Dell Studio 14z: Thin and Light Done Right

by Jarred Walton on 10/20/2009 3:00 AM EST


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  • Shadowmaster625 - Thursday, October 22, 2009 - link

    Newegg has a notebook for $399 right now. Please explain how you justify twice the price. A slightly faster processor, slightly more battery life. Big whoop. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, October 22, 2009 - link

    It helps to link to what you're talking about, or at least mention the name. Let's assume you're looking at the">Acer Aspire AS5517-5671, which currently sells for $400.

    1) 15.6" vs. 14.0"
    2) 6.0 lbs. vs. 4.6 lbs.
    3) AMD Athlon 64 TF-20 (1.6GHz) vs. Core 2 Duo P8600 (2.4GHz)
    4) DDR2 vs. DDR3
    5) 160GB HDD vs. 320GB HDD
    6) "Up to" 2.4 hours vs. 4.5 hours (measured)

    When you combine all of those areas, plus chassis design, the Studio 14z is clearly superior to this particular $400 laptop in every way. Does that mean it's worth the extra money? You'll have to decide that. Keep in mind that the Gateway NV52 (benchmarked in this article) is going to be at least 30% faster CPU than the $400 Acer (2.1GHz vs. 1.6GHz), and the 14z with P8600 is almost twice as fast.

    If all you need is a basic laptop and you want to save money, sure, go for a cheap $400-$500 laptop. Don't expect top performance or battery life, and you won't be disappointed. Unfortunately, don't expect top quality either (but it's possible you'll still get a notebook that doesn't have any issues).
  • JimmyJimmington - Friday, October 23, 2009 - link

    Also a different GPU, no wireless N, no blue tooth, no esata, no 1600x900 resolution screen.

    My question would be, if all you care about is saving money, why not go with a $150 netbook refurb? It would certainly be lighter and have more battery life. And if you drop it and it breaks you don't have to feel so bad because you can just go out and buy a new one :D
  • hybrid2d4x4 - Thursday, October 22, 2009 - link

    Thanks for the excellent review, Jarred. I really like how you included the POST times, calling out Dell on glossy finish+screen and LCD quality and also adding FPS bars at the native res. One minor request for future reviews of laptops that are obviously unable to handle top-end games: throw in a Source-based game (or some other older engine) for comparison to show what the cutoff seems to be for what kind of game it actually CAN play well with med/high settings at the native res.

    On the POST issue, I wonder if there's something about the GF9400 that makes it POST slowly. My Gigabyte 9400-based mobo takes around 10s as well. I know it's not a vendor-specific issue since a Dell Mini 9 I've had my hands on did it in probably under 5s and booted to XP desktop in exactly 25s (8B SSD, uninstalled factory bloatware). I wonder if the Zotac and Asus 9400 boards also POST slowly...
  • jasperjones - Wednesday, October 21, 2009 - link

    very nice review. the comparison you make to the macbook is well-balanced. and i agree that it is a viable--although more expensive--alternative.

    macs tend to be a good deal shortly after their model refresh (since apple tends to keep prices fixed until the next refresh). my problem with macs is that i don't like os x. basically, i run linux or windows as my main os on a mac. given the hint in a comment that anand might review the new macbook, one thing i'd really like to see on anandtech would be benches and battery performance under operating systems other than os x (yeah, i know linux is gonna suck battery-wise but win 7 might be an interesting option).
  • Kishkumen - Wednesday, October 21, 2009 - link

    If only it didn't have a glossy screen (or rather had a matte option) I'd be the proud owner of one of these otherwise cool, little laptops.... Reply
  • Pirks - Tuesday, October 20, 2009 - link

    You were putting MacBooks there always, in the relative battery life graphs, but now you don't? Did you get enough hate mail from wintrolls or what? Death threats maybe? ;)

    Also, do you intend to do a review of the new $999 MacBook they just released? Mighty sweet machine, could you touch it up and pass your thoughts you know? I'd be VERY interested, thanks!
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, October 20, 2009 - link

