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Dell Studio XPS 13 - 13.3in Notebook review

Andy Vandervell



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Dell Studio XPS 13 - 13.3in Notebook
  • Dell Studio XPS 13 - 13.3in Notebook
  • Dell Studio XPS 13 - 13.3in Notebook
  • Dell Studio XPS 13 - 13.3in Notebook
  • Dell Studio XPS 13 - 13.3in Notebook
  • Dell Studio XPS 13 - 13.3in Notebook
  • Dell Studio XPS 13 - 13.3in Notebook
  • Dell Studio XPS 13 - 13.3in Notebook
  • Dell Studio XPS 13 - 13.3in Notebook
  • Dell Studio XPS 13 - 13.3in Notebook
  • Dell Studio XPS 13 - 13.3in Notebook
  • Dell Studio XPS 13 - 13.3in Notebook
  • Dell Studio XPS 13 - 13.3in Notebook
  • Dell Studio XPS 13 - 13.3in Notebook
  • Dell Studio XPS 13 - 13.3in Notebook
  • Dell Studio XPS 13 - 13.3in Notebook
  • Studio XPS 13 Notebook (2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P8600, 3GB DDR2, 250GB HDD, DVD±RW, Windows Vista Home Premium, 13.3" LCD)


Our Score:


Once upon a time Dell's notebook PC range was pretty straightforward: Inspiron for the mainstream consumer, XPS for the enthusiast, Latitude for the business user and Precision for the specialists - easy. However, in the last year or so, Dell has strived to complicate matters, launching the Vostro brand for small businesses, the Studio range for "upmarket" consumers and now the Studio XPS range which is...some kind of amalgam between the those two brands one would assume. Clearly someone at Dell has discovered a large leveraging tool in their desk and has been up-selling synergies with abandon, the latest spawn of this activity being the Studio XPS 13.

Based on a 13.3in display, its variety of design cues indicate that the Studio XPS 13 (also known as the 1340) is clearly an attempt to create a Windows alternative to the much fabled and somewhat pricey Apple MacBook. Though it can't boast anything like the inspired unibody enclosure, its chassis does attempt to create a similar look and feel through its unbroken lines, seamlessly integrated ports and the ever attractive presence of an edge-to-edge display cover. And, though the immediate visual impact isn't quite so exhilarating, replete in its glossy black finish with silver accents the Studio XPS 13 strikes an attractive pose.

Similarities, albeit subtle, between this and the MacBook don't end in design either, because the Studio XPS 13 also utilises nVidia's impressive 9400M integrated graphics chipset. This offers integrated graphics performance that far outstrips anything offered by Intel. Dell has even gone one step further, offering discrete graphics options to enable Hybrid SLI, harnessing the power of both the discrete graphics and the integrated graphics to enhance performance in GPU intensive applications.

Of course, as nVidia is keen to point out, this doesn't mean just games since the number of applications slated to support GPU acceleration and CUDA continues to grow. Our model, however, sticks with just the integrated graphics and unless you're convinced you need the extra graphical grunt, it does the job admirably. In Trackmania Nations Forever it achieved a respectable 46.1fps at medium detail and though on its own it won't chomp through the most recent releases, even reasonably advanced older games can be played at a decent level of quality.

Returning to more superficial matters for a moment, though, one unusual touch on the Studio XPS 13 is a strip of black leather running across the lower quarter of the lid. This isn't the first time we've seen leather on a notebook, Asus has a particular fondness for it, but we do wonder about the wisdom of having such a material on the outside of the machine. It's bound to scuff when faced with rough surfaces and as far as we can see Dell hasn't added shoe polish and a brush to the usual polishing cloth to help keep the notebook looking its best.

Separate to the durability fears, though, it's a somewhat incongruous addition to the design; as if it were added at the last minute to add a little premium touch to the otherwise all plastic chassis. Whatever the reasoning, it seems unnecessary and though, as mentioned earlier, the Studio XPS 13 isn't ugly by any means, its pursuit of MacBook-esque sleekness and attractiveness means it lacks the more colourful flair offered by the XPS M1330, the model this is almost certainly replacing.


February 25, 2009, 6:06 am

I'm on a 13 inch screen right now and I am so sick and tired of manufacturers not offering higher resolutions on their notebooks. Specifically ones that are supposed to be "premium" like this particular notebook.


February 25, 2009, 8:15 am

That design's nice - cool hinge. It basically says - okay we're obviously not competing on thinness, but are on style.


February 25, 2009, 1:24 pm


My Vaio Z series has a 13" screen and is 1600x900 (16:9). Lovely!


February 25, 2009, 2:29 pm

That is a rarity, Steve. Also, the Z series is mega expensive. What annoys it there seems little reason higher resolution screens can't be offered on more modestly priced notebooks.

That said, I find 1,280 x 800 is enough on a 13.3inch screen. I used a Sony Z for a while and found it difficult to use everyday because everything was too small.

What's really poor is when 15inch notebooks still have 1,280 x 800.


