Dell Inspiron 1720 Review

by Kevin O'Brien Reads (370,712)

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by Kevin O’Brien

The Dell Inspiron 1720 is a 17" desktop replacement targeted towards younger consumers, most of whom are in school. This notebook competes against such notebooks as the HP dv9500t and Toshiba P200/P205. The 1720 offers a wide range of hardware configurations, as well as 8 different color options to be customized exactly as you want it. Processors range from the T5250 all the way up to the T7700, RAM from 1GB to 4GB, HD from 120GB to 500GB (250GB x 2), display resolutions starting at WXGA+ up to WUXGA, and color ranging from jet black to sunshine yellow.

Our review model came with the following options, bringing the price up to $2,438 as configured from a base of $899.

  • Windows Vista Home Premium (32-bit)
  • Intel Core 2 Duo Processor T7500 (2.20GHz, 4MB L2, 800MHz FSB)
  • Mobile Intel P965 Express Chipset
  • Intel Wireless WiFi Link 4965AGN (802.11a/g/n)
  • 2GB PC2-5300 DDR2 SDRAM (maximum capacity 4GB)
  • 320GB Total Space (160GB x 2, option no longer offered at the time of this writing)
  • 8x DVD (+/-R double layer) drive
  • 17.0" diagonal widescreen TrueLife TFT LCD display at 1920×1200 (WUXGA, Glossy)
  • 256MB nVidia GeForce Go 8600M GT
  • 2.0 megapixel webcam
  • Bluetooth version 2.0 plus Enhanced Data Rate (EDR)
  • ExpressCard slot (ExpressCard/34 and Express Card/54)
  • 5-in-1 media card reader
  • VGA out
  • Mic/Headphone connectors
  • IEEE-1394 (FireWire)
  • Five USB 2.0 ports
  • Dimensions (WxDxH Front/H Rear): 15.5" x 11.5" x 1.7"
  • Weight: 7.62 Advertised, 8lbs 13.2oz actual w/ 9-cell battery
  • 90W (19V x 4.62A) 100-240V AC adapter (1lb 1.4oz)
  • 9-cell (85Wh) Lithium Ion battery (1lb 1oz)
  • 1-Year Standard Limited Warranty


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Build and Design

Gone are the white bumpers of old, replaced with a solid shimmering silver paint, giving the body of the Dell 1720 a much cleaner and refined look. The body still allows some user configuration with its custom top cover paint options, including jet black, alpine white, espresso brown, ruby red, midnight blue, spring green, flamingo pink, and sunshine yellow. The high level of personalization can even go as far as a color matched Logitech mouse as an added $29 option during checkout.

The cleaner look and feel is matched with an even stronger and more durable chassis. During testing no plastic creaks or squeaks could be heard, with flex only apparent in the plastic painted screen cover. The entire bottom shell is a metal alloy which gives the laptop a strong footprint on your desk, and is gives enough strength to resist bending if you hold the laptop by the edge of the palm rest walking around the room. The only downside to the chassis was the metal HD bay cover had some movement, and would make clacking sound if tapped with your finger, or placed on an uneven desk. Overlooking that fact, the underbody is strong enough to hurt your knuckles if you try to punch it without giving up as much as a millimeter of flex in the process.


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One concern worth mentioning with the custom paint process is long term durability. The review model we received had a paint defect out of the box on the upper right hand cover of the LCD cover. The rubbery texture paint was already peeling; exposing the glossy espresso brown paint underneath. Since this peeling was visible straight out of the box, long-term day to day use inside various cases or backpacks might show more extreme peeling. Hopefully the paint issue was fixed in production, as our review model has an early May build date.


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Screen

The glossy WUXGA (1920×1200) screen on the Dell 1720 is absolutely beautiful.  No dead pixels were found during testing, and backlight bleed while noticed on some dark screens was minimal. Colors were vibrant as with many glossy screens, and wide viewing angles made the screen look sharp even at odd contorted angles. Backlight adjustment was very broad, allowing me to adjust low enough for darker room settings, and bright enough to still be readable in sunlight or a bright office. I had the adjustment sitting around the 80 percent mark or two notches down from max level for most of my testing.


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Protection for the screen through the rear cover prevented any rippling when you press in the cover. While the plastic section did have more flex than the alloy main body, it was still better than most. The release latch was kind of tricky, and compared to most latches required too much effort to release. Its smaller slick surface needed a fingernail to catch it to release the latch.


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Speakers

The speakers on the 1720 were better than average for most laptops, comparable to speakers found on most midrange televisions. While lower bass was lacking, volume levels were quite loud, and distortion at peak levels was not present. Combined with the 17" display, it would not be hard at all to entertain a small group of friends in a dorm room with the laptop by itself.

