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[In-Depth Comparison] Dell XPS 17 9710 vs MSI Creator Z16 (A11Ux) – which is the best laptop for content creators?

The high-end market is full of devices that are very versatile and are suitable for a variety of different tasks. Today we have a workstation notebook going against a Creator machine, which is a tad weird, but hear us out.

The XPS 17 9710 from Dell comes packed with power, with many people saying that it has too much power, especially when you factor in the dimensions of the laptop. As for the Creator Z16, it is a device that has gone through a total renovation. The previous Creator 15 was a gaming laptop in disguise, using the chassis and hardware of the GS66 Stealth. Now, it comes with a refreshed design and hardware upgrades thanks to Intel and NVIDIA.

Actually, nowadays the XPS is more and more aimed towards content creators, because of its form factor and big performance potential.

Today we are giving you an in-depth comparison between the Dell XPS 17 9710 and the MSI Creator Z16 (A11Ux).

Dell XPS 17 9710: Full Specs / In-depth Review

MSI Creator Z16 (A11Ux): Full Specs / In-depth Review

Dell XPS 17 9710 configurations:

MSI Creator Z16 (A11Ux) configurations:

Contents

Design and construction

Being that these are expensive premium notebooks, they use quality build materials and don’t cheapen out when it comes to durability. The XPS 17 has an aluminum lid and bottom panel, with glossy sides, which shine really well when propped up against a light source. The base is made out of carbon fiber, with the pattern being visible. Thankfully the use of these materials makes the laptop extremely sturdy, with both the lid and the base resisting our attempts to twist them, even if the notebook has a profile of only 13.15 mm at its thickest point, albeit it does have a nice weight to it of 2.53 kg, which is fine for a 17-inch device.

The Creator Z16 takes the same premium approach, with a CNC aluminum milled chassis, which is crafted using a single piece of aluminum. This fortifies the structure even more while keeping the profile on the low end, measuring at just 16.3 mm. In terms of weight, it is around 200 grams lighter, which is great for a 16-inch laptop with this level of performance. Design-wise, we get thin bezels and an outside appearance that is so MacBook-like that we wouldn’t judge if you mislabel it.

Dell XPS 17 9710
MSI Creator Z16 (A11Ux)

Keyboard and touchpad

Both laptops bring low-profile keyboards to the table. Despite that, both of them manage to deliver decently long key travel and clicky feedback, making them comfortable for long typing sessions. Both units also lack a NumPad, while featuring front-firing speaker grills. The keycaps do seem larger on the Creator laptop, especially the Up and Down Arrow keys.

The XPS 17 9710 brings a touchpad that Andre the Giant or the Big Show would enjoy. It has enormous size, while also being very accurate and responsive. On the MSI device, we get a smaller unit that is covered by glass but is nonetheless comfortable to use.

Dell XPS 17 9710
MSI Creator Z16 (A11Ux)

Ports

The I/O on the larger laptop is a bit limited, despite offering a total of four Thunderbolt 4 ports, along with an SD card reader and an audio jack. Inside the box, you get a Thunderbolt 4 to USB Type-A and HDMI dongle.

The Creator Z16 offers two Thunderbolt 4 ports, two USB Type-A 3.2 (Gen. 2) ports, a MicroSD card slot, and an audio jack, which is pretty similar to the XPS laptop.

Dell XPS 17 9710

MSI Creator Z16 (A11Ux)

Spec sheet

Disassembly, upgrade options

Both laptops offer the same level of upgradeability, with two SODIMM RAM slots that can fit up to 64GB of DDR4 memory, along with two M.2 PCIe x4 slots for SSD expansion. And while the XPS 17 is very easy to take apart, being held together by just 8 Torx-head screws, the Creator Z16 takes an entirely different approach.

While it does have just 6 Phillips-head screws, you have to unplug the battery and take the motherboard out, since the ports face the keyboard.

Dell XPS 17 9710
MSI Creator Z16 (A11Ux)

Display quality

The XPS 17 notebook has two IPS display offerings with a 17.0-inch diagonal, 16:10 aspect ratio, and either FHD+ or UHD+ resolution. We were able to secure a laptop with the 4K panel and were glad to put it to the test. The display has a pixel density of 266 PPI, a pitch of 0.095 x 0.095 mm, and a Retina distance of 33cm or 13 inches.

