A hybrid between the XPS and Inspiron series, the Studio series manages to deliver a sturdy industrial design, with a rubberised laptop lid that comes in eight colours — blue, red, purple, grey, pink, orange, green and black. They all come with a black trim around the side edges of the monitor (known as the "U-Trim" in Dell-speak) unless you order grey, in which case you can opt for a black, red, blue or pink U-Trim.
The mouse pad is slightly recessed, and to the right of this is an inlaid design that looks a bit like a synoptic chart — although we keep thinking it's the result of a spilt coffee that no one managed to wipe off successfully. To the far right is a fingerprint reader, at the top of the chassis near the monitor hinge is a speaker bar, and at the top of the monitor itself is the webcam and built-in microphone.
The hinge is inherited from the XPS range, and is quite strong, with a power button on the right-hand side of the laptop where the hinge meets the chassis. Upon powering up, the media buttons at the top of the chassis scan from left to right in a pleasing white glow. A button on the other side of the hinge loads the Wi-Fi Catcher application in Windows, showing relative strength of all the wireless networks in your vicinity.
The screen itself is excellent quality, although if gloss causes you issues you may wish to look elsewhere. The screen is perhaps a bit too thin — as we could see our fingers clearly through the screen based on the discolouration precisely where we were supporting the laptop.
The keyboard is at first a slight shock for those used to shallow keys, as it offers a longer throw and more tactile feedback than the norm. While it took us a while to adjust, we were soon hammering out words at a high pace with no issue.
In what is set to become a common appearance due to Intel's inclusion of eSATA in the Centrino 2 spec, on the left-hand side is a combined eSATA and USB port. The hole in the chassis is slightly wider than usual for a USB port, and the port itself has two extra notches at the top to support the wider eSATA plug — a clever way to include both standards and save on space.