Keyboard and Touchpad

The keyboard and palm rest structure matches the strength of the bottom panel of this laptop. Pressing down very firmly, the keyboard flexes less than my T60 Thinkpad. The palm rest is just as firm, supporting my wrists or elbows pressing down with barely a hint of flex.


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The keyboard was very comfortable to type on, and gave just the right amount of response for each key press. Throw length was about even with my ThinkPad, with just a bit less clicking sound. The keyboard layout was not cramped at all, and the control key was in the correct (outmost) position on the left-hand side.

The touchpad I felt could be improved. It exhibited a slight delay when starting each time, almost what is seen with some wireless mice, and it also had a hint of lag. The size of the touchpad surface was large enough for comfortable control, and the surface texture had a smooth matte feel. The two touchpad buttons spanned the full length of the touchpad, and each had a responsive click when pressed. One thing I would have liked is a third touchpad button to allow easier control of tabs during web browsing.

Performance and Benchmarks

The Dell 1720 as configured has more than enough speed and storage space to handle most users needs. The Intel T7500 and nVidia 8600M GT combined really make this laptop an excellent performer, for both multimedia uses and gaming. Below are benchmarks to give you an idea of how this laptop might compare up against other rivals in the same category.

Super Pi comparison results:

Notebook Time
Dell Inspiron 1720 (2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7500) 0m 54s
Dell Inspiron 1420 (2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7500) 0m 54s
Sony VAIO FZ (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300) 0m 59s
Dell XPS M1330 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300) 0m 58s
Lenovo ThinkPad X61 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300) 1m 01s
Lenovo 3000 V200 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300) 0m 59s
HP dv2500t (1.80GHz Intel 7100) 1m 09s
Lenovo ThinkPad T61 (2.00GHz Core 2 Duo Intel T7300) 0m 59s
Lenovo ThinkPad T60 (2.00GHz Core 2 Duo T7200) 1m 03s
Toshiba Satellite P205-S6287 (1.73 GHz Core 2 Duo Intel T5300) 1m 24s
Toshiba Satellite A205 (1.66GHz Core 2 Duo) 1m 34s
HP Compaq 6515b (1.6GHz AMD Turion 64 X2 TL-52) 2m 05s
HP dv6000t (2.16 GHz Intel T2400) 0m 59s
Dell Inspiron e1705 (2.0GHz Core 2 Duo) 1m 02s

PCMark05 comparison results:

Notebook PCMark05 Score
Dell Inspiron 1720 (2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7500, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8600M GT) 5,377 PCMarks
Dell Inspiron 1420 (2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7500, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS) 4,925 PCMarks
Sony VAIO FZ (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, Intel X3100) 3,377 PCMarks
Dell XPS M1330 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS) 4,591 PCMarks
Lenovo ThinkPad X61 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, Intel X3100) 4,153 PCMarks
Lenovo 3000 V200 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, Intel X3100) 3,987 PCMarks
Lenovo T60 Widescreen (2.0GHz Intel T7200, ATI X1400 128MB) 4,189 PCMarks
HP dv6000t (2.16GHz Intel T7400, NVIDA GeForce Go 7400) 4,234 PCMarks
Fujitsu N6410 (1.66GHz Core Duo, ATI X1400) 3,487 PCMarks
Alienware M7700 (AMD Athlon FX-60, Nvidia Go 7800GTX) 5,597 PCMarks
Sony Vaio SZ-110B in Speed Mode (Using Nvidia GeForce Go 7400) 3,637 PCMarks
Asus V6J (1.86GHz Core Duo T2400, Nvidia Go 7400) 3,646 PCMarks

3DMark05 comparison results:

Notebook 3D Mark 05 Results
Dell Inspiron 1720 (2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7500, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8600M GT) 5,306 3DMarks
Dell Inspiron 1420 (2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7500, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS 128MB) 2,840 3DMarks
Sony VAIO FZ (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, Intel X3100) 910 3DMarks
Dell XPS M1330 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS 128MB) 3,116 3DMarks
HP Compaq 6510b (2.20GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7500, Intel X3100) 916 3DMarks
HP Compaq 6515b (1.6GHz AMD Turion 64 X2 TL-52, ATI x1270) 871 3DMarks
HP dv6000t (2.16 GHz Intel T7400, NVIDA GeForce Go 7400) 2,013 3D Marks
Dell Inspiron e1705 (2.0GHz Core Duo, ATI X1400) 1,791 3D Marks
Acer TravelMate 8204WLMi (2.0GHz Core Duo, ATI X1600 256MB) 4,236 3DMarks
Alienware Aurora M-7700(AMD Dual Core FX-60, ATI X1600 256MB) 7,078 3D Marks
Lenovo ThinkPad T60 (2.0GHz Core Duo, ATI X1400 128MB) 2,092 3D Marks
Asus V6Va (2.13 GHz Pentium M, ATI x700 128 MB) 2,530 3D Marks
Fujitsu n6410 (1.66 GHz Core Duo, ATI X1400 128MB) 2,273 3DMarks
Dell XPS M1210 (2.16 GHz Core Duo, nVidia Go 7400 256MB) 2,090 3D Marks

