Introducing the Dell Studio 17

The Dell Studio 17 we have on hand for review today is an interesting critter with a fairly worthwhile backstory. Oftentimes when you get to the 17" form factor you're dealing with bulky desktop replacement machines that offer questionable value over just buying a desktop, or at least that was the belief I held before I started shopping for one. Now that I'm no longer in school I don't need a 14" "does-it-all" notebook; instead, I can use a 17" when travelling for extended periods of time as a comfortable workstation, or as a monitor when I'm out on a shoot. And when I want to be a complete dweeb writing in public in a coffee shop so someone can see me and be so curious, I can use a netbook or ultraportable notebook. And after a lot of research, I finally decided the Studio 17 was the one for me.

So consider this a case of an AnandTech writer eating his own dog food, so to speak: this isn't just the machine I'll wind up recommending to you, it's the one I've actually used for myself over some time and aggressively put through its paces. The model I purchased is no longer available from Best Buy as Dell changes specs on their hardware with alarming frequency; mine went for $949, while configuring a comparable machine direct from Dell these days is $1,200. So what's in it?

Dell Studio 17 Specifications
Processor Intel Core i7-720QM
(4x1.6GHz, 45nm, 6MB L3, Turbo to 2.8GHz, 45W)
Chipset Intel PM55
Memory 2x2GB DDR3-1066 (Max 2x4GB)
Graphics ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4650 1GB DDR3
(320 Stream Processors, 550MHz/1.4GHz Core/RAM clocks)
Display 17.3" LED Glossy 16:9 900p (1600x900)
Hard Drive(s) Seagate Momentus 7200.4 500GB 7200RPM
Optical Drive Slot-loading Blu-ray DVD+/-RW Combo Drive
Networking Gigabit Ethernet
Dell Wireless-n 1520
Audio HD Audio
2 stereo speakers plus subwoofer
Microphone plus two headphone jacks
Capable of 5.1 audio
Battery 9-Cell, 11.1V, 85Wh battery
Front Side N/A
Left Side Kensington
eSATA/USB 2.0 combo
Antenna (not functional in this unit)
Mic, 2x Headphones
Right Side 4-pin FireWire
SD/MMC Reader
USB 2.0
Optical drive
USB 2.0
AC Adaptor
Power button
Back Side Exhaust vents
Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
Dimensions 16.28" x 11.04" x 1.1"~1.54” (WxDxH)
Weight 7.6 lbs (with 9-cell battery)
Extras Webcam
103-Key keyboard with 10-key
Flash reader (MMC/MS/MS Pro/SD)
Slot-loading Blu-ray drive
Second hard disk bay
Warranty 1-year basic warranty
Pricing $949.99 as purchased, no longer available
Starting at $699.99 at

Spec-wise the Studio 17 on hand probably isn't that exciting, but at least it's fairly well-rounded. The Intel Core i7-720QM quad-core processor runs at 1.6GHz nominally, turboing up to 2.4GHz with two cores or 2.8GHz on a single core, effectively shoring up performance weaknesses in applications that aren't heavily threaded. Since Intel's mobile quad-cores don't have integrated graphics the way their modern dual-cores do, graphics are handled by a slightly outdated ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4650 equipped with 1GB of video memory. Unlike the desktop 4650, the mobile variant is almost always outfitted with DDR3, and the one in the Studio 17 is no exception. Note that the currently shipping Studio 17 on Dell's website uses a Mobility Radeon HD 560v: this is the exact same graphics hardware, but rebranded.

Dell ships the Studio 17 with 4GB of DDR3-1066 standard in two DIMMs, but you can upgrade to 8GB for $250 from Dell—or for under $200 if you do it yourself. The standard issue hard disk is also a respectable 500GB, 7200RPM Seagate Momentus 7200.4, and users who would like to upgrade to an SSD will be pleased to note the Studio 17 features two drive bays, allowing you to continue to use the existing drive for storage. Mine didn't come with the drive tray necessary to use the second bay, but that accessory can be purchased fairly cheaply online. Rounding out storage is a slot-loading combination blu-ray reader and DVD+/-RW drive.

The rest of the configuration is remarkably flexible: there's a wide variety of ports, including two USB 2.0 (three if you count the eSATA combo port), the rapidly vanishing 4-pin FireWire port, an ExpressCard/34 slot, and even a modern DisplayPort. Wireless duties are handled by Dell's adequate 1520 wireless-n solution, but modern Studio 17s now ship with Intel Centrino 6200 wireless standard. I was disappointed that my unit didn't include internal bluetooth, but that can also be added on for $20 if you custom order the notebook.