    Honestly, I removed the Mac from the graphs more because I know that the testing wasn't entirely Apples to apples. Different browser and web pages mean the Mac may have gotten a boost. Still, when a MacBook can last 3.1 hours with a 45Wh battery on our heaviest load (downloading files, playing a movie, and surfing the web) while a Windows laptop with similar specs can only get 4.5 hours at idle using a 74Wh battery, it's clear that OS X remains better optimized. Reply
  • DominionSeraph - Wednesday, October 21, 2009 - link

    I can't wrap my head around the MacBook run times under OS X. I mean, it ain't like there are magically more c and p states available under OS X. And in your OS Mobility roundup you ran Vista in Power Saving mode -- I know that on my desktop that locks my X2 5200+ into its lowest p-state. If that's applicable to the AMD laptops, then the differences can't be explained by Microsoft OS idle processes causing blips to full-throttle.

    Could you test the MacBook with a MS OS, locked to the lowest SpeedStep setting using RMClock (or the like)? And then try @ max undervolt whilst still locked at idle?

    If max undervolt while locked to lowest frequency can't match OS X at stock settings, I think my head will explode.
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, October 21, 2009 - link

    I can ask Anand to give it a shot... I think he's working on some MacBook articles already so it's definitely something to investigate. But don't discount the possibility that Windows (especially Vista) is preventing the CPU (and peripherals) from entering minimum C-states for long periods of time. Windows seems to constantly "ping" HDDs and other devices to make sure they're still around or something. LOL Reply
  • DominionSeraph - Thursday, October 22, 2009 - link

    System monitor in XP will show you percentage of C1, C2, and C3 time. (can't check vista right now)
  • hybrid2d4x4 - Thursday, October 22, 2009 - link

    I too would like to see an investigation of why the Macs get better battery life in OSX, and if it turns out that it is the hits on the HDD (I suspect you're right on this one) and unnecessary background processes, if there are any tweaks that we can perform to squeeze the most out of Windows. Reply
  • gstrickler - Sunday, October 25, 2009 - link

    I can't explain why Mac OS X is so much more power efficient, but keep in mind that Apple designed their own chipsets for 20+ years and co-designed the PPC for 10 years, all while developing their own OS. They've undoubtedly gained some insights into the operation of complete systems that no other company has (IBM might have, but they would not have shared that with MS without a big payoff). Sun has similar background, but never needed to be that concerned about power since they make high performance machines and don't make laptops.

    I am surprised that Apple has been able to maintain that advantage since moving to Intel CPUs and Nvidia chipsets, apparently a lot of it is in the OS design.
  • Interitus - Tuesday, October 20, 2009 - link

    I've owned this laptop for about 4 months now. It really is a nice laptop. Very light, my config with almost everything set up for low power lasts ~6 1/2 hours on battery as long as I'm not running video or doing anything graphic or CPU intensive. For surfing the web and typing up papers and the like for school, this laptop is perfect.

    There are a few minor issues I've found with the laptop:

    1) the touchpad isn't the greatest as someone mentioned. It's really buggy, but if you leave it at the default settings it's not that bad. The issues start to arise when you change settings like sensitivity and click speed.

    2) DO NOT expect to carry this laptop around in your backpack and not treat it with respect. Mine has a clearly visible line on the battery (from the inside of the laptop between the monitor and the keyboard) where it appears to have been squished together too tightly and the lip of the screen has scratched the battery. Purely cosmetic, but still annoying considering I paid $1100+ for my setup.

    3) There is a common issue with screen flickering. Mine has it, but it's not enough to annoy me or make me want to have some idiotic Dell repair person compromise the integrity of the laptop by tearing it apart to fix it.

    4) My mother purchased one of these after seeing mine, and as a lot of people reported, the battery rattles a bit in its place. Mine doesn't exhibit this behavior.

    Those things aside I love this laptop. Most of them are minor issues too, so don't let it put you off of buying one. Just get a warranty to cover issues like those.

    My config was $1100'ish with a 2-year complete care package from Dell, pretty good price for a Macbook minus the OS.

