Dell Studio 15 (1555) Review

by Jerry Jackson Reads (308,421)

Overview

  • Pros

    • Great customizable options
    • Good value and performance
    • Cool Dell Design Studio lids
  • Cons

    • Could use more USB ports
    • Average build quality

Buy Direct From Manufacturer


by Jerry Jackson

If you’re one of the many consumers around the globe looking for a multimedia family PC with a 15-inch screen, then the updated Dell Studio 15 (1555) probably has all the features you’re looking for in a new laptop. Now with more than 200 customizable designs available from the Dell Design Studio, is the Studio 15 the most attractive 15-inch notebook on the market? Let’s take a closer look and find out.

Dell Studio 15 (1555) Specifications:

  • Windows Vista Home Premium (SP1, 32-bit)
  • Intel Core 2 Duo processor P8600 (2.4GHz, 3MB L2 Cache, 1066MHz FSB)
  • 15.6″ High Definition (1920×1080) High Brightness LED Display with TrueLife and Camera
  • 3GB DDR2 SDRAM 800MHz System Memory
  • ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4570 graphics (256MB)
  • 250GB 7200RPM SATA Hard Drive
  • 6X Slot Load Blu-ray (BD) Combo Drive (BD Read Only)
  • Dell Wireless 1397 802.11g Half Mini-Card
  • Dell Wireless 370 Bluetooth Internal (2.1)
  • Weight: 5.8 lb. including 9-cell battery
  • Dimensions: 1.0-2.0 x 14.6 x 10.0 inches with 9-cell battery (H x W x D)
  • Battery: 9-cell 85Wh
  • Dell Design Studio Custom Lid: XenoMayan – Haab3 by Tweeqim
  • Warranty: 1 year system
  • Retail Price as configured: $1,299

Build and Design
I’m sure some of our readers will be a little confused by this review and wonder, “Didn’t NotebookReview.com already review the Studio 15?” The answer is yes and no … just to confuse you even more. Dell decided that the original Studio 15 (model 1535) needed some improvements, and when LCD manufacturers stopped making 16:10 ratio LCDs and switched to 16:9 ratio screens it gave Dell the perfect opportunity to launch a new Studio 15 (1555).

With that being said, the changes between the original Studio 15 (1535) and the new Studio 15 (1555) are fairly minor. Dell obviously increased the width of the notebook in order to accommodate the wider 15.6″ LCD with its 16:9 aspect ratio. The new Studio 15 also features a black screen bezel compared to the silver bezel on the old Studio 15. The only other obvious changes are the removal of dedicated media buttons and changes to the port layout. We’ll talk more on those changes later in the review.

Overall, The Studio 15 is still an impressive looking desktop replacement. I use the term “desktop replacement” because most people in the market for a 15-inch notebook aren’t planning to haul their notebook everywhere during frequent airline travel.

While the Studio 15 isn’t exactly a thin-and-light notebook designed for mobility, it’s still a very portable multimedia entertainment notebook. The Studio 1555 takes several design elements from the earlier Studio 1535: the wedge-shaped profile, drop hinge, and slot-loading optical drive.

The Studio 15 is available in your choice of six colors: Plum Purple, Promise Pink, Midnight Blue, Ruby Red, Spring Green or standard Black Chainlink. If those aren’t enough options for you, the Dell Design Studio offers the Studio 15 in your choice of more than 200 different designs by various artists. We selected the “XenoMayan” lid design and also went one step further and selected the “Haab3″ variation of the design by the Tweeqim artist studio.

When closed the Studio 15 doesn’t feel as sturdy as you might expect. The screen lid shows significant flex under very light pressure. Considering the added cost of the fancy lid I don’t think it’s too much to expect some reinforcement so that the lid feels firm when you hold it. Likewise, the bottom of the chassis shows quite a bit of flex near the center of the notebook. Long story short: The Studio 15 does not feel particularly rugged. I suspect the plastics used will withstand regular day-to-day abuse inside a backpack or on a desk without showing too much wear and tear, but the laptop just doesn’t “feel” solid.

The bottom of the notebook features the battery and a single access plate that must be removed in order to upgrade the RAM, hard drive, or replace any additional components. On the bright side, Dell improved the access panel on the Studio 1555 so that you only have to remove three screws to upgrade the RAM or the hard drive. Unfortunately, as previously mentioned, the bottom of the notebook doesn’t feel particularly sturdy.

 

Screen and Speakers
The 15.6-inch high definition (1920×1080) panel on the Studio 15 rates fairly average with vibrant colors and excellent contrast. The display panel in our review unit appears to be an LG model (LGD020B). The LED backlighting in our review unit is nice and bright, but we did notice that the brightness was slightly uneven in the upper right corner of the screen. Yes, it is a 16:9 screen ratio, but this is starting to become standard for all notebooks and isn’t really a problem when you’ve got a higher resolution panel like this one. Horizontal viewing angles are extremely good, so you won’t have any trouble sharing a movie with a friend or two. Upper vertical viewing angles are above average since the colors don’t wash out too much when viewed from above but colors begin to distort and invert as you move the screen back.

 

UPDATE: When we originally reviewed the Studio 15 (1555) we certainly weren’t impressed. The stereo speakers located beneath the screen produced weak and flat sound and we couldn’t detect anything from the built-in subwoofer. We sent our review unit back to Dell for service and upon its return all we can say is, WOW!

The subwoofer adds a surprising impressive level of bass to the speakers in the Studio 15. The bass is actually strong enough to feel with your hand on the keyboard. Overall the sound pretty good with crisp high notes from the main speakers and milder bass from the subwoofer. In short, the fixed subwoofer makes a world of difference and is much better than before. I still think the audio could use some tuning to lower the volume of the main speakers to match the subwoofer, but it’s a minor issue.

Overall, the built-in speakers and subwoofer are good and external speakers or headphones are only a must-have accessory with this laptop if you want privacy.


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