Dell XPS 15 vs. XPS 17: Performance, Display, and More

You’d be forgiven for mistaking the Dell XPS 17 for only a slightly bigger XPS 15. Both have large displays packed into the smallest chassis possible, and both boast some ambitious performance claims. However, there’s more going on between the two than meets the eye.

Just how big of a difference is there between the XPS 15 9520 and the XPS 17 9720? Here’s everything you need to know about these two great laptops, and which you should buy.

Specs

  Dell XPS 15 9520 Dell XPS 17 9720
Dimensions 13.56 inches x 9.06 inches x 0.73 inches 14.74 inches x 9.76 inches x 0.77 inches
Weight 4.22 pounds (non-touch)
4.62 pounds (touch)
4.87 pounds non-touch
5.34 pounds touch
Processor Intel Core i5-12500H
Intel Core i7-12700H
Intel Core i9-12900HK
Intel Core i5-12500H
Intel Core i7-12700H
Intel Core i9-12900HK
Graphics Intel UHD graphics
Intel Iris Xe graphics
Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050
Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti
Intel UHD graphics
Intel Iris Xe graphics
Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050
Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060
RAM 8GB DDR5
16GB DDR5
32GB DDR5
64GB DDR5
8GB DDR5
16GB DDR5
32GB DDR5
64GB DDR5
Display 15.6-inch Full HD+ (1,920 x 1,200) IPS
15.6-inch 3.5K (3,456 x 2,160) OLED
15.6-inch UHD+ (3,840 x 2,400) IPS
17.0-inch Full HD+ IPS
17.0-inch UHD+ IPS
Storage 512GB PCIe 4.0 SSD
1TB PCIe 4.0 SSD
2TB PCIe 4.0 SSD
512GB PCIe 4.0 SSD
1TB PCIe 4.0 SSD
2TB PCIe 4.0 SSD
Touch Optional Optional
Ports 1 x USB-C 3.2 Gen 2
2 x USB-C with Thunderbolt 4
1 x 3.5mm audio jack
Full-size SD card reader
4 x USB-C with Thunderbolt 4
1 x 3.5mm audio jack
Full-size SD card reader
Wireless Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.2 Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.2
Webcam 720p with Windows 11 Hello infrared camera 720p with Windows 11 Hello infrared camera
Operating system Windows 11 Windows 11
Battery 86 watt-hours 97 watt-hours
Price $1,420+ $1,812+
Rating 4.5 out of 5 stars 4 out of 5 stars

Design

dell xps 17 9720 rear lid view e1654281926301
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

There aren’t any significant design features that distinguish the Dell XPS 17 from its smaller sibling. The XPS 15 was redesigned in 2020, and launched alongside the XPS 17, which was the first of its kind. Since then, the two laptops have received minor revisions, but the overall design has remained the same. The XPS 17 uses an identical keyboard and large touchpad, and it also borrows the same black carbon fiber and silver aluminum materials for the palm rests, lid, and chassis. The one significant difference is the availability of an alternative color scheme for the XPS 15, a Frost aluminum in the chassis and a white glass fiber palm rest.

The size, though, is where these two laptops depart. There are 1.4 inches of diagonal difference in screen size between the two, which makes the XPS 17 both the larger and heavier option.

The XPS 15 weighs 4.62 pounds, which is about three-quarters of a pound lighter than the XPS 17. You can feel the difference when lugging it around in your backpack or even resting it on your lap. That applies to the dimensions of these devices, as well. The XPS 15 is 5% thinner at 0.73 inches thick. The XPS 17’s overall footprint is also 17% larger.

If you opt for the non-touch models, both XPS laptops are lighter (starting at 4.22 or 4.87 pounds, respectively), though it’s the same percentage difference.

Ports

dell xps 15 9520 right view showing ports.
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

There are two important differences between the XPS 15 and XPS 17. First, the XPS 15 offers just three USB-C ports, whereas the XPS 17 has four. More than that, all four of the XPS 17’s four USB-C ports also support Thunderbolt 4 as opposed to just two of the XPS 15’s.

Thunderbolt 4 means faster data transfer speeds, 4K display output at 60Hz, charging, and the ability to power external graphics cards. Both devices also include a headphone jack and a full-size SD card slot.

Display

dell xps 15 9520 front view showing display.
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

The display selection between the XPS 15 and XPS 17 is another point of differentiation. They both use a 16:10 aspect ratio and share two resolution options for IPS displays: Full HD+ (1920 x 1200) and UHD+ (3840 x 2400). The lower resolution is used in all the base models, while the higher resolution panel is an option. However, the XPS 15 also offers a 3.5K (3456 x 2160) OLED panel.

We tested the XPS 15 with the OLED display, and it offered extremely wide and accurate colors, decent brightness, and OLED’s typical inky-black contrast. The XPS 17’s IPS UHD+ display is also excellent, with even wider colors (although slightly less accurate), significantly more brightness, and a very high contrast ratio for an IPS panel.

