- Fun multitouch programs
- Good speakers
- Built-in webcam
- Some programs buggy
- Audible fan noise
- Wireless mouse seems fragile
As we mentioned in our first look at this desktop, manufacturers have been expanding and improving on the idea of the desktop computer, and Dell has no plans to get left behind. The Studio One 19 is Dell’s newest take on the idea of the all-in-one computer, and it’s certainly memorable. Let’s take a deeper look and see how it stacks up.
Our review unit came equipped according to the following specifications:
- Processor: Intel Pentium Dual-Core E5200 @ 2.5GHz (2MB L2 cache)
- Memory: 3GB DDR2 SDRAM
- Hard drive: 500GB SATA @ 7200RPM
- Optical drive: 8X DVD+/-RW
- Sound: Integrated HD audio with built-in stereo speakers
- Video card: NVIDIA GeForce 9400 integrated graphics
- Networking: 10/100 Ethernet
- Wireless networking: 802.11b/g/n wi-fi
- Operating system: Windows Vista Home Premium 64-bit
- Power supply: 180 watt internal
- Built-in 7-in-1 memory card reader
- Inputs: 6 USB2.0 (2 side, 4 back), 2.1 audio out + headphone/microphone jacks
- 18.5-inch multitouch display with 1366×768 resolution
- 1.3MP webcam and microphone
- Dimensions: 22 x 15.5 x 3.2 inches (H x W x D)
- Warranty: One-year limited parts and labor
- Weight: 22.7 pounds
The starting price for the Dell Studio One 19 all-in-one computer is $699. The base price with multitouch is $849; as configured, our review unit carries a suggested retail price of $999.
Build and Design
Dell has really diverged from the style of most all-in-one desktops; a decision that’s readily apparently just by taking a look at the One 19. Most all-in-ones try and maintain a singular column from top to bottom, while Dell’s most recent attempt is very three dimensional, with several layers. The stand curves out from the back of the machine down below the computer, while the screen itself sticks out around a third of an inch from the rest of the device. Love it or hate it, it’s very distinctive, and it does look nice. The speakers sit behind and to the sides of the 18.5-inch screen. In an odd design choice, Dell covered the speakers in fabric instead of the plastic or metal grills found on most built-in speakers. It’s a choice that I’ve seen draw criticism from several people, but they look fairly sleek; my one concern is how easy the material will be to keep clean. Dell probably wouldn’t appreciate the staff of DesktopReview slathering the Studio One 19 in tomato sauce and jam, so that aspect of the computer will have to remain a mystery.
The entire back of the computer curves sleekly back from all edges, protruding farthest in the very middle where the silver stand attaches. The rear is very sleek and futuristic, its white expanse broken only by the the ports, slot-loading optical drive, and round Dell logo. Below the stand is the input for the power cord, which is the one and only cord users need to get the Studio One 19 up and going. One cord computing is turning out to be the hot new phrase in all-in-one computers, and it works here as long as consumers pay for the upgrade to the wireless keyboard and mouse.
Despite being an all-in-one computer, with a display built-in to the rest of the machine, there is a great deal of mobility in the stand. More, in fact, than the stands of many traditional LCDs possess. While the Studio One 19 doesn’t bend any farther forward than vertical, it tilts back to something like a whopping 45 degrees. Viewing angles manage to be good enough to handle it, if not amazing. Speaking of viewing angles, we mentioned earlier how the display was raised a few millimeters from the surface of the machine. The screen itself is glass, thankfully, but surrounding it on all edges is close to two inches of plastic with a black pattern of dots that fades to clear.
One glaring component that seems to be missing from the design, however, is some sort of handle. It’s understandable not want to add something that stands out and detracts from the clean styling, but the machine is pretty difficult to carry without some sharp corner jutting into an arm or armpit. There’s always the large silver handle on the bottom, but it’s not something you probably want to risk a thousand dollar purchase on just for ease of carrying.
