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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  • jasperjones - Thursday, August 19, 2010 - link

    You must think your readers are somewhat dumb. I don't see any reason why, in recent reviews, we're being shown the table with system specs twice.
  • Dustin Sklavos - Friday, August 20, 2010 - link

    As a convenience so you don't have to memorize the specs every time you look at the first page. :)
  • Hrel - Thursday, August 19, 2010 - link

    yeah... 900 dollars?! Only way this laptop is worth that is if you put an ATI 5650 GPU or better in it, and a screen with a resolution of 1600x900 or better.
  • taltamir - Friday, August 20, 2010 - link

    with a GPU that crappy, why bother at all?
    The only two options should be the 5650 (or faster) or no discrete GPU at all (saving both money, power consumption, and weight)... having a crappy discrete GPU is a DRAWBACK not a plus for a laptop... its still not playing any games.
  • JarredWalton - Friday, August 20, 2010 - link

    That's only partially true. Even the 5470 and 310M are about 2.5 times faster than the best current IGPs (with the exception of the G320M that's only used in Apple MacBook, since NVIDIA can't make Core 2010 chipsets). If it were a $75 upgrade, that would at least be something you could justify, but $150 is what it costs to get the 5650/335M level, which are another 2.5X increase over these entry GPUs.
  • synaesthetic - Monday, August 23, 2010 - link

    These GPU upgrades are barely worth $50 extra on the price. Asking $150 is absolutely ludicrous.

    But really, no laptop maker offers reasonably priced discrete GPU upgrades except for Sony (where they are almost always $50 extra regardless of what type of GPU you get).

    As another poster mentioned, this machine is not a good deal. In the 14" space, the HP Envy 14 and the Sony Vaio CW rule the roost. Especially if you catch the Vaio CW on a Best Buy sale, where you can get the CW27FX variant with the i5-520M, 1600x900 LCD, NV GT330M and a BD-ROM drive for $950.
  • asmoma - Sunday, August 22, 2010 - link

    I'm curious about the performance and the battery life/energy usage of the phenom pxxx and the kite platform. Is someone at anandtech working on a review? :)
  • JarredWalton - Sunday, August 22, 2010 - link

    Yes... when the replacement gets here. We got an early piece of hardware, and unfortunately all the wrinkles weren't ironed out.
  • Avenger19 - Sunday, August 22, 2010 - link

    I would like to wade in with my 2c worth. I have owned a Studio 14 for about 1 month, I7 720, 8GB ram, Crucial C300 SSD. I am very happy with the configuration, the only downside is the relatively wimpy ATI video chip. I have a 5870 SLI machine for those tasks. The size and weight are perfect for me The "lack" of LED indicators are a blessing for me. Highly recommended.
  • geforcefly - Thursday, August 26, 2010 - link

    My Studio 1458 has been a really good laptop for me. And one of the few 14" machines that has an LED backlit panel, slot load DVD, Core i5, AND an optional extended-life battery. I love the clean design and my i5-430 will outperform the old T9900. 4GB, 320GB, and 1,366x768 is plenty of pixels without having to look though a magnifying glass.

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