+ WLED TrueLife screen from LG-Phillips (LP173WD1). It is made in a cinematic-friendly 16:9 aspect ratio, as has become standard. The resolution of 1600x900 presents a good compromise of desktop and resource exploitation, in our opinion. Due to a screen diameter of 43.94 cm, games and movies can also develop their full atmosphere. Details can be seen well.

216
cd/m²
218
cd/m²
220
cd/m²
220
cd/m²
231
cd/m²
238
cd/m²
213
cd/m²
230
cd/m²
227
cd/m²
Distribution of brightness
Information
Gossen Mavo-Monitor
Maximum: 238 cd/m²
Average: 223.7 cd/m²
Brightness Distribution: 89 %
Center on Battery: 231 cd/m²
Black: 1.16 cd/m²
Contrast: 199:1

The display's brilliance deserves respect. An average of 223.7 cd/m2 is a very good rate. Even the illumination is beyond any doubt. 89% indicate a homogenous image. The display is disappointing when we look at the other rates. Dark areas look rather gray than black due to a high black value of 1.16 cd/m2. This has a particularly negative, visible effect on movies and games. Additionally, it has a poor contrast of 199:1 that makes the image look undifferentiated. We would describe the color intensity as good in any case.

Dell XPS 17 vs. sRGB (grid)
Dell XPS 17 vs. sRGB (grid)
Dell XPS 17 vs. AdobeRGB (grid)
Dell XPS 17 vs. AdobeRGB (grid)
Dell XPS 17 vs. MacBook Pro 17 (grid)
Dell XPS 17 vs. MacBook Pro 17 (grid)
Reflections

Using the XPS 17 outdoors is possible to an extent. The glossy display surface partly leads to intense reflections that stress the eyes enormously, depending on the ambient light. It is mandatory to look for a perfect place indoors to remain spared from annoying reflections for the most part.

The low viewing angle stability is another flaw of this display. Changes in color and brightness already turn up at relatively slight deviations horizontally and vertically, which makes it necessary to adjust the display. When all single points are added up, we would have expected more from the prime multimedia machine. Dell wastes a lot of potential and can't distance itself from the (mediocre) competition with the display.

Viewing angles: Dell XPS 17
Viewing angles: Dell XPS 17

Performance

Turbo Boost
Turbo Boost

Processor: Intel Core i7-840QM

The high-end XPS 17 model is generally equipped with a strong Intel quad core processor. Our test device could fall back on the Core i7-840QM, which costs an additional 300 euro in comparison to the Core i7-740QM. The Core i7-840QM has a larger L3 cache (8 instead of 6 MB) besides a higher clock rate (1.86 instead of 1.73 GHz).

Both processors have the Hyperthreading technology in common, which simulates four virtual cores. Up until now, the possibility of processing a total of 8 threads simultaneously doesn't have a noteworthy advantage in games, but optimized applications can benefit greatly.

Another treat provided by Core i7 processors is the so-called Turbo Boost technology: Given that the temperature and load situation permit it, the Core i7-840QM's clock rate is increased up to 3.20 GHz (Core i7-740QM: max. 2.93 GHz). The disadvantage of the CPU manufactured in a 45 nm structure width is its fairly high power consumption. 45 watts doesn't guarantee good battery runtimes.

System info CPUZ CPU
System info HDTune (HDD2)
System info HDTune (HDD1)
System info HDTune (HDD1)
System info GPUZ
System info CPUZ Graphics
System info CPUZ RAM SPD
System info CPUZ RAM SPD
System info CPUZ RAM
System info CPUZ Mainboard
System info CPUZ Cache
System info HDTune (HDD2)
System information: Dell XPS 17

CPU Performance

We have executed a few processor-biased benchmarks to find out if the upgrade from Core i7-740QM to a Core i7-840QM is worthwhile. The differences in Cinebench R10 (64bit) are rather insignificant. While the Core i7-840QM can exceed the Core i7-740QM by 10% in single core calculating (4224 to 3828), the advantage shrinks to just only 7% in multi core rendering (11513 to 10780). Cinebench R11.5 (64bit) shows a similar picture. The Core i7-840QM has the lead by only 6% with 3.31 to 3.13 points.