    Don't understand the choice to solder 1GB to the board, kinda stupid from my point of view. 4GB sticks are still ridiculous in price.
  • nysportz - Tuesday, October 20, 2009 - link

    I thought the MacBook comparisons were interesting. FYI, Apple released a new MacBook today weighing 4.7 lbs and advertising 7 hours of battery life. At $999, this is pretty competitive with the Dell.

    I say this as an impartial observer (and as someone shopping for a laptop in this size and price range).
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, October 20, 2009 - link

    We measured 3.1 hours with the MacBook using a 45Wh battery under our most stressful test scenario, so the new MacBook with a 60Wh battery will almost certainly hit 4+ hours worst-case, and typical battery life is likely to hit 6+ hours as advertised. The difference of course is that you run OS X vs. Windows, and you pay $1300 vs. $1000. If battery life is important to you and you don't mind ditching Windows, Apple is very much still in the lead. Reply
  • gstrickler - Tuesday, October 20, 2009 - link

    How do you get $1300 for the new MacBook? Base price is $999 with 2GB RAM and a 250GB HD. Take it to 4GB and a 320GB HD (closest config you can get to the Dell you 14z you tested) and you're at $1149.

    And the MB includes an internal optical drive in that price. Still comes in at 4.7 pounds and 4-7 hour real battery life. Of course, the Dell does have a 14" display, ExpressCard 34 slot, and a slightly faster (2.4 vs 2.26 GHz) CPU, so it's not a complete win for the MB. Both sound like nice machines, with similar features and similar prices.
  • JimmyJimmington - Tuesday, October 20, 2009 - link

    Look at the baseline mac at $1000, vs the $960 14z that I described. It costs a bit more and you get a smaller screen with lower resolution (which is how they squeeze out the comparable battery life), less RAM, slightly heavier, slower proc, slower hard drive, no esata, and mini display port (I mean minidisplay port, are you kidding me?). The 14z wins on hardware alone.

    You're paying for the OS, no question about it. If you want OS X though, just buy a mac.
  • gstrickler - Wednesday, October 21, 2009 - link

    Dell specs the 14z at 4.6 pounds with the 6 cell battery, not the 8 cell, as you claim in your config, so the MB is in fact slightly lighter then the Dell with the 8 cell battery. Of course, we're only talking about a couple ounces either way.

    Then again, the MB does include an internal optical drive in that weight, and gets better battery life, which is a clear win for the MB.

    Your ~960 price was "with a student discount", try comparing it to the price of a the MB with a student discount, not to the retail price. Since you didn't specify the size of your HD or RAM, I can't come up with a "retail" price for you system, but I just configured a Studio 14z with 3GB RAM, 320GB 5400 RPM HD, P8600 CPU, 8 cell battery, and the standard display, it's $969. The comparable MB is $1149 with 4GB RAM. BTW, that configuration is the one that gives the biggest advantage to the Studio 14z. Change the HD size or the RAM size, or and optical drive to the Dell, and the difference is smaller. The price comparison you gave is meaningless, if you qualify for the student discount on one, you'll almost certainly qualify for a student discount on the other.

    The "best" comparison of "comparable" machines would be a MB with 4GB RAM, 320GB HD, and 3 year warranty for $1389. The MB includes 802.11n, bluetooth, optical drive, and Mac OS X.
    Dell Studio 14z with 5GB RAM, P8600 CPU, 320GB (5400 RPM) HD, 802.11n, internal bluetooth, standard display, 8 cell battery, Optical drive, Win7 Home Premium, and 3 yr warranty for $ 1544.

    Yes, the 14z has a slightly faster CPU and 1GB more RAM in that configuration, but Vista is more CPU and RAM intensive than Mac OS X, so they're very similar. The 14z also includes an eSATA port, 1394a port, ExpressCard 34 slot, and an HDMI port, but you're paying an extra $155 as well.

    There is almost no difference in the power draw of a 13.3" vs 14" display, nor does a slightly higher resolution display draw notably more power. That is not the reason the MB gets better battery life. The reason is better power management in Mac OS X vs Windows, and possibly use of some lower power components.

