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Dell Studio 15 - 15.4in Notebook - Keyboard, Display & Connections
Inside you're presented with another very well laid out Dell keyboard that feels just as good to type on. Keys have a pleasing level of travel and spring back firmly and positively, making it easy to build up a brisk typing speed. Dell has also abandoned its slightly tapered keys in favour of slightly raised, concave ones that create a nice sense of separation between each key.
This, we found, helped make typing more accurate and less error-prone, mimicking in a sense the segmented style keyboards popularised by the likes of the Sony VAIO TZ, Apple MacBook and those now found on the Samsung X360 and X460. In addition, Dell even offers a backlit keyboard option for an additional £29.99 - something few, if any, manufacturers offer in a notebook of this price/size and something plenty of people will appreciate.
Unfortunately, backlit or otherwise, one thing that is evident in the keyboard is a noticeable level of flex. It doesn't, thankfully, have too detrimental effect on typing but it is demonstrative of some concerns over the build quality of the Studio 15. Some panels, like the black plastic surround of the keyboard, don't seem to fit as seamlessly as you might hope and the use of a slot-loading optical drive, though a nice feature, means the right edge bends under pressure surprisingly easily.
Pressure on the back of the screen also showed that protection for the LCD panel could do with being stronger, though whether this is a problem is largely down to how roughly you treat your notebook. None of these issues are enough to say the Studio 15 is poorly built, it's no worse than 90 per cent of notebooks that pass through our office, but they're the kind of niggles we could do without.
Continuing on a less positive note the speakers on the Studio 15 are distinctly underwhelming. It's an area we've seen considerable improvement of late, particularly from Toshiba, and frankly Dell clearly isn't trying very hard. Those on offer here are tinny and not especially loud, making the HP dv5 a better option if integrated audio is high on your priority list.
Still, given the choice between decent speakers and a high quality screen we'd go for the screen; so it's good to see Dell offering something other than the standard 1,280 x 800 glossy display. This comes in the shape of a 1,440 x 900 white LED (WLED) backlit display similar to those found in the great majority of ultra-portable notebooks. This offers a roomier and less clownish resolution and is superbly crisp, colourful and bright. In fact, we'd go as far to say it's one of the best screens we've seen on a notebook of this size.
As you might expect connectivity is pretty solid, too. All the modern day staples, like HDMI, are available and you also get a plentiful four USB ports, one of which is a combined e-SATA/USB port - as is the fashion these days. Other standard features include Gigabit Ethernet, dual-headphone sockets, a microphone input, mini-FireWire, a 54mm ExpressCard slot (with remote), VGA and a 2.0 Megapixel webcam.