If you can spot the Dell Studio 1737 (s1737-USE0145) ($749.98 list) in your local Staples, your eyes are already locked in on the prize: Its sweet, delectable 17-inch widescreen will dazzle you, and its 4GB of memory should be ample for your needs. For performance seekers, however, the system's budget processor and Intel integrated graphics might be deal breakers. Otherwise, it's one of the most affordable desktop replacements laptops around.
The 1737 is an easy system to spot since it's fairly large, measuring 15.4-by-11.4-by-1.4 inches (HWD) and weighing 7.5 pounds. It's the type of system you'll want anchored to your desk, though, replacing your old desktop. The HP Pavilion dv7 (2173cl) and dv7-2170us are each only two-tenths of a pound lighter (7.3 lbs) and take up just as much space. If the lightest 17-inch laptop is what you're after, Apple is the only one that offers it in the MacBook Pro 17-inch (Unibody). The 1737's looks are simple, and has a common theme seen in most Dell laptops: You get to pick from a crop of colors or personalize your own from over 200 designs, though Staples only has a select few in stock. This configuration is draped in Midnight Blue, which is otherwise a $40 option through Dell's Web site.
The 17-inch widscreen is the 1737's most prized feature, as it enriches the movie experience and allows you to work with multiple windows—while keeping eye strain down to a minimum. At this price, though, you so have to understand what you're missing. While it's perfectly acceptable to use the aging 16-by-10 screen aspect ratio, the dv7 (2173cl) and HP HDX18t have already transitioned to 16-by-9 screens, which share a common resolution with consumer HDTVs. The 1737 has a 1,440-by-900 resolution, but is dwarfed by the 1600-by-900 and the 1,920-by-1,080 resolutions found in the dv7 (2173cl) and dv7 (2170us), respectively. At $750, though, a baseline resolution is an acceptable concession. Alternatively, Dell's Web site offers better screens (RGB option) and a higher resolution (1,920-by-1,200), but you'll have to buy it there.
I've come to love Dell keyboards over the years, but this particular one has a noticeable bend in the middle. It's not enough to cramp the typing experience, though. If you're intent on minimizing keyboard vibrations, both the Macbook Pro 17-inch and the dv7 (2173cl) have sturdier keyboards, with stronger backings. Otherwise, the 1737 includes a full-size numeric keypad—bigger than the ones found in the dv7 (2173cl) and dv7 (2170us). And its mouse buttons are soft and completely free of clicking noises; both the dv7 (2173cl)'s and Macbook Pro 17-inch's mouse buttons have faint clicking noises.
The 1737 has the most USB ports found on a 17-inch system—five, with one that acts as an E-SATA combo port. And while not many systems in this price range gives you a FireWire port, the 1737 has it for those who have compatible camcorders and external storage devices. It includes an HDMI port, which is now a standard feature on media centers, and the slot-loading dual-layer DVD burner (is usually a crowd-pleaser over the tray ejecting ones found in the dv7s. In features, there are several reasons why you're paying less than the dv7 (2173cl) and dv7 (2170us): Their 500GB hard drives are bigger, for one (although you won't hear anyone complaining about the 1737's 320GB one), and the 1737's Wi-Fi capability maxes out at 802.11g (both dv7s support the 802.11n standard).
The dollar savings on the 1737 are also reflected in its performance parts: It runs a 2.1GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T6500 processor. While it's fast enough for the majority of multimedia tasks, the dv7 (2173cl) and dv7 (2170us) run faster and more energy efficient Intel processors—at least on paper. Though you won't even notice the CPU's speed differences in the real-world scenarios, the 1737 beat the dv7 (2173cl) in video encoding and Cinebench R10 tests. It also helped that the 1737 included 4GB of memory. Gaming and 3D scenarios, however, fell short against its rivals. Its Intel integrated graphics was simply no match for the midrange ATI graphics cards found in the dv7 (2173cl) and dv7 (2170us)—another reason why it's a cheaper system. That said, the 1737 is not a powerhouse gaming system or even a moderate one for that matter.
A less burdensome graphics subsystem translates to better battery life. Even though this configuration uses a 56Wh battery, it outlasted the dv7 (2173) and the dv7 (2170us) and their bigger 73Wh batteries by a handful of minutes. (The 1737 scored 3 hours, 37 minutes in Bapco's MobileMark 2007 tests). A bigger 85Wh battery ($45) is available through Dell's Web site only and can easily get you into the 4- to 5-hour range.
The Dell Studio 1737 (s1737-USE0145) is not the powerhouse everyone expects from a laptop that takes up a considerable amount of desk space. Although it has the dimensions to accommodate scorching parts, this particular configuration is targeted as a value proposition for big-screen lovers. You don't get the high-end 3D graphics or a thoroughbred processor. For $750, though, most frugal shoppers can look past those parts and reap the benefits of its features and the gorgeous 17-inch widescreen.