Dell XPS 17 (9730) review: A powerhouse for creatives but with strange limitations

doubledeej

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Sep 26, 2012
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I've been using Dell XPS computers for what seems like forever -- well over a decade. But I'm done.

The insistence on only having USB-C is SO annoying. I really wish these computers had dedicated power inputs. Being forced to use a valuable USB-C port just to power the laptop is, frankly, a real problem. I prefer using my 2019 vintage XPS over my 2021 XPS for this very reason. Between connections to usably fast SD card readers, Ethernet adapters, external keyboards/control panels, and other equipment that I interface with all of the time, I need every port that a computer offers. And when one of those valuable USB-C ports has to be used just to power the computer, it makes things awkward. We also need at least one USB-A... how many mice/webcams/keyboards have you seen with USB-C? There pretty much aren't any, and that doesn't seem to be changing. And not a lot of flash drives that use USB-C. Dongle life is not an acceptable way of life.

I've also had reliability issues. My 2019 model has an issue where once or twice a week the trackpad stops working and requires a reboot to get it going again. The Dell forums are full of people with the same problem. It has been going on for several years and there still isn't a fix. That's beyond excusable. It's a driver issue and it could be resolved quickly if anyone took the time to put eyes on it.

The keyboard on my 2019 model also has problems. Several keys in the middle of the keyboard are intermittent -- and among them are some of the keys used most: T, R, Y, 5, 6. Dell was absolutely no help when I called. My only option was to buy a new keyboard for like $150. It's a manufacturing defect but Dell doesn't want to help.

The other issue is the combination of who they claim to be targeting with this computer vs. the actual implementation. The claim is that they are targeting creative users -- photographers, video editors, software developers, etc. But they have a limited number of ports, limited types of ports (no HDMI, really?), and a keyboard layout that isn't friendly to video editors or software developers. The Home, End, Page Up, and Page Down keys are tremendously useful when editing video or writing code, but Dell has stubbornly elected to put those into 2-key combinations using the Fn key. This is ridiculous. When you need to do something like "select everything from the current cursor position to the end of the file" you have to use a four-key combination: Control, Shift, Fn, Down Arrow (End). Trying to remember all of that and where all of those keys are and execute it each time a function like this is needed is awkward at best, too complicated to deal with regularly at worst.

I really think that Dell has completely lost touch with the audience they claim to be serving. They're more obsessed with thin and light and pretty than actual functionality. These computers are really aimed at people who are casual users than power users, and it's insulting to those of us who actually do really need computers with some power and usable ergonomics and connectivity. The XPS line hasn't done that in quite a while.

It's very disappointing. They're so missing the mark. And reviewers tend to be complacent rather than call out these issues.
 

Daniel Rubino

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Jan 19, 2006
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I agree with most of that but would point out reliability is difficult to evaluate on a review sample because we only "live with" the computer for a few weeks before it goes back vs. keeping it for multiple years and used as our only laptop.