- Review Price: £599.99
Regular readers will recognise the Dell Studio 1555. We reviewed a version of it in July and went away very impressed, so impressed in fact that we gave it a 9/10 and a Recommended Award. However, as has been the case for a little while now, it’s possible to buy Dell laptops from retailers like PC World, not just Dell itself. Today we’re looking at it again in its retail incarnation, which is on sale for £599.
As this more affordable price suggests, this 1555 doesn’t feature some of the more upmarket features of the version we reviewed previously, most notably lacking the excellent backlit keyboard. However, backlighting aside, it’s still exactly the same and it’s among the best keyboards you’ll find on a laptop at this price. It has an excellent layout, keys have a nice crisp action and the useful shortcuts on the F-keys are promoted to the primary function for ease of use.
Shifting one’s view to the exterior, our review unit has the same ‘Midnight Blue’ finish of the version we previously reviewed, though it is on sale in different colours at the same price. Whichever you go for, though, we still really like the microsatin finish, which is more tactile than the glossy finishes seen on so many laptops and less prone to picking up grease, grime and scratches. Elsewhere, the chassis combines silver and black finishes to good effect, creating a simple but attractive machine that doesn’t try too hard to impress.
It’s also a machine that benefits from excellent connectivity. For video there are the usual HDMI and VGA outputs, while one of the three USB ports moonlights as an eSATA connection as well. You get three audio connections, one line-in and two line-outs, alongside which sits an increasingly rare mini-FireWire port. A 34mm ExpressCard slot, a Gigabit Ethernet port and a multi-format card reader finish things off, ensuring you shouldn’t be left wanting in any department.
This is particularly true of the audio department, too, since the Studio 1555 features stereo speakers with a mid-range woofer integrated on the underside of the machine. This gives it an edge over the majority of laptops on sale at a similar price, since this arrangement delivers pleasingly full-bodied audio. They still won’t replace a good set of speakers or headphones, but they’re certainly an improvement over your average laptop.
Unfortunately, this Studio 1555 is let down somewhat by its display, which is noticeably inferior to that found in our previous sample. This version had a coarser, grainier appearance and struggled to produce subtle colour gradients cleanly. This probably won’t affect 90 per cent of the people that buy the 1555, but it’s a little disappointing to find models sold at retail don’t quite match up to those sold by Dell itself.
Internally this 1555 sports an interesting array of components, since it has a very large 500GB hard drive but sticks with underpowered Intel integrated graphics. This is matched to an Intel Core 2 Duo T6500, which runs at 2.10GHz on an 800MHz front-side bus with 2MB L2 Cache, and 4GB of RAM. As such you’re basically trading any potential gaming performance for loads of storage and system memory, which could well be ideal for a family who wants to share a laptop and store all their photos, music and videos on one machine.
Wireless networking is limited to 802.11g, not the faster Draft-N standard, though how important this is will depend on the individual. Neither do you get Bluetooth, though as touched upon earlier the wired networking on this machine is of the Gigabit variety – the fastest currently available.
One other interesting difference between this and the versions Dell sells is the operating system. It’s still Windows Vista Home Premium, but while Dell ships a 64-bit version as standard, the retail versions come with 32-bit Vista, so can’t make full use of the 4GB of RAM provided. It’s seems a strange oversight to us.
Even so, this is still system that should cope fine with most things you throw at it. We were slightly surprised to see that it trailed the Samsung R522, which used a similar but lower clocked 2.0GHz CPU, in some of the tests, but the difference is pretty minimal and overall this is a system that will cope comfortably with productivity and multimedia tasks (including 1080p video), just don’t ask it to render any meaningful 3D games.
It’s also a system that will go long periods between charges. Four hours and 43 minutes in the Productivity segment of MobileMark 2007 is a truly outstanding result, with over five hours possible of low intensity use – as demonstrated by the five hours, 18 minutes runtime in the Reader test. Even very long films shouldn’t be a problem, with three hours of playback achieved with the display set to its maximum.
Regrettably, however competent a laptop this is, it’s still far more sensible to go to Dell direct. As a quick sortie to the Dell website demonstrates, one can specify a near identical system with the addition of the same 512MB ATI Mobility Radio HD 4570 found in our previous review unit for just £9 more – a final price of £609.01 to be exact. This is a time limited offer, but discounts come and go on Dell’s website with regularity, so just as soon as one offer disappears, another one arrives.
If you buy the Dell Studio 1555 from your local hardware emporium you won’t be disappointed, it’s fundamentally a very good laptop with especially good battery life. However, if you’re really keen on it, it’s worth checking with Dell first to see if you can’t get a little more bang for your buck.
Score in detail
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