Editors' note: This review is part of our 2009 Retail Laptop and Desktop Holiday Roundup, which covers specific fixed configurations of popular systems found in retail stores.
The Dell Studio 1745-3691MBU is a well-rounded, unassuming 17-inch desktop replacement, until you plug it in and listen to its audio output. Its standout feature is a set of 2.1 JBL speakers, which produce some of the best sound we've ever heard from a laptop. Movies sound big and lifelike, and you can even fill a small room with music playback--unheard of (literally) from a set of integrated laptop speakers.
The rest of this $779 laptop is standard fare for the price, with a basic midrange configuration that includes an Intel Core 2 Duo processor, 4GB of memory, integrated Intel graphics, and a 500GB hard drive. The 17.3-inch screen features LED backlighting, resulting in a thin and bright display. The only item that might give you pause is the lack of a Blu-ray player, which the cheaper HP Pavilion dv7-3065dx and the smaller and cheaper Sony Vaio VGN-NW270F/S each supply.
|Processor||2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T6600|
|Memory||4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,066MHz|
|Hard drive||500GB at 7,200rpm|
|Graphics||Intel GMA 4500MHD|
|Operating System||Windows 7 Home Premium|
|Dimensions (WDH)||16.3 x 11.0 x 1.5 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||17.3 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||7.2 / 8.2 pounds|
Dell has blurred the line between its Inspiron and Studio lines to the point that it's difficult to tell one from the other. When Dell first launched the Studio line, it was angular and boxy, but the Studio 1745-3691MBU features rounded corners and tapered edges common to the Inspiron line.
It's a nice-looking laptop, with a deep-blue lid that features a rubbery, satin finish and a small Dell logo at its center. Inside, a glossy black bezel frames the display and extends to the keyboard, with a silver wrist rest. A small, chrome-plated speaker grille sits in each corner of the wrist rest.
The keyboard is roomy, quiet, and comfortable. We prefer it to the glossy, slightly clacky keys on the HP Pavilion dv7-3065dx. Despite the presence of a dedicated number pad, the keys are wide, though we wish the arrow keys weren't half-height. You may not find yourself needing them much because the touch pad supports two-finger scrolling, a feature that nearly every MacBook user has come to enjoy when making his or her way through a long Web page or huge Excel sheet.
As with the Toshiba Satellite E105-S1802, we found that we constantly and accidentally used the Pinch Zoom feature, which we ended up disabling through the touch-pad's properties. The touch pad itself is huge, and the mouse buttons are soft and quiet. The touch pad is so big, in fact, that we occasionally hit it with a palm or thumb knuckle, misplacing the cursor.
Above the keyboard is a row of touch-sensitive media control keys, plus volume and mute buttons. A settings button brings up the Windows Mobility Center that lets you adjust display brightness, battery status and scheme, Wi-Fi connectivity, etc. Oddly, the same volume and media control functions are also mapped to the Function keys.
The 17.3-inch display features LED backlighting and a cinematic 16:9 native resolution. Its 1,600x900-pixel native resolution is standard for a laptop this size. HD video looks great when filling the screen or running at 720p, but DVDs show artifacts more readily than they do on smaller laptops.
Too bad Dell didn't see fit to include a Blu-ray drive here, but it makes up for this omission by outfitting the Studio 1745 with 2.1 JBL speakers. Two 3-watt speakers reside on either corner of the wrist rest, while a 6-watt subwoofer fires from the bottom of the laptop. Their sound, while not window rattling, is amazing for a laptop. Max volume reaches a level that clearly surpasses any laptop we've reviewed in recent memory; it's both louder and clearer.
|Dell Studio 1745-3691MBU||Average for category [mainstream]|
|Video||HDMI, DisplayPort, VGA||VGA plus HDMI or DisplayPort|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, two headphone and one microphone jack, FM antenna jack||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||2 USB 2.0, eSATA/USB port, FireWire, mulitformat memory card reader||4 USB 2.0, SD card reader, eSATA|
|Networking||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional mobile broadband|
|Optical drive||Slot-loading DVD burner||DVD burner|
Dell uses the big size of the Studio 1745 as an excuse to pack it with ports and connections. DisplayPort makes it a trio of video ports, joining VGA and HDMI. FireWire is often left off of laptops these days, but it makes the cut here, joining two USB ports and a third that doubles as an eSATA port. You also get two headphone jacks for quiet sharing, and the DVD burner is of the slick, slot-loading variety.
The Dell Studio 1745-3691 offered no surprises in CNET Labs' testing, finishing among the similarly configured, similarly priced pack of laptops you'll find on retail shelves this quarter. The Studio pairs the 2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T6600 processor with 4GB of fast 1066MHz DDR3 memory.
Its application performance is more than ample for the majority of mainstream laptop buyers. Heavy multitasking doesn't pose a problem, nor does HD video playback. Generally, we encountered no lag when exploring Windows 7 in our anecdotal tests. The laptop's reliance on integrated Intel graphics, however, means you won't hear the latest 3D shooters exploding out of its rocking JBL speakers.
|Dell Studio 1745-3691MBU||Mainstream (Avg watts/hour)|
|Raw kWh Number||50.46|
|Annual Energy Cost||$5.73|