Dell XPS 17 9720 review

Without a doubt, the XPS series is the most recognizable PC notebook on the market. It is revered as the main MacBook rival, not only because of its slim form factor but also because of the surprisingly powerful hardware it comes with.

All of this comes at a time when we mark a huge resurgence in Dell’s laptop quality, and we happen to recommend the brand more and more lately. On the other hand, the XPS 15 from last year happened to be a bit of a flop, compared to its 17-inch brother. Now, we got ourselves the latest XPS 17 9720, and we hope that it will build on the somewhat mixed success of its predecessor.

Weirdly, the laptop is largely unchanged on the outside. However, the insides now incorporate Intel’s 12th Gen Alder Lake processors, as well as the usual suspects – RTX Ampere graphics cards. Once again, the top trim is limited to the RTX 3060. And if you want to compete with the MacBook Pro 16s, you’d better have something up your sleeve.

Nevertheless, let’s check the laptop before we make any hasty conclusions.

You can check the prices and configurations in our Specs System: https://laptopmedia.com/series/dell-xps-17-9720/

Contents


Specs Sheet

Dell XPS 17 9720 review - Specs

  • Sharp VRX73-LQ170N1 (SHP1518)
  • Color accuracy  4.4  1.2
  • HDD/SSD
  • up to 10000GB SSD
  • M.2 Slot
  • 2x 2280 PCIe NVMe 4.0 x4  See photo
  • RAM
  • up to 64GB
  • OS
  • Windows 11 Pro, Windows 11 Home
  • Battery
  • 97Wh, 6-cell
  • Body material
  • Aluminum, Carbon
  • Dimensions
  • 374.48 x 248.08 x 19.54 mm (14.74" x 9.77" x 0.77")
  • Weight
  • 2.57 kg (5.7 lbs)
  • Ports and connectivity
  • 4x USB Type-C
  • 4.0, Thunderbolt 4, Power Delivery (PD), DisplayPort
  • Card reader
  • SD, SDHC, SDXC
  • Ethernet LAN
  • Wi-Fi
  • 802.11ax
  • Bluetooth
  • 5.2
  • Audio jack
  • 3.5mm Combo Jack
  • Features
  • Fingerprint reader
  • Web camera
  • HD
  • Backlit keyboard
  • Microphone
  • Digital Array Microphones
  • Speakers
  • 2x 2W Tweeters + 2x 2W Woofers Stereo Speakers
  • Optical drive
  • Security Lock slot
  • Wedge Lock

All Dell XPS 17 9720 configurations

#CommissionsEarned

What’s in the box?

Inside the package, you will find some paperwork, a 130W USB Type-C charger, and a USB Type-C to USB Type-A and HDMI 2.0 adapter.


Design and construction

Apparently, Dell is trying to fool everybody by stating that their device’s thickness is in the roundabouts of 8.67-13.15mm. As you can imagine, this is impossible. On their official Web page, however, there is an image, which shows a height of 19.54mm – something that is far more plausible. The weight, on the other hand, goes from 2.17 kilos for the iGPU-only version, and 2.57 kg for the discrete graphics options.

For a third year running, Dell seems to have retained the design of the XPS. Given the company’s history, we can expect at least two more years of “samedesignery”. However, we have to give credit to Dell for being far ahead of its competition when it comes to design – remember that they brought the almost zero-bezel design of the XPS 17 in 2020!

Again, this is a sandwich of aluminum and carbon fiber. The lid here can be opened with one hand, but gripping it is a bit difficult (especially if you trim your fingernails). However, we can still see the super-thin bezels around the matte display. The top one houses an HD Web camera with an IR face recognition scanner.

Let’s move to the keyboard, where we’re going to find a NumPad-less keyboard. It has a backlight and decent spacing between the keys. Also, its key travel is decent, while the feedback is clicky, which makes it comfortable for typing. As you can see, there are two huge speaker grills surrounding the keyboard. They are complemented by two slits (one on each side), as you get a total of four speakers – two tweeters and two woofers.

This results in probably the best speaker combo on a non-Apple notebook. Still, it can’t match the outstanding performance of the MacBook Pro 16 speakers. on the other hand, it has a very appealing touchpad. It is very responsive and large enough to let two teams of 11 ants play 90-minute football with a 15-minute break at halftime.

Unsurprisingly, the cool air is drawn from a grill on the bottom panel, while the heat is exhausted through two vents on the back.


Ports

On the left side, there is a security slot and two Thunderbolt 4 connectors. On the right, you will be met by an Audio jack, an SD card reader, and two more Thunderbolt 4 connectors.


Disassembly, upgrade options and maintenance

You need to undo 8 Torx-head screws to access this laptop’s internals. After that, pry the bottom panel with a plastic tool and lift it away from the chassis. Be careful because the metal edges are really sharp.