Cinebench R10 Rendering Single 32Bit
3438
Cinebench R10 Rendering Multiple CPUs 32Bit
9247
Cinebench R10 Shading 32Bit
4100
Cinebench R10 Rendering Single CPUs 64Bit
4224 Points
Cinebench R10 Rendering Multiple CPUs 64Bit
11513 Points
Cinebench R10 Shading 64Bit
4190 Points
Cinebench R11.5 OpenGL 64Bit
32.71 fps
Cinebench R11.5 CPU Multi 64Bit
3.31 Points
Help
Cinebench R11.5 CPU Multi 64 Bit in comparison
Dell Latitude ST-LST01 (min)
 Z670, Graphics Media Accelerator (GMA) 600
0.22
   ...

 AMD A10-5800K, Radeon HD 7660D
3.3
Nexoc B510
 3360M, HD Graphics 4000
3.3
Dell XPS 15 FHD
 840QM, GeForce GT 435M
3.3
Dell XPS 17
 840QM, GeForce GT 445M
3.31
Lenovo ThinkPad T430
 3520M, NVS 5400M
3.33
HP EliteBook 8570p-B6Q03EA-ABD
 3520M, Radeon HD 7570M
3.33
Samsung 600B5C-S03
 3520M, NVS 5200M
3.34
   ...
Eurocom Panther 5D (max)
 E5-2697 v2, Quadro K5100M
17.6
PC Mark
PCMark Vantage6153 points
Help
HWiNFO
HWiNFO

Graphics Card: Nvidia GeForce GT 445M

Exciting fare is provided by the graphics card. Dell uses the brand new GeForce GT 445M from Nvidia. The DirectX 11 capable GPU, manufactured in a cutting edge 40 nm process, presents the link between midrange (e.g. GeForce GT 420M) and upper range (e.g. GeForce GTX 460M). It is well equipped with 144 unified shaders and a 3072 MB DDR3 video memory.

In opposition to most midrange graphics card, the memory bus doesn't turn into an extreme bottleneck. 192 bits are first fully exploited by very demanding games. The clock rates are also remarkable. The tool, GPU-Z, recorded 590 GHz for the core, 800 GHz for the memory and 1180 MHz for the shaders.

The highlight of the GeForce GT 445M is the vast amount of supported features. Apart from GPU based physics and video acceleration ("PhysX" & "PureVideo HD") and an automatic graphics switching ("Optimus", not available in this model), the GeForce GT 445M is also capable of stereoscopic 3D rendering ("3D Vision", requires the corresponding kit and a 120 Hz monitor). Other features, like CUDA, DirectCompute 2.1 and OpenCL, are rather more interesting for professional users. However, CUDA can provide for an extreme speed increase in practical use, for example in video converting. Particularly smartphone users could profit from this.

5.9
Windows 7 Experience Index
Processor
Calculations per second
7.2
Memory (RAM)
Memory operations per second
5.9
Graphics
Desktop performance for Windows Aero
6.8
Gaming graphics
3D business and gaming graphics
6.8
Primary hard disk
Disk data transfer rate
5.9

GPU Performance

We mulled over which graphics card would likely be the proper opponent for the GeForce GT 445M for a long time. Ultimately, we settled on the Radeon HD 5850 DDR3 (Acer Aspire 5943G). The GeForce GT 445M isn't quite able to reach the ATI competition in the DirectX 10 based 3DMark Vantage. The Radeon HD 5850 takes the lead by 9% with 5056 to 4627 (GPU score).

We additionally checked the DirectX 11 performance that is becoming increasingly important for the future with Unigine Heaven 2.1 benchmark (1280x1024, high, tessellation normal). As previous tests have shown, the graphics cards from the GeForce 400 range cope very well with the latest DirectX expansion stage. Therefore, it's not really surprising that the GeForce GT 445M places itself before the Radeon HD 5850 by 10% (16.2 to 14.7 fps).

3D Mark
3DMark 0327599 points
3DMark 06
 1280x1024
10304 points
3DMark Vantage5478 points
3DMark 111291 points
Help
HDD1
CrystalDiskMark HDD1
HDD2
CrystalDiskMark HDD2

HDD Performance

Swift SSDs or modern hybrid hard disks are unfortunately not available for the XPS 17 in the online configuration at the moment. Nevertheless, the offered HDDs can at least score with a fast revolution speed of 7200 rpm. Dell installs two HDDs with 500 GB each from Seagate (ST9500420AS) into our test device right away.

