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I tested Dell's latest XPS laptops and can't recommend them enough

Dell's XPS 13 Plus and XPS 17 are great jacks-of-all-trades laptops that can handle daily tasks and larger asks.
Written by Cesar Cadenas, Contributing Writer
Dell XPS 13 Plus in silver.
Cesar Cadenas/ZDNET

Buying a computer is no easy task. You're spending a lot of money on something that will essentially be your new best friend. 

You do all your work on this machine, and once you're done for the day, you watch the latest movies and shows on it to relax. And if it ever gets damaged, you worry that it might be broken. Your life depends on your laptop running smoothly at all times.

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So whenever I shop for a laptop, I look for something that fits all the criteria I mentioned. I go in looking for a new best friend. I want a laptop that can handle a day's work and then shift over to being an entertainment device without missing a step. While it doesn't have to be a master at everything, it at least has to be pretty good at everything.

Not only have I found a laptop that fits this bill, I found two: the Dell XPS 13 Plus and the XPS 17.

View at Dell

It's not surprising at all the laptops I recently had the pleasure of trying out are from Dell's XPS lineup. The series often appears on many best-of lists and for good reason. These devices offer top-tier performance due to a combination of great design, a variety of features, long battery life, and ease of use.

Also: I can't recommend the 15-inch MacBook Air enough, even if it's not for me

Between the two, the XPS 13 Plus is the lesser of the pair, but it's still a powerful laptop. Big things can come in small packages, after all. Upon opening the model for the first time, I was greeted by a stunning 13.4-inch, 3.5K resolution OLED touchscreen. It sports Dell's own InfinityEdge monitor technology allowing for bright, vibrant colors and pitch-black shadows. I tell you; the amount of detail I saw in the movies I watched on the XPS 13 Plus was nothing short of impressive.

Design-wise, the laptop looks more stylish than the usual. The zero-lattice keyboard feels comfortable to type on, and below the keyboard is a seamless wrist rest protected by a thin layer of glass. The tracking pad isn't clearly marked, although it is right in the middle. 

However, the most eye-catching part of the XPS 13 Plus has to be the capacitive touch function row. You see, the keyboard lacks all function keys, replacing them with an opaque touch screen. It's a cool way to switch between media and function keys on the fly.


XPS 13 Plus lattice keyboard and function row

Cesar Cadenas/ZDNET

Despite how much I liked the XPS 13 Plus, I wouldn't buy one for me personally. Don't get me wrong – it's a good computer. The unit I had came equipped with a 13th Gen Intel Core i7-1360P processor, Iris XE graphics card, and 16GB of RAM. But I want something more. A machine that I can rely on to meet all my needs as a consumer. Case in point: the XPS 17 9730.


Dell XPS 17 9730 is larger in almost every way

Cesar Cadenas/ZDNET

The XPS 17 9730 is a more capable multi-media machine. The unit that I had had a 13th Gen Intel Core i7-13700H processor and an Nvidia GeForce RTX 4070 graphics card, one of the best GPUs on the market today. Granted, it's not the top-of-the-line RTX 4090 model, but it is pretty close. The graphical fidelity of the games I played was simply amazing. I didn't even have to lower the settings to get it to run well. All this is further boosted by a 17-inch 4K resolution screen.

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Of course, a powerful graphics card has other uses besides video games. Content creators and editors can get a lot of mileage out of the rendering speed from an RTX 4070 graphics card.

View at Dell

Additionally, the XPS 17 is quite sturdy. The keyboard is covered in a carbon fiber finish, the touchpad deck has a rubber coating, plus the frame is made out of aluminum. Put everything together, you have a sturdy, lightweight laptop (about five pounds) that you can take anywhere. 

The construction of the XPS 17 may seem like a random thing to focus on, but when it's a computer this thin, it can make or break a laptop. You should aim for something lightweight, but you wouldn't want a device that feels awful to type on or feels like it's about to snap in a two at a moment's notice. You'd want something that'll last. I can say with confidence the XPS 17 falls under that category.

Bottom line

It would be remiss of me to not mention the areas where both laptops come up short because there are a few things you should know about. For the XPS 13, it only has two Thunderbolt 4 ports so you can't even connect a USB drive. The laptop also gets uncomfortably hot. To the point where I recommend using it on a tablet instead. 

Also: Best laptops: Comparing the top rigs from Apple, Acer, Dell, and more

The XPS 17 has more ports, plus the box comes with a USB-C to USC-A adapter for flash drives. It certainly doesn't get as hot. However, the display isn't as good as the XPS 13. It's not an OLED screen, which is a bit disappointing. The front-facing cameras on both computers are not the highest of the end as well, maxing out at a resolution of 720p. 

Regardless of any shortcomings, either of these Dell laptops will make anyone happy. If I had to pick between the two, I would choose the XPS 17 because of the RTX 40 series graphics card. I want that power. On the other hand, if you're a college student or professional who just wants a great performing machine that's more lightweight, go with the XPS 13 Plus. You can't go wrong.

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