A Closer Examination of the Studio 17
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  • JarredWalton - Thursday, August 26, 2010 - link

    That's why I said "but in some marketing departments..." In theory all the widescreen movies are a better fit for WS LCDs. The reality is that most Blu-ray and DVDs are now using 2.33 as you point out. Not to mention, for laptops it's crazy to pretend that their primary use is as movie devices IMO. If I want to watch a movie from a laptop, either I'm on a plane, or I'm hooking it up to an HDTV.
  • seanleeforever - Friday, August 27, 2010 - link

    the wider the screen, the less area it has giving the same diagonal size. the entire wide screen thing is to fool the average consumer, simple enough, the "better for movie experience" "better for multimedia" are all bunch of BS.
    do the calculation you self, a 16:9 screen will have 6% diagonal size than a similar sized 4:3 screen. a 15 inch 4:3 screen can be re-branded as 16 inch 16:9 Wide screen. or simply put, a regular screen needs to be 12.4% larger in area in order to claim the same diagonal size. most Americans are too stupid to do pythagorean theorem and believe 16inch must be larger than 15 inch, let alone the "WIDE SCREEN".
  • shamans33 - Thursday, August 26, 2010 - link

    "Studio 17 features two drive bays, allowing you to continue to use the existing drive for storage. Mine didn't come with the drive tray necessary to use the second bay, but that accessory can be purchased fairly cheaply online."

    Got any links? :)
  • Dustin Sklavos - Thursday, August 26, 2010 - link

    Let me know if this works:
  • cknobman - Thursday, August 26, 2010 - link

    How you omit the Acer 5740G series game fps scores from the comparison when it was used for general performance comparison.

    The Acer 5740G series is a direct competitor to the studio 17. Same size and similar internal components.
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, August 26, 2010 - link

    Well, the 7740G is more of a competitor, since it's 17.3". The 5740G is now discontinued, unfortunately, at least the model with HD 5650. (Actually, I think the 7740G is now phased out as well and online vendors are just clearing remaining inventory.) Probably your best bet is this 7740G (which may disappear soon):

    As for why the 5740G isn't in the gaming benchmarks, we revamped our gaming suite recently. We had some scores for the 5740G in DiRT 2, L4D2, ME2, and STALKER: CoP. We don't have the laptop anymore, though, so some of the test results aren't at the same settings we're now using, and we don't have BFBC2 or SC2 results. That's why we pulled it from the charts. You can find the previous results here, but not all the scores are at the same settings (i.e. "high" is redefined now):

    We do have another laptop with an HD 5650 we're reviewing and that should be up shortly. The 5650 is obviously faster than the 4650, but getting it with a system that has everything else you want is the difficulty. Dustin wants Firewire and ExpressCard, which limits options quite a bit.
  • Jambe - Thursday, August 26, 2010 - link

    Glossy = no buy.

    I'm being a stickler wrt this issue.

    Unfortunately that largely limits me to the utilitarian Lenovo devices...
  • crimson117 - Thursday, August 26, 2010 - link

    Why would you buy this thing when you can get a G73 or an Acer Extensa 368d for the same price or a little more?
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, August 26, 2010 - link

    Two words: Firewire, ExpressCard.

    Some more words: I can't fine the Acer Extensa in stock anywhere with a quick Google search; is it EOL now? As for the G73, it's bigger and faster, and it even has a better LCD on the 1080p model, but the least expensive version is $1300 at Best Buy (plus tax) and it comes with the same level of 900p LCD. That's $350 more than what Dustin paid for the Studio 17, and the Dell gets better battery life in addition to the above two words. :)
  • CSMR - Thursday, August 26, 2010 - link

    Useful review, except the title says "Dell Studio 17: When Gaming Isn't Enough", and then half the review is hardcore 3D gaming benchmarks! If even a non-gaming review is mostly about gaming, you give the site a bad name!

    In general people who care about display quality, and read charts before buying, would get the B+RG 1080p display, so would probably be more interested in charts on that.

    Also there's a BIOS problem I've heard in this model, namely that the fan turns off and on even in idle or under light loads. The temperatures are set badly: too low, not well ramped and at too close a range so the switching is frequent. It would be useful to know if you get this problem too.

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