Their speed proved to be agreeably high. There's no reason for complaint with an average transfer rate of 77.1 MB/s (HDD1) and 85.4 MB/s (HDD2). The hard disk configuration also looked good in terms of the other characteristics. The sequential read rate (86.75, respectively 110.1 MB/s) and the sequential write rate (82.79, respectively 109.4 MB/s) are superior to most competitor products (CrystalDiskMark).

Seagate Momentus 7200.4 ST9500420AS
Transfer Rate Minimum: 40.5 MB/s
Transfer Rate Maximum: 103.1 MB/s
Transfer Rate Average: 77.1 MB/s
Access Time: 17.6 ms
Burst Rate: 60.1 MB/s
DPC Latency Checker
DPC Latency Checker: Spikes when buttons for WLAN and brightness control are used

Performance Verdict

Due to cutting edge and strong components, the XPS 17's efficiency is on a very good level. Especially Intel's quad core manages even most demanding tasks easily. The processor doesn't know the meaning of performance bottlenecks. The GeForce GT 445M can be seen as a good addition, ATI's dominant market position in the (upper) midrange is finally a thing of the past.

Beyond that, four RAM bays and two hard disk slots provide a certain amount of future proofness. There is nothing in the way of an upgrade later on. Incidentally, you can save yourself the extra charge for a Core i7-840QM. The performance gain was usually less than 10% in comparison to the Core i7-740QM in our tests.

Gaming Performance

Wie wir testen - Leistung

As in the graphics benchmarks, the GeForce GT 445M had to stand up to the Radeon HD 5850 DDR3 in the practical tests. For keeping the processor's impact as minor as possible, we will only deal with the results of the FullHD resolution, 1920x1080. The comparison rates originate from the Acer Aspire 5943G, the Acer Aspire 8943G or the Packard Bell EasyNote LX86 – depending on the game.

Mafia 2

The gangster epic, Mafia 2, was one of the few games in our overview, where the GeForce GT 445M wasn't able to exceed the Radeon HD 5850. The Radeon HD 5850 visibly keeps the upper hand in high details and 16x AF (anisotropic filtering) with 31.3 to 25.1 fps. The difference is a respectable 24%.

Mafia 2
 ResolutionSettingsValue
 1920x1080high, 0xAA, 16xAF25.1 fps
 1360x768high, 0xAA, 16xAF41.8 fps
 1024x768medium, 0xAA, 8xAF51.8 fps

Dirt 2

The GeForce GT 445M can demonstrate its great DirectX 11 performance in the racing game, Dirt 2. While the Radeon HD 5850 has to be satisfied with moderate 18.6 fps in very high details and 4x AA (antialiasing), the GeForce GT 445M achieves adequate 31.4 fps (+69%).

Colin McRae: DIRT 2
 ResolutionSettingsValue
 1920x1080Ultra Preset, 4xAA31.4 fps
 1360x768High Preset, 2xAA56.5 fps
 1024x768Medium Preset, 0xAA89.3 fps

Fifa 11

The latest offspring of the extremely successful Fifa sequel gets along perfectly with the combination of quad core and GeForce GT 445M. When high details and 4x AA are used, the XPS 17 settles to almost 100 fps. That is a remarkable plus of 80% than a combination of dual core and Radeon HD 5850 are capable of performing (54.9 fps).

Fifa 11
 ResolutionSettingsValue
 1920x1080high, 4xAA, 0xAF98.9 fps
 1360x768high, 2xAA, 0xAF163.3 fps
 1024x768medium, 0xAA, 0xAF235.5 fps

Bad Company 2

The successful multiplayer shooter, Bad Company 2, is expecting a new edition soon. An extension called Vietnam. If you forgo on the one or other quality enhancement and don't overdo it with the resolution, the XPS 17 is well equipped for heated multiplayer battles. In any case, a smooth frame rate isn't possible with high details, 4x AA and 8x AF (21.1 fps). The Radeon HD 5850 has an even harder time with these settings and places itself slightly behind the GeForce GT 445M by 12% (18.6 fps).

Battlefield: Bad Company 2
 ResolutionSettingsValue
 1920x1080high, HBAO on, 4xAA, 8xAF21.1 fps
 1366x768high, HBAO on, 1xAA, 4xAF39.3 fps
 1366x768medium, HBAO off, 1xAA, 1xAF52.7 fps

Starcraft 2

Because the real-time strategy game's performance varies extremely in every single mission, we opted for the demanding intro of the challenge "For the Swarm" as benchmark basis. 23.2 fps, which the GeForce GT 445M achieves in very high details, are a clear indication that even later campaign missions will be rendered fairly smoothly. The Radeon HD 5850 can claim a slightly poorer result of 20.2 fps.

