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Dell XPS 17 (L701X) - Connectivity, Usability and Display

Ardjuna Seghers

By Ardjuna Seghers



Our Score:


Connectivity on Dell's XPS 17 L701X is truly class-leading, and not just because it includes USB 3.0. The only thing that's missing is an ExpressCard slot, and we honestly can't think of many reasons you would need one here. Along the left there's a memory card reader which not only takes the usual complement of SD/HC, MS Pro/Duo and MMC, but also the new SDXC standard. On the right you'll find a tray-loading DVD-rewriter, twin headphone jacks (one of which doubles as a digital audio output), a microphone jack, and a combined USB 2.0/eSATA port.

Most of the connections reside along the back, which is not necessarily the most convenient location. Here you'll find two USB 3.0 ports in their signature blue livery, Gigabit Ethernet, and a comprehensive digital video output selection of HDMI 1.4 and mini-DisplayPort. Either one will let you hook up high-resolution monitors like the NEC MultiSync LCD3090WQXi, something that many older laptops don't support.

We have equally little complaint regarding this laptop's usability. All the keyboard's keys (with the exception of the cursor keys) are full-size, and a number pad is included together with the usual shortcuts. Among these is a dedicated button for deactivating the touchpad, though you shouldn't need this as we found the pad almost never interfered with typing.

Layout is excellent, though it doesn't match the intelligent shortcut placement and second function key found on the likes of Samsung's R780. The only frustration for power users is that the F-series keys are relegated to secondary functions by default, but this can be altered in the BIOS. The keys also offer a good amount of travel, and though the action on a few (the space bar in particular) feels a tad cheap, typing is still a very pleasant experience overall.

Likewise, the touchpad is pretty neat. It's huge and very responsive, with the same matt, smooth finish as the keyboard's keys. These factors combine to make multi-touch gestures easy to pull off. The pad's buttons are also large and offer very positive action, making this one of the better 'mouse equivalents' we've used on a laptop.

So far then, we're very impressed with Dell's new range. Unfortunately, the L701X's 17.3in screen is where we come across our first real disappointment. Dell still needs to differentiate its highest-end XPS Studio line, and one of the ways it has done this is by limiting the 'vanilla' XPS 17 to a maximum display resolution of 1,600 x 900. While this will be plenty for the vast majority of users, it can be a major caveat for those hungry for more desktop real estate. Because of this, sharpness isn't quite as good as on Full HD screens either, though it's certainly adequate for most and the lower resolution does make viewing small icons and text easier.

The screen's glossy coating can be an issue with bright ambient lights present, though in a darkened environment it does enhance perceived contrast and gives colours that extra little bit of 'pop'. However, the TN panel needs all the help it can get, as contrast is quite poor. Blacks look a little grey, the darkest greyshades are indistinguishable from each other (meaning you'll miss dark detailing in gloomy films and games) and subtle colour gradations at the lighter end blend into solid blocks.

Viewing angles are a mixed bag. There's not even a hint of colour shift, and in this regard the XPS 17's screen is truly outstanding. Unfortunately, viewing from even moderate vertical or horizontal angles results in too much contrast shift for this advantage to be much use. Finally, though there's no sign of light bleed, distribution isn't completely even causing patches of the screen to appear brighter when viewing dark material.

Andy Vandervell

December 2, 2010, 3:02 pm

Shame Dell don't offer the 1080p screen on the XPS 17, I've got the XPS 15 with the 1080p screen on my desk and it's very nice. :D

Hans Gruber

December 3, 2010, 12:47 am

It's the ghost of Christmas past!

Agreed. Shame about that screen. What's this XPS 15 you're on about? What's this desk you're working from now then? How's it goin'?

Christian Maskey

December 5, 2010, 7:45 pm

I've ordered the Dell XPS 17 but the Christmas rush and a shortage of TV tuners means I may not get it until the 16th January 2011!


December 6, 2010, 7:45 pm

@Christian Maskey:

Ouch! Still, that would be something to look forward to post-Xmas :)


December 8, 2010, 2:54 am

I purchased HP envy 17 but It had dead pixel.I returned it to pc world.After that I ordered

dell xps 17 with i7 processor and GT 445M graphic card with GB graphic memory and GB ram.I got the laptop after 2 weeks.I must say for screen and looks HP Envy17 was much better but audio and system performance in gaming and video editing Dell xps 17 is much better.If this laptop had 1080i HD screen it would have been better than Envy 17.Only reason I didn't go for Dell xps 15 because there is no option for 3GB GT445M graphic card for xps15.

Tony McCarthy

December 14, 2010, 8:10 pm

So what do I do? Do I buy it or not. It seems to be the best value in its price range, but I reckon that I'll need more convincing.


December 14, 2010, 11:13 pm

I think you should go for this laptop but make sure go for i7 processor and GT445M graphic card.If you want TO buy gaming laptop but want to pay less its only two makes,Dell or MSI.The only issues with both these makes that they are not doing full HD 1080i in 17inch laptops but Dell screens are better.Dell is using 1600*900 LED which is pretty good.If you still fancy full HD image you can connect you laptop with 3d full HD TV and it will play most of 2d games in 3d version and its really incredible.See more features of GT 445M on nvidia web page.


May 3, 2011, 2:55 am

XPS 15 and 17 have major problems with USB 3.0 ports dropping out randomly. They also claim 4 dimm slots, verified by sales, but only ship 4 slots with 3D video and 3GB video memory.

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