Going by the overall score in PCMark Vantage alone, it appears the Dell performs very similarly to the Samsung R580 we reviewed recently. This makes some sense given they're also similarly priced (at least in this configuration), but in reality they achieve this by different means. While the Dell has a faster processor, its Core i5 outperforming the Core i3 powered Samsung comfortably in the some of the more CPU intensive tests, where gaming is concerned the Samsung has a significant advantage.
We can see this advantage in the Trackmania Nations benchmark, where the Dell's 25.2fps is half that of the R580's 50.2fps. It's a horses for courses issue, however, since if you want that bit of gaming performance you can re-jig the 1764 to use the same Core i3 processor as the R580 and add an ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4330 - a combo that will cost £529, albeit with a 320GB hard drive. Moreover, compared to the Samsung R730 and its older Intel CPU and integrated graphics combo, the Dell doesn't come out too badly - not that this makes it a good gaming machine, mind.
Of greater concern, although not related to performance per se, is that the Inspiron is a comparatively noisy machine - particularly for a big laptop. It's not necessarily that its fan spins up more than other laptops, though it wouldn't surprise us were that the case. It's more that it spins very fast and conspicuously, particularly when the system is called upon to do taxing tasks. We wonder whether this is a result of the slim chassis making cooling less efficient, but whatever the cause it's quite annoying.
This is no reflection on the overall build quality, however, our impression of which is generally positive. Keyboard aside, which we've already covered, this is a very well screwed together system with a strong, smooth hinge action on the screen. There are also quick access hardware panels, making this an easy system to upgrade should you need.
Battery life is very good, too. In some respects this is to be expected given the decent six-cell (49 Watt-hour) battery and frugal integrated graphics, but nonetheless the three hours and 46 minutes in MobileMark 2007's Productivity benchmark is great for such a large laptop. Two hours of DVD playback is a good result, too, and you should get closer to two and a half by reducing screen brightness.
This is a good desktop replacement laptop which, however you configure it, offers excellent value for money and performance. It's got a simple, stylish chassis too, but it's let down by a slightly iffy keyboard and a noisy cooling fan.
Regular readers will notice we've changed the normal format of this laptop review. Let us know what you think in the comments.