While we're still unsure of what Dell's goal was when it combined the midrange Studio and high-end XPS laptop lines into the new (wait for it...) Studio XPS brand, but at least it means we're finally getting a true 16:9 16-inch laptop from Dell, in the form of the Studio XPS 16.
The result is a smart-looking laptop that has some new features that distinguish it from a run-of-the-mill Inspiron, including a backlit keyboard and a superfluous leather trim on the back of the lid (we're more positively predisposed to leather-clad wristrests).
We were pleased to see that the Studio XPS configuration was only about $100 more than the Studio 15 when configured as identically as possible, and the Studio XPS model offered options, such as a full 1,900x1,080-pixel LED-backlit display, not available on the regular Studio (non-XPS) line.
|Price as reviewed / Starting price||$1,649 / $1,149|
|Processor||2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P8600|
|Memory||4GB, 1066MHz DDR3|
|Hard drive||320GB, 7,200rpm|
|Chipset||Mobile Intel PM45 Chipset|
|Graphics||ATI Mobility Radeon HD3670|
|Operating System||Windows Vista Premium|
|Dimensions (WD)||15.0x10.6 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||16.0 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||6.6/6.5 pounds|
The rounded hinge and tapered design remind us of Dell's XPS and Studio laptop lines (which makes sense, since this is a hybrid of those two). Unlike many other Dell systems, the Studio XPS 16 is only available in one color scheme--a shiny piano black with a matching black leather trim that covers a strip on the back of the lid near the hinge. The leather accent seemed arbitrary, design-wise, to us, but it's a matter of taste, and certainly not unattractive.
With a backlit keyboard and flat, widely spaced keys, the Studio XPS 16 shares a general typing aesthetic with Apple and Sony laptops. We always encourage backlit keyboards (Toshiba has started adding them to lower-priced models), which are fantastically useful when, for example, looking something up online while watching TV in a darkened room. A row of touch-sensitive media controls sit above the keyboard--a feature Dell includes in even its low-end laptops.
Thanks to the 1,920x1,080-pixel display, the Studio XPS 16 is great for watching Blu-ray movies or other HD content (an optional Blu-ray optical drive is available). For $250 less, you can get a more basic 1,366x768-pixel display, but we wouldn't recommend it. Both display types, however, have that edge-to-edge glass that seems to be all the rage these days.
|Dell Studio XPS 16||Average for category [mainstream]|
|Video||VGA-out, HDMI, DisplayPort||VGA-out, HDMI|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||2 USB 2.0, mini-FireWire, SD card reader||4 USB 2.0, SD card reader|
|Networking||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, optional WWAN||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional WWAN|
|Optical drive||DVD burner/BD-ROM||DVD burner|
The Studio XPS 16 is one of the first systems we've seen with a DisplayPort connection built in. According to Dell, it is getting behind the new standard in a major way, and we should expect to see it on most Dell laptops going forward. While the technology itself is fine, we're dubious of how quickly the public will adopt DisplayPort. After all, HDMI is just starting to gain mainstream acceptance, thanks to cheap HDTVs and HD game consoles such as the Xbox 360 and PS3, and jumping to a new connection (and new set of required cables) is going to be a tough sell for the typical consumer. Fortunately, the Studio XPS 16 also includes VGA and HDMI connections.
Intel's 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P8600 CPU, coupled with 4GB of RAM and the 64-bit version of Windows Vista, makes for a powerful performer, even though it's in the middle of Dell's processor options for the system (you can trade down to a 2.2GHz Core 2 Duo P8400 or up to a 2.8GHz Core 2 Duo T9600). Any of these choices are more than adequate for typical multitasking use--Web surfing, office documents, media viewing, and so on, as well as photo and video editing. The 512MB ATI Radeon HD3670 is a good midrange choice for a multimedia system that will also handle light gaming chores. We got nearly 60 frames per second at 1,280x800-pixel resolution in Unreal Tournament 3, and that ATI card is included in the base configuration for the system.
The Studio XPS 16 ran for 1 hour and 43 minutes on our video playback battery drain test, using the included six-cell battery. That's not terribly impressive, and makes this more of a stay-at-home laptop than a mainstream portable machine. We also received a nine-cell battery, which added significant bulk and weight, but came closer to three hours of battery life.