StarCraft 2
 ResolutionSettingsValue
 1920x1080ultra23.2 fps
 1360x768high43.5 fps
 1360x768medium58.1 fps

Shift

The race game, Shift, with an air of reality is known to generally run better on Nvidia cards. The Radeon HD 5850 gets to feel this fact noticeably. The GeForce GT 445M leaves the ATI GPU behind by 33% with 31.7 to 23.8 fps (high details, 4x AA).

Need for Speed Shift
 ResolutionSettingsValue
 1920x1080all on/high, 4xAA, triliniarAF31.7 fps
 1366x768all on/high, 4xAA, triliniarAF53.6 fps
 1024x768all on/med, 2xAA, triliniarAF75.1 fps

Modern Warfare 2

Modern Warfare's graphics engine has already been around for a few years. Thus, it's not a big challenge for the XPS 17. Very high details and 4x AA result in a good frame rate of 33.8 fps. The corresponding settings are also playable on the Radeon HD 5850. An average of 30.9 fps are quite impressive.

CoD Modern Warfare 2
 ResolutionSettingsValue
 1920x1080all on/max vsync off, textures extra, 4xAA33.8 fps
 1366x768all on/high vsync off, high textures, 4xAA52 fps
 1024x768all on/med vsync off, normal textures, 2xAA63 fps

Risen

Of course, a role game shouldn't be left out in our comprehensive benchmark parkour. Risen is one of the exceptions where the Radeon HD 5850 triumphs. The GeForce GT 445M is only just exceeded with 22.4 to 21.7 fps (high details, 4x AF).

Risen
 ResolutionSettingsValue
 1920x1080high/all on, 0xAA, 4xAF21.7 fps
 1366x768all on/high, 4xAF32.6 fps
 1024x768all on/med, 2xAF48.6 fps

Metro 2033

If you want to push your notebook's hardware to its absolute limits, the atmospheric first-person shooter, Metro 2033, is just right. The GeForce GT 445M proves to be helplessly overburdened in very high details, DirectX 11 mode, AAA (analytical antialiasing) and 4x AF. The game stutters extremely due to 6.8 fps. However, Metro 2033 runs even slower on the Radeon HD 5850. An acceptable gameplay can't even be considered with 5.5 fps. You won't get around applying medium details in the XPS 17's native resolution.

Metro 2033
 ResolutionSettingsValue
 1920x1080Very High DX11, AAA, 4xAF6.8 fps
 1600x900High DX10, AAA, 4xAF19.4 fps
 1360x768Normal DX10, AAA, 4xAF37.7 fps

Gaming Performance Verdict

The XPS 17's gaming performance surprised us pleasantly. Games like Metro 2033 or Crysis are usually playable in (very) high details, whereas there often are even reserves left for performance taxing antialiasing. However, the GeForce GT 445M only feels comfortable in resolutions beyond 1600x900 to an extent. It's only enough for medium setting in a few games. Nevertheless, the GeForce GT 445M is overall a very attractive graphics card in terms of performance for money, and a very good choice for gamers. In comparison to the ATI competitor, the GeForce GT 445M is set up perfectly. The Radeon HD 5850 DDR3 is surpassed by an average of 14%.

low med.high ultra
Colin McRae: DIRT 2 (2009) 89.356.531.4fps
Need for Speed Shift (2009) 75.153.631.7fps
Resident Evil 5 (2009) 109.861.234.7fps
Risen (2009) 48.632.621.7fps
CoD Modern Warfare 2 (2009) 635233.8fps
Battlefield: Bad Company 2 (2010) 52.739.321.1fps
Metro 2033 (2010) 37.719.46.8fps
StarCraft 2 (2010) 58.143.523.2fps
Mafia 2 (2010) 51.841.825.1fps
Fifa 11 (2010) 235.5163.398.9fps
Call of Duty: Black Ops (2010) 61.856.537.1fps

Emissions

System Noise

The XPS 17's biggest drawback is, doubtlessly, its high emission rates. Starting with the noise development, which – to say it carefully – isn't perfect. While the case fan still whirrs along acceptably in low load, so in undemanding office use (except for random increases), the 17 incher is very audible under load. A relaxed gaming session is hardly possible. We generally experienced the irregular fan noise as quite disagreeable. Frequent speed changes and a whirring from the optical drive even cost more nerves. As you may have noticed, the XPS 17 isn't really suitable for noise sensitive gaming natures.

