Dell XPS 17 vs. MSI Creator Z17

Dell’s XPS 17 has been one of our favorite 17-inch laptops for a few years, offering a compelling combination of screen size, chassis size and performance. It’s also an incredibly well-built laptop with a clean aesthetic that works in any environment.

But the XPS 17 is not alone. There are several other 17-inch laptops aimed at the same creator audience, such as the aptly named MSI Creator Z17 which is also on our list of favorite 17-inch laptops. It is also fast and well built. Which of these great laptops is right for you?

Specifications

Dell XPS 17 9720 MSI Z17 Creator
Dimensions 14.74 inches x 9.76 inches x 0.77 inches 15.04 inches by 10.24 inches by 0.75 inches
lester 5.34 pounds 7.4 pounds
Processor Intel Core i5-12500H
Intel Core i7-12700H
Intel Core i9-12900HK
Intel Core i7-12700H
Intel Core i9-12900H
Chart Intel UHD Graphics
Intel Iris Xe graphics card
Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050
Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060
Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070Ti
Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080
Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080Ti
RAM 8 GB DDR5
16 GB DDR5
32 GB DDR5
64 GB DDR5
32 GB DDR5
64 GB DDR5
Display 17 inch 16:10 FHD+ (1920 x 1200) IPS
17.0 inch 16:10 UHD+ (3840 x 2400) IPS
17.0 inch 16:10 QHD+ (2560 x 1600) IPS 165Hz
Storage 512GB PCIe 4.0 Solid State Drive
1TB PCIe 4.0 SSD
2TB PCIe 4.0 SSD
1TB PCIe 4.0 SSD
2TB PCIe 4.0 SSD
To touch Optional Yes
Ports 4 USB-C ports with Thunderbolt 4
1 x 3.5mm audio jack
1 x Full Size SD Card Reader
2x USB-A 3.2 Gen 2
2 USB-C 4 ports with Thunderbolt 4
1 HDMI 2.1 port
1 x 3.5mm audio jack
1 x Full Size SD Card Reader
Wireless Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.2 Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.2
webcam 720p, Windows 11 Hello infrared camera 1080p, Windows 11 Hello infrared camera
Operating system Windows 11 Windows 11
Battery 97 watt hours 90 watt hour
Price $1,812 $3,250
Evaluation 4 out of 5 stars 3.5 out of 5 stars

Design

Front angled view of the dell xps 17 9720 showing the screen and keyboard.
Dell XPS 17 Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

The XPS 17 design has been honed over several generations of the XPS line, with silver aluminum making up the chassis lid and bottom and black carbon fiber covering the keyboard deck. The angles are clean and the design is simple without being banal. It makes for a cohesive aesthetic that works, and the tiny display bezels give the XPS 17 a modern look. The Creator Z17 also benefits from a clean design, with angles reminiscent of the XPS 17. It’s built entirely of aluminum in a Lunar Gray (dark gray) color scheme held down to the lid and bottom of the chassis with only chrome more dark along the protruding edges. The Creator Z17’s ventilation is more aggressive, combining with the MSI dragon logo on the lid to reflect MSI’s gaming roots. Both laptops are attractive, but the XPS 17 pays more attention to detail.

The XPS 17 is the strongest laptop with no flexing, bending, or twisting in the lid, keyboard, or bottom chassis. It’s one of the toughest laptops you can buy. The Creator Z17 also benefits from a quality build, with only slight flex in the lid detracting from its rigidity. There’s nothing wrong with either laptop when it comes to build quality.

An msi creator z17 laptop lying on a green table.
MSI Z17 Creator Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

The Creator Z17’s SteelSeries keyboard is more extravagant, with per-key RGB lighting better suited to a gaming laptop. The keys are large and there’s plenty of spacing, with switches offering 1.5mm of travel and a specific background action. The XPS 17’s keyboard offers standard backlighting and equally good key spacing, but its mechanism is lighter but still more precise, with a springy bottom action that gives confidence with every keystroke. It’s among the best Windows keyboards, with only Apple’s Magic Keyboard on its newer MacBooks being better.

The XPS 17’s touchpad is also larger with a smooth surface, sure, quiet clicks, and Microsoft Precision touchpad drivers for confident Windows 11 multitouch gestures. The Creator Z17’s touchpad is just as good, but it’s not quite as big. Both are excellent and make controlling the laptop a pleasure. Both of my review units benefited from touchscreens, but the Creator Z17 also supports an active stylus with 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity and, via Bluetooth, remote presentation functionality. It’s included, and that’s a plus, although inking on a flip screen isn’t the most comfortable process.

Finally, connectivity favors the Creator Z17, which has two USB-A 3.2 Gen 2 ports, two USB-C ports with Thunderbolt 4 support, a full-size HDMI 2.1 port, Audio 3 jack, 5mm and a full size SD card. reader. The XPS 17 has four USB-C ports with Thunderbolt 4 support, a 3.5mm audio jack, and a full-size SD card reader. Dell is adding a USB-C to USB-A and HDMI adapter, but that’s not the same as having legacy ports on board. Both laptops feature up-to-date wireless connectivity with Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.2.

Performance

Dell xps 17 vs. Msi creator z17
Dell XPS 17 Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

Both of our review units were equipped with the 45-watt 12th Gen Intel Core i7-12700H processor, a 14-core (six performance and eight efficient) 20-thread processor that delivers excellent overall performance. The XPS 17 can be upgraded to the overclockable Core i9-12900HK, while the Creator Z17 can be configured with the non-overclockable Core i9-12900H. The Creator Z17 used the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 Ti, upgradable to the RTX 3080 Ti, while the XPS 17 included the RTX 3060, the fastest GPU available for the laptop. This gave the MSI an edge in GPU-intensive tasks.

