The Dell Studio XPS 16 supports the idea that you can get a little luxury in your laptop without having to shell out a fortune.

The Dell Studio XPS line emphasizes style without sacrificing functionality. These multimedia laptops have a bit of leather trim here, a backlit keyboard there - and a whole lot of plugs, ports, and features packed in.

Dell's classy Studio XPS 16 starts at £799. The blingy, premium version of the Studio XPS 16 that we received for testing contained a 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P8600 CPU, a 512MB ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3670 graphics processor, and 4GB of RAM running the 64-bit flavour of Windows Vista.

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With the Dell Studio XPS 16, we had no problem playing Fallout 3 and Left 4 Dead at the screen's native resolution of 1920 by 1080 pixels. That unusually strong performance for an all-purpose laptop may be due to the capable mobile graphics processor, or to the laptop's speedy, 7200rpm, 320GB hard drive (whose fast rotational speed enables better read/write performance during game play).

Images look sharp on the Dell Studio XPS 16's RGB LED screen. Provided that you don't have bright daylight bouncing off the colourful and glossy display, you're in for a treat. Inky blacks, such as in the creepy corners of Left 4 Dead's zombiethon, look deep and rich. And the sand-blasted landscapes of Fallout 3 pop off the screen.

The sound of the Dell Studio XPS 16, on the other hand, falls a little flat. Two speaker grilles flank the keyboard. Though you can sit for a spell and listen, the audio comes off as hollow. We had no issues with the volume level, though.

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Besides extra audio outputs, the Dell Studio XPS 16 has a number of nice input options around the sides. You get two USB ports and one shared eSATA/USB jack, and DisplayPort, HDMI-out, and VGA-out jacks cover all possible video needs. In addition, it sports a four-pin FireWire 400 port, a five-in-one flash memory card reader, a 2Mp webcam, an ExpressCard slot, and a slot-loading Blu-ray Disc drive. Our review unit came with both a six-cell battery and a nine-cell battery for the price.

The operative word with the Dell Studio XPS 16 is "extras". In addition to all the hardware hoopla, it has you pretty well covered on the software side. Included in the price is Microsoft Works 9, a 2GB Data Safe Online account (free for one year), and a slick little facial-recognition security suite that uses the laptop's webcam to drive the biometric security. And everything from the software to the online storage is accessible through an unobtrusive quick-launch bar at the top of the screen.

Not only is the Dell Studio XPS 16 packed with features, but it also boasts a reasonably sharp-looking design. It has a backlit and square-cut keyboard,and on the Studio XPS 16 the keys feel satisfyingly solid. The same can be said for the Dell's nicely positioned touchpad and backlit mouse buttons.

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The Dell Studio XPS 16 sports edge-to-edge glass on the display. The Dell locks down the screen by bolting the hinges firmly into both sides of the bezel.

The leather pad on the lid adds a classy two-tone touch, but it's also a little silly. I'd rather have that leather on the wrist rest.

Dell Studio XPS 16: Specs

  • 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P8600 CPU
  • 512MB ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3670 graphics processor
  • 4GB RAM
  • 64-bit Windows Vista
  • 320GB 7200RPM Hard Drive
  • 7 Watt Integrated Stereo Speakers with Subwoofer
  • 16in display
  • 6 cell Plus 9 cell Battery
  • 2Mp webcam
  • 2.9kg
  • 384x34x255mm
  • 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P8600 CPU
  • 512MB ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3670 graphics processor
  • 4GB RAM
  • 64-bit Windows Vista
  • 320GB 7200RPM Hard Drive
  • 7 Watt Integrated Stereo Speakers with Subwoofer
  • 16in display
  • 6 cell Plus 9 cell Battery
  • 2Mp webcam
  • 2.9kg
  • 384x34x255mm

OUR VERDICT

Dell's Studio XPS 16 is squarely aimed at people who want to get a little more for their entertainment buck; it's a solidly built multimedia machine that piles on features without breaking the bank. Dell's Studio XPS 16 looks to be a solid choice for gaming and movies, as well as getting the job done, while keeping costs within reason.

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