Noise Level

Idle 31.8 / 33.4 / 33.4 dB(A)
HDD 31.8 dB(A)
DVD 37.2 / dB(A)
Load 43.1 / 47.9 dB(A)
 
    30 dB
silent
40 dB
audible
50 dB
loud
 
min: , med: , max:    Voltcraft SL-320 (15 cm distance)
Temps Idle
Temps Idle
Temps Volllast
Temps Volllast

Temperature

Now for the case temperatures which are at least acceptable in idle mode. The notebook's top and bottom stay below a rate of 30°C, and allow pleasant working with the device. In return, the temperatures increase notably under load. A maximum of 40°C on the wrist-rest and 43.4°C in the WASD key vicinity mean noticeably warm hands. Placing the XPS 17 on the lap isn't a good idea, either. We could measure up to 45.7°C in the case fan's area.

The situation is a bit different for the components. The Core i7-840QM and GeForce GT 445M aren't exactly cool with 50°C each already in idle mode.  During our stress test of full load test (Furmark & Prime), the processor and graphics card settled to a high, but not yet alarming 81°C. In opposition to some older Dell notebooks, a thermal throttling (downclocking) didn't turn up in the strongest configuration that we tested.

Max. Load
 40.0 °C35.1 °C27.8 °C 
 43.4 °C40.2 °C30.0 °C 
 40.4 °C39.3 °C31.1 °C 
Maximum: 43.4 °C
Average: 36.4 °C
25.2 °C31.2 °C35.4 °C
24.3 °C37.0 °C45.7 °C
27.1 °C38.6 °C41.8 °C
Maximum: 45.7 °C
Average: 34 °C
Power Supply (max.)  53.7 °C | Room Temperature 18.2 °C | Voltcraft IR-360
Waves MaxxAudio3
Waves MaxxAudio3: The single options have a big impact on the sound

Speakers

In our opinion, there are hardly any notebooks that can hold a candle to the XPS 17's sound quality – with a few odd exceptions. The 17 incher is equipped with a 2.1 sound system from JBO, which consists of two loudspeakers and a subwoofer. The given sound is surprisingly precise, powerful and natural for notebook relations. The bass is emitted audibly and provides the required force. Games, movies and music are a pleasure even without external loudspeakers. If you put high value on impressive sound, the XPS 17 will be the right companion. The high maximum volume also has to be mentioned as a feature.

On the other hand, we think it isn't a good idea to place both speakers on the wrist-rest. When an opening is covered by a hand, the sound is considerably misrepresented. Regardless of that, notebooks with a similar sound quality are hard to find. Only few devices, like the Toshiba Qosmio X500, the Alienware M17x, the Asus G73 or the Asus N73 can keep up to an extent.

Battery life

Readers Test
Maximum battery life (Readers Test)
Classic Test
Minimum battery life (Classic Test)

Dell includes a strong nine cell battery (90 Wh) in the XPS 17's configuration. It lifts the case rear by about 2.5 cm and also has an adverse impact on the general weight. However, the typing ergonomics are improved and fairly good battery runtimes are ensured. When the notebook is hardly loaded (BatteryEater's Reader's Test), you can reckon with a battery life of five hours in minimum brightness and maximum energy saving options.

When the brightness is adjusted to maximum and moderate energy savings options are set, the XPS 17 has to go back to the mains after about 3.5 hours of wireless internet surfing. DVD rendering on the go is also no problem for the 17 incher. Almost 2.5 hours are sufficient for the majority of movies. The battery life proves to be acceptable even under load (BatteryEater's Classic Test). We achieved about 1.5 hours with maximum brightness and disabled energy saving options.

Battery Runtime
Idle (without WLAN, min brightness)
5h 9min
WiFi Surfing
3h 30min
DVD
2h 24min
Load (maximum brightness)
1h 29min

The flipside of the strong components is their high energy requirement. 20.6 – 28.9 watts in idle mode and 99.4 – 123.2 watts under load are a bit higher than comparably fast systems, like Acer's Aspire 8943G. The included and surprisingly slim 150 watt adapter isn't exhausted even during load peaks. The adapter's maximum temperature of 52°C is also within an acceptable range. Lessons have been learned from past experiences.