Dell chose to go with an 18.5-inch display on the Studio One 19 though few months ago, some eagle-eyed users noted a listing for a “Studio One 24” in one of the Dell drivers. Dell naturally had no comment to give, so for now the small yet manageable screen is the only game in town. The only real downside to the screen is that it’s a fairly low 1366×768 resolution. To be fair, this is still more than high enough to present an enjoyable web experience, watch videos, take advantage of the touch features, etc; we’ve just become accustomed to really sharp, high resolution screens these days. Bleeding is evident, but not too serious and only visible on completely dark screens.
To make up for the fact that Windows Vista in no way possesses a finger friendly interface, Dell bumped up the DPI of the standard interface. While this certainly makes things like the taskbar, buttons and scroll bars far more finger friendly, it also looks terrible. Any icon or application that wasn’t designed to run with these larger formats looks pixelated and old. Many of the standard icons in the status area of the taskbar fall into this category, meaning you’re consistently forced to sit and look at coarse icons all day. It wouldn’t have taken much for Dell to put new icons into the OS just to make things look more polished. The viewing angles on the Studio One 19’s LCD are more than adequate, with horizontal viewing angles good enough that most users won’t encounter any serious issues with image degradation unless viewing at extreme angles is the rule of the day in that house. Vertical viewing angles with okay, too; looking up from below shows off some pretty serious color inversion but looking down from above surprisingly doesn’t.
Even though there are models available without the touch functionality, the real draw to the Studio One 19 is its multitouch capability. The technology behind the touchscreen in the One 19 is neither resistive, like current Windows Mobile devices, nor capacitive, like the iPhone and the Palm Pre. Instead, it’s optical. It actually tracks whatever is touching the screen, which means you don’t need to use fingers or some other body part to control the computer. Any object will do, though obviously some work better than others. The screen registers touches quickly and accurately, although there is some noticeable lag. The lag is only for the first touch to the screen; if a finger hits the screen and then drags across, the Studio One 19 follows along easily. It’s worth saying that the combination of touch lag and settings made using the touchscreen to launch programs incredibly frustrating at first since it was almost impossible to get double-clicks to register. After fiddling with the hard-to-find settings (Control Panel –> Pen and Input Devices –> Touch –> Settings), it became a lot easier to use.
Inputs and Expansion
Despite being an all-in-one and thus by definition more limited than a traditional desktop computer when it comes to expandability, Dell managed to fit a number of inputs into this machine. The left side of the machine offers up two USB2.0 ports as well as analog audio in and out and a multi-card reader. The right side of the desktop is much cleaner and only features the slot-loading optical drive. In our case it was an 8X DVD+/-RW, though Dell does offer a drive capable of reading Blu-ray discs.
The back of the machine is where the rest of the ports lies, with four more USB2.0 ports, another analog audio out jack and a Fast Ethernet (10/100) port. Unfortunately, no Gigabit; that’s not too surprising considering Dell’s push to use wireless networking with this computer to live up to the one cord computing ideal. The back of the machine has has a button to re-sync the proprietary wireless keyboard and mouse, should the partnership become disrupted in some fashion.
Like many all-in-one computers, the Studio One 19 is a mix of desktop and laptop parts, though this one is certainly more desktop than most. The processor options for the Studio One 19 line range all the way from low-end Pentium Dual-Core CPUs to much stronger Core 2 Quad processors. No AMD options are available. Still, even the low-end E5200 in our review unit managed to play through a number of 1080p h.264-encoded movie trailers from Apple’s Quicktime site. Only one of the many clips exhibited any kind of stuttering, and it showed the same stuttering on other computers with beefier processors, so I’m inclined to think it’s poor encoding.