The Creator Z16 has two 16.0-inch QHD+ panels with either 120Hz or a 165Hz refresh rate. We had the 120Hz panel option, which has a pixel density of 189 PPI, a pitch of 0.13 x 0.13 mm, and a Retina distance of 46cm or 18 inches.

Dell XPS 17 9710
MSI Creator Z16 (A11Ux)

Both displays have excellent viewing angles. We offer images at 45° to evaluate image quality.

Dell XPS 17 9710
MSI Creator Z16 (A11Ux)

The Dell XPS 17’s display has a higher max brightness of 467 nits, a higher deviation of 13%, and a higher contrast ratio of 1670:1. The Creator Z16’s panel has a max brightness of 350 nits in the middle of the screen and 331 nits as an average for the whole area, with a maximum deviation of 9%. The contrast ratio stands at 960:1.

In terms of uniformity, both panels suffer from poor and non-uniform luminance in the lower-left corner for the XPS 17 9710 and in the upper right corner in the case of the Creator Z16.

Dell XPS 17 9710
MSI Creator Z16 (A11Ux)

Color coverage

To make sure we are on the same page, we would like to give you a little introduction to the sRGB color gamut and the Adobe RGB. To start, there’s the CIE 1976 Uniform Chromaticity Diagram that represents the visible specter of colors by the human eye, giving you a better perception of the color gamut coverage and the color accuracy.

Inside the black triangle, you will see the standard color gamut (sRGB) that is being used by millions of people on HDTV and on the web. As for the Adobe RGB, this is used in professional cameras, monitors, etc for printing. Basically, colors inside the black triangle are used by everyone and this is the essential part of the color quality and color accuracy of a mainstream notebook.

Still, we’ve included other color spaces like the famous DCI-P3 standard used by movie studios, as well as the digital UHD Rec.2020 standard. Rec.2020, however, is still a thing of the future and it’s difficult for today’s displays to cover that well. We’ve also included the so-called Michael Pointer gamut, or Pointer’s gamut, which represents the colors that naturally occur around us every day.

The yellow dotted line shows the color coverage of both the Dell XPS 17 9710 and the MSI Creator Z16 (A11Ux).

The XPS 17 fully covers the sRGB and AdobeRGB color gamuts, along with 98% of the DCI-P3 gamut. The Z16 on the other hand, shows complete sRGB and DCI-P3 coverage, while also covering 92% of the AdobeRGB gamut.

Dell XPS 17 9710
MSI Creator Z16 (A11Ux)

Color accuracy

We tested the accuracy of the display with 24 commonly used colors like light and dark human skin, blue sky, green grass, orange, etc. You can check out the results at factory condition and also, with the “Design and Gaming” profile.

Below you can check the results from the test of both laptops, with both the factory settings (left) and with our “Design and Gaming” profile applied (right).

The Creator Z16 comes with far greater accuracy, even with the stock settings. On the other hand, even our Design and gaming profile couldn’t save the display of the XPS 17.

Dell XPS 17 9710 

MSI Creator Z16 (A11Ux)

Response time (Gaming capabilities)

We test the reaction time of the pixels with the usual “black-to-white” and “white-to-black” methods from 10% to 90% and vice versa.

The Creator Z16 had a faster Fall + Rise time of 8.1 ms.

Dell XPS 17 9710
MSI Creator Z16 (A11Ux)

Health Impact / PWM (Blue light)

PWM – Screen flickering

Pulse-width modulation (PWM) is an easy way to control monitor brightness. When you lower the brightness, the light intensity of the backlight is not lowered, but instead turned off and on by the electronics with a frequency indistinguishable to the human eye. In these light impulses, the light/no-light time ratio varies, while brightness remains unchanged, which is harmful to your eyes. You can read more about that in our dedicated article on PWM.

In terms of flickering both panels show no usage of PWM across any brightness levels.

Dell XPS 17 9710
MSI Creator Z16 (A11Ux)

Blue light emissions

Installing our Health-Guard profile not only eliminates PWM but also reduces the harmful Blue Light emissions while keeping the colors of the screen perceptually accurate. If you’re not familiar with the Blue light, the TL;DR version is – emissions that negatively affect your eyes, skin, and your whole body. You can find more information about that in our dedicated article on Blue Light.

