Dell has recently launched the new Dell Studio XPS 13 and 16. Yes, you have read that right. Dell has combined the mid range Studio series with the higher end XPS lines to make way for its Studio XPS lineage. Designed for a power packed performance, cutting edge features and style, the Studio XPS 16 will certainly grab attention. Available in plain 15.6 inches LED and RGB LED, the model is being projected as a multimedia powerhouse. But more essentially, combining both the series means that we are getting a true 16: 9 16 inch laptop, similar to the Acer 6920G launched last year. The first 16 inch laptop from Dell in recent times, the model offers viewing pleasures as good as the Sony VAIO VGN Z11WN/B which is a larger and a far more expensive model.
The Dell Studio XPS 16 offers a full a 1900 x 1080 pixel RGB LED backlit display which means it has one of the widest colour gamut on a notebook. That makes it not only for watching films, but also for editing pictures, where high colour accuracy is a concern. It combines portability with actual media centre capabilities and has competition in the form of Acer Aspire 6930 and HP Pavilion HDX 16. But in these times of recession, is it worth shelling out extra for a niche luxury laptop? Read the review and find out. Trust us, the Dell Studio XPS 16 will not disappoint.
In the earlier half of the decade, Dell laptops were criticized for being heavy think and boxy. Fortunately, they realized that companies like HP, Apple and Sony had huge market shares partly due to sleek notebooks and decided for a major overhaul in the way their laptops looked. 2007 marked the launch of the Dell XPS M1330 which was followed by more attractive notebooks in the form of Studio, XPS and Inspiron series. Thanks to the success of the XPS brand, Dell now offers a modifier for their notebooks which means one can customize their laptop according to their needs.
Anyone who has seen the Studio XPS 13 would recognize that the XPS 16 looks identical except for its larger frame. The rounded hinge and tapered design of the XPS 16 is a reminiscent of the fact that the laptop is a hybrid of the XPS and Studio lines. The sleek lines and brushed aluminium accents from the XPS brand and the chassis design of the Studio make it sport a radically new design.
The glossy black exterior with a leather patch on the lower half of the LCD cover not only enhances the style but makes carrying it more comfortable. The Black lid with Dell’s logo emblazoned on it has an anodized strip which stretches from the width to the top. At the back of the lid is present a matching black leather trim near the hinge which did seem arbitrary. This is not the first notebook to use leather, but here the leather makes it look a bit more appealing. For people who carry their laptops with the hinges pointed down, the leather area provides a surface to hold and keep a tight grip.
Superb Built Quality:
The magnesium alloy chassis gives it spectacular build quality and is perhaps amongst the best laptops that Dell has ever made. The XPS 16 is not as sturdy as the Dell Latitude series but can resist a fall from a desk without any physical damage.
A bit too glossy:
The Studio XPS 16 Laptop is available in black, white and red finishes. The problem with glossy black laptops is that they tend to attract dust and are fingerprint prone. The problem is not only with the body but also with the display as well. The edge to edge glossy sheet of plastic tends to attract a lot of smudges as well. Fortunately, Dell has included a cloth to wipe away all those fingerprints.
This is perhaps the USP of the device and as we stated earlier, the display is the real gem. The XPS 16 features a brilliant 16 inch Widescreen WLED LCD display with a maximum resolution of 1366 x 768 pixels. The display quality is simply marvellous. The viewing angles are wide and that is essential for a multimedia centric notebook. The display looks almost frameless and being an LED display, it is highly power efficient as well. The wide colour gamut is obvious from the moment one turns the machine on. Though it might appear oversaturated, one can calibrate it accordingly. The fidelity of the RGB LED is simply mind blowing and easily surpasses some great desktop displays. The only problem would be with the glossy display (which uses a separate glossy layer in front of the screen) is that it is extremely difficult to be read in strong sunlight because of significant amounts of reflections.
