by Jerry Jackson
It has been quite some time since Dell released their last 14-inch consumer notebook, but Dell is back with a vengeance with the all new Dell Studio 14z laptop. The Studio 14z is the thinnest and lightest 14-inch notebook Dell has ever produced, promising more than 6 hours of battery life, powerful video performance, and available in more than 120 different designs just in time for back-to-school season.
I recently spent some hands-on time with a pre-production unit of the Dell Studio 14z so that I can give you a first look at what makes this laptop special before we get our hands on a final review unit. Without spoiling the surprise too much, Dell might have just made the most popular laptop for college students this year.
Overview of specs and features:
Sure, the Studio 14z might have a new thin design inspired by the Studio 15 and Studio 17 laptops, but despite the thinner profile this notebook still packs a HD (720p/900p resolution) screen, impressive speakers, and up to 500GB worth of hard drive storage. Here's a quick look at the highlights:
Build and Design
The design of the Studio 14z looks extremely similar to the Studio 15, but Dell managed to make this notebook much thinner and lighter ... thanks in no small part to the removal of the optical drive. At first glance, the lack of a built-in optical drive might seem to be a disadvantage, but most students and mobile users will confess that they rarely use an optical drive for anything. You can, of course, purchase a matching external optical drive (DVD burner or DVD burner/Blu-ray player) ... just in case you need it.
The notebook chassis is constructed from a combination of plastics and magnesium alloy for a balance of light weight and durability, and I have no doubt the Studio 14z can survive several years of use and abuse by college students based on the pre-production sample I spent time with.
The keyboard in the pre-production unit felt quite firm with good key spacing and a good depth to the key throw. Each key has a textured black finish and a relatively flat surface. More importantly, the keyboard is available with optional backlighting for easy typing in a dark classroom or dorm room. The multi-touch, gesture-based touchpad is reasonably large for a thin and light 14-inch notebook and the dual touchpad buttons have deep feedback with quiet clicks.
At the time of launch the Dell Studio 14z is available with your choice of colors including, Black Chain Link, Midnight Blue, Promise Pink, Spring Green, Plum Purple, and Ruby Red. Dell will also donate $5 to Susan G. Komen for the Cure from the purchase of each Promise Pink laptop. Starting in September the Dell Design Studio will offer the Studio 14z in your choice of more than 120 different designs, so you won't have to worry about owning a laptop that looks identical to a classmate's notebook.
Performance and Features
We didn't have an opportunity to benchmark the pre-production unit of the Studio 14z, but it's obvious that Dell wants to deliver a full-featured notebook that strikes a good balance between mobility, performance, style, and affordability. Dell is fully aware that netbook sales have exploded over the past year and that consumers want thin and light laptops at a low price. However, Dell also realizes that students and general users need more performance than what a $400 netbook can provide for multimedia entertainment and software than requires a powerful processor.
This is where the $649 starting price of the Studio 14z starts to look even better. Unlike netbooks that usually feature no more than a 160GB hard drive, the Studio 14z is available with up to a 500GB hard drive that can store a full music library of up to 125,000 songs, 142,000 photos or 133 DVD quality movies.
The port layout also strikes a good balance, providing most of what you need in a thin form factor without making too many sacrifices or making the chassis too thick. The Studio 14z packs three USB 2.0 ports including one port that is a USB/eSATA combo port, FireWire (1394a), an RJ-45 Ethernet jack, Display Port, HDMI, dual headphone jacks, a microphone jack and an ExpressCard/34 expansion slot. If Dell made any obvious mistakes in terms of the ports it has to be the lack of a built-in media card reader for digital cameras and other mobile devices. Yes, Dell offers an optional 8-in-1 media card reader that fits into the ExpressCard slot, but this shouldn't be an "option" since media card readers are pretty much considered standard equipment now.
In terms of additional features, the Studio 14z is the first consumer laptop available with FailSafe theft prevention. This option helps protect your personal data in the event that your laptop is missing or stolen. With Failsafe engaged, you can track network information and the ISP location of your laptop when it connects to the Internet, and you can remotely erase selected files and render the laptop unusable until the rightful owner unlocks it.
Optional built-in mobile broadband wireless cards allow you to stay connected to the Internet even when you're away from a Wi-Fi connection. Dell offers your choice of either a Dell Wireless 5600 EV-DO Rev A mobile broadband mini-card or a Dell Wireless 5530 HSPA 7.2 mobile broadband mini-card based on your wireless provider.
The Studio 14z also comes with Dell Remote Access; the optional premium version of which allows people to access content via their home network of personal computing devices including desktops, laptops, ultra-mobile devices, smart phones and web cameras.
We will have a detailed review of the Dell Studio 14z coming soon, so stay tuned to NotebookReview.com for an in-depth review of this notebook.
Pricing and Availability:
The Dell Studio 14z has a starting price of $649 U.S. and is available now online and over the phone in the U.S. and Canada. For more information on the available custom options, be sure to visit www.dell.com/studio
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