Dell's XPS M1710 (£2249 inc. VAT) has become synonymous with gaming and high-end laptops, setting the standard for others to follow. Many of the Dell's attributes also help to make it a good Media Center laptop.
The 17-inch display is great for gaming and working with images. Contrast is excellent, and colours are vibrant. It's also bright and crisp. We did notice lots of reflection from the Super-TFT coating though, and not just in direct sunlight.
The XPS uses an Nvidia GeForce Go 7950GTX graphics card. This is a high-end adapter, giving the M1710 more gaming performance than its rivals, and games run without lag. The screen is ideal for watching movies on, and the Dell features a Blu-ray optical drive capable of playing high-definition Blu-ray discs. Images are sharper than those of a standard DVD and the screen quality cannot be faulted, however close you are.
If you want to watch movies on an external display, you'll be restricted to watching standard DVDs - as an HDMI port is needed for watching high-definition content. Disappointingly, the Dell is also without a TV tuner - letting it down as a multimedia machine.
We particularly liked the media buttons on the front of the XPS. These allow volume to be controlled at the touch of a button, and it's equally simple to skip scenes. The buttons are also back-lit, so we could see what we were pressing when watching a movie in the dark.
The Dell is predominately made of magnesium alloy, which is strong and relatively light. At 4.3kg, this is a desktop replacement machine, so you wouldn't want to carry it far. That said, an excellent battery life of over four hours does give it some mobility. As is the norm, there's no numeric keypad, which is a shame considering the size of the chassis. The standard keyboard is large, and the keys are firmly mounted, making the XPS a nice laptop to use.
The Dell's Intel Core Duo T7600 processor gives impressive performance. Although average at this price range, 2048MB of memory is more than enough for the most demanding of tasks. At 160GB, the hard drive offers enough room for plenty of multimedia files.
The Dell XPS M1710 remains a good choice if you want impressive performance and an excellent screen. But as you can't connect to a large screen to watch high-definition movies, and there's no TV tuner, better multimedia choices are available. Philip Barker