Dell Studio XPS 16 review

Price when reviewed

We’ve already seen Dell’s Studio XPS 13, which introduced us to the new three-tone black, silver and leather design of Dell’s new high-end consumer range. The Studio XPS 16 is that machine’s bigger brother, and manages to cram every imaginable luxury into its stylish wide chassis.

Visually, the 16 is no different from its smaller sibling: the strip of leather at the rear of the lid, the exposed screws to each side of the panel and the strip of anodized aluminium all remain. The rest of the chassis hasn’t altered much, either. The glossy black base is punctuated with white, touch-sensitive LED controls and the screen is still smooth, glossy and flush with its surrounds.

Dell has paired that attractive design with impressive build quality. The sheer size of the Studio XPS means that it’s not a light machine – at 3.05kg, it’s more of a desk-bound beast than a regular traveller – but it does mean that it’s sturdy enough to withstand a few knocks. The screen is strong and doesn’t flex or distort too much under pressure, and the wristrest feels solid, too.

The Dell’s excellent design continues to its ergonomics. The keyboard is comfortable, mimicking the soft touch of the 13’s keyboard as well as providing good travel. The trackpad isn’t so good – the buttons are a little too light and squishy for our liking, which we found was the case with the Studio 13. Both keyboard and trackpad buttons are backlit – useful if you need to use the laptop in the dark.

The Studio XPS is littered with useful ports and sockets. On the right-hand side you get a combined eSATA/USB port, and there’s also mini-FireWire, ExpressCard/54 and a card reader alongside the slot-loading Blu-ray drive. On the left there are two more USB ports, Gigabit Ethernet, and a trio of display outputs: VGA, HDMI plus (unusually) DisplayPort.

Screen star

The real star of the show, however, is the Dell’s 16.4in screen. It’s the very first RGB LED unit we’ve seen on a laptop and it’s a real stunner. The technology uses red, green and blue LEDs in clusters of three to produce the screen’s white backlight, instead of just white LEDs or the more traditional CCFLs (cold cathode fluorescent lamps), which should result in a wider colour gamut.

And when we first clapped eyes on it we were absolutely blown away by the colours; they leapt out of the screen with incredible intensity, so much so that we had to delve into the settings to tone things down. It’s not just the colours that impress, though: there’s no backlight bleed at all, and the resolution – 1,920 x 1,080 – is high enough to do full justice to Blu-ray movies. The only other laptop to achieve this in recent months is the HP HDX X16-1005EA – but its screen isn’t nearly as good as this.

Aside from the screen and optical drive, there’s plenty of other kit to drool over too, with everything you would conceivably want in an entertainment laptop. The processor is a top-end 2.53MHz Intel Core 2 Duo T9400, which helped the laptop score 1.35 in our 2D benchmarks. It’s backed up with 4GB of DDR3 RAM and ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3870 graphics, which helped it to a respectable score of 50fps in our low-quality Crysis benchmark. We also found that full-screen 1080p Blu-ray titles played smoothly as well.

There’s also a TV tuner – a hybrid analogue/DVB-T model – a huge 500GB hard disk (180GB larger than the aforementioned HP’s), and, rounding off the more-than-capable feature set, draft-n wireless.

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