At £730, the Studio 1558 sits neatly between Dell's budget Inspiron models and the more-coveted XPS range. This laptop is designed to offer a good balance between performance and price, with the added appeal of a customisable lid in a range of colours and artistic patterns.
The Studio 1558 may not have the sexy brushed-aluminium look of some of the models in Dell's XPS range, but there's still plenty to like about its design. Because the chassis is wedge-shaped, the spacious keyboard naturally tilts towards you to provide a pleasant typing angle. We also like the way the trackpad is integrated seamlessly into the keyboard surround to give it a unified look and feel.
The snappy keys feel fast under your fingers so you'll have no problem getting up to a decent speed when you're touch typing. The landscape-shaped trackpad is also relatively roomy and the buttons are suitably responsive. Our model came with a backlit keyboard, which adds an extra £26 to the price, but we think it's a worthwhile spend.
The laptop's build quality is well above par and it feels remarkably solid. There are a couple of negatives, however. The silver finish that frames the keyboard looks a little on the cheap side and the laptop is also rather heavy. To be fair, it doesn't weigh a whole lot more than other laptops with similar-sized screens. But, at 2.5kg, you wouldn't really want to be carting it around with you all day.
The 1558's line-up of ports is satisfactory rather than spectacular. You get three USB ports (one of which doubles as an eSATA port), along with a VGA socket and an HDMI output for hooking the laptop up to a large-screen TV. Dell has also included a mini FireWire port and an SD card reader. For internet connectivity, there's an Ethernet port plus 802.11n wireless and Bluetooth capability.
Our model came with an upgraded, Full HD display, which will cost you an extra £70. Again, it's money well spent -- the display looks outstanding. The 15.6-inch screen is LED backlit, which helps it not only produce exceedingly bright pictures, but also exceptionally vivid colours. This, combined with the 1080p resolution, makes for beautifully crisp and punchy pictures.