Dell's Studio line of laptops is an attractive middle ground between the inexpensive Inspiron line and the high-end XPS line, incorporating some of the design cues of the XPS systems (such as their tapered bodies) with a mainstream set of components that won't break the bank.
We were very fond of the previous incarnation of this retail-only configuration, dubbed the S1535-125B. The updated version, the $849 S1535-143B, knocks the CPU back a bit, from a 2.1GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T8100 to a 2.0GHz Core 2 Duo T5800. The difference in real-world performance is negligible, but since the older version is still available for a slightly discounted $799, it might be worth a look. One difference to keep in mind--the newer S1535-143B has a bigger battery, which adds about 80 minutes of battery life but is positively huge, adding bulk and heft to the system.
|Price as reviewed||$849|
|Processor||2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T5800|
|Memory||4GB, 667MHz DDR2|
|Hard drive||320GB 5,400rpm|
|Chipset||Intel GM965 Express|
|Graphics||Intel GMA X3100 (integrated)|
|Operating system||Windows Vista Premium (64-bit)|
|Dimensions (WxH)||14x10.8 inches|
|Dimensions (thickness)||1.0 to 2.3 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||15.4 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||6.6/7.5 pounds|
The design of this retail-only fixed configuration laptop is identical to both the previous S1535-123B version as well as the customizable direct-from-Dell Studio 15, (although this version has a darker midnight blue lid). While clearly inspired by the popular XPS M1530, the Studio 15 has a more angular look, with its large side hinges curving the screen down at a sharp angle; the XPS presents a more rounded look.
The Studio 15 follows Dell's recent, and welcome, trend of outfitting nearly all of its laptops with HDMI outputs and touch-sensitive control buttons--you can also get those on even the cheapest Inspiron 15-inch model. Like most Dell laptops, the keyboard's keys are slightly tapered, giving you less surface area to use than flat keys, but we found it comfortable and easy to use, if a bit clacky.
Unlike the customizable direct-from-Dell Studio 15 we looked at, this less-expensive version has a 1,200x800-pixel native resolution, rather than the 1,440x900-pixel resolution usually found in higher-end 15-inch laptops, and we miss the extra screen real estate the higher resolution affords.
|Dell Studio S1535-143B||Average for category [mainstream]|
|Video||VGA-out, HDMI||VGA-out, S-Video|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone/ 2x microphone jacks||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||4 USB 2.0, mini FireWire, SD card reader||4 USB 2.0, SD card reader|
|Networking||Ethernet, 802.11 a/b/g Wi-Fi||modem, Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n wireless, Bluetooth, optional WWAN|
|Optical drive||Slot-loading DVD burner||DVD burner|
While it's marginally slower than the T8100 CPU in the last retail model Dell Studio laptop we looked at, the S1535-143B's Core 2 Duo T5800 processor was a capable performer and aided by 4GB of RAM--double what the previous Studio featured. In testing, the Studio 1535 closely followed the top performer in the mainstream category of our Holiday 2008 Retail Laptop Roundup, the Asus X83VB-X1. Also helping the Studio 1535 and the Asus in the labs is its use of the 64-bit version of Windows, which lets the systems go beyond the 3GB memory limit of a 32-bit operating system. As seems to be the case in these roundups, the two AMD-powered systems (the Toshiba Satellite U405D-S2874 and the HP Pavilion dv4-1155se) trailed far behind on CNET Labs' application benchmarks.
The Studio 1535 ran for 4 hours and 22 minutes on our video playback battery drain test, thanks to an extended battery, which, while good for long work sessions, makes the system harder to carry or even fit into a laptop bag. The previous S1535-125B had a standard six-cell battery, and ran for about 80 minutes less on the same test.