    Yes, Mini Displayport, get used to it. Displayport is the way the market is moving (which is why Dell includes it on the Studio 14z), and Mini Displayport is part of the Displayport standard, it's just a smaller connector, great for small laptops.
  • JimmyJimmington - Wednesday, October 21, 2009 - link

    The starting weight with the 6-cell battery on the 14z is 4.3 lbs. according to Dell. I weighed the machine myself with the 8-cell battery and it's 4.6 lbs. so I don't know where you're getting your information from, the dell is lighter than the smaller mac.

    Your "comparable" specs make no sense at all. You're just pulling prices out of your ass.

    Again, look at the baseline white plastic mac, $950 with a student discount vs. mine which was $960.

    I didn't get the 320 gig hd, both the baseline mac and my 14z have the 250 gig hd, not 320. I opted for the faster 7200 rpm for $50 extra. So if you want to be as comparable as possible, itd be like $910 vs. $950

    I will even give you that the standard 2 gigs of RAM on the mac is comparable to the 3 gigs on the 14z. Upgrading either is overpriced and useless.

    The standard warranty for dell and apple are 1 year, so I don't know why you're throwing that into the comparison.

    I don't know why you think displayport is the future either. Most TVs, at least all the ones I've seen, come with HDMI, that's the universal standard.

    And it's not Vista, it's Windows 7. It came with a free upgrade to 7 and it can't even be bought with Vista anymore.

    Like I said before, the 14z has superior hardware at a lower price. As always, you buy apple laptops for the OS.
  • gstrickler - Thursday, October 22, 2009 - link

    I don't know where I got 4.6 pounds bad. However, that's still with the 6 cell battery and no optical drive. You say your machine is 4.6 with the 8 cell battery, which puts it about 2 ounces lighter than the 4.7 pound MB with it's built-in optical drive and 50% more run-time.

    Not pulling the comparision out of my ass, those are the closest configurations you can buy. Even using your comparison, machines, MB w/2GB RAM, 250GB 5400 RPM drive, optical drive, Wi-Fi N, Bluetooth, and 1 year wty, vs 14z with 3GB, P8600, 250GB 5400 RPM drive, optical drive, 8 cell battery, Wi-Fi N, Bluetooth, Win7, and 1 year warranty, the MB is $999, and the Dell 14z is $1079. Not everyone can get the student discount, some people (most people) actually pay around retail.

    Even if you're not going to carry the optical drive with you, you still need an external optical drive for loading software and/or burning disks (e.g. backup), so comparing price without it is only valid if you already have a compatible external optical drive.

    I used a 3 year warranty because that's what most people I know buy when they buy a laptop. In any case, adding the 3 year warranty works in favor of the Dell because their 3 year warranty is $60 less than Apple's 3 year warranty.

    I didn't mean Vista, I meant Windows 7. sometimes my fingers type what they're used to typing, not what I'm thinking. I would never recommend Vista to anyone, for any reason. Win 7 looks promising.
  • JimmyJimmington - Thursday, October 22, 2009 - link

    I would have to see hard proof of 50% more run time. Otherwise, it's just pulled out of your ass again. Reply
  • gstrickler - Thursday, October 22, 2009 - link

    Go read some of Anand and Jarrod's older articles. They've compared run times with MB/MBP machines a number of times, in each case, the Macs get significantly better run times than the same or similar machine running Windows. Jarrod even mentioned that in the article.

    Here's a test with an older MB with the 45Wh battery.">
    3:15 minutes of very heavy (playing 2 XviD videos + wireless browsing + constant downloading) use, 5 hours of wireless web browsing. Multiply those by 1.33 for moving up to the 60Wh battery and you have 4:20 heavy use, 6:40 wireless web browsing. Compare that to the Dell at 3:40 internet browsing, and 3:30 video playback (single XviD only, not XviD + browsing + downloading) using the 74Wh 8 cell battery (from this article). I'd say that's at least 50% any way you look at it. And that MB had a faster CPU and used DDR2 DRAM, both of which will use more power than the new MB, so it may do even better.

