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Laptops Reviews
15,610 Reviews

Dell Studio 17 review

£979 inc VAT

Manufacturer: Dell

Our Rating: We rate this 3.5 out of 5

A large screen and terrific performance highlight the Dell Studio 17 desktop-replacement laptop.

Plentiful screen estate and terrific performance highlight the Dell Studio 17 desktop-replacement laptop.

Plentiful screen estate and terrific performance highlight the Dell Studio 17 desktop-replacement laptop.

With the average laptop, one sticky issue is the relatively small size of the display and keyboard - a necessary trade-off to keep users from suffering muscle strain while toting the notebook around. However, if you're looking for a system that you can keep in one location the majority of the time yet pack up easily to get it out of the way when necessary, you need a desktop-replacement laptop. The Dell Studio 17 - with its large, 17.3in display (1600x900 - Full-HD also available) and its near-full-size keyboard - is affordable, offers desktop-like performance and delivers all-around solid computing.

Prices for the Dell Studio 17 start at £599, but the configuration we reviewed will cost you £979. Our test unit arrived with a 1.6GHz (turbo boostable to 2.8GHz) Intel Core i7-720QM quad-core processor, 4GB of DDR3 RAM, a 500GB hard drive and the 1600-by-900 version of the 17.3in screen. Ours also featured a DVD burner, but you can opt for a Blu-ray drive, which is a nice match for the 1920-by-1080 version of the display. Connectivity is top-notch, with gigabit ethernet and 802.11n wireless on board.

Ergonomically, aside from the size of the Dell Studio 17, everything is in good order. As you'd expect from a desktop replacement, the keyboard is full-size, with the complete numeric keypad and cursor keys that you don't get with smaller units. The feel and feedback, though a tad on the soft and quiet side, still make for easy typing, and the battery at the back of the unit extends downward to give the whole system a nice tilt.

One could question, however, having to hold down the FN key to access the F1 through F12 function keys. On the Dell Studio 17, the volume, screen brightness, CD playback control and similar actions are the primary functions (not the secondary functions, as on other laptops) of the top row of keys. If you use the function keys a lot, you might find this setup annoying. The touchpad is responsive and adjusted nicely to avoid accidental taps, and it has a slight texture that makes it easy to find by feel.

The Dell Studio 17 has all the usual ports, but they're arranged in a rather haphazard fashion. On the right are two USB 2.0 ports (one toward the rear, one up front), the flash-card reader, and a mini-IEEE 1394 port. On the left are a combo USB 2.0/eSATA port, an HDMI port, digital and DB-9 video-out, and the gigabit ethernet connector.

One complaint we have with the Dell Studio 17, as well as with a number of other laptops these days, is that the USB/eSATA port requires too much force to insert a flash drive; it's easy to think you might be putting your drive in the wrong port. Another gripe concerns the current trend of placing the similar-looking HDMI, USB, eSATA and display ports next to one another. The industry needs to develop a colour-coding scheme, as it did with audio, to avoid confusion and to prevent possible damage from users' inserting a device into the wrong port. It might also behoove vendors to return to placing less frequently used ports on the back of laptops.

The Dell Studio 17's video and sound are both above average, though the former is not as splendid as it would be on a Dell Studio 17 with a Blu-ray player and a Full-HD screen. Video of all types, including a high-bitrate 720 version of Star Trek and several HD Flash files, played off the hard drive, off the flash drive and over the web as smoothly as you could wish. Thanks to the SRS JBL speaker system, we could actually hear the kick drum in some songs - an unusual occurrence with a laptop - but high frequencies seemed a tad muted. Sound through a decent pair of headphones, as usual, offered superior fidelity.

Our test Dell Studio 17 shipped with Windows 7 Home Premium and only a modicum of branding apps, such as the Dell Support Center, visible on the desktop. The laptop also has several genuinely useful applications (such as the webcam utility), as well as some fun ones (such as a drum machine available from Dell's Touch Zone Lobby launch utility, which is a carousel that arcs over the bottom half of the desktop when active). Microsoft Office, Adobe Elements 8 and McAfee Security are also available software options.

Since the Dell Studio 17 has a Core i7 CPU and a Radeon Mobility HD graphics processor, you'd expect great performance from this laptop - and you get it. The machine's WorldBench 6 score of 103 means that it has more than enough power to see you through any common computing task. Speed is not an issue with this laptop, and it feels even perkier after you disable some of the useless background apps via Msconfig.

At 3 hours, 23 minutes, the Dell Studio 17's battery life was quite good for a desktop replacement with this kind of performance.

See also: Group test: what's the best laptop?

NEXT: our expert verdict >>

Dell Studio 17 Expert Verdict »
Dell Studio 17 Recon Scores 8.1 out of 10 based on 7 reviews
1.6GHz Intel Core i7-720QM (turbo boosts to 2.8GHz)
Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit
4GB DDR3 RAM
500GB 7,200rpm SATA
17.3in (1600x900) multitouch LCD screen
1GB ATI Mobility Radeon HD 560v
802.11n
gigabit ethernet
2 x USB 2.0
DVD+/-RW slot-loading drive
2Mp webcam
1-year warranty
  • Overall: We give this item 7 of 10 overall

The Dell Studio 17 is a solid laptop and ships in a variety of configurations starting at £599. Stock, it's a sedately handsome portable, but you can order it with a graphic or with a brighter colour on the lid to set your laptop apart from the crowd.

There are currently no price comparisons for this product.
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