Dell Studio 15 First Thoughts Review

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The Dell Studio 15 is a fittingly named 15.4″ screen multimedia notebook targeted at those who want a nicely designed system that can dual as a very capable computer for work needs and as an entertainment system during those times you want to unwind and enjoy something like a movie.  The Studio 15 has a large enough screen to make watching movies on it comfortable, yet it’s not so big that you couldn’t take this around campus.  Since the Studio 15 can be had for around $1,000 nicely configured or under $1,000 for a more budget model it can fit either a tight budget or one with a bit of room to spend.


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The Studio 15 has multiple lid color selections available.  If you choose a painted lid such as red, blue, orange, black, green or purple the paint job is very durable and will not scratch.  An optional glossy finish lid with varying designs is also available if you prefer the shiny look (although beware of the fingerprints the lid will attract with such a design).

The Studio 15 we obtained has a Ruby Red colored lid.  It was purchased from Staples where they offer set configurations of the Studio 15, our budget configuration cost $799.  If you want to completely customize a Studio 15 then the best route to go is via Dell.com.  In our full review we’ll also be featuring a Dell.com custom ordered Studio 15 machine with an orange colored lid – we’ll give feedback on the order and shipping that occurs with that process.  The specs of this particular Studio 15, the S1535-113P from Staples, are as follows:

  • Screen: glossy 15.4″ WXGA 1280 x 800 display
  • Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo T5750 (2.00GHz, 667MHz FSB, 2MB Cache)
  • Memory: 3.00 GB RAM
  • Storage: 250GB HD
  • Optical Drive: Slot loading DVD+/-RW
  • Wireless: 802.11b/g
  • Graphics: Integrated Intel X3100
  • Built-in 2.0MP web camera
  • Ruby Red color lid
  • Ports: 4 USB 2.0, HDMI connector, 15-pin VGA video connector, Ethernet 10/100/1000 LAN (RJ45), AC adapter connector, Audio jacks (1 line-in, 1-line out, 1 Mic-in), 4-pin IEEE 1394 port, 54 mm ExpressCard slot, Consumer IR
  • Dimensions: Width: 14.0″ (355.6mm), Height: 1.0″ (25.3mm) front / 1.3″ (33mm) back, Depth: 10.3″ (261.5mm)
  • Weight: Starting weight of 6.11 lbs

Staples only had a couple of different color options for the lid, either Ruby Red or Midnight Blue, and only two different set spec configurations were available in the store.  However, if you prefer to purchase in a retail store for the ability to more easily return a product and not deal with any shipping waits, then Staples is available for that.  So far our custom ordered Studio 15 from Dell.com has taken 20-days to move into “production” and shows no signs of shipping soon.   We think that’s a little bit long.  It’s definitely worth comparing the price of retail models to those on Dell.com as there can be quite a variation and you might find that going to a bricks and mortar store can be a better deal, even if you have to sacrifice on a couple of upgrades you might have liked.

The box you get when buying the Studio 15 in a retail store is different from the usual all brown iconic Dell box we’re used to seeing.  From box to out of the package, here’s what it looks like:


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Design and Looks


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As we mentioned before, the Studio 15 comes with varying color options so you can make the notebook “Yours”.   But the design features don’t end there.  Dell has followed in the footsteps of HP by having an inlaid design pattern on the casing.  Around the keyboard and palm rest area you’ll find a sort of topographical map design, Dell calls this “Graphite Gray”.  This design feature is ok, it’s not as subtle or well integrated as the type of designs HP is using, but given the choice between just a plain old grey color case like we’ve seen on recent Inspirons versus this design we do prefer what’s in place.  The brushed aluminum look you get with the XPS series is still better, but that’s why you pay more for an XPS laptop.


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Speaking of XPS design, the Studio 15 actually borrows quite a few design elements from the equivalent sized XPS M1530.  The drop hinge design is almost exactly like that of the XPS M1530.  The lid paint job finish is also the same as that you’ll get on the XPS series.  The touch sensitive media buttons are very similar to the XPS, though their backlit with white instead of the blue on the XPS.  The slot loading optical drive is yet another feature that has been borrowed.


