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Dell's Inspiron brand has been around for ages and has seen plenty of transformations in its time. These days it represents Dell's entry-level, value range, which is why its netbooks go by the title Inspiron Mini. At the opposite end of this spectrum is the Dell Inspiron 1764 (aka Dell Inspiron 17). With a massive 17.3in display and weighing 3.2kg it is about as far as you can get from a netbook without turning into a full-blown desktop.
As is increasingly the case now, the Inspiron 1764 comes equipped with processors from Intel's new Core ix range. In this instance it's a Core i5-430M, a dual-core processor that defaults to 2.26GHz but can be 'turbo clocked' to 2.53GHz where the need arises. This is effectively the mid-range option on the 1764, since you can also get a Core i3-330M, if you're willing to sacrifice raw performance to save money, or a slightly faster Core i5. In our test system the CPU is backed up by 4GB of DDR3 RAM, Intel's GMA HD graphics and a 320GB hard drive.
Being Dell there are various configurations available. Our review model would cost you £577.98 and sits somewhere in the middle of the price-range, but this does include the extra £29 for the 'Promise Pink' lid. Without that optional extra (as standard the lid is black) it would cost £548.98, while the most basic spec will set you back just £449.
We won't go through all the potential permutations here, but it's worth pointing out that you can get discrete graphics (from a choice of two ATI cards) and up to a 500GB hard drive. These options, however, are only available as broadly defined upgrade packages - you can't tailor the machine to your exacting requirements like the company's more expensive models.
Most models, including the version sold by PC World and other e-tailers, feature Wireless-G Wi-Fi. N Wi-Fi is only available on the most expensive base-spec, as is Bluetooth and a Blu-ray drive. Not that you'd really want the latter given the only display option is the standard 1,600 x 900 resolution, LED backlit effort. It's a good resolution for normal users after a large, readable display, but it's not ideal for Full HD video content.
Connectivity covers all the basics, but not a lot else. There are four USB ports, a couple of audio jacks (1x headphone, 1x microphone), a multi-format card reader, VGA and HDMI for video and a Gigabit Ethernet port, but no eSATA a no standby powered USB ports. We'd have at least liked the latter, particularly as competing models from Samsung have them.