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Dell Studio 1555 Midnight Blue
Regular readers will recognise the Dell Studio 1555. We reviewed a version of it in July and went away very impressed, so impressed in fact that we gave it a 9/10 and a Recommended Award. However, as has been the case for a little while now, it's possible to buy Dell laptops from retailers like PC World, not just Dell itself. Today we're looking at it again in its retail incarnation, which is on sale for £599.
As this more affordable price suggests, this 1555 doesn't feature some of the more upmarket features of the version we reviewed previously, most notably lacking the excellent backlit keyboard. However, backlighting aside, it's still exactly the same and it's among the best keyboards you'll find on a laptop at this price. It has an excellent layout, keys have a nice crisp action and the useful shortcuts on the F-keys are promoted to the primary function for ease of use.
Shifting one's view to the exterior, our review unit has the same ‘Midnight Blue' finish of the version we previously reviewed, though it is on sale in different colours at the same price. Whichever you go for, though, we still really like the microsatin finish, which is more tactile than the glossy finishes seen on so many laptops and less prone to picking up grease, grime and scratches. Elsewhere, the chassis combines silver and black finishes to good effect, creating a simple but attractive machine that doesn't try too hard to impress.
It's also a machine that benefits from excellent connectivity. For video there are the usual HDMI and VGA outputs, while one of the three USB ports moonlights as an eSATA connection as well. You get three audio connections, one line-in and two line-outs, alongside which sits an increasingly rare mini-FireWire port. A 34mm ExpressCard slot, a Gigabit Ethernet port and a multi-format card reader finish things off, ensuring you shouldn't be left wanting in any department.
This is particularly true of the audio department, too, since the Studio 1555 features stereo speakers with a mid-range woofer integrated on the underside of the machine. This gives it an edge over the majority of laptops on sale at a similar price, since this arrangement delivers pleasingly full-bodied audio. They still won't replace a good set of speakers or headphones, but they're certainly an improvement over your average laptop.
Unfortunately, this Studio 1555 is let down somewhat by its display, which is noticeably inferior to that found in our previous sample. This version had a coarser, grainier appearance and struggled to produce subtle colour gradients cleanly. This probably won't affect 90 per cent of the people that buy the 1555, but it's a little disappointing to find models sold at retail don't quite match up to those sold by Dell itself.