We did have an issue with the LCD cover. The rear side of the laptop has ventilation only on the back left corner. So what is the problem? you may ask; the problem is that when one opens the laptop, the bottom edge of the laptop blocks the only exhaust port making the system warmer. Another issue we had been with the bottom access panel. The XPS 16 uses a single massive panel at the bottom of the notebook which does make things easier for people who make multiple modifications. But since it lacks a separate RAM cover, upgrading your RAM means removing all those screws.
The Dell Studio XPS 16 Laptop Computer has a standard studio keyboard with proper shaping and a standard key layout. Unlike the Studio 17 which features a dedicated number pad, the keyboard looks smaller than it actually is thanks to the speaker grills located on the keyboard. The keys have a great travel and offer good feedback. It has no sort of flex in the keyboard area – a touch typist’s dream. It does have a sturdy chassis and has a pretty nice feel to it. Typing is rather soft and with clear feedback and a short key travel. Some users however might find the keys a bit too flat and will probably have a learning curve while using the notebook. Above the keyboard is a series of touch sensitive media controls. These touch controls will allow you to play/pause music, skip tracks, raise/lower/mute volume, eject discs, and toggle Wi-Fi radio on/off. These white LED backlights located above the keyboard stay lit constantly rather turning off. This would not have much impact on battery life though.
Below the keyboard is the touch pad located slightly on the left. A Synaptics touch pad, it is highly responsive and has good sensitive levels. There is a nice textured feel to the touch pad which makes navigating easier. It also has horizontal and vertical areas for scrolling. The touchpad buttons feel nice and offer good feedback too. Driver updates will also enable some basic multi-touch functions on the touchpad. We wish it were a bit larger.
Most users would want security for their data and Dell does not disappoint users here. While it lacks a biometric fingerprint reader, it has the FastAccess facial recognition technology which when used in conjunction with the 2 MP Webcam allows users to login only after it recognizes the user. The quality of the video during a Skype chat was reasonably good.
Being a multimedia oriented model, the focus was on the audio as well. It features speakers in the form of two 7W drives on either side of the keyboard. The dual stereo speakers also feature a built in sub-woofer, something that is common in multimedia notebooks. The sound quality is good and offers great volume. At moderate volumes, music, movies and games sound rich and have plenty of bass. The speakers are enough for watching a movie or listening to songs occasionally. However, we wished it had Dolby Home Theatre had been included. The speakers’ grills also tended to collect grime but that is a minor issue.
The 15.2 x 10 x 1 inch magnesium alloy chassis enabled Dell to include all the ports you were likely to use. There are 3 video connections: VGA, HDMI and DisplayPort. One of the first systems to use a DisplayPort connection built in, it is raising standards in a huge way. The built in HDMI is great if you would want digital video and audio output. There are 3 USB ports one of which is a memory card reader, a four pin Firewire, a 54mm ExpressCard slot and eSATA/USB dual function port. The rear side of the model has no ports, but only the battery and heat exhaust. There is an IR receiver, dual headphone outputs and microphone input as well but the lack of an included remote disappointed us.
The Studio XPS 16 Notebook reviewed in the model has an Intel Core 2 Duo CPU with 6MB L2 Cache and a 1066MHz front bus. This configuration is more than enough for basic multitasking use such as Web browsing, document editing and media viewing. The system memory can be upgraded to even 6GB and 8GB as well. One has the option to choose different processors as well ranging from 2.4GHz P8600 up to the 2.93GHz T9800. There is present the 512MB ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3670 and is sufficient for light gaming chores. The graphics outpace most of the midrange NVIDIA ones. Draft N Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and Gigabit Ethernet are provided as well. The other specifications are ones you would expect from a high end notebook. One can have a Blu-ray drive and a TV tuner included. That way, you can take full advantage of the RGBLED display. One particular configuration with a lower resolution, non RGB LED 720p display, no blu-ray driver and no Tuner seems shoddy considering that the HP HDX X16 1005ea offers all this and is significantly cheaper.
