Dell Studio 1557 review

27 Nov 2009

Dell’s Studio 15 brings Intel’s mobile Core i7 into the realms of affordability, offering quad-core power for substantially less than £1,000

Price when reviewed 
734
5

When we first caught sight of Intel’s mobile Core i7 we were unashamedly excited. Finally, the prospect of serious quad-core power lay within tantalising reach of the mobile market, and without the heinously bad battery life of the previous Core 2 Quad generation. The one thing we didn’t expect, was for it to find a home in a laptop costing just £653 exc VAT.

Indeed, it wasn’t so very long ago that we took a close look at Dell’s previous model, the Studio 1555. A decidedly mid-range desktop replacement, the 1555 employed a 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo processor, ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4570 graphics, 4GB of DDR2 memory and a 320GB hard disk, and all for a total cost of £609. Very reasonable, you might think. Now, however, Dell has gone one step further. Everything else stays much as it was, including the price, but that Core 2 Duo now finds itself brushed aside by the entry-level model in the Core i7 range, the Core i7-720QM.

Performance

Describing the i7-720QM as entry-level, though, is akin to calling Lewis Hamilton a trumped up go-kart racer. Its four processing cores may all operate at a modest-sounding 1.6GHz, but it’s capable of ramping up its clockspeed as far as 2.8GHz when the occasion demands it.

And it’s entirely thanks to the presence of Intel’s Core i7 that, despite weighing a reasonable 2.65kg, the Studio 15 finds itself transformed into a true performance heavyweight. That 4GB of memory is now of the faster DDR3 variety, and allied with a fast 7,200rpm hard disk the Studio demolished our benchmarks with a staggeringly quick overall score of 1.59.

Dell Studio 1557 rear

And while the relatively compact chassis precludes the inclusion of a really powerful graphics chipset, the ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4570 finds a supremely able partner in the Core i7. Our least-demanding Crysis test cruised to a result of 56fps, and while upping the ante to medium detail saw it struggle to an average of 15fps, it’s worth restating that Crysis is as demanding as games get. For a mid-range laptop, the Studio is preternaturally able.

Ergonomics

It’s not a bad looking laptop either. The chunky wedge design looks smart and presentable in its combination of black and graphite grey, and only the overly pliant lid gave us any real cause for concern. And should the black chainlink finish prove too plain for your tastes, a premium of £89 will buy you one of several "arty" designs.

Meanwhile, the glossy 15.6in display has a standard 1,366 x 768 resolution, but to make full use of the power at the Studio 15’s disposal, we’d be tempted to pay the extra £70 to upgrade to the optional Full HD panel. Even if you don’t, though, image quality is excellent, with vibrant, accurate colours, strong contrast and believable skintones.

Details

Price ex VAT £638
Price inc VAT £734
Overall rating 6
Features & Design 6
Value for Money 5
Performance 6

Warranty

Warranty 1yr collect and return

Physical specifications

Dimensions 373 x 244 x 44mm (WDH)
Weight 2.650kg
Travelling weight 3.1kg

Processor and memory

Processor Intel Core i7-720QM
Motherboard chipset Intel PM55
RAM capacity 4.00GB
Memory type DDR3
SODIMM sockets free 0
SODIMM sockets total 2

Screen and video

Screen size 15.6in
Resolution screen horizontal 1,366
Resolution screen vertical 768
Resolution 1366 x 768
Graphics chipset ATi Mobility Radeon HD 4570
Graphics card RAM 512MB
VGA (D-SUB) outputs 1
HDMI outputs 1
S-Video outputs 0
DVI-I outputs 0
DVI-D outputs 0
DisplayPort outputs 0

Drives

Capacity 320GB
Hard disk usable capacity 298GB
Spindle speed 7,200RPM
Internal disk interface SATA/300
Hard disk Western Digital WD3200BEKT-75F3T0
Optical disc technology DVD writer
Optical drive HL-DT-ST GA11N
Battery capacity 5,000mAh
Replacement battery price ex VAT £51
Replacement battery price inc VAT £59

Networking

Wired adapter speed 1,000Mbits/sec
802.11a support yes
802.11b support yes
802.11g support yes
802.11 draft-n support yes
Integrated 3G adapter no
Bluetooth support no

Other Features

Wireless hardware on/off switch no
Wireless key-combination switch yes
Modem no
ExpressCard34 slots 1
ExpressCard54 slots 0
PC Card slots 0
USB ports (downstream) 3
FireWire ports 1
eSATA ports 1
PS/2 mouse port no
9-pin serial ports 0
Parallel ports 0
Optical S/PDIF audio output ports 1
Electrical S/PDIF audio ports 0
3.5mm audio jacks 3
SD card reader yes
Memory Stick reader yes
MMC (multimedia card) reader yes
Smart Media reader no
Compact Flash reader no
xD-card reader no
Pointing device type Touchpad
Audio chipset IDT HD Audio
Speaker location Above keyboard
Hardware volume control? no
Integrated microphone? yes
Integrated webcam? yes
Camera megapixel rating 2.0mp
TPM no
Fingerprint reader no
Smartcard reader no
Carry case no

Battery and performance tests

Battery life, light use 3hr 25min
Battery life, heavy use 56min
Overall application benchmark score 1.59
Office application benchmark score 1.41
2D graphics application benchmark score 1.75
Encoding application benchmark score 1.45
Multitasking application benchmark score 1.74
3D performance (crysis) low settings 56fps
3D performance setting Low

Operating system and software

Operating system Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
OS family Windows 7
Recovery method Recovery disc
Software supplied Microsoft Works 9