Inside, we see a 97Wh battery pack. To continue with the teardown process, unplug the battery connector from the motherboard. And if you want to remove the battery entirely, you’ll need to undo 7 Phillips-head screws.

Memory-wise, you get two SODIMM slots, which fit up to 64GB of DDR5 RAM in total. As for the storage, there are two M.2 PCIe x4 slots, which support Gen 4 drives.

This laptop’s cooling solution comprises a vapor chamber with a pretty slim profile. It has two heat sinks attached to it, while two fans that are large in diameter, blow the heat away.


Display quality

Dell XPS 17 9720 is equipped with a Full HD IPS panel, model number Sharp VRX73-LQ170N1 (SHP1518). Its diagonal is 17″ (43 cm), and the resolution – 1920 х 1200p. Additionally, the screen ratio is 16:10, the pixel density – 133 ppi, their pitch – 0.19 x 0.19 mm. The screen can be considered Retina when viewed from at least 60 cm (from this distance, the average human eye can’t see the individual pixels).

Viewing angles are good. We offer images at different angles to evaluate the quality.

Also, a video with locked focus and exposure.

The maximum measured brightness is very high – 620 nits (cd/m2) in the middle of the screen and 568 nits (cd/m2) average across the surface with a maximum deviation of 16%, which is inappropriate. The Correlated Color Temperature on a white screen and at maximum brightness is 7150K (average) – colder than the 6500K optimum for sRGB.
In the illustration below you can see how the display performs from a uniformity perspective. The illustration below shows how matters are for operational brightness levels (approximately 140 nits) – in this particular case at 37% Brightness (White level = 143 cd/m2, Black level = 0.09 cd/m2). We detected a noticeable Nonuniformity of the screen around its upper edges, both in terms of brightness and color.
Values of dE2000 over 4.0 should not occur, and this parameter is one of the first you should check if you intend to use the laptop for color-sensitive work (a maximum tolerance of 2.0 ). The contrast ratio is very good – 1600:1.

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 Dell XPS 17 9720’s color gamut coverage.

Its display not only covers 100% of the sRGB/ITU-R BT.709 (web/HDTV standard) in CIE1976.

Our “Design and Gaming” profile delivers optimal color temperature (6500K) at 140 cd/m2 luminance and sRGB gamma mode.

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 compare the scores of Dell XPS 17 9720 with the default settings (left), and with the “Gaming and Web design” profile (right).

The next figure shows how well the display is able to reproduce really dark parts of an image, which is essential when watching movies or playing games in low ambient light.

The left side of the image represents the display with stock settings, while the right one is with the “Gaming and Web Design” profile activated. On the horizontal axis, you will find the grayscale, and on the vertical axis – the luminance of the display. On the two graphs below you can easily check for yourself how your display handles the darkest nuances but keep in mind that this also depends on the settings of your current display, the calibration, the viewing angle, and the surrounding light conditions.


Response time (Gaming capabilities)

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

We recorded Fall Time + Rise Time = 28 ms.

After that, we test the reaction time of the pixels with the usual “Gray-to-Gray” method from 50% White to 80% White and vice versa between 10% and 90% of the amplitude.


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.

Dell XPS 17 9720’s display doesn’t flicker at Luminance levels higher than 162 nits (41% brightness). Below this value, and between 120-140 nits, the light has two components – a constant, and an alternating one, with relatively small amplitude and high frequency. This is something like a best-case scenario when we talk about PWM usage.


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.

Gloss level measurement

Glossy-coated displays are sometimes inconvenient in high ambient light conditions. We show the level of reflection on the screen for the respective laptop when the display is turned off and the measurement angle is 60° (in this case, the result is 45.4 GU).


Buy our profiles

Since our profiles are tailored for each individual display model, this article and its respective profile package are meant for Dell XPS 17 9720 configurations with 17″ Sharp VRX73-LQ170N1 (SHP1518) (FHD+, 1920 × 1200) IPS.

*Should you have problems with downloading the purchased file, try using a different browser to open the link you’ll receive via e-mail. If the download target is a .php file instead of an archive, change the file extension to .zip or contact us at bg.laptopmedia@gmail.com.

Read more about the profiles HERE.

In addition to receiving efficient and health-friendly profiles, by buying LaptopMedia's products you also support the development of our labs, where we test devices in order to produce the most objective reviews possible.

Office Work

Office Work should be used mostly by users who spend most of the time looking at pieces of text, tables or just surfing. This profile aims to deliver better distinctness and clarity by keeping a flat gamma curve (2.20), native color temperature and perceptually accurate colors.

Design and Gaming

This profile is aimed at designers who work with colors professionally, and for games and movies as well. Design and Gaming takes display panels to their limits, making them as accurate as possible in the sRGB IEC61966-2-1 standard for Web and HDTV, at white point D65.

