Dell Studio 17 notebook review

Dell has always had clear lines between its product ranges, such as Inspiron for consumers and Latitude for business. Now, we have the Studio line, which sits awkwardly between Inspiron and XPS and even overlaps some segments.

The Studio 17 clearly takes its design reference from the XPS range but in order to meet price points, it's made from standard plastics instead of high-end materials. This in itself isn't a problem as the build quality is solid and feels great to the touch. However, the overall design, which works great on a 13.3-inch machine, looks awkward and rather bulky when built around a 17-inch screen.

Weighing 3.6kg, this is clearly a desktop replacement notebook and not something you'll want to do more with than move about the house. We managed to get a little over 2 hours from the battery, which further limits the portable aspect of this notebook.

The panel itself has a 1440 x 900-pixel resolution that works well on this size of display. It looks sharp and bright and we were impressed with how crisp still images and movies looked. Graphics are handled by the latest ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3650 graphics card, which can handle most games with relative ease.

The keyboard is large and comfortable to use and there is even a separate numeric keypad, which helps fill up some of the space available on the chassis.

There is a row of touch-sensitive media buttons above the keyboard that can launch movies and music and even Dell's own MediaDirect software. This array of media centre tools works surprisingly well and is a reasonable alternative to Microsoft's own tools.

When it comes to performance, this is a great machine offering the latest dual-core technology at an aggressive price. Powered by the Intel Core 2 Duo T8300, which is a 2.4GHz processor, and backed by 4096MB of memory, we found this to be one of the quickest machines we've seen in a long time. Dell rounded out our review machine with a 320GB hard drive, which helped add further to the overall value.

In daily use, we found this a quick and reliable machine. It loaded Windows Vista quickly and with plenty of headroom in terms of memory, programs load smoothly with no signs of delay. Even when we started edited a batch of photos while checking email and running music in the background, this machine worked efficiently.

When it comes to extra features you'll find a mix of old and new technologies. For instance, there is a VGA-out port for connecting to analogue projectors. However, there is also an HDMI port for hooking-up your notebook to an HD TV. A webcam, slot-loading DVD rewriter and fingerprint scanner round out the key features.

At this price the optical drive is a standard DVD rewriter but you can upgrade to a Blu-ray drive for an extra £120 (inc. VAT).

Verdict

The Dell Studio 17 may fall between the budget Inspiron and expensive XPS ranges but we found it a great middle ground for those with a bigger budget looking for something cutting-edge without necessarily paying a premium.