    Any more "hard proof" you need?
  • JimmyJimmington - Friday, October 23, 2009 - link

    It would also have to be on Windows 7 to be "hard proof," by the way. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, October 23, 2009 - link

    We can't provide exact figures right now on the latest MacBooks, but we should have something in the not-too-distant future. Anand handles the Mac side of things, while I do most of the Windows laptops/netbooks. However, I can say with certainty that the latest MacBooks with a 60Wh battery are going to have better run times than the 14z. Priced at $1000, it's not even a big difference in price for what you get.

    The only real question is whether you are willing to make a switch to OS X. Personally, I'm not willing to switch - I'm stubborn/happy with Windows. Windows 7 also will help on battery life, but it's not going to make more than a ~10% difference (and that's compared to Vista)">based on my testing.

    The fact that Apple has full control over the OS and hardware is a huge benefit; word is they play with voltages more than normal, but I don't know for sure. It may simply be that OS X is very good at entering the deepest CPU sleep states and staying there as long as possible.

    Taking "best case", 14z with Win7 would get 253 minutes of Internet surfing (that's giving it a 15% boost, which I'd say is more than it will actually achieve). So with a 71.6Wh battery (Dell says 74Wh on the cover, but they also say 14.8V and 4.84Ah, which means 71.632Hw) the 14z could get 3.532 minutes per Wh.

    Taking the worst case on the MacBook, we achieved 186 minutes with a 45Wh battery on the older model. Boost battery capacity by 33% and you would get 248 minutes. Again, that's in a much heavier workload (download + Xvid + web). So in that worst-case test the MacBook should get 4.133 minutes per Wh -- about 17% better than the 14z.

    I just don't see any way for the gap to be smaller than 17% relative battery life, and more likely than not it will be 30% or more with comparable usage. Anand has my test scripts for Internet usage, and when he gets the latest MacBook (and time) we'll have the exact figures. In the meantime, I think I'll work on installing Win7 on the 14z and rerunning a few tests as well.

    PS: All the above said, I'd still take the 14z over the MacBook. Call it user bias, but as much as I like the Apple hardware and designs, I'm just not a big fan of changing OSes. I've played with Linux as well, and while I can function I'm far more at home in Windows. Been using DOS since version 3 (yeah, I remember how much better 3.3 was compared to the original 3.0!), and despite the quirks I just find it easier to get the tools/drivers/games I need on Windows.
  • JimmyJimmington - Friday, October 23, 2009 - link

    That's not hard proof, that's conjecture. Run the test with the 14z and the mac to compare them, then I will believe you. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, October 22, 2009 - link

    No need for an external optical drive for installing software if you have a network. I install all my stuff over Gigabit Ethernet and it works great. Or from an external USB HDD. I personally don't need an ODD unless I want to play a game or watch a non-ripped DVD. Both are not particularly common tasks for me on something like the 14z (or MacBook). Given the choice, I'd still rather have an ODD, but it's not a huge issue.

    Pricing for MB and 14z is quite comparable, with the difference being design and a few hardware options, plus the OS difference. I'm far more at home in Windows, though, so I'd pay the extra money to avoid the OS switch... and installing Win7 or Vista on a MacBook is pointless to me; you but a Mac for the OS, don't you?

    Anyway, my 2 cents. :)
  • gstrickler - Thursday, October 22, 2009 - link

    If you have a second machine that has an optical drive and a network (which is probably most of the readers on here), then, you may be fine without the optical drive. However, that is not true of most buyers. 80% or more of the buyers will need the optical drive.

    Like you and Jimmy, I don't often use the optical drive, mostly for installing software or converting my CDs to 256-bit AAC. I would prefer to have a laptop with room for two internal HDD/SSD and have a lightweight external optical drive that I can leave home/in my car. Taking half a pound off of what I regularly carry would definitely be welcome. It's not a huge difference, but I think I would prefer that configuration.

    You're right, the pricing is comparable, which is all I've been pointing out in my posts. Jimmy (and others, but not in this thread) keeps asserting that "you're paying extra for Mac OS X" with the Mac, and that simply is not true. In some configurations the Dell is cheaper, in some the MB is cheaper, but there is no "Apple tax" or "premium" for getting the MB vs the Studio 14z.