3DMark06 comparison results:

Notebook 3DMark06 Score
Dell Inspiron 1720 (2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7500, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8600M GT) 2,930 3DMarks
Dell Inspiron 1420 (2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7500, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS 128MB) 1,329 3DMarks
Sony VAIO FZ (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, Intel X3100) 532 3DMarks
Dell XPS M1330 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS 128MB) 1,408 3DMarks
Samsung Q70 (2.0GHz Core 2 Duo T7300 and nVidia 8400M G GPU) 1,069 3DMarks
Asus F3sv-A1 (Core 2 Duo T7300 2.0GHz, Nvidia 8600M GS 256MB) 2,344 3DMarks
Alienware Area 51 m5550 (2.33GHz Core 2 Duo, nVidia GeForce Go 7600 256MB 2,183 3DMarks
Fujitsu Siemens Amilo Xi 1526 (1.66 Core Duo, nVidia 7600Go 256 MB) 2,144 3DMarks
Samsung X60plus (2.0GHz Core 2 Duo T7200, ATI X1700 256MB) 1,831 3DMarks
Asus A6J (1.83GHz Core Duo, ATI X1600 128MB) 1,819 3DMarks
HP dv6000t (2.16 GHz Intel T7400, NVIDA GeForce Go 7400) 827 3DMarks
Sony Vaio SZ-110B in Speed Mode (Using Nvidia GeForce Go 7400) 794 3DMarks
Samsung R20 (1.73GHz T2250 and ATI 1250M chipset / GPU) 476 3DMarks

Heat and Noise

Coping with heat under stress is one task that this laptop shrugs off with ease. Using two instances of Prime95, each stressing an individual core, the processor went up to 75C after 40 minutes. Outside temps were barely fazed though, even with internal parts scorching hot. With a room temperature of 24C, the palm rest was 27C on the right side, and 29C on the left side. Keyboard temperature was between 30-33C going right to left. Air coming out of the heatsink grill came out at around 46C. Underside temps were into "warm blanket" range of 40-42C, so wearing pants while gaming intensively should be recommended. After letting the laptop cool down for 20 minutes, the keyboard and palm rest evened out at 29-30C with the bottom peaking at 36C under the heatsink area.


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The fan noise was rarely loud enough to be heard in a quiet room unless the notebook was under extreme stress such as benchmarking or serious gaming.

Input and Output ports

Port selection was not a problem, although I would have enjoyed seeing a DVI or HDMI port included since there is more than enough free space around the perimeter of this 17" notebook. Going around the notebook, we find the following ports


Left: Kensington lock slot, expresscard slot, WIFI on/off/search switch (view large image)


Front: Media access and volume controls (view large image)


Right: Headphone/Mic, Firewire, VGA, LAN, two USB (view large image)


Rear: S-video, two USB, Power connector, 56k modem, one USB (view large image)

Software

This laptop came with Windows Vista Home Premium preinstalled, as well as other smaller applications included through Dell. The most notable addition being the Norton Internet Security package which I uninstalled from the system during review to speed it up.  Another item unique to Dell is the "Dell QuickSafe" online storage system which comes included free for one year. This gives a user 3GB of online storage space for backing up documents, pictures, or other information to an outside source incase of system failure (or losing your laptop). The user then selects the folders they want backed up, what interval to have it pulled off the system, and let the software do the magic behind the scenes.

Battery

Under normal web browsing use the 9-cell battery performed quite well, pushing out 3 hours and 12 minutes of life before going into hibernation mode at two percent. Screen brightness was two notches below max, or about 80 percent, and other items were set to Vista’s balanced power plan. This gives more than enough time for taking notes (surfing the web) during a couple of classes throughout the day away from an outlet.

Conclusion

This Dell 17" laptop is a great performer and extremely well built laptop structurally. It seems to be built well enough to be thrown around in day to day use, and hold up throughout an entire college career. It will roll with the punches, and probably hurt your fist in the process. The only problems I found which don’t relate directly to the function of the laptop are the peeling paint, which should hopefully be worked out as production goes on in the upcoming months. Dell has mentioned paint quality problems with this new design, and how they were working to improve the painting process. Counting out that problem this is a great laptop, and I hope Dell continues on this trend of well built, affordable machines.

Pros:

  • Very tough structure and underbody.
  • Strong gaming performance with the 8600M GT
  • Excellent battery life for a 17" notebook
  • Bright and Vivid LCD with excellent viewing angles

Cons:

  • Paint defects out of the box
  • HD Bay cover has some play, making loud clacking noises
  • No plaid paint option … they offer every other color after all.


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