You must probably know what LED backlit screens are; they are used in net books as they help in thinning down of the device and making it lighter. RGB LEDs use Red, Green and Blue LEDs as compared to the usual LEDs which emit only white light. These colours can reach almost 100 percent of the Adobe RGB colour space giving it a wide colour gamut. This makes the Studio simply great for viewing TV and high definition video. However, we noticed that they do not change intensity as far as the CCFLs or white LEDs.
The Dell Studio XPS 16 initially featured Windows Vista. But the latest versions of the model have Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bit or Windows 7 Professional 64 bit or Windows 7 Home Ultimate 64 bit. One has the option to choose the better versions of the Windows 7 OS but at a higher rate.
Another feature incorporated into the XPS 16 is the Dell Dock on the desktop. To make the OS friendlier, there is a dock on the desktop akin to what one finds on the Mac OS X. Except, the dock is located on the top of the desktop by default. One can customize the location and colour of the dock by simply right clicking it. One can also add shortcuts by dragging icons into it. It reduces the need to keep digging into the Start Menu.
Dell has done a good job by cleverly choosing decent software for the XPS 16. Apart from the usual applications such as Bluetooth manager, software such as McAfee Security Centre and Dell Data Software is provided. The list of pre installed software includes PowerDVD DX, Adobe Acrobat Reader 9, Microsoft PowerPoint viewer, Dell Video Chat, Dell Webcam, FastAccess Facial recognition, Roxio Creator DE, Internet Explorer and a couple of Windows games. So, nothing really special here.
Another Standard feature of the Studio XPS line is the backlit keyboard. This is an aesthetic feature that the Dell model shares with the Apple and Sony laptops. Backlit keyboards enable you to work in dark conditions and are highly useful in presentations and conferences.
Performance factors with the insides:
The Studio XPS 16 System came with 4GB of RAM and an Intel Core 2 Duo P8600 CPU. There is the ATI Mobility Radeon HD3670, the presence of which surprised us. This is a powerful video chip as powerful as the nVidia 9600 GS. While the XPS brand was synonymous with exceptional performance and was pure pleasure for gamers, the Studio XPS 16 has steered away from that image. The XPS 16 focuses more on multimedia considering the presence of a Blu-ray player, an inbuilt TV tuner and HD screens in 16:9 aspect ratios. In the 3D Benchmark Test, the XPS 16 achieved 4279 points, which is 700 points more than the category average. This makes the XPS 16 as powerful as the XPS M1530.
On the PC Mark 2005, it scored 6449 points making it one of the most powerful laptops in the segment. Also one noticeable aspect is that the XPS 13 is more powerful than the 16. The inbuilt graphics card operated well and outperformed its nVidia counterparts. The RAM capacity of 4 GB, half of the maximum 8 GB was decent as well. One has various options when it comes to mass storage. There are HDD models in 400 rpm, 7200 rpm, and HDDs without mechanical parts. But the current limit is 500 GB for a 5400 rpm drive. The transfer speeds of the built in drive was about 61.7MBps which is a pretty decent score. The access time of 16.6 milliseconds is convenient too.
The Dell Studio XPS 16 Laptop Notebook Computer features a high resolution 1080p full HD display with RGB LED. The high resolution and the colour representation help it in realizing a big representable colour space. In our test, we recorded a brightness of 268 cd/m² and it falls towards the corners. Illumination at 81 percent of brightness at display brightness of 232.1 cd/m² is favourable. The black value was as low as 0.55 cd/m² and the contrast of 487:1 was excellent. The impressions of the pictures are good thanks to high sharpness and rich contrast. These numbers demonstrate that display with a RGB LED light provides a good picture.