    In general, you should not buy a Mac to run Windows. While Intel based Macs run Windows very well, they're not intended to be "just another Windows machine". If Windows is your preferred OS, or if you have Windows only software that you need to run more than about 30% of the time, you should probably buy a machine designed to run Windows. The exceptions to that are when you have any Mac only software (or software that has a significantly better Mac version) that you need to use, or if you simply prefer Apple's hardware and attention to detail.
  • JimmyJimmington - Thursday, October 22, 2009 - link

    I agree with you Jared. I haven't used an optical drive in years. I fail to see the point of carrying it around with my laptop to class. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, October 20, 2009 - link

    Sorry... it was just a guess based on past MacBook pricing. Reply
  • JimmyJimmington - Tuesday, October 20, 2009 - link

    I've owned this since this summer and it's a fantastic little laptop.

    I was considering going with an atom or ion netbook until I saw this thing. I upgraded to P8600, 8 cell battery, higher res screen, backlit keyboard, 7200 rpm hd, and a bunch of other bells and whistles. Total came out to ~$960 after student discount. (Take that Apple!)

    Lack of optical drive doesn't bother me since I haven't used an optical drive in several years. Even if I did, I have my desktop at home. I take this baby to class.

    Weight is the best advantage at 4.6 lbs. with the upgraded battery. The adapter is very light as well (didn't bother weighing it, sorry) which helps for carrying it with textbooks.

    I don't understand the complaints about aesthetics, I just got black because it was cheaper. Sorry I'm doing work, not staring at the thing.

    It's fairly thin, which is nice. What a lot of reviewers fail to mention is that there's a big trade off between thinness and heat. My girl friends MacBook Pro (not the new unibody, haven't tried those) sends all of the heat downwards. You wouldn't want to put that laptop on your lap. The bottom of the 14z never gets more than warm. CPU is at ~40 degrees as I type.

    I never really understood the appeal of "ultrathin" laptops. Light weight is the only thing that matters to me.

    I don't know about the low-res screen, but the high-res screen is fantastic. Even better than my very expensive desktop LG lcd when I compared side by side.

    Track pad was a little funky until I upgraded to Windows 7 and got the new drivers from Dell's website. I will also say that some computers have problems with inexplicably slow network transfer rates on Windows 7, that doesn't happen on the 14z.

    Linux was usable, but didn't like it very much if anyone is interested in that kind of thing.

    I never got CoreAVC Pro working, but that doesn't really matter to me. I just used the default HD video decoder in MPC-HC. I suspect it had something to do with the fact that only the video drivers available from Dell worked, the one's on Nvidia's website didn't work. On a related note, I was having some trouble getting dxva working at all in the 64-bit windows 7, telling me direct x run time wouldn't start and it couldn't be installed. Had to reinstall with 32-bit and it went away.

    I have aspirations of upgrading to a SSD at some point in the future, so it was a little disappointing to read that hd replacement might be difficult. Not a huge deal since the 7200 rpm is perfectly adequate.

    Overall, if you don't care about an optical drive, this is the laptop to get. I would gladly sacrifice that for the weight, and thinness advantages.
  • Hxx - Tuesday, October 20, 2009 - link

    Why don't they include the optical drive? Is it because of its weight, cost, or what? I find this ridiculous since an optical drive is just as necessary as a keyboard. Since I was thinkin about gettin one for school, not everything i need comes on a flashdrive. I find the lack of optical a deal breaker for me. Reply
  • andrewaggb - Tuesday, October 20, 2009 - link

    Really? I almost never use an optical drive, I have a usb dvd burner that I use to backup my dvd's, and then I never use the optical formats. I find them too prone to damage, too annoying to swap in and out, they take up too much space, and optical drives are noisy....

