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Dell Studio 15 - 15.4in Notebook review

Andy Vandervell

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Reviewed:

Awards

  • Recommended by TR

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Dell Studio 15 - 15.4in Notebook
  • Dell Studio 15 - 15.4in Notebook
  • Dell Studio 15 - 15.4in Notebook
  • Dell Studio 15 - 15.4in Notebook
  • Dell Studio 15 - 15.4in Notebook
  • Dell Studio 15 - 15.4in Notebook
  • Dell Studio 15 - 15.4in Notebook
  • Dell Studio 15 - 15.4in Notebook
  • Dell Studio 15 - 15.4in Notebook
  • Dell Studio 15 - 15.4in Notebook
  • Dell Studio 15 - 15.4in Notebook
  • Dell Studio 15 - 15.4in Notebook
  • Dell Studio 15 - 15.4in Notebook
  • Dell Studio 15 - 15.4in Notebook
  • Dell Studio 15 - 15.4in Notebook
  • Dell Studio 15 - 15.4in Notebook
  • Dell Studio 15 - 15.4in Notebook
  • Dell Studio 15 - 15.4in Notebook

Summary

Our Score:

8

It seems as though PC manufacturers are determined to target every niche possible in the pursuit of more sales. It's a trend led, in many ways, by Dell, who has taken it upon itself to create a laptop range to suit every need. As such there's Vostro for small businesses, Latitude for big ones, Inspiron for the price sensitive individual, XPS for the discerning techie, Precision for the demanding workstation and let us not forget Alienware and its gaming laptops - something the XPS range continues to dabble in, too.

Then there's Studio. Wedged somewhere between the Inspiron, Dell's entry-level retail offering, and the more exclusive (read expensive) XPS range, the Studio range is Dell's answer to a mainstream all-rounder; something with a little style, plenty of options (including discrete graphics) and a good balance between price and performance.

This necessitates the use of cheaper materials so while the XPS range looks resplendent in its brushed metal, the Studio ranges have no such luxuries. This doesn't make them ugly, though; nothing of the sort. In fact, though the materials used are more prudent, the styling of the Studio 15 we're looking at today shares the angular lines and curved edges of its more affluent counterparts. So, though this isn’t an XPS per se, the two share a fair amount of DNA.

This is, of course, a good thing. Despite the Studio 15 lacking the initial visual impact of an XPS, be it the M1330 or M1530, or for that matter HP's new Pavilion range (see: HP Pavilion dv5-1011ea), it has an understated class that's very reassuring. And, if you fancy spicing things up a bit, Dell offers its usual array of different colour lids, patterned motifs and also some funky arty pieces {above} designed by Mike Ming - a nod doubt to HP's use of special edition designs. These, of course, like the coloured 'microsatin' finishes (£29) will cost extra, £49 to be exact, but if you do fancy something a little more individual they're just the ticket and will certainly get you noticed wherever you go. For the shy retiring types you can always stick to the standard matte black finish and this is included in the price, so is a little cheaper too.

Our version, for what its worth, came with a graphite grey/black trim finish with a slightly half-hearted swirl design that starts on the lid and ends on the inside around the keyboard. As you might guess from our tone it's a little underwhelming so it's no surprise to see it and other similar designs no longer featuring as an option. As such, our 'as reviewed price' includes no case design, so you'll need to add the relevant amount if you want something a little more exciting.

Dull finish aside we still like the Studio 15's design. Its angular lines, like on the XPS range, work rather nicely and there are some nice touches, like the slightly rubberised trim around the screen, the gently indented and subtly textured touchpad and the power and wireless buttons on the end of each hinge. Above the keyboard are an unfussy array of touch sensitive media controls and Dell continues to use slot-loading optical drives, something that never fails to aid any notebook's aesthetic. Overall, it's very neat and tidy, while the addition of an ExpressCard remote is a welcome and increasingly essential addition.

ilovethemonkeyhead

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.

piesforyou

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 :(

piesforyou

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.

piesforyou

September 26, 2008, 1:39 am

@Andy





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...

gdawg304

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.

Antony

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.

CustardPi

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

CustardPi

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!

Antony

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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