Dell Studio 1558 review

20 May 2010

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

Price when reviewed 
759
4

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.

Details

Price ex VAT £646
Price inc VAT £759
Overall rating 4
Features & Design 4
Value for Money 4
Performance 4

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 i5-430M
Motherboard chipset Intel HM55 Express
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 1,920
Resolution screen vertical 1,080
Resolution 1920 x 1080
Graphics chipset ATI Radeon HD 5470
Graphics card RAM 1.00GB
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 Seagate ST9320325AS
Optical disc technology DVD writer
Battery capacity 5,200mAh
Replacement battery price inc VAT £0

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 yes

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 Realtek HD Audio
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 36min
Overall application benchmark score 1.47
Office application benchmark score 1.20
2D graphics application benchmark score 1.53
Encoding application benchmark score 1.37
Multitasking application benchmark score 1.80
3D performance (crysis) low settings 58fps
3D performance setting Low

Operating system and software

Operating system Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
OS family Windows 7
Recovery method Recovery partition, burn own recovery discs
Software supplied N/A