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Dell Studio S1535-125B review: Dell Studio S1535-125B

Dell Studio S1535-125B

Dan Ackerman Editorial Director / Computers and Gaming
Dan Ackerman leads CNET's coverage of computers and gaming hardware. A New York native and former radio DJ, he's also a regular TV talking head and the author of "The Tetris Effect" (Hachette/PublicAffairs), a non-fiction gaming and business history book that has earned rave reviews from the New York Times, Fortune, LA Review of Books, and many other publications. "Upends the standard Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs/Mark Zuckerberg technology-creation myth... the story shines." -- The New York Times
Expertise I've been testing and reviewing computer and gaming hardware for over 20 years, covering every console launch since the Dreamcast and every MacBook...ever. Credentials
  • Author of the award-winning, NY Times-reviewed nonfiction book The Tetris Effect; Longtime consumer technology expert for CBS Mornings
Dan Ackerman
5 min read

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 Studio S1535-125B

The Good

Faster performance than other laptops in the same price range; 4GB of RAM; big 320GB hard drive; HDMI output, touch-sensitive media controls.

The Bad

Bulkier than Dell's 15-inch XPS and Inspiron models; merely average battery life.

The Bottom Line

The Dell Studio S1535-125B impresses us with its leading performance in the sub-$1,000 category, thanks in large part to a speedy Intel CPU and generous memory allotment. Striking a fine balance between Dell's XPS and Inspiron lines, we recommend this well-rounded 15-inch laptop for students and home users alike.

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
Chipset Intel GM965
Graphics Intel GMA X3100 (integrated)
Operating System Windows Vista Premium (64-bit)
Dimensions (WxH) 14.0x10.6
Dimensions (Thickness) 1.3-1.7 inches
Screen size (diagonal) 15.4 inches
System weight / Weight with AC adapter 6.1/7.0 pounds
Category Mainstream

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
Expansion ExpressCard/54 ExpressCard/54
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.

Multimedia multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Dell Studio 1535-125B
HP Pavilion dv5-1002nr

Adobe Photoshop CS3 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Video playback battery drain test (in minutes)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

Find out more about how we test laptops.

Dell Studio 1535-125B
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.1GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T8100; 4096MB DDR SDRAM 667MHz; 128MB Mobile Intel 965GM Express; 320GB Western Digital 5,400rpm.

HP Pavilion dv2945se
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.0GHz AMD Turion 64 X2 Mobile TL-60; 4098MB DDR SDRAM 667MHz; 64MB Nvidia MCP67M; 320GB Fujitsu 5,400rpm.

HP Pavilion dv6985 Special Edition
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T5750; 4098MB DDR SDRAM 667MHz; 128MB Mobile Intel 965GM Express; 250GB Toshiba 5,400rpm.

HP Pavilion dv9925nr
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.0GHz AMD Turion 64 X2 Mobile TL-60; 4098MB DDR SDRAM 667MHz; 64MB Nvidia MCP67M; 250GB Western Digital 5,400rpm.

Sony Vaio VGN-CR150E Windows Vista Home Premium SP1; 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T5750; 3072MB DDR SDRAM 667MHz; 128MB Mobile Intel 965GM Express; 250GB Fujitsu 5,400rpm.

Sony Vaio VGN-NR498 E/W
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1; 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T5750; 3072MB DDR SDRAM 667MHz; 128MB Mobile Intel 965GM Express; 250GB Seagate 5,400rpm.

Toshiba Satellite A305-S6858
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T5750; 4098MB DDR SDRAM 667MHz; 128MB Mobile Intel 965GM Express; 300GB Toshiba 5,400rpm

Toshiba Satellite U405D-S2852
Windows Vista Ultimate SP1; 2.0GHz AMD Turion 64 X2 Mobile RM-70; 3072MB DDR SDRAM 667MHz; 256MB ATI Radeon 3100; 250GB Hitachi 5,400rpm.


Dell Studio S1535-125B

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 8Performance 9Battery 7Support 6