As we noted earlier we were a little disappointed to discover this machine only has a 1,366 x 768 resolution display, though this is the norm in this form factor. On the whole it is decent display, even if it won't win any awards. Its LED backlighting ensures it's very bright, while colour production is vibrant without becoming oversaturated. However, viewing angles are merely okay - good enough when viewed from a distance, but when up close you'll want to be right in front to get the best picture.
We were mightily impressed with the speakers on the Studio 1555, however. It's a '2.1' system, with two stereo speakers up top and a mid-range woofer underneath, which produces an impressively earthy and clear sound. Distortion does creep in when pushed really hard, but at sensible volumes music, films and games can be enjoyed without recourse to a set of headphones.
And you should be able to enjoy plenty of the above given the performance on offer. Looking at PCMark Vantage, there's little this system shouldn't be able to cope with, be it HD video encoding or RAW image editing. Were we being hyper critical it would have been nice to have the option for faster DDR3 RAM, but on the plus side every system comes with Vista 64-bit as standard, so all the RAM you have is being put to good use. We'd add that, given the next CPU choice down from the 2.4GHz P8600 is the 2.0GHz P7250, spending the extra £30 on the faster processor is a good idea - as you can see from the performance difference between the Dell and the Medion Akoya S5610.
In gaming, meanwhile, the Studio 1555 doesn't quite qualify as a fully-fledged gaming system, but it's more than good enough for casual needs. In Trackmania Nations we managed to push the settings to high detail with 4x anti-aliasing at the native resolution, while still maintaining a playable 32.2fps. Call of Duty 4 required a little more compromise, but at 1,024 x 768 with medium detail settings and 2x anti-aliasing it still looked good and the framerate was a playable 25-30fps.
Finally there's the battery life, which is also pretty solid. Three hours and 56 minutes in the multi-tasking Productivity segment is a very strong result for a laptop of this size, so if you do need to take it out with you then it can handle it. Moreover, Dell has a nifty 'no charge' feature in its power management software, so you can use your laptop plugged-in and not degrade the battery as heavily. It's not quite as sophisticated as Apple's system on its MacBook Pros, but it's better than no option at all.
If you're after a flexible and powerful laptop for the home and occasional mobile use, the Studio 1555 is a very good option. It's attractive, easy to use and can be configured more or less as you please. Discrete graphics options mean it's also a reasonable gaming machine, while the backlit keyboard and Full HD display options will tantalise those with cash to burn.