Editors' note: This review is part of our Back-to-school 2009 Retail Laptop Roundup, covering specific new configurations of popular laptops that can be found in retail stores.
The $749 Dell Studio S1440-022B is trim, forward-looking mainstream laptop. Rarely does a 14-inch laptop limbo under the 5-pound mark, but the Studio S1440 checks in at an impressive 4.7 pounds. It's able to hit this number in large part by jettisoning the optical drive, a bold move not seen on the majority of mainstream laptops, despite the growing popularity of accessing your media from the Web instead of from a DVD or a CD. Other forward-looking features include a DisplayPort connection, an HDMI port, and a 16:9 aspect ratio display.
Inside, Dell outfits the Studio S1440-022B with a well-rounded set of components, including a midrange Core 2 Duo processor, low-end Nvidia GeForce graphics, and an eight-cell battery that manages to sit flush with the system. Thanks to Best Buy's Next Class program, it comes not with software trials, but full versions of useful applications. If you can get past the lack of a DVD burner, there's much to like about this thin, light, long-running laptop. Though for only $50 more, the slightly heavier and somewhat boxy Toshiba Satellite E105-S1602 offers a DVD burner plus more memory and larger hard drive.
|Processor||2.1GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T6500|
|Memory||3GB DDR3 SDRAM 1066MHz|
|Hard drive||320GB at 5,400rpm|
|Graphics||256MB Nvidia GeForce 9400M|
|Operating System||Windows Vista Home Premium (64-bit)|
|Dimensions (WDH)||13.3x9.0x1.2 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||14.1 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||4.7 / 5.4 pounds|
The Dell Studio S1440 is part of Best Buy's Next Class program, which is a collection of custom-made configurations for the retailer, based on feedback from students on their preferred features. (Best Buy has a similar thrust with its Blue Label program, which surveys general consumers, not just students.)
Not surprisingly, students wanted something that fit meager budgets, included useful software out of the box, struck a balance between portability and decent screen size, and delivered great battery life. The Studio S1440 hits on all of these marks. It weighs less than 5 pounds and includes a wide 14-inch screen. It includes a full copy of Microsoft Office Home and Student 2007 and 15 months of virus protection by way of Norton Internet Security 2009. And its eight-cell battery topped the four-hour mark on our demanding battery drain test.
The current fashion in laptops is putting a glossy, fingerprint-attracting finish on all surfaces inside and out. Dell bucks this trend by outfitting the Studio S1440 with a satin finish on the lid (in this case, red), and the plastic chassis has a brushed aluminum look. The only glossy surfaces to be found are the thin, black bezel framing the display and the area between the top of the keyboard and bottom of the screen. Oddly, despite its entertainment appeal with the 16:9 aspect ratio display, the Studio S1440 does not offer any media control keys. Instead, the F keys perform volume, mute, play/pause, fast forward, and rewind functions. In a smart reversal, you don't need to hit the Function key to perform these various tasks; instead, you hit the Function key to perform the functions mapped to F1, F2, and so on (we also saw this on the recent HP Mini 5101 Netbook).
The roomy keyboard runs edge to edge, and the wrist rest is only 2.5 inches wide. (Most wrist rests on laptops of this size measure at least 3 inches wide.) It still provides a large enough perch for a comfortable computing experience. The touch pad also leaves no unused space; its top edge is right up next to the space bar while the two mouse buttons are very close to the front edge of the laptop. The keys are wide and offer just the right amount of travel. They're also very quiet--about as far from clacky as you can get. Likewise, the two mouse buttons have a soft, supple feel, though they offer a bit too much travel to the point where they feel a bit "squishy." One final note about the keyboard: Dell offers a backlit keyboard option on comparable 14-inch models on its Web site, but this retail unit does not.
The display measures 14.1 inches and features an extra-wide 16:9 aspect ratio that matches that of movies and HD video. With 1,366x768-pixel native resolution, the Studio S1440 can display 720p video. It feels a bit squat, however, when scrolling down long Web pages or Word documents. The screen features a glossy coating, which strikes a fine balance between enhancing the appearance of movies and games and keeping glare and reflections to a minimum. More impressive is the audio output. We don't expect greatness from small, integrated laptop speakers, but the Studio S1440's speakers offered booming sound, relatively speaking. Output at max volume was loud enough and still clear to enjoy a movie without needing headphones.
|Dell Studio S1440-022B||Average for category [mainstream]|
|Video||HDMI, DisplayPort||VGA-out, HDMI|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, two headphone jacks, microphone jack||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||3 USB 2.0, Mini-FireWire, eSATA, mulitformat memory card reader||4 USB 2.0, SD card reader|
|Networking||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional WWAN|
|Optical drive||None||DVD burner|
The Dell Studio S1440-022B offers a wide-ranging collection of ports and connections, perhaps in an effort to make up for the lack of an optical drive. HDMI is becoming more common on laptops, but those offering a DisplayPort connection are still in the minority. The S1440 also offers not one but two headphone jacks, should you want to share tunes or movie dialog with a travel companion. FireWire is slowly fading from popularity, but a four-pin FireWire port shows up here, along with an eSATA port (which doubles as the third USB 2.0 port) for faster data transfer times to an external drives, and a Webcam.
The Dell Studio S1440 features the 2.1GHz Core 2 Duo T6500 processor, which can be found on other laptops on store shelves, including Dell's own Studio XPS 1340-024B along with HP's Pavilion dv3-2155mx and Pavilion dv4-1465dx. It offers 3GB of DDR3 SDRAM, while its competitors in this price range serve up 4GB of DDR2. The result is a wash, as the Studio S1440 finished among the pack on CNET Labs' application benchmarks. Lastly, the S1440 serves up a 320GB hard drive, while others in this price range trump that capacity with a 500GB drive.
The Studio S1440 features a low-end 256MB GeForce 9400M graphics card, which won't take on all comers but is capable of providing some modest 3D entertainment. We were able to hit a consistent 50-to-60 frames per second at its native resolution playing World of Warcraft.
|Dell Studio S1440||Average watts per hour|
|Off (60 percent)||0.65|
|Sleep (10 percent)||0.72|
|Idle (25 percent)||11.98|
|Load (5 percent)||41.93|
|Annual energy cost||$5.52|
On CNET's demanding battery drain test, the Dell Studio S1440 ran for an impressive 4 hours, 26 minutes, thanks to its eight-cell battery. You can expect more than five hours of running time under typical use. The HP Pavilion dv4-1465dx ran for a little over an hour longer on our battery drain test, but it uses a huge, heavy 12-cell battery that protrudes from the bottom of the laptop. The Studio S1440 is more than a pound lighter than the Pavilion dv4-1465dx, and its battery sits flush.