The resolution of 1366×768 is a good bit less than full 1080p HD besides, which means playing anything higher resolution is fruitless and the machine can definitely play anything at that resolution. HD Hulu videos also played without a hitch or stutter.
wPrime CPU performance comparison results (lower scores mean better performance):
|Desktop||Time to complete wPrime 32M
|Dell Studio Slim (Intel Core 2 Quad Q8200 @ 2.33GHz)||16.301s|
|Dell Studio One 19 (Intel Pentium Dual Core E5200 @ 2.5GHz)||30.999s|
|Dell Studio Hybrid (Core 2 Duo T8100 @ 2.10GHz)||35.582s|
|Lenovo A600 All-in-one (Core 2 Duo P7450 @ 2.13GHz)||37.363s|
|HP TouchSmart IQ506 (Core 2 Duo T5850 @ 2.16 GHz)||39.544s|
PCMark05 overall general performance comparison results (higher scores mean better performance):
|Dell Studio Slim (Intel Core 2 Quad Q8200 @ 2.33GHz)||6887 PCMarks|
|Lenovo A600 All-in-one (Core 2 Duo P7450 @ 2.13GHz)||5589 PCMarks|
|Dell Studio One 19 (Intel Pentium Dual Core E5200 @ 2.5GHz)||5433 PCMarks|
|HP TouchSmart IQ506 (Core 2 Duo T5850 @ 2.16 GHz)||5189 PCMarks|
|Dell Studio Hybrid (Core 2 Duo T8100 @ 2.10GHz)||4305 PCMarks|
3DMark06 overall graphics performance comparison results (higher scores mean better performance):
|Lenovo A600 All-in-one (Core 2 Duo P7450, ATI HD3650)||4265 3DMarks|
|Dell Studio One 19 (Pentium Dual Core E5200, NVIDIA 9400)||1966 3DMarks|
|Dell Studio Slim (Core 2 Quad Q8200, ATI HD3450 256MB)||1820 3DMarks|
|HP TouchSmart IQ506 (Core 2 Duo T5850, NVIDIA 9300M GS)||1714 3DMarks|
|Apple Mac Mini (Core 2 Duo P7350, NVIDIA 9400M)||1552 3DMarks|
It’s worth noting that the hard drive in our Studio One 19 review unit was surprisingly fast. Almost astonishingly so. Close to 100MB/s sustained throughput for an average 7200RPM drive isn’t bad at all, especially in a system not intended to make any great performance claims.
The software is really what the Studio One 19 needs in order to sell. After all, the regular Windows interface, at least the current one, doesn’t do finger navigation very well, so manufacturers are forced to come up with alternate user interfaces. Some, like HP with their much-vaunted TouchSmart desktop series, created an entirely new interface to use with their computers, largely avoiding the Windows issue entirely. Dell took a slightly less heavy path, instead hiring FingerApps, Inc. to develop a cool “wheel” of icons that sits at the bottom of the display called the Dell Touch Zone. The wheel can be spun left or right easily, though not in a complete circle. Users just spin the wheel until they see the program they want to access it, and tap once.
The Touch Zone wheel works well, but the implementation is haphazard. As mentioned, the main wheel can’t be spun in a full circle, but the similar wheels in the photo and music apps, for example, can be. Speaking of the specialized apps, they are pretty neat. The photo, movie and music apps are a lot of fun to play with, and are fairly responsive. There are a few hiccups with the touch gestures and how the interface responds, but it’s not really unexpected and doesn’t take much away from the experience.
In addition to the media apps, Dell includes a note-taking application, a weather app, a fingerpainting app (enter the fearsome Desktopreviewasaurus), a webcam app, a rhythm game and a virtual drum set. There are also dedicated icons for internet explorer, the Windows games directory and an almost useless settings box. The fingerpainting app is a surprising amount of fun and a surefire way to please any kid (whether eight or eighty) and the webcam program, while cheesy, is also a great way to get some laughs. It’s full of corny but amusing special effects and frames; it also supports direct uploads to a YouTube account.
