Keyboard and Touchpad
The backlit keyboard on our review unit of the Studio 15 is very nice and similar to the one on the original Studio 15. The keyboard is quite comfortable to type on with reasonable key size and spacing. There is some obvious flex when typing pressure is applied around the “L” key, but the left side of the keyboard is reasonably firm. If Dell put some additional reinforcement under the right side of the keyboard then this would be a nearly perfect keyboard.
The biggest difference between the keyboard on the Studio 1535 and the new Studio 1555 is that the new keyboard lacks dedicated media buttons. Instead, the new keyboard moves the media controls to the F-keys on the top row of the keyboard. On one hand I really like this change because of gives you physical controls for several different functions. On the other hand, if you frequently use the F-keys for things like refreshing your web browser you now have to press the Fn key as well.
The Synaptics-based touchpad is large and comfortable to use with a nice texture. Sensitivity is good, accurately tracking finger movement with little pressure on the surface. The multi-touch gestures (such as zoom in and zoom out) are easy to use. The only thing I didn’t like about the touchpad is that Dell uses their own touchpad drivers rather than the standard Synaptics drivers … making it more difficult to adjust settings. The touchpad buttons themselves have excellent feedback with a deep throw and well-cushioned press.
Ports and Features
The port selection on the Studio 1555 is nice, but surprisingly not as good as the original Studio 15 (1535). The new Studio 15 has one fewer USB ports and only has an ExpressCard/34 slot rather than an ExpressCard/54 slot. Granted, many 15-inch notebooks only have three USB ports, but now that most 10-inch netbooks have three USB ports it seems odd when a 15-inch notebook doesn’t have at least four. Still, the inclusion of eSATA, FireWire and HDMI for connecting your laptop to a larger HDTV or external monitor are welcome features to have on a multimedia notebook.