If you are thinking of a good desktop replacement, you might want to get your hands on the Dell XPS 17. There are two models on sale now - the L701X and the L702X. Try to avoid the L701X as it runs on the first generation of Core i7 cpus. The L702X runs on the newer Sandy Bridge Core i7 cpus which is more power efficient and more powerful too.
Obviously, one would argue that there are so many desktop replacement laptops out there and why choose the Dell XPS 17 (L702X)? I do have many reasons for it. The first reason why you should choose the Dell XPS 17 (L702X) is that the machine has been given the best buy from the editors of Computer Shopper. The chasis is strong and classy and it is not that terribly heavy (3.6kgs with 9 cell battery). Besides that, with the L702X, you are ensure that you will be using the latest offerings from Intel. If you are on a tight budget but still wish to embark on the Sandy Bridge chipset, choose the Core i7-2630QM. It runs on 4 cores and with another 4 core on hyperthreading. This means that Windows will recognise that there are 8 cores running concurrently. It is more powerful and more energy efficient than the first generation of Core i7 (e.g. Core i7-620M).
Apart from that, with Dell, you could configure the laptop to your liking. Typically, if you have a tight budget of around £1k and does not want to blow it all on the Alienware M17X, it will fit nicely with a Core i7-2630QM cpu, 4GB of memory, 17.3" 1600x900 screen, 3GB Nvidia GT555M graphics card, backlit keyboard, Intel N1000 wireless card and a set of nice speakers with 2xusb 2.0 ports (one act as an eSATA/usb/sleep charging port), 640GB HDD and 2xusb 3.0 ports and a nice chasis.
I like the chasis itself. It is sturdy and I have not come across a single creaking sound, unlike the Studio range. The fan noise is minimal and I like the 2.0MP integrated webcam. As you've been told, it is the very first certified HD laptop webcam for Skype purpose! Looking on, the keyboard is well space out. They keys are good to type and it is not spongy so it is really easy to use. It has a separate numeric keypad which is really useful. If you are thinking of getting an XPS 17, you need to choose the backlit keyboard instead as it will help you to work in the dark. There is only one problem with the backlit keyboard - It does not work well under brightlight as it will be hard for you to see the keys.
The in-build sound system is superb! It comes with MAXX Waves audio and a decent JBL woofer at the back. I have no problem in enjoying quality soundtracks without the need to pay a high price for a proper sound system.
It comes with a 640GB SATA hard drive. However, you could buy another hard drive and install it on the laptop itself as it supports two hard drives. Please bear in mind that you need to buy a SATA hard drive and up to 750GB because any higher capacity hard drives will not be supported due to the fact that the hard disk will be higher than the maximum 9.5mm. If you do like playing games, I would recommend you to buy 16GB of DDR3 memory from Crucial and not from Dell. Dell charges £340 for 12GB of system memory. You could, however, configure an XPS 17 to accomodate 4GB (which it come in a configuration of 2x2GB) and upgrade it later at your own leisure. Bear in mind that you need to pay attention to the warnings before embarking on the project.
The L702X comes with a selection of a few graphic cards. You could choose from either 1GB Nvidia GT550M GPU (with or without 3D) or 3GB Nvidia GT555M GPU (with or without 3D). Personally I would choose the later as it will provide a better frame rate when you are playing games. Since the GPU is soldered on the motherboard, you can't upgrade the graphics card, so unlike the Inspiron 9400.
There are also a DVD-RW writer unless you fancy a blu-ray combo but I would think that a blu-ray combo player will be much better especially if you have chosen a 3D capable screen. You do need a pair of 3D glasses from Nvidia which you could purchase from Amazon for around £120 a pair. You would also be happy to know that there's a HDMI 1.3 output and a 9-in-1 media card but it does not come with 3/4 express card reader. I don't think there is a need for an express card reader.
You would also be given the 9 cell battery (rated at 90Wh in the UK but it is 92Wh in the USA) which is superior, thanks to the integrated HD3000 graphics on the Core i7-2630QM (enabled using Nvidia's Optimus technology). This is because the laptop will last for around 7 hours on a single charge if you are using the laptop to do work processing and light internet surfing. Obviously the battery life will decrease if you play games or programme the laptop to use the Ndivia graphics card for all purposes.
When it comes to the 17.3" screen, you could choose either the non 3D 1600x900 resolution screen or the non 3D 1920x1080 resolution screen. You could also choose the 3D 1920x1080 screen. It is particularly useful to have a 3D screen if you are thinking of wathinc 3D movies or 3D games. You would also need to select 3D capable graphics card too.
The XPS 17 comes with an Intel N1000 wi-fi card if you are not thinking of having bluetooth on your machine. If you want to have bluetooth on your laptop, you would have to select the Intel N6230 wi-fi card. It is useful to know that at this moment (3 April 2011), Dell has ran out of the Intel N6230 wi-fi card so customers have no choice in having bluetooth on their machine unless they make a separate purchase for a mini PCI-E format bluetooth card and install it themselves.
The XPS 17 (L702X) pre-installed with 64 bit Windows 7 Home Premium. With the 64 bit OS installed, the OS will be able to recognise more than 4GB of system memory installed on the laptop. I would suggest that one uninstall all unecessary programmes from Dell. It also comes with Microsoft Office Starter 2010 and it is good enough for the average consumer.
Although it comes with a 1600x900 resolution 17.3" screen, the screen needs manual calibration and Dell customer services had no clue as to how to do it. Apart from that, the backlit keyboard might post a problem under bright light. Apart from that, the XPS 17 (L702X) is good to go! It is cheaper than many competitors like Asus, Samsung and Sony for the similar specifications, not to mention Lenovo too. Forget about Acer as they have not released a worthy contender for the XPS 17 (L702X). However, taking Dell's superb track record in its motto - "customer first", I doubt any other company is as flexible as Dell. You can easily customise your machine!
29 May 2011 - The fan noise is beginning to kick in off and on. The sound is beginning to feel unbearable at the moment. Even after making a few phone calls to Dell, they could not do anything about it as engineers came in to replace the fan/heatsink 3 times and yet the fan noise is unbearable. I think it is a design flaw on Dell's part. They should not have shared the fan with the cpu/gpu and the southbridge. They should have a separate fan for the gpu instead.