[Update: See our analysis of how the Dell Studio 15 value shapes up against Dell's other notebooks, the Inspiron and XPS, in our story here
New lines from Dell don’t come along too often, so the recently announced Studio range has understandably garnered plenty of column inches.
We looked at a preview model - the models you'll see advertised online have an upgraded spec. The main difference being he power efficient P Series Intel CPUs such as the P8400, vs the T8300 in our preview model, and 3GB or 4GB of RAM, vs 2GB RAM in our preview model.
Seven colour options are available for the lid alone, from the surprisingly tasteful orange on our review model, to the visually painful lime green. There are even four options for the trim surrounding the screen, although these are sensibly limited to those customers choosing the graphite-coloured lid.
A special edition model stands out even among this colourful crowd: graphite in colour, it’s adorned with a design that features topographical lines. Unfortunately, the end result is that the notebook looks like it’s covered in watermarks.
One of the more arresting design touches is the use of white LEDs for the touch-sensitive buttons above the keyboard, giving a clean look that glows brightly against the glossy black plastic.
This black section surrounds the full-sized keyboard, which is extremely comfortable to use; the top surface of each key is a little smaller than usual, but it didn’t slow our typing.
The Studio is also a decent performer on the move. Its battery adds a quarter of an hour to that of Dell’s Inspiron 1525, which it sits just above in Dell’s product range – we got an hour and a half of intensive use and well over three hours when idle. This should be enough to watch a normal-length film on the go; multimedia is conveniently one of the Studio’s strongest points.
A slot-loading Blu-ray drive is included with our preview model, along with a 1,440 x 900 screen that provides incredibly sharp detail and punchy colours. Indulging in a bit of movie watching revealed a wonderfully clear and crisp image, despite the resolution falling well shy of Full HD. On a screen this size it’s unlikely that even the sharpest eye will be able to tell the difference, though.
And there is a way around this. An HDMI port makes it simple to transfer high-quality audio and video to an HDTV, giving the laptop a second function as a Blu-ray movie player.
The Studio’s own screen can also be put to use for gaming, although the Radeon HD 3450 graphics limit which titles you can play. Crysis at anything above Low settings will be a struggle – we only managed to eke out 22fps, even at 1,024 x 768. As long as expectations are realistic you should get some joy with older games, but this is a mid-range laptop, not a gaming specialist.
Our preview model included a draft-n wireless adapter, and the 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T8300 is a decent processor and a 160GB hard disk. Dell's Website is currently displaying 250GB as the starting point for the latest Studio 15 models, though we found the configurator actually displayed 320GB.
Sitting above the Inspiron range, means the Studio 15 is edging closer to Dell's premium XPS M1530. For comparison, you'll currently pay around $1,457 for an entry level Studio 15, vs $1,798 for an entry spec XPS M1530
(these prices are based on configurations tweaked as close as possible). The official starting point for the Studio 15 on Dell's site is currently $1,149.
The Studio is undoubtedly an improvement on the Inspiron design, though. Luxury paint jobs and Blu-ray drives aside, it’s solid, comfortable and pleasing on both the eye and the fingertips, so its strength will most likely lie at the lower end of the price scale. There is some overlap with Inspiron pricing, though we specced a high-end Inspiron 1525 and found the value no better than the Studio 15 on paper.
This may be confusing but it does add choice, and from what we’ve seen we’d opt for the Studio over the Inspiron in most cases. So if you’re after an affordable yet well-equipped laptop – or you just fancy a bright orange lid – a mid- to low-end Studio 15 should fit the bill.Price Check
: Check out the latest prices for the Studio 15 at www.dell.com.au