Dell's Vostro range is aimed at the corporate user and combines an excellent mix of value, usability and power.

The Vostro 1700 (£620 inc. VAT) uses the same chassis as the company's Inspiron 1700 range, but is finished in conservative matt-black materials.

Powerful graphics

With a 17-inch display this machine is useful for designers or those wanting to work with photographs. There's no glossy Super-TFT coating, but colours are still accurate, and the panel also performs better than its rivals in brighter conditions.

It's a shame the 1440 x 900-pixel resolution isn't a little higher, however, as images look slightly soft.

The use of a powerful nVidia GeForce 8600M GT graphics card means you'll be able to run video editing software without trouble and games can also be played in your spare time.

A tough laptop

The Dell's large chassis allows for a great user interface, with a big and comfortable keyboard and responsive touchpad. The keys are firmly attached and accurate, and typing for long periods caused no discomfort.

The chassis also remained cool to the touch, even when running intensive tasks. Magnesium alloy is used extensively throughout - from the lid to the chassis itself - and it helps to make the Vostro a considerably tough laptop.

Despite the screen's large size, there was no evidence of movement as we typed, with robust hinges holding it firmly in place. The peerless build quality does come at a cost, however, and at 4.1kg the Dell has limited mobility.

It also struggled when it came to performance, despite a 2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor.

However, we still found it was fine in most situations, helped by the 2048MB of memory, and it only slowed slightly when we were running several intensive applications.

Integrated webcam

Those wanting to stay in touch with the office will find an integrated webcam, making video calls a possibility. Network connections are provided by an 802.11a/g Wi-Fi adapter and 10/100 Ethernet.

These aren't the quickest solutions, but will suffice for most uses, unless you plan to transfer particularly large files over your network.

Disappointingly for a machine that could be used for graphics work, video outputs are limited to VGA and S-Video, with no support for digital or high-definition connections.

The Dell is a useful laptop, and the excellent build quality and powerful GPU make it a desirable choice. It's a shame that features are limited, however, as the performance on our review machine was somewhat underwhelming.