Health-Guard

Health-Guard eliminates the harmful Pulse-Width Modulation (PWM) and reduces the negative Blue Light which affects our eyes and body. Since it’s custom tailored for every panel, it manages to keep the colors perceptually accurate. Health-Guard simulates paper so the pressure on the eyes is greatly reduced.

Get all 3 profiles with 33% discount


Drivers

All drivers and utilities for this notebook can be found here: https://www.dell.com/support/home/en-us/product-support/product/xps-17-9720-laptop/drivers

Battery

Now, we conduct the battery tests 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. Here, the 97Wh battery pack lasted for 11 hours and 11 minutes of Web browsing, or 13 hours and 42 minutes of video playback.


CPU options

You can get this notebook with the Core i5-12500H, Core i7-12700H, or Core i9-12900HK.


GPU options

Graphics-wise, you get to choose between integrated graphics, the RTX 3050, or the RTX 3060. Interestingly, Dell states that both the GPUs would come with 60W of TGP. That would be a downgrade for the RTX 3060, which had a TGP of 70W last year. What is even weirder, is that our RTX 3050 actually had a TGP of 65W. Go figure…


Gaming tests

Metro Exodus Full HD, Low (Check settings) Full HD, High (Check settings) Full HD, Extreme (Check settings)
Average FPS 102 fps 44 fps 21 fps

Borderlands 3 Full HD, Medium (Check settings) Full HD, High (Check settings) Full HD, Badass (Check settings)
Average fps 89 fps 59 fps 44 fps

Shadow of the Tomb Raider (2018) Full HD, Lowest (Check settings) Full HD, Medium (Check settings) Full HD, High (Check settings)
Average 133 fps 80 fps 73 fps

Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands Full HD, Medium (Check settings) Full HD, High (Check settings) Full HD, Very High (Check settings)
Average fps 82 fps 75 fps 64 fps

Temperatures and comfort

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 P-core frequency; Average E-core frequency; CPU temp.; Package Power

Intel Core i7-12700H (45W TDP) 0:02 – 0:10 sec 0:15 – 0:30 sec 10:00 – 15:00 min
Dell XPS 17 9720 3.37 GHz @ 2.85 GHz @ 75°C @ 98W 3.26 GHz @ 2.78 GHz @ 86°C @ 92W 2.49 GHz @ 2.29 GHz @ 70°C @ 55W
MSI Katana GF66 (12Ux) 3.24 GHz @ 2.68 GHz @ 82°C @ 98W 3.17 GHz @ 2.65 GHz @ 88°C @ 94W 2.97 GHz @ 2.55 GHz @ 86°C @ 83W
MSI Pulse GL76 (12Ux) 3.29 GHz @ 2.76 GHz @ 77°C @ 97W 3.27 GHz @ 2.75 GHz @ 83°C @ 95W 3.14 GHz @ 2.68 GHz @ 86°C @ 85W
MSI Crosshair 15 (B12Ux) 3.27 GHz @ 2.67 GHz @ 84°C @ 97W 3.19 GHz @ 2.65 GHz @ 91°C @ 94W 3.05 GHz @ 2.47 GHz @ 88°C @ 80W
Acer Predator Helios 300 (PH317-56) 3.39 GHz @ 2.84 GHz @ 64°C @ 103W 3.53 GHz @ 2.76 GHz @ 71°C @ 100W 2.66 GHz @ 2.86 GHz @ 87°C @ 102W
MSI Stealth GS66 (12Ux) 3.84 GHz @ 2.82 GHz @ 83°C @ 124W 3.55 GHz @ 2.67 GHz @ 85°C @ 107W 3.19 GHz @ 2.42 GHz @ 83°C @ 85W
MSI Vector GP66 (12Ux) 3.81 GHz @ 2.91 GHz @ 81°C @ 116W 3.54 GHz @ 2.72 GHz @ 83°C @ 98W 3.30 GHz @ 2.57 GHz @ 79°C @ 86W
Acer Predator Triton 500 SE (PT516-52s) 3.25 GHz @ 2.52 GHz @ 89°C @ 80W 3.10 GHz @ 2.46 GHz @ 90°C @ 73W 2.93 GHz @ 2.38 GHz @ 91°C @ 66W

The first two checkpoints reveal a decent clock speed for the XPS 17 9720 and its Core i7-12700H. However, once past the halfmark point (if not earlier), the clocks settle to a very lenient speed, with the TDP not moving from 55W.

