We've commented previously that Dell's Studio XPS systems look pretty good next to the company's existing Inspiron lines. If you're after a "design" notebook that's not too flashy, this is the line to go for. The design clearly accentuates the size of the laptop, with the keyboard placed in the middle of a lot of piano black plastic with a silver trim. As with the previously reviewed model, a set of touch-sensitive media keys sit above the keyboard and below the 15.6-inch 1920x1080-pixel LCD display.
The design is nice, but it is rather marred when in actual use. The finish suggests firm construction, but the actual feel is rather more on the plastic side of things. It's not a terrible feel, but it does sit in stark contrast to what you might expect from just looking at it.
As with most things Dell, there's a fair amount of configuration you can do with the Studio XPS line, all of which has an effect on the price. The unit we tested came with an Intel Core i5 M520 2.4GHz processor, 4GB of RAM, 640GB hard drive and an ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4670 with 1GB of its own RAM. That's a potent enough combination right there, and Dell runs it on Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit edition.
The Studio XPS 1647 comes with VGA, HDMI and DisplayPort connectivity for external video if the 1080p capable display isn't enough for your needs. Speaking of needs, it's interesting to note that the system only comes with three USB ports, one of which is a combo USB/eSATA port. Given the physical bulk of the system, that seems a little on the low side. The right-hand side houses the slot loading drive, with an option between Blu-ray or DVD depending on pricing.
When we checked Dell's local website we couldn't find an option for the Core i5 in the Studio XPS line, however. All the systems with integrated Blu-ray drive sported Core i7 processors, starting at AU$1999. Naturally, you could expect a little more performance out of those systems than we managed.
A system this large is only ever designed as a desktop replacement. We've hit more than our fair share of systems like this with ordinary battery life, and the Studio XPS 1647 is no exception, coming exactly a minute short of two hours battery life in our full-screen, full brightness video test. Clearly with tweaking you might get a little more than that out of its six-cell battery, but you're still not going anywhere particularly far with this unit.
If you'll pardon the pun, the core difference between this Studio XPS system and our previous contender was the shift upwards from a Core 2 Duo to Core i5 processor, with the performance enhancements that it should bring. We certainly weren't disappointed in this regard, with a 3DMark06 score of 6630 and PCMark05 score of 7157. While the design suggests it's built for business, this is clearly a system that you could throw almost any task at and expect it to handle matters with aplomb.
We've not hit many systems that have upgraded to Core i5 that we haven't liked, and the upgraded Dell Studio XPS 16 joins that group nicely. Don't expect to lug it around all day and have the battery last, but besides that quibble this is a nicely balanced, mostly business-centric system.