Performance and Benchmarks
The performance of this machine is impressive, though not quite on par with a dedicated gaming notebook. The quad-core Core i7 processor sports hyperthreading, allowing 8 threads to be handled at once. All tests were run with the power scheme set to ‘high performance’ (plugged in, obviously), antivirus active guard off, and with most running programs exited.
wPrime processor comparison results (lower scores mean better performance):
PCMark05 measures overall system performance (higher scores mean better performance):
3DMark06 measures video and gaming performance (higher scores mean better performance):
Older Game (Freespace 2): The laptop handled Freespace 2 (with all of the add-on graphics packs loaded) at the highest settings (and at 1920 x 1080) admirably, producing the maximum 60 fps pretty much the entire time.
Current Game (Burnout Paradise): Burnout Paradise: The Ultimate Box was another story. I had to turn the resolution down to 1400 x 1050, AA to 4x, and the detail down to standard to get a relatively smooth-running game (at ~30 fps). However, just to give you some perspective, my desktop with an Nvidia 9800 GT card handles the game fluidly at a slightly higher resolution (1600 x 1200) at only slightly higher settings. Thus, the Studio XPS 16 actually performs impressively, considering it only has an upper-mid range mobile card.
Heat and Noise
As in the previous version of the Studio XPS 16, the machine can get on the toasty side during heavy gaming. The palmrest and keys become noticeably warm (just under what I’d call hot). The extended battery helps to prop up the laptop and promote some airflow underneath, but placing this on your lap will definitely cause you to sweat. Even when just surfing the web (and viewing some flash videos), it gets warm.
The fan is virtually silent under light loads, becoming somewhat more noticeable under moderate loads. Under very heavy stress, the fan kicks into high gear and produces a moderate amount of noise (sounding like a distant whooshing noise and a tiny bit of a whine), but will not interfere with a game set to a reasonable volume. However, it would definitely be noticeable in a quiet setting like a library or a classroom.
The optical drive is of the slot-loading variety, and is a bit on the loud side when it spins up (and particularly when you are burning a CD/DVD). When inserting and ejecting a disk, you can hear the quiet whirring noises of the drive servos spinning up.
Battery Life and Bundled Software
I achieved a time of 2 hours and 40 minutes of battery life in ‘balanced’ mode with screen-dimming disabled, a respectable time for a large media notebook. The laptop had little bloatware on it as far as I can recall, but I did end up rebuilding the system to solve a software issue (a good idea anyway).
The Dell Studio XPS 16 is a good-looking entertainment notebook of reasonable build quality and decent portability (considering its size). It packs a stunningly vibrant screen, along with some gaming punch. While it has some minor flaws, particularly the amount of heat it pumps out during gaming, it is a great buy for those who can afford its $2000+ pricetag.
As a footnote, during the composition of this review, the speakers started blowing out intermittently (I believe due to a loose wire). Therefore, I contacted Dell support via chat, and they tried re-installing the audio driver to no avail. I also reported the issue with the uneven trim marking up the screen and the flickering issue. The tech then told me that it would be easier to replace the whole machine with something comparable or better. Contrary to what many others say about Dell Tech Support, I say that it rocks … if you are under Completecare.
- Sleek Appearance
- Gorgeous and spacious screen
- Impressive performance for a non-gaming laptop
- Decent battery life for a 16” machine
- Great warranty tech support
- Gets very warm under heavy stress
- Could use another USB port
- Build quality could be a bit better
- Shows fingerprints and dirt