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.
Priced at $899, Dell's retail-only Studio XPS X1340-024B sits at the high end of the mainstream laptop group. Move up in price, and you find laptops built to fit specific user profiles, namely gaming systems with high-end graphics and models with large displays and Blu-ray drives built chiefly for media consumption. Beneath its upscale exterior, the Studio XPS X1340 features a fairly typical mainstream configuration that should help it appeal to a wide audience. It offers a faster Core 2 Duo processor than other mainstream laptops that cost $100 to $170 less, which helped it finish at or near the front of the group in testing. And though it uses integrated graphics, it is capable of running some 3D games. Lastly, extras such a backlit keyboard, edge-to-edge glass on the display, and facial recognition software also help to justify the higher price compared with other mainstream laptops at retail this summer.
Still, the Studio X1340 is not without its warts. For starters, it runs hot. And for a 13-inch laptop, it's a tad on the hefty side. Ultimately, the deal breaker for many might be its poor battery life.
By way of comparison, the 13-inch HP Pavilion dv3-2155mx weighs a hair less (while carrying a big, extended-cell battery) and runs much longer. The same can be said for Dell's Studio S1440-022B, which is even more impressive when you consider it has a larger 14-inch display. The Studio S1440 includes a superior software bundle, too, with a full copy of Microsoft Office and 15 months of virus protection. Lastly, don't overlook the Toshiba Satellite E105-S1602, which features a backlit keyboard, good battery life, and a two-year warranty.
|Processor||2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P8400|
|Memory||4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1066MHz|
|Hard drive||500GB at 7,200rpm|
|Graphics||Nvidia GeForce 9400M G (integrated)|
|Operating System||Windows Vista Home Premium (64-bit)|
|Dimensions (WDH)||12.6x9.3x1.4 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||13.3 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||5.1 / 5.9 pounds|
The Dell Studio XPS X1340 boasts a unique look, with its rounded hinges supporting the display and angled shape. The tapered chassis measures (with the lid closed) a rather thick 1.6 inches along the back edge and narrows to 1.2 inches in front. A silver stripe cuts across the lid, separating the piano-black cover from a strip of faux leather. The leather-like strip provides a comfortable grip when toting the laptop around, and, depending on your taste, it either enhances or detracts from the overall design.
Like the Toshiba Satellite E105, the X1340 features a backlit keyboard, which is incredibly useful in low-light situations. It's one of those features, like the two-finger scroll on MacBooks, that once you have it, you find it hard to live without. The keys themselves are quiet, flat, and roomy. The touch pad is smaller than average, running only 2.5 inches wide by 1.5 inches tall. The mouse buttons are quiet and feature an illuminated stripe when the keyboard backlighting is enabled. A row of touch-sensitive media controls sits above the keyboard, along with buttons for turning the Wi-Fi antenna off and on, and ejecting a disc from the slot-loading DVD burner.
The 1,280x800-pixel resolution on the 13.3-inch LCD screen is standard for a thin-and-light laptop, and is the same as you'd find on the 13-inch MacBook Pro. The glass covering the display runs edge-to-edge, which adds to its slick looks. A Webcam sits above the display, and with the included facial recognition software, which Dell calls FastAccess, you can set it up to log in to Windows by scanning your face instead of typing a password. While it's better software than what we saw with the Asus UX50V, it still takes too long in nearly every instance to recognize your face. While it's a cool trick, it's faster to simply type your password.
Despite its angled, sleek appearance, the Studio XPS 1340 is surprisingly hefty, weighing 5.1 pounds. The new 13-inch MacBook Pro is a half pound lighter, while the older, heavier Lucite MacBook weighs the same as the Studio XPS 1340. Even with a big nine-cell battery, the 13-inch HP Pavilion dv3-2155mx weighs 5 pounds, and the 14-inch Dell Studio S1440-022B weighs only 4.7 pounds (but ditches the optical drive to save weight). One final note about the design: the Dell Studio XPS X1340-024B runs hot. After 15 or so minutes of typical use (Windows apps and Firefox, mind you, not gaming), the left side of the laptop begins to cook your thigh. A relatively quiet fan spins to cool the GPU, but it would seem to be overmatched. The laptop seized up several times during our review process, and it's worth noting that a few online customer reviews of the X1340 also reported heat issues and instability problems.
|Dell Studio XPS X1340-024B||Average for thin-and-light category|
|Video||HDMI, DisplayPort, VGA||VGA, mini-HDMI or Mini-DVI|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, two headphone jacks, microphone jack||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||2 USB 2.0, mini-FireWire, eSATA, mulitformat memory card reader||3 USB 2.0, mini-FireWire, SD card reader|
|Networking||Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi||modem, Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional WWAN|
|Optical drive||Slot-loading DVD player||DVD burner|
Dell is on the leading edge of laptop connection collections. HDMI is becoming more common in laptops, but those offering a DisplayPort connection are still in the minority. Surprisingly, a VGA port makes the cut here, though it was left off of the similar Studio S1440. FireWire is slowly fading from popularity, but a four-pin FireWire port shows up here, along with an eSATA port (which doubles as the second USB 2.0 port) for faster data transfer times to an external drive.
The X1340 costs $100 to $170 more than many of the other mainstream retail laptops with which it shares shelf space, but some of the added cost goes toward a more powerful CPU. The system uses Intel's 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo P8600, which is clocked faster than the 2.1GHz Core 2 Duo T6500 chip found in competing models. Compared with the T6500, the P8600 also operates on a faster frontside bus (1,066MHz to 800MHz) and has more L2 cache (3MB to 2MB). The X1340 also uses fast 1,066MHz DDR3 memory and a 7,200rpm hard drive; you'll typically find 800MHz DDR2 memory and a 5,4000rpm drive in laptops at or just below this price.
The Studio XPS X1340 features an integrated graphics chip, the Nvidia GeForce 9400M, which is the same GPU used in the MacBook. It posted 25 frames per second in Unreal Tournament III at 1,280x800 pixels, which is respectable for an integrated graphics solution that must borrow resources from main system memory (in this case, it borrows up to 256MB of the system's fast DDR3 memory). Dial back the resolution and detail settings a bit, and you'll get playable frame rates.
|Dell Studio XPS X1340-024B|
|Raw (annual kWh)||46.43|
|Energy Star compliant||Yes|
|Annual operating cost (@$0.1135/kWh)||$5.27|
The X1340 ran for a disappointing 2 hours 21 minutes on CNET Labs' video playback battery drain test, which is far less than the 3-plus hours we'd expect from a 13-inch laptop on this test. The HP Pavilion dv3-2155mx offers more than double the battery life, and while it uses a larger, extended-cell battery, it still manages to weigh less than the X1340.