Real-life gaming

NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3050 GPU frequency/ Core temp (after 2 min) GPU frequency/ Core temp (after 30 min) GPU frequency/ Core temp (Max Fan)
Dell XPS 17 9720 1756 MHz @ 71°C @ 64W 1758 MHz @ 70°C @ 64W
MSI Prestige 15 (A12Ux) 1489 MHz @ 74°C @ 40W 1441 MHz @ 82°C @ 40W 1499 MHz @ 72°C @ 40W
Acer Nitro 5 (AN515-58) 2021 MHz @ 70°C @ 94W 2009 MHz @ 73°C @ 94W
Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3 (15″, 2021) 1885 MHz @ 76°C @ 85W 1866 MHz @ 82°C @ 85W
Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i (15″, 2021) 2004 MHz @ 82°C @ 88W 1991 MHz @ 86°C @ 88W
ASUS Vivobook Pro 15 OLED (K3500) 1605 MHz @ 69°C @ 49W 1610 MHz @ 68°C @ 50W
Dell Vostro 15 7510 1729 MHz @ 74°C @ 64W 1710 MHz @ 78°C @ 65W
ASUS VivoBook Pro 16X OLED (N7600) 1576 MHz @ 68°C @ 50W 1571 MHz @ 69°C @ 50W
Lenovo IdeaPad 5 Pro (16″) 1651 MHz @ 72°C @ 55W 1636 MHz @ 75°C @ 55W
HP Victus 16 (16-e0000) 1824 MHz @ 73°C @ 75W 1814 MHz @ 73°C @ 75W 1822 MHz @ 73°C @ 75W
MSI Katana GF66 1675 MHz @ 73°C @ 60W 1660 MHz @ 78°C @ 60W 1699 MHz @ 67°C @ 60W

On the other hand, the vapor chamber seems to be a perfect solution for the RTX 3050, which never runs hotter than 71°C, and maintains a 64W TGP (in line with the 65W stated by the NVIDIA Control Panel).

Gaming comfort

This XPS 17 is definitely among the quiet runners on the market. Even when you put it against the wall with some AAA titles, it ramps up the fans, but never sounds too loud. Also, its surface temperature remains very much in check.


Verdict

What exactly do you want from your laptop? Do you prefer it to be thin, light, and versatile, or do you need all of the power in the world? The answers to these questions will greatly affect your purchase decision. If you want the latter, you would probably steer clear of the XPS 17.

Its form factor just doesn’t allow it to take advantage of the horsepower its processor can output, while also limiting the TGP options for the graphics card. Both of that could be seen in the benchmarks, where the laptop was only performing well in the rather short Adobe Photoshop test.

Ultimately though, this laptop is made for creators – since photographers are part of this group of people, we think that the aforementioned test is pretty promising.

Then comes the display. Dell XPS 17 9720’s IPS panel has a 17-inch diagonal, Full HD resolution, comfortable viewing angles, and a good contrast ratio. It also features a very high maximum brightness, while it covers 100% of the sRGB color gamut. Furthermore, our Gaming and Web design profile really improves the color accuracy and helps it fall right into the standards of sRGB. This makes the panel appropriate for color-sensitive work.

To make things even better for creators, Dell has provided you with a full-sized SD card reader. In addition, there are four Thunderbolt 4 connectors. Can you imagine…four?! However, one of them would be taken by the charger, and another with the included USB Type-A and HDMI 2.0 dongle. So you are basically left with two, but that’s not too bad.

In a similar fashion, you get four slots on the inside – two SODIMM ones for DDR5 RAM in dual-channel mode, and two M.2 PCIe x4 ones for Gen 4 SSDs. For sure, the feature set here is out of this world. But that’s not all.

The laptop sports a fingerprint reader, as well as an IR face recognition scanner. Its bezels are the thinnest out there, while the speakers are at the top of non-Apple notebooks. Even the battery life is good with 11 hours of Web browsing, or nearly 14 hours of video playback.

Once again – the Dell XPS 17 9720 is a pretty powerful machine. However, it is obliterated by the competition at the same price point, as the MSI Stealth GS66 (12Ux) comes with an RTX 3070 Ti for the same amount of money. However, the build quality of the XPS 17 is unrivaled. You have to pick your priorities very carefully.

You can check the prices and configurations in our Specs System: https://laptopmedia.com/series/dell-xps-17-9720/

Pros

  • Strong body build of carbon fiber and aluminum
  • Virtually bezel-less screen
  • 600+ nits maximum brightness, 100% sRGB coverage (Sharp VRX73-LQ170N1 (SHP1518))
  • Accurate color representation with our Gaming and Web design profile (Sharp VRX73-LQ170N1 (SHP1518))
  • Thin and light
  • Boasts up to Core i9-12900HK processor
  • Easy upgrade and maintenance
  • Great keyboard, touchpad, and speakers
  • Fingerprint reader embedded in the power button and optional IR face recognition system
  • Four Thunderbolt 4 connectors, USB Type-C charging, and an SD card reader (+ tiny dongle inside the box)


Cons

  • Can’t handle top trim CPUs
  • Pricey

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