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Dell Studio Hybrid review: Dell Studio Hybrid

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Small form factor desktops usually suffer from a lack of storage space, as their compact dimensions physically prevent them from enjoying the storage you get with standard desktop PCs. The Studio Hybrid is no different -- the most basic configuration ships with a 160GB drive, which can be upgraded to a 250GB unit for £30, or a 320GB drive for an extra £70. As a guide, you can usually fit approximately 450 DVD-quality DivX movie files onto a 320GB hard drive, so if you intend to collect movies over time, you should invest in the largest drive you can afford.

The innards of this desktop are tightly packed, making DIY activities a challenge

Small form factor PCs don't usually offer high-definition movie playback, but the Studio Hybrid is different. The high-end model has the option of an integrated Blu-ray reader, which lets you play high-definition content over HDMI or DVI, provided you have an HDCP-compatible computer monitor or a big-screen television. Unfortunately, the Studio Hybrid relies on a comparatively anaemic Intel GMA 3100 graphics card, so while Blu-ray playback is possible, its gaming capabilities are very limited.

Our £549 review sample came with a 17-inch monitor, but unless you're buying the machine for a sibling or small child, we'd recommend upgrading to the 23-inch S2309 widescreen model. This increases the price by an extra £90, but it runs at an ample 1,920x1,080 pixels. You also get a 2-button USB mouse, a USB keyboard and a copy of Microsoft Windows Vista Home Premium edition in the box.

Despite its size, the Studio Hybrid turned in a good performance. Its Core 2 Duo T3200 CPU achieved a solid 3,657 in PCMark 2005, indicating it's notably quicker than the Eee Box (1,407), the Advent Eco PC (3,310) and the Shuttle x27D (2,035). Graphics wasn't particularly impressive, however. It turned in a 3DMark 2006 score of 539, so if you're a gamer, you really should look elsewhere.

The Studio Hybrid stayed cool and ran quietly for the duration of our test period. This will be good news for anyone thinking of using it as a Media Center PC. The last thing anyone wants is a loud, obnoxious PC drowning out the dialogue in their favourite movie.

The Studio Hybrid is definitely worthy of consideration, particularly if you're looking for a tiny Media Center PC. It's more expensive than nettops like the Eee Box or Eee Top, and it's difficult to upgrade yourself, but the fact that you can customise it to your specific needs makes it a worthwhile proposition.

Edited by Cristina Psomadakis

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