The Dell Inspiron 1720--the bigger brother of the of the Dell Inspiron 1520--is a desktop replacementthat shares many of the same features we liked in its sibling: a choice of colors, a speedy Intel Core 2 Duo processor, 802.11n Wi-Fi, discrete graphics, and 3GB of free online backup. We just wish it were a bit lighter.
This 17-inch sports rounded edges and a choice of eight colors: Jet Black, Alpine White, Espresso Brown, Ruby Red, Midnight Blue, Spring Green, Flamingo Pink, and Sunshine Yellow. We loved the look and feel of our soft-touch Ruby Red model but were disappointed once we lifted the lid; the interior is bland by comparison. When outfitted with the beefy nine-cell battery, this notebook weighs nine pounds and measures 15.5 x 11.5 x 1.7 inches. In other words, the Inspiron 1720 wasn't made for travel, and when you add the AC adapter to the mix, you're talking about ten pounds.
The WUXGA TrueLife (1920 x 1200-pixel resolution) display is absolutely beautiful. It's bright, crisp, and offers plenty of real estate for productivity apps, photos, and Web surfing. Our Saturday Night Fever: 30th Anniversary Special Collector's Edition looked good from all but the most extreme angles. Skin tones had excellent color balance, and blacks were rich, but the display kicked back some heavy reflections.
A spacious keyboard with minimum flex sits at the LCD's base, as does a button that launches Dell Media Direct, which lets you access music, video, photos, and an address book without booting into Windows Vista Home Premium. The good-sized touchpad sits left of center and required some adjusting on our part, but we liked that the mouse buttons were quiet.
Lining the front bezel are handy multimedia keys and the speakers, which produced loud, room-filling sound when we played our digital music. Like most notebook speakers, there was a discernible lack of bass, so if you're looking for stellar audio, the Toshiba Satellite P205-S6287 may be a better option. Dell also includes a two-megapixel webcam for snapping photos (up to 3200 x 2400-pixel resolution) and video (up to 1600 x 1200-pixel resolution), but the visuals were only incrementally better than the ones produced by notebooks with 1.3-MP webcams.
Our configuration came with Dell's Travel Remote ($15), which you can tuck away into the ExpressCard slot when not in use. You can configure the Dell Inspiron 1720 with an optional Blu-ray drive ($550) and a TV tuner and remote bundle ($125) to transform the machine into a multimedia powerhouse. Unfortunately, it doesn't have an HDMI port, so if you opt for the Blu-ray drive, you can't export high-definition content to a TV. This may be a dealbreaker for some.
In addition to 2GB of RAM (expandable to 4GB), the Dell Inspiron 1720 is powered by Intel's blazing 2.2-GHz Core 2 Duo T7500 processor, which produced an excellent 5,302 score on our PCMark05 test and a 173 on MobileMark 2007. For everyday productivity tasks--checking e-mail, opening Word docs, browsing the Web, and listening to music--the 1720 handled tasks with aplomb. We also saw impressive Wi-Fi data throughput rates courtesy of the 802.11n connection: 16.2 Mbps at 15 feet away from our access point, and 14.4 Mbps at 50 feet.
Featuring a strong 3DMark03 score of 8,847, the Dell Inspiron 1720 is a good match for all but the most hardcore gamers. Nvidia's GeForce Go 8600M GT graphics card (with 256MB of video memory) enabled F.E.A.R. to run at a reasonably smooth 35 frames per second on autodetect settings (at 1024 x 768-pixel resolution), which dipped to a lowly 16 fps with the settings maxed out.
The nine-cell battery lasted 2 hours and 21 minutes on our DVD rundown test, which is a good for a machine with energy-draining discrete graphics and a 17-inch screen. The system notched 4 hours and 42 minutes of runtime on our productivity test with MobileMark, which is a more true-to-life representation of the type of endurance you'll see in everyday use.
The Dell Inspiron 1720 comes with the usual Adobe Acrobat Reader and a generous 15-month trial of McAfee Security Center with VirusScan, Firewall, and Spyware removal. Although our model wasn't outfitted with mobile broadband, you can opt for a 3G connection from AT&T (HSDPA), Sprint (EV-DO Rev. A), or Verizon (EV-DO Rev. A) for an additional $150. Dell also tosses in two services designed to make your computing life easier: Dell Connect and Dell DataSafe. The former is a remote diagnostic and repair service; the latter is a backup solution that lets users mouse away 3GB of data on Dell's servers. You can purchase additional storage in 10GB ($10), 20GB ($20), or 30GB ($30) capacities.
Priced at $2,253, the Dell Inspiron 1720 isn't cheap, but it has enough horsepower--and options--for both work and play, including some 3D gaming. Those looking for a desktop replacement with more graphics muscle would be better served with the Sony VAIO VGN-AR590E or the Toshiba Qosmio G45. But the 1720 is a more than suitable one-man-show for both multitasking and everyday entertainment.
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