Editors' note: This review is part of our spring 2010 retail laptop and desktop roundup, which covers specific fixed configurations of popular systems found in retail stores.
Like the Sony VPCS111FM/S and the Toshiba E205-S1904, the Dell Studio s15z-2249CPN is an exclusive Best Buy Blue Label laptop. This doesn't mean that it's the most powerful or has every possible feature. The Blue Label systems are a Best Buy exercise in giving the people what they want, designed around a list of customer feature requests. This list includes the capability to wirelessly connect to an HDTV for streaming online and personal content; up to a 5-hour battery life; a chassis that's less than 1.3 inches thick and weighs less than 5.5 pounds; a two-year warranty, 30 days of Geek Squad support, and one year of antivirus protection; a backlit keyboard; an aesthetically pleasing design and solid construction; and reliable performance powered by an Intel Core i5 processor. And, well, the s15z-2249CPN delivers all that for less than $1,000 (though the battery claim is dependent on what you're doing with the laptop).
|Price as reviewed||$949.99|
|Processor||2.26GHz Intel Core i5 M430|
|Memory||4GB, 1066MHz DDR3|
|Hard drive||500GB 7,200rpm|
|Graphics||Intel Graphics Media Accelerator HD (integrated)|
|Operating system||Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)|
|Dimensions (WD)||15x9.9 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||15.6 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||5.5/6.4 pounds|
The Studio s15z-2249CPN definitely has a higher-end feel and look than Dell's Inspiron line. Instead of glossy finger-print-magnet plastic, it has a matte finish with a suede texture to it, in an attractive copper brown. It has just a simple silver Dell logo in the center of the lid. A glossy black plastic surrounds the LCD and trims the keyboard, and a shiny gold-toned plastic with a subtle basket-weave pattern is used for the palm rests. Even the bottom feels like it's made from a higher-quality material and the use of a slot-loading optical drive adds more class to the build.
At the top right of the keyboard sits a silver power button; there are no extra media controls or a button for turning on and off wireless. Instead Dell clearly marks the function keys so adjusting things like screen brightness and volume can be done quickly and you don't have to hit the Fn key. (A simple change in the BIOS settings under the Advanced tab will make the media controls the secondary function, meaning that you'll have to hit the Fn key to use the media controls.) The keyboard is large and comfortable with good movement and response. The keys are flat, but don't have the separation you'd find on a chiclet-style keyboard. The keyboard is backlit and the light can be dimmed or shut off entirely with the right arrow key.
The well-sized touch pad is an indentation in the palm rest with a textured coating, allowing fingers to glide smoothly. Two adequately large buttons rise from within the bottom of the pad; their movement is a little mushy without a satisfying click. Worth noting is that the touch pad on our test system would occasionally become impossible to use, forcing a reboot of the laptop to get it working properly again. We shut down most of the extra features such as circular scrolling and finger gestures for zooming in and out and that seemed to solve the problem.
The Dell Studio s15z-2249CPN's 15.6-inch glossy wide-screen LCD has a native resolution of 1,366x768 pixels, which is standard for laptops in this price range (budget 15-inch systems typically have 1,280x800-pixel displays). It's perfectly adequate for most mainstream applications with easy-to-read text and icons. The LED-backlit LCD gets reasonably bright, too. Viewing angles off to the sides are pretty good, but like most displays in this class, you'll have to adjust the screen position to get the best contrast. Overall color and contrast performance is good, though.
Again, one of the key selling points for this model is Intel's Wireless Display technology allowing you to stream content from the Web or your own content from the laptop to your HDTV with the help of a small Netgear-made Push2TV box. Connect the box to your TV, turn on the WiDi feature on the laptop (a Function key is dedicated for doing it), and once you go through an initial setup, your TV should mirror what's on the laptop screen. Or at least that's how it plays out on paper; things don't always go as smoothly as advertised. To see what we mean, check out our hands-on report and video of Intel's Wireless Display technology.
Above the Studio's screen is a functional Webcam and mic that performed OK in our informal Skype testing. The stereo speakers are able to get fairly loud without distortion--plenty of volume for movies, music, and games. They don't have much bass to speak of and can sound a bit empty at times, but for casual listening they get the job done.
|Dell Studio s15z-2249CPN||Average for category [mainstream]|
|Video||Mini-DisplayPort, HDMI||VGA-out, HDMI|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||2 USB 2.0, 1 USB 2.0/eSATA combo, multiformat card reader||4 USB 2.0, SD card reader|
|Networking||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional WWAN|
|Optical drive||DVD burner||DVD burner|
The port, I/O, and networking configuration for this Dell are satisfactory, though a fourth USB port would be welcomed. On the other hand, you do get Bluetooth, which is something that has been dropped from many mainstream laptops.
Given that the s15z-2249CPN is a retail system, it's not configurable at time of purchase. However, Dell's Web site has several configuration options for the Studio 15, including a faster Core i7 or slower Core i3 processor, less storage, more memory, discrete graphics, software, and five other color options. If you like what you've seen so far, but want to save some coin, need more performance, or just want another color, they're available. The WiDi feature doesn't seem to be an option, though. Also, despite being able to configure a Studio 15 with up to 8GB of memory, the s15z-2249CPN supports only 4GB.