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Dell Studio 1558 review

Verdict

Nice design and good build, but it lags behind the improved competition and uncertainties remain over cooling issues

Review Date: 20 May 2010

Reviewed By: Sasha Muller

Price when reviewed: £646 (£759 inc VAT)

Overall Rating
4 stars out of 6

Features & Design
4 stars out of 6

Value for Money
4 stars out of 6

Performance
4 stars out of 6

Last year's Dell Studio 1557 sat atop our A List for some time. With one of the first Core i7 processors at the helm, it offered a uniquely inexpensive combination of ergonomics and power. Since then, Intel has released its Core i3 and i5 processors, and Dell has seized the opportunity to give them a try in the Studio 15 chassis.

Before we look at the specification, though, it’s worth pointing out that the new Studio 1558 is, to all intents and purposes, physically identical to the Studio 1557. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. We’re still fans of the wedge design and the curvy yet understated physique, and build quality is up with the best in this price bracket. It is, admittedly, still fairly heavy – we’d baulk at regularly carting its 2.65kg frame to and fro – but it’s in line with most of the 15.6in competition.

The keyboard and trackpad remain a capable pairing. The spacious keyboard layout is combined with keys that offer a luxuriously crisp feel, and the backlighting is a neat touch, too, despite costing a £26 premium. Cursor control is less remarkable, but the trackpad does what any self-respecting trackpad should: it goes about its business without drawing attention to itself.

Dell Studio 1558

One thing you can’t help but notice is the Studio 1558’s display. Dell chose to equip our review unit with the optional Full HD panel – a £60 upgrade from the standard 1,366 x 768 – and it’s impressive. Colour reproduction was a mite subdued compared to the best displays we’ve seen, but it made a great stab at everything from our test photos to the lush tropical backdrops of Crysis’ high-octane gunfights. The sheer amount of desktop space on offer makes a refreshing change, although those with poor eyesight might be advised to think twice, as the high resolution and 15.6in display make for tiny pixels.

Onto the internals, and Dell is replacing the Studio 1557's Core i7-720QM with a range of Core i3, i5 and i7s. The reason is simple: the new processors are based on the smaller, more efficient 32nm fabrication process, which means cooler running. Given the heat issues we had with the Studio 1557 that can only be a good thing.

Our review unit sat somewhere in the middle, with a Core i5-430M processor, 4GB of DDR3 memory and a 7,200rpm 320GB hard disk forming the heart of the specification. And despite having just two processor cores to the four of the old Core i7-720QM, our benchmarks nipped along to a very reasonable 1.47.

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User comments

My 1558

I have had one of these for a few months. The backlit keyboard is a great feature and the HD screen upgrade was worth it.

Mine has the Radeon HD 4570 graphics not the newer chipset.

The cooling fans do kick in quite regulary, but no issues even after several hours of C&C.

I'm very pleased with it.

Rich

By richiemuia on 20 May 2010

Glad to hear it, Rich!

We stress-tested the 1558 with Prime95 and FurMark, so our experiences are very much a worst case scenario.

It's very unlikely that any game will push the 1558 quite as hard... :)

By SashaMuller on 20 May 2010

Dell Studio

I will second that its a good laptop but it have some of the worst features that a lot of manufacturers seem to think everyone want.

1. Slot loading DVD drive. Once a DVD gets stuck and the eject button refuses to eject it (even the old trick of poweron with eject button pressed), then you are stuck with a long phone call to Dell support,

2. Glossy screen. Got to be the worst feature of any laptop due to the amount or reflection you get in any environment which increases eye strain. I've only seen Apple give the option of Antiglare screen which is now extra and is only available on a couple of laptops.

3. The stupidly low resolution on the screen. My HP laptop even though its widescreen, came with 1650x1050. Even that was lower then my 7 year old Dell which was 1600x1200 on a 1 inch smaller screen. Why should getting a FULL HD screen cost extra I have no idea.

4. Software bloat. Has to be the worst of any laptop I've ever used. I know its for home use but the first thing I would recommend anyone who buys a Dell Studio is to completey erase everything (including the recovery partition) and start again direct from the DVDs/CDs. When you install the drivers, make sure you don't install the applications to go with it if ou can avoid it.

By ssjandu on 23 May 2010

Customisation

I think, perhaps, this model has suffered in the reviews by inclusion of the expensive full HD screen on an otherwise low-end laptop. Thanks to the flexibility on the Dell website, I was able to specify a higher spec model with almost everything I wanted [HD screen, core i5-540m, large battery etc] and I am very happy with it, I suspect it would fare well versus your "high-end" A-list.

By Mickyb on 25 May 2010

Alternatives with full HD?

I was about to buy one of these until I read about the overheating problems at http://en.community.dell.com/support-forums/laptop
/f/3518/t/19322774.aspx?PageIndex=4

But whats a good reliable alternative with full HD screen resolution on a 15" LCD, HDMI output and a 3 year on site warranty option?

By RichardRRJ on 20 Jun 2010

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