The Studio 14 Examined

Given that I had been using a Studio 17 personally for nearly a month (a review is forthcoming), it was amusing to see the Studio 14 as being nearly identical physically, just somewhat smaller, like they basically sawed off the side of the notebook that had the 10-key. It's tough to dispute the design, but the ugly gray box Dells are definitely long gone.

The first and possibly the most notable part of the design is the lid. Dell has made the lids of their notebooks customizable for a while now, and saw fit to send us a review unit with a red lid that has a black silhouette of a bull on it. The designs and colors they make available are going to be purely matters of taste; many of them are interesting and attractive, but the pricing is steep: if you want a different color than basic glossy black, you're looking at tacking another $40 on to the build. If you want a pattern like the one we have here, it's a very steep $85. For some it may be worth it, but the most disappointing thing may be that even after that price tag you still can't actually submit your own design or image to be printed on the lid.

When you swivel the lid open, you'll see a fairly tasteful mix of glossy and matte plastics. The screen bezel is glossy black with a subtle Dell logo under it and the webcam centered discretely at the top. You'll also find the Kensington lock on the left side of the hinge, and the softly glowing white LED power button on the right. The accent is a tasteful one.

At the top of the body proper is the matte speaker bar with an “SRS Premium Sound” logo. Sound quality of the Studio 14 is certainly a step up from what we're used to from notebooks. The keyboard is also matte and surprisingly not a chiclet style or any variant thereof as we're used to seeing from pretty much every other manufacturer these days. There's some flex to the keyboard, and Dell has set the function keys to be media and control buttons first, requiring you to hold Fn to get access to the actual function keys. This is something that can be toggled in the BIOS if it's not to your liking [Jarred: Raises hand].

The rest of the inside is a simple glossy silver plastic, with the touchpad integrated into the fascia and two perfectly matching mouse buttons beneath it. It isn't overly glossy like some manufacturers use (Toshiba), and the color can effectively hide fingerprints. Integrating the touchpad seems to always look cheap, but at least it lacks the glossy finish of the surrounding palm rests. Still, the texture may be uncomfortable for some users; your mileage may vary.

While the port arrangement around the sides is plenty logical, the utter and complete lack of indicator lights in the entirety of the build is not. The only indicators are a battery light above the AC adaptor jack and the backlighting of the power button. We can understand wanting to clean up and simplify the notebook's layout—there's certainly something to be said for simplicity—but the lack of something as basic as a hard disk activity light might be disconcerting for some, and the system tray app Dell uses to indicate whether Caps Lock and Num Lock are enabled can actually be obtrusive. This isn't a deal-breaker necessarily, but it's going to be a matter of taste and liable to irk some users.

Dell Studio 14: Entering the Welterweight Ring General Performance of the Studio 14
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  • XZerg - Thursday, August 19, 2010 - link

    It would be nice to post the basic specs and the upgrades and their costs. This will help us understand where the extra money is going from the basic price...
  • Dustin Sklavos - Thursday, August 19, 2010 - link

    Honestly, Dell changes system configurations and options on their site more often than most people change underwear. We got this notebook less than a month ago and it's already obsolete in certain ways.
  • Shadowmaster625 - Thursday, August 19, 2010 - link

    "After all, the Xbox 360 is nearly five years old, and 720p is the target for that console." Even the latest and greatest and slimmest xbox 360 still burns over 80 watts playing a game. I'm sure a notebook would produce great gaming benchmarks if it pulled that much power.
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, August 19, 2010 - link

    The Xbox 360 revisions haven't had the chance to really change things up. Yes, they did a process technology shrink, but they still have to maintain 100% compatibility with the original Xbox 360 so there are limitations to what they can do. I also don't think the CPU/GPU in the Xbox 360 gets the same level of power friendly optimizations that laptop parts get, but then the manufacturers aren't very forthcoming about console architectures and such.

    Anyway, look at the 5650 and 335M; they consume around 20W max on the 5650 (15W for the 5470... Dell really couldn't get 5W extra out of the chassis?), and 28W max on the 335M. Idle power draw is down around 5W on both. At 100% load, such a laptop would be about 20W less than the 360, but that's well within reason. If MS binned 360 CPUs/GPUs for minimum power draw like mobile parts, they could easily get below 80W.
  • skrewler2 - Thursday, August 19, 2010 - link

    It would be more interesting to see how this compares to something like a Thinkpad?

    Or any other laptop for that matter...
  • Kishkumen - Thursday, August 19, 2010 - link

    Dear College Students,
    You don't want this laptop, You don't want a glossy display because you want to be able to go outside and study once in a while. Also , you want a nice matte display, with a nice, high resolution, say 1920x1080 or hell even 1600x900 so that you are more productive in your work and can get better grades. This is not the laptop for you. If you can't afford a better, new business class laptop, look for a used one (say one or two years old) with a good display and just buy a new battery. You'll be much happier. I would be anyway.
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, August 19, 2010 - link

    It depends what sort of work you're doing. If all you need to do is write papers in Word, screen resolution is generally a non-issue. You look at one or two paragraphs at a time and go from there. If on the other hand you want to do video and photo editing, resolution becomes far more important.

    The glossy stuff is a different matter of course. I wish there were non-business laptops with matte LCDs still. But, buying used is a bad idea IMO. Laptops don't usually last more than 4 years of constant use, batteries stop holding a charge after 1-2 years, hinges wear out, and battery life is something that has just as much impact on usability for college campuses as the screen. Take a 15.6" LCD with a matte display and you're probably looking at 2-3 hours battery life in most cases. If it's used, more like 1 hour if you're lucky, unless you spend $100 on a new battery.
  • AnnonymousCoward - Friday, September 3, 2010 - link

    He addressed the battery issue by saying to buy a new one.

    I disagree that resolution is ever a non-issue. Who wants to only be able to see 2 paragraphs at once? And if you do any formatting or visual organization to the paper, you will want to see each page at once. That doesn't work with 768.
  • justniz - Thursday, August 19, 2010 - link I avoid all laptops with ATI graphics.
  • semo - Thursday, August 19, 2010 - link

    when you plug in a microphone or headset through linein, do you have to change any driver settings and are those settings remembered.

    I have a studio 1557 that asks me to confirm linein settings every time i plug in a headset and even between restarts. My other laptop will start using an external mic even in the middle of a conversation. Im sending it back and if they cant fix i will be looking for a replacement

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