Dell hasn’t refreshed its consumer notebook line for close to two years, so the introduction of the 1720 is something of a welcome surprise. There are two models in the new line with this being the larger version with a 17-inch Super-TFT panel – the smaller 1520 comes with 15-inch screen but offers the same design and specification.
The first thing you will notice is how sturdy it is, as Dell has learnt its lesson with the previous generation of Inspiron and opted to use thicker plastic for the main body and behind the lid. Under the lid, you’ll still find the same silver colouring but Dell has decided that consumers like colour so has made eight different coloured lids available. They claim they’ll bring out colour co-ordinated peripherals to match but details are a little thin on the ground.
However, what really helps this machine stand out from previous versions is the keyboard, which is a great size and extremely comfortable to use. In keeping with 17-inch machines from its rivals, you’ll now find a numeric keypad has been added to the right-hand side, which is great if you need to do a lot of number crunching.
Dell is renowned for offering great specifications at aggressive prices, which made them the world’s Number One until HP knocked them off the top spot. With this version you’ll find an Intel Core 2 Duo chip supported by 2048MB of memory, which means you can carry out just about any task without slowing the notebook down. Alternatively, you can opt for the 1710, which uses the same chassis but sports an AMD range of processors. Rounding out the main specification is a 160GB hard drive, which makes this machines extremely good value for money.
The 17-inch screen looks fantastic as it uses a Super-TFT coating and powered by an Nvidia GeForce 8400M GS card, you can play mainstream games at a decent frame rate without any system slow down.
A single hot-key also lets you access Dell's MediaDirect media centre software at the touch of a button. For recording video and taking photos, a 2.0-megapixel camera is fitted above the screen. The only major flaw as a media centre is the lack of any digital or high-def audio or video output. External displays can be connected via a VGA-out port, but this won't suit owners of digital panels or projectors and is certainly no good for connecting to high-def screens.
With an overall weight of 4kg, it isn’t necessarily designed for mobile use but we managed to get well over 4 hours from the battery before needing to recharge, so if you simply want to use it out in the garden or when sat on the sofa, you can for a lot longer than most machines.
Dell may no longer be the Number One choice when it comes to notebooks but the Inspiron 1720 is a great piece of kit that will go some way to restoring the good name of the Inspiron brand name.