A powerful Core i5 processor and a large, bright screen make this an attractive laptop
Dell’s 17.3in 1764 is the first laptop we’ve seen to use Intel’s new mobile Core i5 processor. The 2.26GHz Core-5-430M might only seem a little bit quicker than the 2.13GHz Core i3-330M processors commonly used in laptops at this price, but it’s got a trick up its sleeve: Turbo Boost.
This allows the processor to up its clock speed to 2.53GHz when under load to power through tough computing jobs. This processor, combined with the 4GB of RAM, managed an impressive overall score of 83 in our benchmarks: we’ve rarely seen faster laptops and certainly not at this price. With so much power, the 1764 should be able to handle any job. Multimedia applications, such as video encoding, will be quick on this laptop
Turbo Boost also means that the processor requires less power in standard mode, so battery life can be helped. That said, this monster only managed to last for two hours 41 minutes in our battery tests. It’s enough for occasional use around the home, but we’ve seen similarly-sized laptops last for longer.
While it can handle HD video content, the Core i5’s built-in GMA HD graphics processor isn’t powerful enough for hardware-accelerated games or applications. It can’t handle anti-aliasing, which is used in most games to smooth the edges of textures, and so it failed our call of Duty 4 benchmarks outright. With anti-aliasing turned off, it still only managed 12fps. It may be able to cope with older games, but you’ll have to turn most game settings to their minimums and use a low resolution.
Apart from the lid, which you can order in a variety of imaginative colours (or save £30 and get it in black), the 1764 is rather plain. The keyboard panels uses an attractive plastic that looks like glossy brushed metal, but is thankfully devoid of garish indicators and controls.
The keyboard uses flat keys with cut-away edges, so that the keys aren’t set too close together. Despite rattling a bit while you type, we found the keyboard firm and comfortable to type on, with a light action and crisp feedback. The layout is standard, with a nice large Enter key and a four-column numberpad.
Our only gripe is that Dell has opted to reverse the normal behaviour of the function keys (F2 turns of wireless, and Alt-F2 operates the normal key), although this can be changed in the BIOS. Below the keyboard, a recess in the case forms the touchpad. It’s a bit too small, but very sensitive and smooth, and the two separate buttons have a light action and plenty of travel.
A glossy finish on the screen plus restricted vertical viewing angles make it hard to use the 1764 in areas with bright overhead lights, but overall we found colours to be accurate and contrast good. There’s a slight blue cast that dampens reds and flesh tones, but the backlight is uniform and bright.
Its high resolution of 1,600×900 means there’s plenty of desktop space, and HD movies look great.
The internal speakers are loud and clear, with SRS technology that widens the soundstage, but as usual there’s little bass and we found music and soundtracks lacked punch. Even so, for occasional use or watching the odd film, they do a good job.
If you want an incredibly powerful desktop replacement laptop, Dell’s Inspiron 1764 is a great choice; however, if you’d like to be able to play games you can get a Core i3 laptop with a dedicated graphics card for a similar amount.