Power Consumption

Off / Standby 0.1 / 0.5 Watt
Idle 20.6 / 25.2 / 28.9 Watt
Load 99.4 / 123.2 Watt
 
Key: min: , med: , max:         Voltcraft VC-940

Verdict

Dell XPS 17
Dell XPS 17

The XPS 17 could have been a great notebook, if Dell hadn't neglected certain issues. While Dell has concentrated on good image quality in the past (e.g. XPS 16), the standard run of the mill product, as other manufactures like to use, is found in the XPS 17. Display contrast, black value and viewing angles are disappointing.

The temperature and noise development under load is anything but exemplary. It feels like the hands are resting on a heating during gaming while a strong breeze blows through the room. Despite two USB 3.0 ports, the connectivity is incomplete. There is no ExpressCard, VGA and Firewire. The heavy and roundish designed device, with its creaking wrist-rest and relatively soft keyboard, won't likely appeal to everyone.

Nevertheless, numerous strengths amount to a good rating for the XPS 17. Starting with the perfectly manufactured, resistant and high-end surfaces, over the large and pleasantly smooth touchpad, up to the outstanding and almost worthy for reference sound of the installed 2.1 sound system – the list of bonus points is long. Additionally, the application and gaming performance is remarkable due to the quad core processor and fast GeForce GT 445M. The battery life is absolutely acceptable in view of the considerable power consumption.

Basically, we can't give the Dell XPS 17 an unlimited buying recommendation. Potential buyers should carefully consider what their personal requirements are.

In Review: Dell XPS 17
In Review: Dell XPS 17

Specifications

Dell XPS 17

:: Processor
:: Mainboard
Intel HM57
:: Memory
4096 MB, 2x 2048 MB DDR3 (1333 MHz), four slots, max. 16 GB
:: Graphics adapter
NVIDIA GeForce GT 445M - 3072 MB, Core: 590 MHz, Memory: 800 MHz, Shader rate: 1180 MHz, DDR3, ForceWare 259.39
:: Display
17.3 inch 16:9, 1600x900 pixel, HD+ WLED TrueLife, LG Philips LP173WD1, glossy: yes
:: Harddisk
Seagate Momentus 7200.4 ST9500420AS, 500 GB 7200 rpm two HDDs with a total of 1000 GB
:: Soundcard
Realtek ALC665 @ Intel Ibex Peak PCH - High Definition Audio Controller
:: Connections
2 USB 2.0, 2 USB 3.0, 1 HDMI, 1 DisplayPort, 1 Kensington Lock, 1 eSata, Audio Connections: headphone/line-out, headphone/line-out (incl. SPDIF), microphone/line-in, Card Reader: SD,SDIO,SDXC,SDHC,MS,MS Pro,MMC,MSXC,XD,
:: Networking
Realtek PCIe GBE Family Controller (10/100/1000MBit), Intel Centrino Wireless-N 1000 (a b g n ), 3.0 Bluetooth
:: Optical drive
Optiarc DVDRWBD BC-5540H
:: Size
height x width x depth (in mm): 39 x 414 x 287
:: Weight
3.6 kg Power Supply: 0.49 kg
:: Battery
90 Wh Lithium-Ion, 9 cell
:: Price
1299 Euro
:: Operating System
Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 64 Bit
:: Additional features
Webcam: 2.0 Megapixel, adapter: 150 watts, manual, a few info brosures, driver & tool DVD, CyberLink PowerDVD 9.6, 12-48 Months Warranty

 

