In the last few years, Dell has reinvented itself as a lifestyle manufacturer, with the release of products like the XPS series and the Inspiron Mini. The new Studio range is all about style AND functionality, and today we're looking at the 1735.
Prices for the Studio 17 currently start at AU$1,499 for the entry-level machine, which is a good price if you're looking for a desktop replacement, but how does it perform?
The Studio is a little bit of a Frankenstein in design terms: it takes Lenovo's distinctive hinges, adds the Sony Vaio hinge-mounted power buttons, and spills some of HP's etched palmtop on top.
In terms of Dell's overall range, the Studio fits somewhere between the XPS gaming machines and the Inspirons, but with a slightly more professional focus.
Despite the colourful metallic cover and these design touches, Dell couldn't save the laptop from looking a little like a "cookie cutter" once it's open. It's still gun-metal grey and black inside, and resembles any number of desktop replacements from the last few years.
Office users will appreciate touches such as the number pad and the fingerprint reader, while gamers and late-nighters will love the backlit keyboard with its three different levels of backlighting (including "off").
The Dell Studio 1735 that we received consisted of an Intel Core 2 Duo T9300 (2.5GHz) processor with a generous 4GB of RAM — unfortunately, only 3GB will be utilised by Windows due to a restriction in the 32-bit operating system. You also get a lot of storage on-board, with two 320GB drives.
This laptop accommodates multimedia use with a bright, glossy screen with a native 1,920x1,200 resolution (a 1440x990 screen is also available). Video acceleration and games are powered by ATI's Mobility Radeon 3650 graphics card. Like many Dell laptops we've seen recently, the palmtop includes capacitive "Play" controls, and Blu-ray playback is also available as an option.
Strangely enough, while the 15-inch Studio includes an eSATA port, the 17-inch doesn't. It looks like they started to incorporate the same hybrid USB/eSATA port, but then gave up halfway through. Instead, you get a massive five USB 2.0 ports. If you need more than this on a laptop then Dell can't help you.
Other notable features include a mini-FireWire port, VGA, HDMI, Ethernet, a full-size ExpressPort, and an SD/MMC/MSPro card reader.
Just as the design is a culmination of different bits and pieces, for a semi-professional laptop the balance is heavily in favour of multimedia use — not what we initially expected.
DVDs and games look magnificent, and while the Radeon 3650 isn't the best gaming card around it still does OK with most modern games. The 3DMark06 score of 2,941 helps to bear this out. The laptop also performed well with our other, more generalised benchmark, PCMark05, with a very respectable score of 5,853 marks.
Battery life is average for a desktop-based system at one hour 27 minutes, which means you'll be able to watch most DVDs before recharging — given that most movies run for 90 minutes.
While we appreciated the dual headphone ports the on-board speakers could have been better. While voices were communicated excellently, music and games lacked any real bass thump.
While the 1,920x1,080 resolution is great for multimedia purposes, it's a little small to be comfortable for general Web surfing and word processing on the 17-inch screen. This in conjunction with the reflective screen means eye-strain could be a problem.
Typing, though, is a plus, with good tactile feedback, and the number pad is great for number crunchers. Conversely, the trackpad feels a little slippery — and not as precise as those on other Dell products. It's worthwhile buying a dedicated mouse for use with this laptop, what, with all those USB ports to burn and everything.
Lastly, this machine is loaded with crapware, but Dell somehow thinks it can get away with it by putting its name in front of everything — for example, why do we need Dell-eBay? Surely Dell isn't expecting us to sell the laptop again straight away
We liked the Dell Studio 1735: it's well-made, has a smattering of useful features, and is great for casual use. And it's available for a reasonable price. However, in many ways the Studio 15 is more attractive, features an external eSATA port which lets you easily add an external hard drive, and is a whole kilogram lighter.