Colour Representation and Viewing Angles:
While for most users colour representation is not important, it offers details regarding how well the colours can be displayed. Almost all the current colour spaces RGB, Adobe RGB or CMYC are covered. Thanks to a reflecting surface display, the outdoor operation is not really strength of the XPS 16. However, it is possible to work well in outdoors without direct sunlight. In spite of disturbing reflections, the brightness was sufficient. Viewing angles offer decent vertical angles for stationary operation. In the vertical directions, it might appear that the colours actually suffer distortion and reflections tend to increase in horizontal direction.
The availability of 2 loudspeakers and a built in subwoofer are responsible for a nice sound scape. The acoustics was very present and clear. The highly clarity is perhaps due to the advantageous location. The subwoofer did leave its impact. Though the system had a great audio, it could not reach the standards of Harman Kardon sound system of the Toshiba Qosimo Series. At higher volumes, the subwoofer seemed to falter slightly.
Considering the XPS brand was great for gaming, we tested the Studio XPS 16 on a couple of games. First we tested the model by playing Crysis as this shooter game is used as an endurance test for PCs as it can bring down the best machines on their knees. For Crysis to run on full capacity, the settings need not be high. For medium detail, the Studio XPS 16 notebook achieved 29 fps in the GPU benchmark test, which is too less for a smooth run. One can play it even on low details, but the graphics would not be enjoyable. For Games like Race Driver GRID even at low resolution of 800 x 600 pixels, low detail and with anti aliasing disabled, the performance fell before 30fps which does not even allow a reasonable game play. In GTA IV the benchmark test revealed a score of 20.6 fps. The game was marred with constant stuttering and hence will disappoint many users. The graphics card is a bit weak for running contemporary games at high detail and resolution. It is possible to play games, but only at low resolution. This is sad considering that the same model uses RGB LED panel.
Heat and Noise:
We would not be wrong if we say that the heat produced by the device is amongst its cons. being flat and the fact that the model has only one ventilation port made the fan run the entire time. The unit we reviewed tended to get hot especially when we put the processor to tough tests. A couple of tests and 30 minutes of Blu-ray Playback later, the XPS 16 got uncomfortably hot. The processor and the graphics card usually generate a lot of heat, but the system fan seemed unable to cool down the notebook. If high temperature notebooks are not okay with you, you would perhaps be better not using it as a laptop.
Noise was not much of an issue with the XPS 16. The Cooling fan did not seem to make much noise. It gets completely silent when in idle mode. Apparently, the fan runs all the time and at a low speed and hence fails to cool the system down efficiently. But we would have not minded more fan noise if you would have a cooler laptop for it. The notebook is rather silent, but gets a bit noisy when demanding tasks are done. Though the slot loading disc made some noise while ejecting / inserting a disc, it was easily amongst the quietest slot loading drives in the market. Dell has even managed to cut down noise from the hard drive and is well appreciated.
The Studio XPS comes with either a 6 cell or a 9 cell lithium battery with a capacity of 53.7 Wh. The 9 cell battery would come with a better life but is at the expense of a larger and slightly heavier notebook. When the LCD screen ran at maximum brightness, one could lose up to 10 to 60 minutes of power. At 280 nits (the maximum brightness), the model uses 9W more power. But that is the price we pay for the beautiful LCD display. That is quite significant, even by normal standards. With Windows Vista’s power management running at a brightness of 80 percent and with wireless on, the 9 cell battery life was about 2 hours 55 minutes. The 6 cell battery model has a battery life of two thirds of the 9 cell one, about 2 hours. That is nothing special when compared to other notebooks. We wonder why Dell has not included the hybrid nVidia 9400M integrated graphics card as its 13.3 inch cousin does. Though the battery life of the Studio XPS 16 is meagre when compared to the MacBook Air (whose battery life is claimed to be 8 hours), the values are not really bad for a 16 inch notebook.
On opening the elegant black box of the XPS 16 , one finds a velvet sheet in which is present the machine, Setup guide, Warranty guide, an Adapter and some software booklet filled with restore discs. There is neither a mouse nor a kitchen sink provided.
