Dell Studio 17 (2010)
The Dell Studio 17 1747 is a hefty beast. You'll want to use it as a desktop replacement rather than a portable to carry around with you. Still, the glossy black case with subtle patterning and red edging looks pretty neat, so it won't be out of place on your desk, whether that's in the office or bedroom.
It's aimed at satisfying all your multimedia needs, thanks to its high-definition screen and dinky JBL speakers promising "Premium Sound". Usually these are quiet or tonally bland, but despite the small size, the results here were reasonably impressive, boosted by the built-in sub-woofer.
The music player was one of the apps included in the Touch Zone Lobby, a carousel of touch-friendly programs on the screen, with others such as sticky notes, internet browser and webcam. Choose between a straight line or funkier curvy arrangement of icons, which shows more shortcuts at a time.
Creating Post-It style notes is easy enough, and because this screen is capable of multi-touch these can be resized using the pinch-to-zoom manoeuvre familiar to us from the iPhone. Trouble is that although it's good, it's not quite as seamlessly effective as we're used to. Nor was it perfectly accurate - some notes were hurled into the recycling bin when that really wasn't what was intended.
One of the pluses of a computer this size is a bigger keyboard. This one includes a number keypad as well as full-size Return and Enter keys. Even so, the keys bounce around a little too much for it to be efficient. A backlit keyboard is available as an optional extra for £30.
Battery life was more than decent, though frankly you're likely to have this machine plugged in most of the time, just as you did the desktop PC it's replacing. The battery pokes out from the machine downwards, which angles the keyboard slightly. Personally, we think that's fine, but some people prefer their laptops to sit flat on the table.
The 1600 x 900 pixel high-resolution screen is impressive-looking, and the sprightly 1GB ATI Mobility Radeon HD 560v graphics card means video playback is highly enjoyable, though as with any glossy screen, angling the display to avoid reflections takes careful management. An HDMI is present for playback on a larger display. And of course the problem with touchscreens is they can easily smear with fingerprints which you might notice. We found finger prints took more than a quick wipe to remove.
The machine is certainly fast - which shouldn't be surprising given the system's speedy Intel Core i7-720QM 1.6GHz processor and generous 4GB of RAM. Overall, it's all pretty responsive, from launching programs to performing tasks.
In fact, the only noticeable slowdown comes from the touchscreen itself where you may find yourself poking an icon a couple of times before it responds, which can be irritating and drive you back to the keyboard and trackpad.
The computer's look is only let down by little glitches like the way the pattern on the lid, touchpad and around isn't carried over on to the trackpad buttons which therefore don't quite match. It looks like a mistake. The trackpad, by the way, is big and allows for some multi-touch input like two-finger scrolling.
You'll find a DVD writer in place, along with a card reader, 3x USB (one doubles as eSATA port), HDMI, 2-megapixel webcam, DisplayPort, ExpressCard, Ethernet jack, and the whole things runs on Windows 7 Home Premium. An upgrade to a Blu-ray drive will cost you £90, or £200 if you want a Blu-ray rewriter.
This is an effective desktop replacement with a glorious big, high-resolution screen and good sound capabilities. It works fast and efficiently. In fact, the only part of the package that doesn't impress entirely is the touchscreen. It's not bad, exactly, but not as responsive as it could be. If you have a touch-sensitive phone like the Google Nexus One or the iPhone, it may disappoint using the multi-touch screen here because it's not as quick to respond as it should be. The keyboard is too spongy for comfortable typing, but this is one of only a small number of disappointments on a big, powerful machine.