Unfortunately, the Touch Zone isn’t all sunshines and unicorns. The virtual drum set is sort of neat, but ultimately frustrating, since the slight lag introduced by the optical touchscreen makes it almost impossible to get decent rhythms going. This same effect makes the rhythm game almost pointless to play, since it becomes a game of wild gesticulations and random screen hitting rather than timing anything to go along with the music. These two programs, while unfortunate, aren’t the most annoying thing about the Touch Zone. Our biggest issue is that YOU CANNOT MODIFY IT IN ANY WAY. Dell does not support removing or adding or customizing the Touch Zone in any way. The help files directly say as much. It’s hard to understand why this is; the HP TouchSmart software allows an almost infinite amount of customization, and it makes it all the more useful. Many people, especially the tech savvy, aren’t going to want to use Internet Explorer, but the only way to get around it is to change the program to which the Touch Zone points. It’s so frustrating to have this really cool and fast way of launching programs, but be limited to the programs that Dell thinks are best.
Keyboard and Mouse
The base configuration of the Studio One 19 features a generic Dell corded keyboard and mouse, while the premium wireless desktop costs extra. If you don’t already own a wireless setup, it’s worthwhile to go ahead and purchase the one Dell manufactured to pair with this machine. Not only does it match the styling of the desktop, but the Studio One 19 has the wireless transceiver built in, so there’s no need to take up a USB port or ever worry about losing the dongle. The downside, of course, is that this keyboard and mouse can’t be used with any other computer.
The keyboard is nice, and the feel of the keys is reminiscent of both laptop and desktop keyboards. Still, it’s a pleasant keyboard to type upon, and the media keys are well placed and not overdone, like the trend seems to be these days. There’s also a built-in dial that spins and controls volume. Dials are a much more intuitive way of modifying volume levels than discrete buttons. While the keyboard seems to be a decent, even quality-made device, the mouse is a bit of a letdown.
Before anything else is said, the mouse works, and it works well; the laser tracking is spot on, and the buttons and scroll wheel all work well and remain responsive. The issue lies with changing the batteries. Instead of putting the battery compartment on the bottom of the mouse, the batteries are inserted by popping off the entire top of the mouse, buttons and all. This thin plastic shell pops up at the drop of a hat, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it just fall off and break if the mouse were dropped on the floor.
Power, Heat and Noise
The Studio One 19 is a fairly power efficient device, especially when one considers the full-on desktop processor, hard drive and built-in display. At idle, the machine consumes an average of 58 watts of power. Under moderate load, that number moved up to 69 watts, while maxing the entire system out pushed it barely up to 89 watts of power. Chances are it’ll never use that much in a normal household. The machine stays fairly cool thanks to vertically-facing vents at the top and bottom of the computer. It’s not cool enough to run without a couple of fans, however, and while not loud, they’re definitely noticeable.
The Dell Studio One 19 gets so much right but doesn’t quite make it all the way. It combines a unique and stylish design, high quality components and an interesting interface; it simply lacks a little final polish that could really push it to the next level. Dell is obviously staking out some new ground compared to where they’ve been before, and a lot of it is simply going to be trial and error. There’s little doubt that the Studio all-in-one line will expand and get better as time goes on, and the Studio One 19 is a decent first step to that long-term goal.
I suspect that some of the issues we’ve found with the current iteration of the device have to do with the limiting nature of the underlying operating system. While Windows Vista isn’t as bad as some have made it out to be, it was never designed to be used with multitouch or multiple simultaneous inputs, and a lot of that shows. The gestures, while functional, are sometimes buggy and feel a little tacked on — and that’s no fault of Dell’s. Microsoft’s upcoming OS, Windows 7, includes native multitouch support, with some apps ripped out of their Surface computing effort and added in to the general OS.
The question then becomes, should you buy a Studio One 19 today? If you’re someone who just does basic computer tasks, or even just wants to buy a fun computer for the kids, then sure, you’ll probably have a lot of fun, especially with the webcam application and facial recognition software. If you’re someone who likes to tinker with how computers work and heavily customize your environment, you might end up running up against the almost-artificial limitations of the touch environment. Still, at the end of the day, it’s a good first try and makes us look forward to see what else Dell has planned.
- Fun multitouch programs
- Good speakers
- Built-in wireless
- Built-in webcam
- Good wireless keyboard
- Some programs buggy
- Audible fan noise
- Can’t customize Touch Zone
- Wireless mouse seems fragile