Dell Studio 1525 notebook review

Sitting between Dell’s entry-level Inspiron and high-end XPS ranges, the Studio range offers a great mix of style and quality at a reasonable price. Until it’s replaced by the cunningly titled Studio XPS, you’ll still be able to get a Studio 1525 and, from our time with it, it’s well worth it.

The 15.4-inch screen on our review sample featured a 1440 x 900 pixel resolution, with crisp and clear image quality. Colours proved equally impressive, with LED backlighting helping with accuracy, in addition to conserving power. For an extra £140, you’ll be able to specify a high-definition 1920 x 1200 pixel panel – a pin-sharp resolution not often seen on machines under 17-inches.

Despite the relatively large screen, this machine is easy portable enough to take out and about with you. The 2.8kg weight is reasonable, and we found the slim chassis helps it to fit easily into laptop bags.

Quality is impressive, with a classier finish than the newer Studio XPS 13 we tried last week. The rubber lid on the rear of the display is far more robust than the glossy plastic finish on its sibling, and the grey plastics inside the chassis are also better at hiding fingerprints and scratches. The Studio 1525 is available in several colours, including black, blue, green, orange, pink, purple and red. It’s also available with different patterns and trim options, allowing a degree of customisation not usually seen on laptops.

The keyboard on this machine is one of the best we’ve used at any price, featuring a perfect amount of travel, and soft-touch keys that make it a comfortable choice for long-term use. The keys also move quietly, adding a sense of quality. Backlighting is provided – a luxury at this price – allowing you to work in any conditions.

Processing power comes courtesy of an Intel Core 2 Duo T6400, running at 2GHz. A mid-range solution, it’s supported by 3072MB of RAM, and offers excellent multi-tasking performance. We found it ran the Windows Vista Home Premium OS smoothly and without trouble, and lag was well contained even when running a host of resource-intensive apps.

Graphics are handled by a dedicated ATi Mobility Radeon HD 3450 GPU, providing enough power for low-level gaming and light multimedia use. Predictably, the Studio has no trouble at all playing back video at a decent rate and, as with office performance, we found the system ran smoothly even when carrying out multiple 3D tasks.

Features include a slot-loading DVD rewriter, and you’ll also be able to add a Blu-ray drive for £100. That’s one of the problems with this machine, however; while there may be so many options available for "just" a few pounds, it’s easy for it all to add up to a seriously expensive machine.

As standard, you’ll get a somewhat limited 160GB hard drive. The six-cell battery offers around 4 hours of life from a single charge, with a nine-cell unit yet another optional extra. 802.11n Wi-Fi and Gigabit Ethernet are both present, and the four USB ports make it easy to connect all your peripherals without compromise. There’s also an ExpressCard and memory card reader. HD connections can be made using the HDMI port, with a VGA port for older displays or projectors.

Verdict

While it may lack the cachet of a Sony VAIO or Apple MacBook, at this price there are very few laptops that can compete with Dell’s Studio 1525. Excellent quality, usability and great performance combine to make it one of the best mainstream laptops you can currently buy. We recommend staying away from the optional extras, however, as it’s easy to turn this machine from a reasonable value machine into one costing considerably more.