Dell Studio 15 - 15.4in Notebook - Performance & Verdict

Andy Vandervell

By Andy Vandervell



  • Recommended by TR
Dell Studio 15 - 15.4in Notebook


Our Score:


So how did our test system perform? As you might expect given the components, pretty well; in PCMark Vantage it matches the HP Pavilion dv5-1011ea more or less toe-to-toe, besting it in some tests and actually producing a nominally higher overall score than it as well. Given that the dv5 used 2.0GHz processor, against our Studio 15's 2.4GHz model, this isn't a great surprise. One notable exception here was the gaming segment, where the dv5's 512MB nVidia 9600M GT edged ahead of the 256MB ATI card in the Dell.

Our in-house benchmarks, however, showed the difference in processor speeds even more markedly. In the batch image processing test the Dell was around 50 seconds faster and in video rendering this increases to just over two minutes, a significant difference all told. What this demonstrates is that the disappointment of not using the latest Intel processors is, perhaps, mis-placed; especially since it means you can get an essentially faster CPU for around the same money and without sacrificing on features.

Battery life is pretty decent, too. In MobileMark 2007's Productivity test the Studio 15 lasted just over three hours, increasing to three hours and 20 minutes in the lower intensity Reader test. Finally, a figure of almost two hours and 20 minutes in the DVD Playback test at full screen brightness shows you shouldn't have too many problems watching the occasional film unplugged as well.

All-in-all, then, a decent performance all round only let down by the graphics card having half as much memory as we'd probably like. This will probably upset anyone looking to play some games, but this was never going to be a serious gaming machine and for all other tasks it's hard to find fault.


Dell's Studio 15 can be characterised in two ways. Without the 1,440 x 900 it's a very good, but not quite outstanding, 15.4 inch notebook that has a strong but not dazzling design - not at least till you opt for the Mike Ming lid designs - and standard feature sets and pricing that are competitive but not outrageously so. With the 1,440 x 900 WLED display, however, you have a different proposition entirely. It's a feature that few can offer and given you can have it and not sacrifice too much in terms of specification or price over competing models, it helps elevate the Studio 15 to an award.


September 25, 2008, 12:01 pm

would have been nice to see it with a hd 3650 (like it's 17 inch cousin), but as long as i can play command and conquer generals then this'd be a worth purchase. nice review, but the slot loading drive flex thing you mentioned almost had me going off the machine.


September 25, 2008, 3:48 pm

Oh man, i've just checked the dell website for prices because I thought the reviewed price was a bit high. The price of the studio 15 seems to have gone up by about 100 quid over the past week. I used to be able to build a system with a t8300, 3gig of ram and the 1440x900 screen for only 𧽽 quid. Now its 𧿴! DAMN i should have ordered it last week!

>𧿘 puts it well within the range of some other very tempting systems :(


September 25, 2008, 3:52 pm

Ah, actually I see what has happened. My exact configuaration included a 250gb hard disk, not the 360, which puts it at 758.9 quid. Previously dell had a 㿞 off offer on the range, making it ~𧽽. Pants.

Andy Vandervell

September 25, 2008, 4:12 pm

@ilovemonkeyhead - the flex issue isn't terrible. You'd have to physically press down to actually see it and, in a perverse kind of way, the way it does bend ensures nothing will actually break. I guess it's kind of similar in concept to a crumple zone on a car, if that isn't misrepresenting the concept too much. On a more general note, though I've always found Dell's to be largely well made, I think the slightly modular way they're designed does sometimes cause issues like this. Not deal breaking ones, but the the kind niggles that are kind of distracting.

@piesforyou - yes, the vagaries of Dell's pricing system have caught out many a man. At least these days it seems you can't get different prices depending on how you navigate to the page, which is something I encountered in the past. I remember vividly being mightily narked when I discovered it cost more to configure a laptop with integrated graphics instead of discrete; paying more for less doesn't equate a good deal to me!

Luan Bach

September 25, 2008, 6:15 pm

Dell pricing and offers have always seemed strange to me. Last year I bought a desktop from them, for a few months afterward every couple of weeks I get an email with special discount vouchers, now those have stopped coming. Surely the best time for money off voucher to tempt me is sometime after I bought a pc ? I'm not going to get another one right after just having bought. Strange marketing.


September 26, 2008, 1:39 am


Yeah, I think you're right, it seems that now it doesn't matter how you go about configuring your system, it will always be the same price at the end. Thats good to know actually.

Also, I noticed that now I don't seem to be able to configure a system with a t8300 and only a 250gb hard drive, but my SAVED system in my account has that configuration and looks like it should checkout if I wanted it to. Interesting...


September 28, 2008, 11:26 pm

Looks interesting but I'm still confused as to why they don't offer the 15.4" WLED screen on the XPS M1530 - that's the premium model after all. The US version does have the option...for that reason alone there's no way I'd buy one, until they decide to offer us the better screen! There are threads on Dell Ideastorm about it but no comment from Dell.

James L Carver

October 20, 2008, 6:35 pm

Brilliant laptop. I went for a slightly more budget one than tested. There was an early driver issue causing the processor fan to work overtime- they reinstalled the drivers over the internet for me whilst I chatter to the pleasant man on the phone. No complaints- except that I hear they have now introduced backlit keyboard as an option which would have been good to have.

Stevie G.

November 3, 2008, 8:09 pm

Just wonderin as I havent seen it mentioned anywhere, does it have an integrated microphone? I have one ordered and I would like to know.


December 29, 2008, 3:53 pm

I recently purchased a Studio 1537 (P8400) as a replacement for my ageing but otherwise excellent HP Pavilion. The Studio got the nod over a similarly spec'd Pavilion (3MB/320GB/Blu-ray) on account of price: 𧾩 (after a 10% discount obtained by applying a widely e-circulated discount code) vs >𨀼.

I agree in all material respects with the TR review: performance is very good with graphics capability the weakest link (relatively speaking), the speakers are appalling, the 1440x990 backlit screen excellent. And the backlit keyboard is a nice touch...however, here the build quality concerns raised above have manifested themselves: a week into ownership and two of the keyboard keys have detatched and fallen off.

Dell have promised a replacement keyboard with an engineer to follow. With luck the problem will be resolved within a week, but on this (admittedly limited) evidence, while the Studio might not be beaten on a £-for-spec basis, for reliable build quality, look elsewhere.


April 12, 2009, 8:00 am

I'm thinking of buying this, however I remember a friend having a Dell last year and whenever he went to disable a startup program with msconfig, the change didn't take effect. Could someone let me know if this is some kind of restriction with Dell notebooks? Would a clean OS install solve it?

Geoff Richards

April 12, 2009, 2:20 pm

@CustardPi - I can't think of any reason why Dell would prevent that. However, the WinXP on my Dell D430 is definitely a customised Dell installation, so yes, I guess if you encountered any issues you could reinstall Windows from CD. But as I said, I'm sure you'll be fine


April 13, 2009, 2:37 am

Thanks for the reply Geoff. I just thought it might be something to stop people fiddling with things and causing Dell support grief later on!


April 28, 2009, 6:20 pm

Thought I'd follow-up my post of 29th December 2008 with an update. The faulty keyboard was (eventually) replaced by a Dell engineer under warranty and I've had no further problems there. However, I've had problems elsewhere.

Firstly, the laptop intermittently refuses to start when not connected to the mains power supply (i.e. when relying on battery power alone), even when the battery is fully charged. Dell have been unable to resolve this irritating issue.

Secondly, when the laptop does agree to start up, roughly one in four times it'll hang mid-way through the start-up process and will have to be forced off (by disconnecting the mains supply and battery) and then re-started. Dell have been unable to resolve this issue either.

And thirdly, Windows Explorer and/or Internet Explorer reports itself as 'Not Responding' pretty much every other time I attempt to use the laptop. I've exhausted my 'self help' options and patience. Dell say this is a software problem, outside the scope of my extended warranty, which they'll only look into in return for a 㿨 fee. Microsoft say its a problem with the Dell installation for which Dell should be responsible.

All in all, a thoroughly unsatifactory ownership experience. I rather wish I'd kept my old HP Pavilion rather than passed it onto my mother!

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