Even if we're not fans of the Studio Hybrid's overall value or its benefits to space economy, we readily concede that it's a cute little PC. We'll even give it credit as the best equipped of these little computers. HP's SlimLine is not as attractive, even if it is better equipped. And if Mac Mini competes on looks, the Dell gets the nod for its more up-to-date specifications.
It's also apparent that Dell had Apple in mind when it designed the Dell Dock software. When the Studio Hybrid boots into Windows, you're presented with a row of icons along the top edge pointing you to the Web, to e-mail, and to other various applications. They even grow larger when you drag your mouse over them, similar to Apple's OS X icon dock. You can add your own shortcut icons to the Dell Dock, and it only take up about 13MB of system memory to have it open, which is not too greedy. Novice users may appreciate features such as this, as well as you Windows lifers with Mac envy, but in general, we could just as easily turn it off or uninstall it.
Like most small systems of its kind, the Studio Hybrid doesn't present you with easy internal access. You can remove one external screw and slide the top panel off to get inside it, but once you're there, you're faced with a metal housing for the optical drive. Neither the memory nor the hard drive is immediately visible. An enterprising user will have no trouble digging deeper into the system, but novice upgraders may shy away. At least, unlike the Mac Mini, you can get inside without voiding the warranty.
And because of its small-scale design, upgrade options are limited. You can configure up to 4GB of RAM and a larger hard drive, but graphics cards, internal TV tuners, and other major internal components are out. We're not sad about the lack of a TV tuner, and we can forgive Dell for forgoing a fast mobile 3D chip given its power-conserving intentions, but if Dell's going to offer 4GB of RAM, it should also offer the 64-bit version of Windows Vista to put all of that memory to use.
Dell also touts the Studio Hybrid's eco-friendly power consumption. We'd expect it to use less power by virtue of its laptop parts, like most small PCs, and the diminutive power supply is a testament to its modest power needs. We also appreciate Dell's efforts at using recycled material in the product, and for the fact that all of the packing material is recyclable. Its cardboard box is also designed so that it's easy to break down.
Like Dell's other desktops, the Studio Hybrid comes with a one-year parts and labor warranty, 24-7 toll-free phone support, and a year of onsite service. The onsite service in particular is a standout feature, and it's especially helpful in a system like this one that's not as easy to tinker. With the product not publicly available at the time of this writing, we can't check the online support offerings, but Dell traditionally has a robust set of self-help resources.
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Dell Studio Hybrid
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1; 2.1GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T8100; 2GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 128MB (shared) Intel GMA X3100 integrated graphics chip; 250GB 5,400rpm Samsung hard drive.
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.2Ghz AMD Phenom X4 9550; 6GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 256MB ATI Radeon HD 3450 graphics card; 640GB 7,200rpm Western Digital hard drive.
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T5750; 4GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 128MB (shared) Mobile Intel GMA X3100 graphics chip; 250GB 5,400rpm Western Digital hard drive.
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1; 2.53Ghz Intel Core 2 Duo E7200; 2GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 384MB Nvidia GeForce 8800 GS graphics card; 500GB 7,200rpm. Hitachi hard drive
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1; 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600; 4GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 512MB ATI Radeon HD 3450 graphics card; 500GB 7,200rpm Seagate hard drive.