Dell Studio 15 review

Price when reviewed

New lines from Dell don’t come along too often, so the recently announced Studio line has understandably garnered plenty of column inches. Designed to sit between the low-end Inspiron and high-end XPS families, it comes in 15in and 17in flavours and its target audience could be pretty much anyone: few laptops are as customisable as this.

Seven colour options are available for the lid alone, ranging from the surprisingly tasteful orange on the model we received, through to the visually painful lime green and the tempting pink. Not only this, there are even four options for the trim surrounding the screen, although these are sensibly limited to those customers choosing the graphite-coloured lid – one imagines some truly horrific colour matching going on otherwise.

A special edition model stands out even among this colourful crowd, graphite in colour, but adorned with a design featuring topographical lines – exactly where these have been taken from is a mystery we’re sure the internet will solve, given time, but it unfortunately looks like the notebook is covered in watermarks.

One of the more arresting design touches on the Studio isn’t the coloured lid, though, but the use of white LEDs for the touch-sensitive buttons above the keyboard. Just as green LEDs were rendered tacky almost overnight by the surge in blue bulbs, blue has now have given way to white, which gives a clean look, glowing wonderfully brightly against the glossy black interior.

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, tapering down to a normal size base, but it didn’t slow our typing.

As well as being comfortable to use, the Studio is great 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 around three and a half hours when idle. This should be enough to watch a normal-length film on the go, and multimedia is conveniently one of the Studio’s strongest points.

A slot-loading Blu-ray drive is included with this model, along with a 1,440 x 900 screen that provides incredibly sharp detail and punchy colours. Indulging in a bit of James Bond viewing, the image was wonderfully clear and crisp, despite the resolution falling well shy of full HD. On a screen this size it’s unlikely even the sharpest eye will be able to tell the difference.

There is a way around this, though. The HDMI port makes it simple to transfer high-quality audio and video to an HDTV, giving the laptop a useful second function as a living room Blu-ray and HDD player.

This glorious 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 just 1,024 x 768. As long as you’re realistic in your expectations you should get some joy with older games, but this is a mid-range laptop, not a gaming specialist.

It’s also not a new-fangled Centrino 2 laptop, but given the specification of this review sample that’s not really a problem. Dell includes a draft-n wireless adapter anyway, and the 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T8300 is a more than capable processor – as borne out by a benchmark score of 1.22. You get 2GB of RAM and a 160GB hard disk, making the Studio 15 in this configuration a very nicely put together system.

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