February 25, 2009, 2:55 pm

Yes, it's rare admittedly. 1600x900 on a small screen has many benefits but a few negatives too.

I recently purchased a new 13" MacBook which is 1280x800 and I find it easier on the eyes when browsing the web. It seems to be the standard at the moment as most websites are optimised for it.


February 25, 2009, 4:33 pm

The biggest downside is that it cannot run OSX, of course macbook is overprised slightly, but people sometimes don't see how much effort Apple has put to make it easy to use. In Apple Store they offer Training and Seminars for free.

Dell is great thought, the service support is excellent, the Windows OS is outdated and spoils all the hardware fun.


February 25, 2009, 5:29 pm

What a irrelevant comment...


February 25, 2009, 5:56 pm

@ Steve, I'm super jealous! The Z looks amazing, had a chance to play with one in a Sony Store and really liked what I saw, but the price as Ed mentioned...


February 25, 2009, 6:28 pm

I just wanted to point out that comparing apples to oranges is no point. and therefore comparing it to macbook is irrelevant.


February 25, 2009, 10:43 pm

Is it just me or is the M1330 thinner? It seems like it's taken Dell a year just to take a step backwards.


February 25, 2009, 11:07 pm

@ Chris, the M1330 is also lighter. I don't know what Dell was thinking...


February 26, 2009, 9:40 pm

I have the XPS M1330 and it is a great laptop. I dont see the value added in this one.

If Dell wants to up the ante on the 1330, then what they really need is to put in a 12" screen and better speakers. The keybaord is quite good as-is - I dont know why they messed with it all all.


March 8, 2009, 6:56 pm

Shame about the over-the-top silver hinge fixings and utterly useless leather affectation. Otherwise I think it looks really nice. I think illuminated keyboards should be an option on all mid-range laptops and upwards. Touch-typing not withstanding, its nice to have the lights there when you're feeling lazy. Now if only they could do away with the heavy and heat conductive metal base plate and find a hinge design that DOES NOT obstruct the vents when the screen is open! Only then will it be a contender for stealing sales from MacBook. As it is I think its a bit rushed. Not quite half-baked, but definitely out of the oven before it is really ready.


March 29, 2009, 12:26 am

more or less the same price as the newest Macbook (2.0GHz).

Only thing i like with Dell is the HDMI but not sure if that is enough to make me buy Dell.

Macbook has OSX and a sexy design (all aluminum).

If the price was about 30% lower on Dell or it offered build-in 3G modem or something to differentiate but as it is now its simply a nice laptop among many.

ps. yes of course it matters to compare. After all when you buy something you compare with other products on the market in the same segment. And i agree that Sony laptops are very nice too but at least in Sweden they are 3 time more expensive then other laptops. Even Apple is cheap compared to Sony :)


April 24, 2009, 3:13 am

Dell service is terrible.you speak to someone in the Phillipnes whose accent is hard for a U.S. citizen to understand.And there seems to be a delay in the phone line.And you have to wait before you speak to them.They spend a lot on ads,but as little as possible on service.Phillipinos work for less$.While Apple may have its faults they do give good service.That is worth paying more for-something few if any reviewers mention.


June 2, 2009, 2:11 pm

I am currently looking at getting this notebook, and would like to know whether it is possible to run two external monitors from it, using both the VGA port and the HDMI port. Apparently the existing M1330 XPS could do this, but I haven't been able to find out anywhere if this notebook can do it.

Thanks in advance.

John 53

November 24, 2009, 11:05 pm

I had the Sony Z series and sent it back and ordered this instead... heres why:

The Z series and the SR series now have removed the dedicated Page Up/Page Down/Home and End keys and combined them with the up/down/left/right keys meaning you have to use two hands to press the function key for it to work. It also makes moving around spreadsheets and web pages much more difficult. I spent over £2000 upgrading it and then had to send it back from frustration. I really don't understand why manufacturers mess about with keyboard layouts - the same happened when ASUS and a few others decided to swap the fn and ctrl keys over - that drove me mad and i bought my Sony SZ4 which was great. But the backward step of sony just cost them my business (and me £72 to send it back to Holland!!) Anyway the screen resolution of 1600x900 on it also was way too small for comfortable viewing. The Dell seems to have everything in the right place and now has £1000 of my money! Thanks Sony! Don't buy Sony!!


December 28, 2009, 2:57 am

I think what makes this an interesting choice is the avalible options for the price. However I'm not in love with the design which I find ott and tacky. I also see that the review points to probably the main reason it is cheaper than both the Sony and Macbook pro it's so desperate to beat, build quality. Some people still don't seem to be able to come to grips with the fact that you just can't get build quality, attention to detail or true innovation on the cheap. However, the major problem and deal breaker for me is it doesn't run Mac OSX or any of Apples brilliant apps. Thats the real reason to buy a Macbook Pro over the Dell or Sony or Asus or any of the others. Even if Dell ever did sort out all it's quality control issues or come up with a design to compare with the likes of Apple it could never run the Mac os. Where as a mac user can run Windows any time they want if need be and just as well as this machine.

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