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Overall the Studio design is very nice, you can even get a backlit keyboard that makes it look better than the XPS, so in some ways the slightly cheaper Studio 15 looks nicer than the XPS M1530.  Unfortunately, with the Staples configuration the keyboard backlight option is not there.


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Build Quality

The build quality of the Studio 15 is good.  It does have more plastic to it than the XPS design does, but it is in no way flimsy.  There aren’t any glaring weak spots; the feel is quite firm all over.  With that said, this doesn’t feel quite as rock solid as the old Inspiron 1520 – but that notebook was way too chunky and we prefer the lighter weight of the Studio 15 even if it means it’s not quite as durable.

Processor and Performance

The Dell Studio 15 line right now only offers the “old” Intel Core 2 Duo inside, not the new Montevina everybody is talking about.  Dell launched this laptop a month before Intel updated their processor family, so for the moment the Studios are shipping with the Santa Rosa processor platform.  This is of little concern though, the T5750 2.0GHz Core 2 Duo that this budget priced Studio 15 came with is more than adequate enough for any normal work related tasks and can handle most any multimedia work thrown at it as well.  The newer Intel processors might get 5 – 10% better processor performance, but you won’t notice this change for anything but the most demanding of applications, such as gaming.  And since the Studio 15 was not intended as a gaming machine (that’s where the XPS comes in), there’s not much benefit the new Montevina platform can really provide, though it’s always nice to have the latest technology of course.

To give an idea of processor performance we ran wPrime, a program that forces the processor to do recursive mathematical calculations, the advantage of this program is that it is multi-threaded and can use both processor cores at once.  Below is an example of how this budget T5750 processor holds up relative to other processors (lower scores mean better performance.)

Notebook / CPU wPrime 32M time
Dell Studio 15 (Core 2 Duo T5750 @ 2.00GHz) 46.238s
HP Pavilion dv2700t (Core 2 Duo T5450 @ 1.66GHz) 49.793s
HP Pavilion dv6700t (Core 2 Duo T5450 @ 1.66GHz) 50.480s
Dell Inspiron 1525 (Core 2 Duo T7250 @ 2.0GHz) 43.569s
Dell XPS M1530 (Core 2 Duo T7500 @ 2.2GHz)
37.485s
Sony VAIO NR (Core 2 Duo T5250 @ 1.5GHz) 58.233s
Toshiba Tecra A9 (Core 2 Duo T7500 @ 2.2GHz) 38.343s
Zepto 6024W (Core 2 Duo T7300 @ 2GHz) 42.385s
Lenovo T61 (Core 2 Duo T7500 @ 2.2GHz) 37.705s
Acer Travelmate 8204WLMi (Core Duo T2500 @ 2.0GHz) 42.947s

 

The Screen

The Studio 15 widescreen display is not the LED variety available as an option on the XPS line, it’s just your regular CCFL style of display that uses a couple of traditional backlights to illuminate the screen.  The screen is nice though, it’s very bright at around 200-nits.  The glossy finish helps to make colors really pop and is especially nice for watching movies.  The Studio 15 we have is just a regular 1280 x 800 XGA resolution, you can get higher resolution displays that will allow you to fit more content on the screen and enjoy movies in a higher-defintion format.


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If you wanted it to the Studio 15 could double as a PC/Entertainment center for a small area such as a dorm room.  The screen is big enough that if you’re within 10 – 15 feet viewing is comfortable. 

Heat and Noise

The Studio 15 doesn’t get too hot, nor is it overly noisy, so you’re not going to really distract others in a quiet library like setting when using it.  The fans only get audible if they rev up to full speed when you’re doing things like light gaming or running benchmarks.  By far the loudest characteristic of the Studio 15 is the slot loading drive, which generates a lot of mechanical noise whenever you load in a disc.

More to come…

Obviously this does not constitute a full review.  We just wanted to get a few first thoughts out there about the Studio 15 and the in store purchase experience.  We’ll have a more full review next week as we compare the order process of buying online versus in store and a couple of different configurations of this laptop.

We already did a thorough review of the Dell Studio 17 which is in many ways similar to the Studio 15, just bigger and with a few more features, see our review of the Dell Studio 17 here.


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