Both displays are excellent for creators who demand wide and accurate colors. The XPS 15’s OLED display offers incredibly deep blacks and better high dynamic range (HDR) support, so it’s the better all-around display.

I didn’t test the lower-resolution models, but Dell tends to use lower-quality screens on its base models.

Dell XPS 15 9520
(OLED)
Dell XPS 17 9720
(IPS)
Brightness
(nits)
391 543
AdobeRGB gamut 96% 100%
 sRGB gamut 100% 100%
Accuracy
(DeltaE, lower is better)
0.42 0.58
Contrast ratio 27,930:1 1,870:1

Performance

dell xps 17 9720 front view showing display and keyboard.

Ultimately, the reason for the existence of the XPS 17 is extra performance. It’s more than just a slightly bigger version of the XPS 15, largely thanks to its more powerful GPU options. You can configure the XPS 17 with up to an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060, whereas the XPS 15 is stuck at an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti.

The XPS 17 is 51% faster in 3DMark’s Time Spy benchmark, which results in significantly higher frame rates in modern 3D games. The XPS 17 could play games like Fortnite at 112 frames per second at Epic settings (in 1200p), 96% faster than the XPS 15.

Note that both laptops utilize Dell’s thermal control utility that allows tuning the fans and CPU speed for quieter operation or faster performance. I’ve reported both balanced and performance mode results in the table below. In most tests, the XPS 15 showed significantly faster speeds in performance mode while the XPS 17 didn’t demonstrate as much of a difference.

Even though both laptops utilized the same CPU, the 45-watt, 12-core (4 Performance and 8 Efficient) Core i7-12700H, the XPS 17 was faster in all our benchmarks. That’s likely due to the larger chassis and more room to move air in and heat out.

The XPS 17’s faster GPU also makes a huge difference in content creation. For example, rendering video in an application like Adobe Premiere Pro can tax the GPU more heavily. As you can see in the Pugetbench Premiere Pro benchmark, the XPS 17 was 12% faster in performance mode than the XPS 15 was in balanced mode — for some reason, the XPS 15 dropped its score in this benchmark in performance mode. This speed difference has a significant impact on large video projects.

Both laptops offer processor options that range from the Intel Core i5-12500H up to the Core i9-12900HK. The memory and storage options are also the same: Both laptops support up to 64GB of DDR5 RAM and can be configured with up to a 2TB PCIe 4.0 SSD. In addition, both machines have two SSD slots for running in RAID for better performance and reliability or expanding storage.

Dell XPS 15 9520
(Core i7-12700H)
Dell XPS 17 9720
(Core i7-12700H)
Geekbench 5
(single / multi)
Bal: 1,470 / 9,952
Perf: 1,714 / 11,053
Bal: 1,712 / 13,176
Perf: 1,747 / 13,239
Handbrake
(seconds)
Bal: 100
Perf: 77
Bal: 74
Perf: 71
Cinebench R23
(single / multi)
Bal: 1,509 / 11,578
Perf: 1,806 / 13,313
Bal: 1,778 / 12,696
Perf: 1,779 / 14,086
Pugetbench Premiere Pro Bal: 760
Perf: 729
Bal: 771
Perf: 853
3DMark Time Spy Bal: 4,470
Perf: 4,520
Bal: 6,767
Perf: 6,958
Fortnite
(1200p/Epic)
Bal: 57 fps
Perf: N/A
Bal: 112 fps
Perf: N/A

Battery life

The larger screen and improved performance of the XPS 17 does come with one compromise: battery life. Even though the XPS 17 has 97 watt-hours of battery capacity compared to the XPS 15’s 86 watt-hours, the smaller device saw better battery life in most of our tests. Surprisingly, the XPS 15 will likely last a full day of typical productivity work on a single charge, but the XPS 17 will need its charger to make it all the way through.

This is, of course, for the high-resolution models that I tested. The Full HD+ models should last at least an extra hour or two longer, though I haven’t tested them yet to confirm those numbers. Either way, the smaller screen helps the XPS 15 get more juice out of its battery.

Dell XPS 15 9520
(Core i7-12700H)
Dell XPS 17 9720
(Core i7-12700H)
Web browsing 9 hours, 38 minutes 7 hours, 36 minutes
Video 12 hours, 40 minutes 13 hours, 5 minutes
PCMark 10 Applications 11 hours, 14 minutes 7 hours, 3 minutes

Conclusion

For most people, the XPS 15 9520 will offer more than enough performance. That’s especially true if you’ll primarily be working with more CPU-dependent applications.

If you aren’t gunning for the top-level XPS 17 with the Nvidia RTX 3060, it’s a better value to go with the XPS 15. Depending on the configuration, the XPS 17 sells for $300 to $400 more than the XPS 15 with comparable hardware.

The XPS 17 is suitable if you need more GPU power. If you’re able to drop around $3,000 on the RTX 3060-powered model, then you’ll see a substantial performance increase that makes the 17-incher ideal for professional video editing or 3D modeling.

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