Before the iPhone was launched, the mobile networks were worried that the ‘multitouch’ control system wouldn’t catch on. How wrong they were – it’s now a standard feature for smartphones, and laptops and monitors are only just catching up.

As such, Dell’s latest incarnation of its Studio 17 line boasts a multitouch display, but it’s much more than a me-too device. Its four-point touch tracking doubles the number of fingertips that can be tracked at once, and promises to open up a whole new world beyond standard pinch-to-zoom apps.

Lacking apps

Sadly, right now there aren't many apps that take advantage even of basic multitouch, let alone ones that can cope with twice the amount of fingers.

Dell's selection of pre-installed programs is good as far as it goes, with a specially customised dock and by far the best media player skin we've seen so far for dragging tracks and albums into a visual playlist, but it’s still not as revolutionary as the technology suggests.

What the Studio 17 does, though, is scream potential. The bundled music-making program is a powerful showcase for exactly how far we've come since the days of magnetic pens and Tablet PC. With it, you can convincingly play the piano with an on-screen keyboard, or bang around on a virtual drumkit with two hands.

Welcome to the future

Likewise, this is the first laptop, phone, tablet or all-in-one we've used that makes it actually possible to touch-type with the on-screen keyboard.

You wouldn't want to because there's a solid set of QWERTY keys beneath your wrists, but the point is that this screen isn't just clever – it’s fast, accurate and opens up a whole world of potential two-handed gestures which some smart indy developer had better be making use of right now.

To top it off, the screen boasts good colour quality too. The resolution may be low for its diagonal size, but it means icons are large and very easy to stab at and manipulate with a stubby digit.

Review continues after the break…


Good all-rounder

Even if it wasn't topped with such an impressive screen, the Studio 17 would score well. It has a top of the line quad core Core i7 processor which overclocks itself to meet demand, and a graphics card that isn't blisteringly fast but can handle most games at a reasonable resolution.

The Studio 17 isn’t too heavy for the size, is well built and, with a battery life of around two and a half hours in normal use, is far from worst in its class for longevity. It's even got a decent set of speakers built in, although the unusual placement near the front edge means your arms can cover them while typing.

And, at under a grand, you can justifiably get one for the non-touch features and not feel out of pocket. So when that killer Windows multitouch app finally appears, you'll be fully ready and waiting.

Stuff says... 

Dell Studio 17 review

The state of the art screen may be a little before its time, but this is an excellent desktop replacement regardless