Providing a long-awaited refresh to Dell's consumer range, the Inspiron 1720 (£819 inc VAT) combines high-performance, strong mobility, multimedia usability and a customisable style. The icing on the cake is the affordable price tag of this great 17-inch laptop.

Using Dell's latest silver design scheme, the sturdy and stylish chassis is tough enough for mobile use. To add an individual touch, you can choose a coloured lid from a range of eight different options.

With one of the best keyboards yet seen from Dell, usability is outstanding. The keys are both large and well mounted, making typing comfortable. Improving gaming and data input use, a full number-pad is also fitted alongside the main board.

Performance is outstanding. Powered by an Intel Core 2 Duo processor and 2048MB of memory, it runs quickly and lets you multi-task with ease. The 227-minute battery life is also impressive. However, the battery is large and protrudes from the rear of the chassis.

The most noticeable highlight of the Dell is its stunning screen. Bright, sharp and colourful, it shows photos, movies and even spreadsheets to their best ability. With a sharp 1440 x 900-pixel resolution and its 17-inch dimensions, you can comfortably use it as a home media centre.

This is helped by the use of one of nVidia's latest high-performance graphics cards. 3D power is impressive and makes light work of basic gaming and multimedia editing. Both Windows and Dell media centre software are included, providing one-stop hubs for all your media files.

For storing your music, photos and videos a 160GB hard drive provides ample storage. A rewritable DVD drive lets you play back and save files to CD and DVD. An optional Blu-ray drive can be added for £388 (inc. VAT).

Media keys

Extra usability is provided by quick-launch media keys at the front of the chassis. A single hot-key also lets you access Dell's MediaDirect media centre software. 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-definition 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 no good for connecting to high-definition screens.

Despite this lack of connectivity, the Dell Inspiron 1720 is nevertheless an outstanding entry-level media centre. With a neat style, high-performance and impressive usability, this is a return to form for Dell and a great laptop for the front room or home office.