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Dell Studio 1555 - 15.6in Laptop - Dell Studio 1555
Compared to a lot of the alternatives out there, the Studio 1555 is quite unfussy in terms of aesthetics. The simple combination of glossy silver and black is only interrupted by the matte speaker section between the screen and the keyboard, with the only spot of colour coming from the orange playback controls on the F-keys. We rather like this simplicity, too. It certainly makes a nice change from the over-elaborate embellishments of many manufacturers.
Any more flamboyant touches are reserved for the lid and even then you have total control over what you get. Including the standard matte black finish, there are a startling 17 different lid designs and finishes available, including: five different colour 'microsatin' options for an extra £29; eight 'artist' designs for £69; and a further three (PRODUCT) RED inspired designs, also for £69. Our system came in the 'midnight blue' microsatin finish and very nice it is, too. Not only does it look very classy, its soft-touch rubber-like finish is more durable than the glossy efforts seen on so many laptops.
This is a nice system to use, too. We particularly like the keyboard. It has a sensible uncluttered layout, while keys have a wonderful sharp and positive action. Added to this is the ever-popular backlighting, which has two brightness levels, adjusted using the F6 key. This is the primary action for the key - in fact, all the F-keys are mapped to machine-specific actions. It's a very useful time saver, but if you're keyboard shortcut fiend it can be reversed in the BIOS.
Since we're on the topic, the primary actions of the F-keys include an external monitor shortcut, a wireless radio toggle, a power manager shortcut, brightness controls and the volume and playback controls, which are highlighted in orange. One final key acts as an eject button for the slot-loading DVD drive. Dell's decision to configure the keys like this also means no more touch-sensitive buttons, which is no great loss.
Moving from the keyboard to the touchpad, it's positioned off-centre so doesn't interfere with typing. Dell also eschews the trend for irritating rocker-style buttons, with two individually sprung buttons doing the job nicely. However, one fashion Dell has indulged in is multi-touch support, though it doesn't make much of it. Given the limited use for it right now, we can see why.
One minor issue we did find with the touchpad is that it got quite warm from time to time. This, we found, is because it sits directly above the wireless modules, which seem to produce some heat when active. Indeed, the system as a whole isn't the coolest we've ever encountered, though neither is it excessively hot or noisy. We suspect this is due to the more powerful graphics processor, which is bound to kick out more heat than the integrated kind. As such this system is better suited to a desk than your lap, though short sessions shouldn't be a problem.