Buy our profiles

Dell XPS 17 9710 17.0″ 4K IPS Sharp 5KKRM-LQ170R1 (SHP1517) – Buy our profiles

MSI Creator Z16 (A11Ux) 16″ WQXGA IPS AUO B160QAN02.P (AUOBF99): Buy our profiles

Battery

The way we conduct our battery tests is with the Windows Better performance setting turned on, screen brightness adjusted to 120 nits, and all other programs turned off except for the one we are testing the notebook with. Both laptops come with large battery packs, with 97Wh for the XPS 17 and 90Wh for the Creator Z16. Both units churn out pretty similar battery life, but the XPS still lasts for 40 more minutes in the web browsing test and an hour more in the video playback test.

In order to simulate real-life conditions, we used our own script for automatic web browsing through over 70 websites.

For every test like this, we use the same video in HD.

Performance

The XPS 17 has four CPU options, which consist of the Core i5-11400H, Core i7-11800H, Core i9-11900H, and Core i9-11980HK. The MSI laptop has only two: the Core i7-11800H and the Core i9-11900H. In terms of graphics, the Dell laptop offers two options: the RTX 3050 (60W) which has 4GB of GDDR6 memory, and the RTX 3060 (70W) with 6GB of GDDR6 memory. The Creator Z16 offers a single GPU as of now: the RTX 3060 (65W) with 6GB of GDDR6 memory.

CPU benchmarks

Here we tested the Core i9-11900H (Dell) and the Core i7-11800H (MSI). The Core i9 didn’t show much more performance than the Core i7, with leads of 8% in 3D Rendering, and 0.2 seconds in Photoshop.

Results are from the Cinebench 20 CPU test (the higher the score, the better)

Results are from our Photoshop benchmark test (the lower the score, the better)

GPU benchmarks

Here we tested the RTX 3060 with the Dell unit having 70W TDP, while the MSI one has a 65W TDP. Both GPUs show similar or nearly equal performance, with the differences being in the low single-digit percentages.

Results are from the 3DMark: Fire Strike (Graphics) benchmark (higher the score, the better)

Gaming tests

Dell XPS 17 9710
MSI Creator Z16 (A11Ux)

rise-of-the-tomb-raider

Rise of the Tomb Raider (2016)Full HD, Medium (Check settings)Full HD, Very High (Check settings)Full HD, MAX (Check settings)
Dell XPS 17 9710 – RTX 3060 (70W)136 fps (+5%)77 fps (+8%)52 fps (+8%)
MSI Creator Z16 (A11Ux) – RTX 3060 (65W)130 fps71 fps48 fps

Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon WildlandsFull HD, High (Check settings)Full HD, Very High (Check settings)Full HD, Ultra (Check settings)
Dell XPS 17 9710 – RTX 3060 (70W)91 fps (+5%)80 fps (+8%)53 fps (+8%)
MSI Creator Z16 (A11Ux) – RTX 3060 (65W)87 fps74 fps49 fps

Shadow of the Tomb Raider (2018)Full HD, Medium (Check settings)Full HD, High (Check settings)Full HD, Highest (Check settings)
Dell XPS 17 9710 – RTX 3060 (70W)103 fps (+18%)98 fps (+32%)64 fps (+12%)
MSI Creator Z16 (A11Ux) – RTX 3060 (65W)87 fps74 fps57 fps

Temperatures and comfort

The XPS 17 uses a decently sized vapor chamber, along with two fans. On the side of the MSI Creator Z16, we have five heat pipes, with two each for the CPU and the GPU, while the fifth and final one keeps the VRMs and graphics memory in check.

Dell XPS 17 9710
MSI Creator Z16 (A11Ux)

Max CPU load

In this test we use 100% on the CPU cores, monitoring their frequencies and chip temperature. The first column shows a computer’s reaction to a short load (2-10 seconds), the second column simulates a serious task (between 15 and 30 seconds), and the third column is a good indicator of how good the laptop is for long loads such as video rendering.

Average core frequency (base frequency + X); CPU temp.

