Note: This review is part of our Back to School 2008 roundup, covering specific configurations of popular laptops that can be found in retail stores.
Dell's new Studio line incorporates some of the sleek, tapered design of the company's high-end XPS laptops while keeping the price of a nicely equipped machine for less than $1,000. By way of comparison, to build a XPS M1530 similarly configured would cost about $250 more than the retail-only $979 Dell Studio S1535-125B. On the other hand, if you make a few component sacrifices, the thinner, lighter XPS can be had for only $999.
We appreciate the effort that went into matching a decent design with affordable but powerful components (such as an Intel Core 2 Duo T8100 CPU, 4GB of RAM, and a big 320GB hard drive), and the Studio 1535 easily breezed past the other laptops in our mainstream ($800-$999) roundup of back-to-school systems, making it an excellent choice for those seeking processing power short of stepping up to Intel's new Centrino 2 family of CPUs.
|Price as reviewed||$979|
|Processor||2.1GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T8100|
|Memory||2GB, 667MHz DDR2|
|Hard drive||320GB 5,400rpm|
|Graphics||Intel GMA X3100 (integrated)|
|Operating System||Windows Vista Premium (64-bit)|
|Dimensions (Thickness)||1.3-1.7 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||15.4 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||6.1/7.0 pounds|
The design of this retail-only fixed-configuration version is identical to the customizable direct-from-Dell Studio 15 we looked at recently (although this version is red). 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 its 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.
Unlike the previous 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 S1535-125B||Average for category [mainstream]|
|Video||VGA-out, HDMI, 2-megapixel Webcam||VGA-out, S-Video|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone/ 2x microphone jacks||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||4 USB 2.0, mini-FireWire, multiformat memory card reader||4 USB 2.0, SD card reader|
|Networking||Ethernet, 802.11 a/b/g Wi-Fi, Bluetooth||modem, Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional WWAN|
|Optical drive||Slot-loading DVD burner||DVD burner|
Unless you're spending a bit more to move up to one of Intel's new Centrino 2 CPUs, Intel's Penryn-class 2.1GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T8100 CPU should be your performance-friendly default for mainstream rigs. The chip is a step ahead of the other back-to-school laptops we looked at in this price range, most of which use Intel's lower-end 2.0GHz Core 2 Duo T5750, and the difference is notable in our benchmark tests. Also helping the Studio 1535 excel in the labs is its use of the 64-bit version of Windows, which lets the system go beyond the 3GB memory limit of a 32-bit operating system.
The Dell Studio 1535 provides a considerable performance edge compared with other back-to-school laptops in its price class, finishing first on our Multitasking, Photoshop, and iTunes tests. In real-world terms, you're unlikely to notice the difference in casual use (Web surfing, working on office docs, and so on), but it's always preferable to have some extra power under the hood, especially if you're the type who keeps multiple windows open simultaneously, or surfs the Web while encoding MP3s or streaming video.
The Studio 1535 ran for 3 hours and 1 minute on our video playback battery drain test, using the included 6-cell battery. That's right in the middle of the pack for our mainstream back-to-school roundup, and fairly reasonable, but not impressive, for a midsize laptop.
Dell includes an industry-standard one-year parts-and-labor warranty with the system. Support is accessible through a 24-7 toll-free phone line, and an extensive online knowledge base and driver downloads.
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)