According to our CPU-intensive benchmarks, these laptops are on par. They’re both relatively thin and have less room to move air around and keep things cool than thicker 17-inch machines, typically gaming laptops. Both laptops showed some throttling, but for the most part they extracted strong performance from Intel’s chip. I reported the results of the balanced and performance modes offered by each manufacturer’s thermal control utility, and the MSI benefited more from its performance mode than the Dell.

The Creator Z17 scored significantly higher in the Pugetbench Premiere Pro benchmark that runs in a live version of Adobe’s Premiere Pro. This benchmark uses a laptop’s GPU, which gives MSI an edge. And the Creator Z17 will be even faster in this benchmark when equipped with the RTX 3080 Ti.

For all but the most demanding creators, either of these laptops will provide more than enough performance. But for gamers and creators who need even faster performance, the Creator Z17 has more headroom.

Dell XPS 17 9720
(Core i7-12700H)
MSI Z17 Creator
(Core i7-12700H)
Geek Bench 5
(single / multiple)
Balance: 1,712 / 13,176
Performance: 1,747 / 13,239
Balance: 1,744 / 11,750
Performance: 1,741 / 13,523
Hand brake
(seconds)
Ball: 74
Performance: 71
Ball: 88
Performance: 70
Cinebench R23
(single / multiple)
Balance: 1,778 / 12,696
Performance: 1,779 / 14,086
Balance: 1,804 / 11,266
Performance: 1,819 / 15,754
Pugetbench Premiere Pro Ball: 771
Performance: 853
Balance: 897
Performance: 984

Display

You can choose from two display options with the XPS 17, both 17.0-inch 16:10 panels. There’s a Full HD+ (1920 x 1200) IPS and a UHD+ (3840 x 2400) IPS, both running at 60Hz. We’ve reviewed the latter, and it’s one of the best IPS screens we’ve we tested. Width and color accuracy were excellent, with extremely high brightness and one of the best IPS contrast ratios in our database.

The Creator Z17 only has one screen, a 17.0-inch 16:10 QHD+ (2560 x 1600) IPS panel running at 165Hz. Its colors aren’t as wide or accurate, its brightness is much lower and its contrast ratio is lower than our favorite 1,000:1 for high-end laptops. Its only benefit is the faster refresh rate, which will make Windows 11 run smoother and reduce tearing in games, but won’t help the screen’s suitability for creative work.

Simply put, the XPS 17 offers a display that discerning creators will love and that matches the performance of the laptop well. He gets a great victory in this category.

Dell XPS 17 9720 MSI Z17 Creator
Brightness
(nits)
543 355
AdobeRGB Range 100% 87%
sRGB gamut 100% 100%
Precision
(DeltaE, lower is better)
0.58 1.35
Contrast ratio 1870:1 840:1

Portability

An sd card reader, a usb port and an hdmi port on the right side of the msi creator z17.
MSI Z17 Creator Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

The Creator Z17 is slightly wider and deeper than the XPS 17, thanks to its larger display bezels. It’s a little thicker at 0.78 inches versus 0.77, and it’s a bit heavier at 7.04 pounds versus 5.34 pounds. This makes the XPS 17 noticeably easier to transport, although none of these laptops are what you might call “small”.

The XPS 17 also gains in autonomy. Although both laptops had similar battery capacities, with the XPS 17 at 97 watt hours and the Creator Z17 at 90 watt hours, Dell’s laptop performed significantly better. It hit 7.5 hours in our web browsing test that crawls through a handful of popular and complex websites, three hours longer than the Creator Z17. And in our video test it loops a local Full HD avengers trailer, the XPS 17 managed 13 hours, almost triple that of the Creator Z17.

You’ll get almost a full day of typical XPS 17 productivity tasks, while the Creator Z17 shuts down at lunchtime. This makes Dell’s large laptop the most portable option.

Dell XPS 17 9720
(Core i7-12700H)
MSI Z17 Creator
(Core i7-12700H)
web browsing 7 hours, 36 minutes 4 hours 23 mins
Video 1 p.m., 5 mins 4 hours 32 mins

The Dell XPS 17 is better for the mainstream

The entry-level XPS 17 configuration costs $1,812 for a Core i5-12500H, 8GB of DDR5 RAM, a 512GB PCIe 4.0 SSD, Intel UHD graphics, and a 17-inch Full HD+ display. At the high end, you’ll spend $3,625 for a Core i9-12900HK, 64GB of DDR5 RAM, a 2TB PCIe 4.0 SSD, an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060, and a 17-inch UHD+ display.

The Creator Z17 is a more expensive machine, starting at $3,250 for a Core i7-12700H, 32GB DDR5 RAM, 1TB PCIe 4.0 SSD, RTX 3070 Ti, and QHD+ display. Max it out, and it’ll set you back $4,600 for a Core i9-12900H, 64GB DDR5 RAM, 2TB PCIe 4.0 SSD, RTX 3080 Ti, and QHD+ display.

The Dell XPS 17 is the best mainstream laptop, with a more affordable price and better battery life. Creators and demanding gamers, however, might be willing to spend the extra cash for more performance thanks to the Creator 17’s faster GPU options.

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