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
Ethernet
VGA
DisplayPort
HDMI
eSATA/USB 2.0 combo
Antenna (not functional in this unit)
ExpressCard/34
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 Dell.com

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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  • Dustin Sklavos - Tuesday, August 31, 2010 - link

    It's my understanding the most recent BIOS should've fixed the fan issue. I don't really have that problem with mine. Reply
  • Lingyis - Thursday, September 02, 2010 - link

    well, the technician came but wasn't able to fix it so dell is sending me a replacement machine in 10 days or so.

    i hope the one i currently have just happens to be a lemon.

    that aside, the screen is incredible. i'm seeing purple colors i've never seen before on a computer screen. deep blues are also nice.

    battery life is definitely short... will see if the replacement machine does better.
    Reply
  • Lingyis - Wednesday, September 15, 2010 - link

    Well, i got my replacement. It has the exact same issue.

    Are you sure you don't have a fan problem?

    My test case is actually your website. Using Internet Explorer, go to anandtech.com, and cycle through the "latest post" graphics. Does you fan come on every time you click on the "Next" triangle?

    Because on mine, and both of mine that I got in the mail, the fan goes on reproducibly. You click, the picutre cycles, the fan goes on for 2 seconds, goes off. You click again, same thing happened again.

    I tried it on a bunch of other computers and laptops none seem to have that issue.

    Even if it's an IE issue, the fan still comes on way too much. Like as it goes through setup, the fan would come on quite a bit, but again, only a few seconds at a time.

    On this newest Studio 17 I just received, I imagine the BIOS is up-to-date, just as my last Studio 17. So I haven't checked, or maybe I'm too upset to bother, so maybe I'll eat my words tomorrow when I contact customer support and a BIOS update fixes things.

    If not, I'll try my best to get my money back from Dell, which is unfortunately because I am really liking the screen and I've gotten used to the keyboard. I spent $1500 on this (maxing out most specs) and I'm not going to be happy with the annoying fan.
    Reply
  • Lingyis - Thursday, September 16, 2010 - link

    Okay, so the replacement machine has the exact same issue and couldn't be fixed. So I'm returning for a refund. Which is too bad because I'm really starting to like the machine, but the fan is too annoying to bear. Reply
  • bijeshn - Saturday, August 28, 2010 - link

    Quote:

    "Thankfully, you can toggle them back to being proper function keys in the BIOS. ..."

    You don't have to take the trouble of going to BIOS to change it. You can toggle them in the Mobility Center itself.
    Reply
  • AnnonymousCoward - Saturday, August 28, 2010 - link

    It is an atrocity for Dell to only put 1360x768 in Inspiron 15.6" models. They might as well include 256MB RAM and call it a day. I still love my D610 screen, a 14.1" 1400x1050.

    When a $255 netbook has a 10.1" 1024x600, midrange Dells with crappy resolution are pointless.

    The cheapest Dell 17" has 1600x900 for $530. 1920x1080 brings it up to $850!

    Another "WTF" is, didn't Dell get the memo about SSDs? Give an X25-M 80GB option for +$150.
    Reply
  • seapeople - Saturday, August 28, 2010 - link

    Yes, it's amazing that Dell, alone out of all the manufacturers of computers, uses a 1360x768 screen on 15" laptops. You'd think that since nobody else uses such a screen, Dell wouldn't dare think about using it. This is fully Dell's fault, a blame attributable to no other. Considering that they don't even make LCD panels, I'm sure they had to look far and wide to find these ultra rare, uncommon, not very often used 1360x768 panels. You'd think they'd take the easy way out and just put on the same resolution panels as everyone else. But no, not Dell. Reply
  • tvdang7 - Sunday, August 29, 2010 - link

    my studio xps 16 only gets about 2-2.5 hours of internet usage or about 2 hours with video play back. with a 9 cell. i do not get how the studio 17 gets about an hour + more than it with equal specs. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Sunday, August 29, 2010 - link

    That's about in line with what I tested on the Studio XPS 16 back in the day:
    http://www.anandtech.com/show/2746/10

    My guess is that the RGB LED backlighting (even at 100nits) uses more power than white LEDs. It's also likely that in the past 18 months Dell has managed to tune power requirements such that the latest laptops use less power than their older counterparts.
    Reply
  • tvdang7 - Monday, August 30, 2010 - link

    mine is wled not rgb. so we have about equal specs except that i have the 5730 video card which draws less power than the 4650. So its blowing my mind. Reply

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