Dell offers a warranty of one year on the basic model of the XPS 16. The higher end versions have a warranty and service period of 2 years.
After checking the model thoroughly we can safely conclude that this model is easily amongst the best models launched this year. Its simple case, solid cover and leather pad give it a high score when it comes to design. It has all the necessary ports such as HDMI, display and VGA included leaving nothing else to be desired. The Backlit keyboard helps in intensive typing and is a great aesthetic add on. The FastAccess Face Recognition in place of a fingerprint reader is a nice feature too. But the best part of the XPS 16 is the high resolution panel with RGB LED backlight. No other notebook screen has been able to reach the colour quality, contrast and illumination and brightness levels of the XPS 16. The ATI Mobility Radeon graphics card disappointed us because it seemed unable to run contemporary games at even normal resolution. The High temperature and its Poor battery life were sadly huge let downs. However, it is recommended for multimedia applications of all kinds including picture, graphic and video editing. It offers a great value and a solid set of features and is advisable only if you go for the RGBLED option.
|Operating System||Genuine Windows Vista® Ultimate
Genuine Windows Vista® Business
Genuine Windows Vista® Home Premium
|Graphics||ATI Mobility RADEON HD 4670-1GB|
|Display||Edge-to-edge Glossy 15.6 inch HD WLED display (1600x900p)
Edge-to-edge Glossy 15.6 inch Full HD WLED display (1920x1080p)
Edge-to-edge Glossy 16.0 inch Full HD RGB-LED LCD display (1920x1080p)
|Hard drive||Up to 8GB 1066MHz DDR3 SDRAM 4|
|Optical drives||8X DVD+/-RW Slot-load Drive|
|Wi-Fi Options||802.11g standard; 802.11n options|
|Optional||Blu-ray disc and in built TV tuner|
Dell Studio XPS 16 Laptop Computer – Technical Specification Table
|Model Name||Dell Studio XPS 16|
|Dimensions (W x H x D)||15.15 x ( 0.95-1.34) x 10.02|
|Available colours||Black, White and Red|
|PROCESSOR, MEMORY, STORAGE|
|Processor type||Intel Core 2 Duo CPU|
|Clock speed||2.6 GHz|
|Cache||6 MB Cache|
|RAM installed||3072 MB (3GB)|
|RAM type||667MHz Dual Channel DDR3 SDRAM|
|Hard drive capacity||500 GB SATA Hard Drive|
|Optical drive||Fixed 8x DVD±RW Slim Slot Load drive, including SW|
|Speakers||Built-in 2 x 1.5-watt stereo speakers|
|Wireless support||Wi-Fi, 802.11b/g Support, Ethernet|
|Memory card slot||5-in-1 card reader|
|Connectivity||3 USB 2.0 ports, Audio line in, Audio line out,
Express Card slot, VGA D-Sub 15-pin video output
|Warranty||1 Year International traveller warranty|
|Optical drive||Fixed 8x DVD±RW Slim Slot Load drive, including SW|
|GRAPHICS AND SOUND|
|Installed Graphics Type||Onboard Graphics|
|Graphics processor||ATI Mobility RADEON® HD|
|Sound Card||Soundblaster X-Fi Hi Def Audio – Software Enabled|
|Ethernet||RJ45 Ethernet port (10/100)|
|Wireless||Dell Wireless Mini Card Wireless
|Webcam||2 mega pixel|
3 USB 2.0
Firewire (IEEE 1394a)
RJ45 Ethernet port (10/100)
8-in-1 card reader
1 ExpressCard 54 mm slot
|Operating System||Genuine Windows Vista® Ultimate
Genuine Windows Vista® Business
Genuine Windows Vista® Home Premium
|Estimated battery life (mfr)||2 hours 50 minutes|
|Accessories||Setup guide, Warranty guide, an Adapter,some software booklet
and recovery disc
|WARRANTY AND SERVICE||One year for the basic model and two years for other models.|