Intel Core i9-11900H (45W TDP)0:02 – 0:10 sec0:15 – 0:30 sec10:00 – 15:00 min
Dell XPS 17 97103.39 GHz @ 99°C @ 77W3.15 GHz @ 99°C @ 66W3.05 GHz @ 99°C @ 59W

The Core i9’s temperatures are very high, as was expected considering the thin body of the XPS 17 while the clock speeds were respectable.

 

Intel Core i7-11800H (45W TDP)0:02 – 0:10 sec0:15 – 0:30 sec10:00 – 15:00 minMax Fans
MSI Creator Z16 (A11Ux)3.12 GHz (B+36%) @ 96°C @ 68W3.03 GHz (B+32%) @ 95°C @ 62W2.76 GHz (B+20%) @ 95°C @ 53W2.90 GHz (B+26%) @ 95°C @ 59W

Here, the CPU has much more room to perform, as its Turbo speed caps at 4.60 GHz.

Real-life gaming

NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3060GPU frequency/ Core temp (after 2 min)GPU frequency/ Core temp (after 30 min)GPU frequency/ Core temp (Max Fan)
Dell XPS 17 97101396 MHz @ 71°C @ 70W1403 MHz @ 71°C @ 70W
MSI Creator Z16 (A11Ux)1400 MHz @ 77°C @ 64W1368 MHz @ 84°C @ 64W1428 MHz @ 73°C @ 65W

Both GPUs reach similar clock speeds, with the MSI laptop being noticeably hotter. Notice that when you use the Cooler Boost option, the RTX 3060 inside of the Creator Z16 runs at slightly higher clocks than its counterpart. However, the noise levels are way too high in our opinion, especially for a Creator-branded product.

Comfort during combined load

The MSI Creator Z16 has a higher outside temperature, maxing out at 45.1°C.

Dell XPS 17 9710
MSI Creator Z16 (A11Ux)

Verdict

Both laptops present a case for being better. The XPS 17 absolutely kills it when it comes to its design, with the carbon fiber offering a unique look that is a breath of fresh air in a world of metallic nobody laptops. That said, the MSI Creator Z16 also looks spectacular, but the build complexity of the XPS is seriously impressive. Both keyboards are on a very similar level, with the only pro in favor of the MSI being the larger arrow keys. The touchpad on the XPS 17 is fantastic, both in terms of size and accuracy.

I/O is pretty similar, regardless of which device you pick, as you get the same number of total USB ports, while the XPS packs a dongle in the package, giving you access to an HDMI connector, which is lacking on the Creator Z16. The Dell laptop is much easier to take apart and upgrade, due to its slots facing the bottom panel.

In terms of resolution, the XPS 17 has a fantastic panel, which will work really well in a productivity setting. However, the laptop is clearly lacking when it comes to its color accuracy, so you should wave goodbye to any hope of using it for color-sensitive work. The Creator Z16, on the other hand, was created (pun intended) with that sole purpose, featuring a dE value of 1.7 out of the box, with our Desing and Gaming profile bringing it down to 0.8. It also has a faster display with pixel response times of 8.1 ms.

In terms of battery life and performance, the XPS does a better job with its larger battery and better CPU configuration. However, the MSI was not that far behind, especially when you think about the lower grade Core i7 CPU that it has when compared to the Core i9 inside the Dell unit.

Both laptops reach critical temperatures, nearing 100°C, with the MSI device also having a higher outside temperature. If we were to pick a laptop between the two we would go with the Creator Z16. It is more compact, while still bringing a nice display, that can be used for color-sensitive work, along with having a pretty similar level of performance.

Why choose Dell XPS 17 9710?

  • + Design with carbon fiber
  • + Longer battery life
  • + Larger touchpad
  • + Easier to upgrade

Why choose MSI Creator Z16 (A11Ux)?

  • + Lighter and more compact design
  • + Fast pixel response times
  • + Similar performance
  • + Higher color accuracy

Dell XPS 17 9710: Full Specs / In-depth Review

MSI Creator Z16 (A11Ux): Full Specs / In-depth Review

All Dell XPS 17 9710 configurations:

All MSI Creator Z16 (A11Ux) configurations: