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Dell Studio 15 - 15.4in Notebook - Specs, Options & Pricing

Andy Vandervell

By Andy Vandervell



  • Recommended by TR
Dell Studio 15 - 15.4in Notebook


Our Score:


Of course, this being a Dell machine, a larger part of the appeal is customisability of the Studio 15 - something few of the larger manufacturers offer these days. Unfortunately, before we get into the variety of potential configurations on offer and the cost of these, it's worth noting that Dell still hasn't moved to Centrino 2 for the Studio 15. This is, truth be told, a little annoying given most other manufacturers have done so though it's somewhat forgiveable given the Studio range's emphassis on packing in the features yet maintaining a reasonable price.

As things are though, the Studio 15 is based on the Santa Rosa spec (Centrino 2 being Montevina) GM965 Express chipset, into which is plugged a 256MB ATI Mobility Radeon HD3450 - a fairly capable discrete graphics solution that should allow you to play the likes of Spore quite comfortably. This is, regrettably, the only option available at the moment and you can't deliberately opt for integrated graphics (a move which would increase battery life) since this is what is offered by the excellent Inspiron 1525.

Processor offerings include the Intel Core 2 Duo T5750 (2.0GHz), T8100 (2.1GHz), T8300 (2.1GHz) and the top of the range 2.5GHz T9300. Excluding the T5750, the budget option here, all are 45nm Penryn CPUs offering an 800MHz Front Side Bus - less than the 1,066MHz on the new Centrino 2 chips. You can choose RAM in configurations of 2GB, 3GB and 4GB (all 667MHz DDR2) and hard drive options start with a 160GB 5,400 rpm and end at 320GB, with a 7,200rpm 160GB drive also an option.

As standard you get an 8x DVD+/-RW optical drive, but an extra £100 will get you a Blu-ray ROM/DVD+/-RW combo drive - something you'll probably want to match with the improved WLED screen! Bluetooth is an optional extra costing £30 and while you do get regular 802.11b/g Wi-Fi, Draft-N Wi-Fi is only an extra £10, which makes you wonder why it isn't just standard really. Other premium options include integrated HSDPA (£130), a biometric fingerprint reader (£30) and a nine-cell 85 WHr extended battery (£70), the standard one being an ample six-cell 56 WHr affair.

Our review system consisted of a 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo T8300, 2GB DDR2 RAM and a 250GB hard drive, with the WLED 1,440 x 900 screen, Blu-ray drive, fingerprint reader, Bluetooth and Draft-N Wi-Fi making up the optional extras. All this would set you back £850 and downgrading to a 2.1GHz T8100 and removing the arguably superfluous fingerprint reader would bring this down to £759, not much more than the £729 asking price of the similarly featured HP Pavilion dv5-1011ea and this still with the WLED screen. Remove that and you're looking at just under £670, leaving you with cash to spare to upgrade the RAM or select a coloured lid. All of which demonstrates that the Studio 15 offers very good value for money, even if it's more desirable features will result in paying a premium.

Before we move onto how all this performs, however, some mention must be made of a small software addition to Studio 15: the Dell Dock. As you can see above it's similar in appearance to the icon docks used in after market software for Windows and inspired by Apple. Above you can see it is spit into categories (such as email, web, photos, music, video and so forth) with each opening a drop down menu of relevant programs. It's a rather neat little thing and helps to maintain an uncluttered desktop, or simply create more space to add clutter!


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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