The matt case surfaces are fairly resistant.
The matt case surfaces are fairly resistant.
The built-in HD webcam has a resolution of two megapixels.
The built-in HD webcam has a resolution of two megapixels.
Numerous details pep up the appearance.
Numerous details pep up the appearance.
Three touch-sensitive surfaces simplify use.
Three touch-sensitive surfaces simplify use.
The rather clattery typing noise won't appeal to everyone.
The rather clattery typing noise won't appeal to everyone.
The arrow keys have turned out way too small.
The arrow keys have turned out way too small.
A dedicated number pad would have fitted easily.
A dedicated number pad would have fitted easily.
Intel's Core i7 processor bids plenty of performance.
Intel's Core i7 processor bids plenty of performance.
The large-scale touchpad is pleasantly smooth.
The large-scale touchpad is pleasantly smooth.
The loudspeaker's position is rather unusual.
The loudspeaker's position is rather unusual.
External monitors can be connected via display port and HDMI.
External monitors can be connected via display port and HDMI.
Two USB 3.0 ports deserve high praise.
Two USB 3.0 ports deserve high praise.
The XPS 17 has a total of four USB ports.
The XPS 17 has a total of four USB ports.
The right accommodates an eSATA combo.
The right accommodates an eSATA combo.
The Blu-Ray drive can burn DVDs and CDs.
The Blu-Ray drive can burn DVDs and CDs.
A 9in1 cardreader finishes off the left.
A 9in1 cardreader finishes off the left.
The 150 watt adapter is surprisingly slim.
The 150 watt adapter is surprisingly slim.
The supplies are hidden in a small box.
The supplies are hidden in a small box.
The JBO loudspeakers inspire with an excellent sound.
The JBO loudspeakers inspire with an excellent sound.
Naturally, a few logos shouldn't be omitted.
Naturally, a few logos shouldn't be omitted.
The surroundings are reflected in the glossy display.
The surroundings are reflected in the glossy display.
The roundish design is definitely a matter of taste.
The roundish design is definitely a matter of taste.
The maximum opening angle appears to be sufficient.
The maximum opening angle appears to be sufficient.
The interface positioning follows the example of desktop replacements.
The interface positioning follows the example of desktop replacements.
The base unit hardly lifts during opening.
The base unit hardly lifts during opening.
A Blu-Ray drive is optionally available.
A Blu-Ray drive is optionally available.
The fan blows out the waste heat on the case's left.
The fan blows out the waste heat on the case's left.
A cover can be removed from the case's bottom.
A cover can be removed from the case's bottom.
Merely the RAM and hard disks are accessible.
Merely the RAM and hard disks are accessible.
A genuine subwoofer is not a matter of course.
A genuine subwoofer is not a matter of course.
A total of 16 GB DDR3 RAM can be installed.
A total of 16 GB DDR3 RAM can be installed.
Our test device had two HDDs with 500 GB each.
Our test device had two HDDs with 500 GB each.
7200 rpm provide good performance.
7200 rpm provide good performance.
The strong nine cell battery lifts the case.
The strong nine cell battery lifts the case.
A handy indicator shows the battery state.
A handy indicator shows the battery state.
Dell gives its customers a lot of freedom for configuration.
Dell gives its customers a lot of freedom for configuration.
The XPS 17's workmanship is above-average.
The XPS 17's workmanship is above-average.
A few info brochures and a software DVD belong to the scope of delivery.
A few info brochures and a software DVD belong to the scope of delivery.

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Pro

+Resistant case surfaces
+Excellent application performance
+Clever port distribution
+Reference-worthy sound
+Good battery life
+High-end materials
+Pleasant touchpad
+Perfect workmanship
+Good gaming performance
+Two USB 3.0 ports
 

Cons

-Poor display contrast, black value and viewing angles
-Adverse loudspeaker placement
-Clattery & spongy keyboard
-No ExpressCard, VGA or FireWire
-High emission rates under load
-Creaking wrist-rest

Shortcut

What we like

The sound of the installed 2.1 sound system is simply great.

What we'd like to see

A lower temperature and noise development under load.

What surprises us

Why Dell has only installed an average display into a top model.

The competition

Other 17 inch notebooks with multimedia or gaming ambitions, such as the Acer Aspire 7745G, the Acer TravelMate 7740G, the Asus N73JQ, the Asus G73JW, the Dell Vostro 3700, the Medion P7615, the Packard Bell EasyNote LX86, the Samsung RF710 or the Samsung R780.

Rating

Dell XPS 17
12/16/2010 v2
Florian Glaser

Chassis
88%
Keyboard
80%
Pointing Device
88%
Connectivity
80%
Weight
62%
Battery
80%
Display
68%
Games Performance
88%
Application Performance
89%
Temperature
72%
Noise
72%
Add Points
82%
Average
79%
81%
Gaming *
Weighted Average

> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > Reviews > Archive of our own reviews > Review Dell XPS 17 Notebook
Author: Florian Glaser, 2010-12-21 (Update: 2013-06- 6)