    But that's me. Obviously everybody uses their computer differently. Still if you only occasionally need an optical drive, you could get an external usb drive that you can leave at home.
  • Hxx - Tuesday, October 20, 2009 - link

    I completely agree with you about optical drives being inferior to usbs but they are still very much in use. Once they are ditched out of mainstream use then we're talkin. Gettin an external optical drive would defeat the purpose of buyin a laptop with one in the first place. Blah, maybe i'll just go with the new macbook even though i hate the idea of gettin featureless windows with overpriced hardware, i'll get used to it ... eventually. Reply
  • mindless1 - Tuesday, October 27, 2009 - link

    Well they are inferior, but I can accept software is far more often distributed on optical media than USB flash.

    The real question is, how often do you REALLY need to real an optical disk in a mobile environment, right then instead of later?

    I would much rather have the notebook price lowered, save on weight and size, and have a USB optical drive at home or the desk at work.

    To most people it does not defeat any purpose, the purpose of a laptop being it's mobility and let's face it, optical media is not tailored to mobility at all.

    However, I like having more battery capacity/runtime than many people seem to, so I have a compromise proposal similar to how many laptops used to be made. I propose a slot that can take either an optical drive, 2nd hard drive, or a 2nd battery, that slot having an included cover plate if the user wants none of these in the slot.

    Even cooler would be if the slot had more purposes, for example to fit a bluetooth mouse of reasonable proportions, or if the AC-DC adapter fit in the slot so the only thing external you needed for basic use was a power cord with a plug on the end that plugs into that AC-DC adapter in the slot, or perhaps it had a retractable cord so you had nothing at all external to carry with you.

    I would easily accept a slightly larger notebook if it meant less loose separate items to take with it, it's just that of all possible separate items, the optical drive is the least likely to be needed.
  • gstrickler - Tuesday, October 20, 2009 - link

    ...a Windows laptop that is competitive with the MacBook. It's not a MB, but it's close, and it's not from Apple, and a lot of people will consider that an advantage. However, those same people generally aren't big fans of Dell or HP either, so....

    ...a Windows laptop with a decent combination of performance, battery life, and weight. As noted, no where near the 6.5 hours Dell claims, but perhaps with the low end CPU (lower clock speed and slower FSB), no backlit keyboard, and Windows 7, it might hit that at idle. Still, it got 3+ hours in all your tests, and that's where I set the minimum baseline for a machine that is intended to be mobile. 9400M G, C2D, and under 5 pounds with the 8 cell battery.

    ...a laptop with decent gaming performance that can run for 2+ hours when gaming. Resolution and detail may have to be stepped down, but those frame rates and resolutions are definitely playable.

    Regarding the display. I haven't seen it, but based upon your review, looks like it's got two main issues: It's glossy, some consider that an advantage, I don't. The black level is pretty high (resulting in a poor contrast ratio). That's really only an issue when using it in low light situations, so it's an issue, but probably not a killer one. Max brightness, gamut, color accuracy, etc. are all good.

    The single SO-DIMM slot and difficult HD access are tolerable, but definitely limitations. 3GB is enough for most users, 5GB covers almost everyone, but it would be nice to have 8GB as an option.

    With the P8600, 5GB RAM, an SSD, 1600x900 display, and the backlit keyboard, it sounds like a nice machine. But, at that point, you're getting really close the price of a MacBook Pro.
  • The0ne - Wednesday, October 21, 2009 - link

    Anything beyond 4Gig on laptop will cost and arm and leg. Let me rephrase that. It will cost an arm and leg if you are purchasing 4GB dimms :D I would love to have 8Gig on my laptop but I cannot justify the hundreds of dollars for an extra 4gig that will benefit me little. Reply
  • gstrickler - Wednesday, October 21, 2009 - link

    But prices on 4GB DDR3 SO-DIMMs are coming down, and will continue to do so, it would be nice to have the option when prices aren't outrageous. Reply
  • Guntherman - Tuesday, October 20, 2009 - link

    I ordered mine with the 1600x900 and couldn't be happier with the screen. I do think it is a higher quality than the "720p" one.

    Also, I changed my color from black to blue. The blue has a matte finish which, is very nice. I believe it was a $40 upgrade but, well worth it.

    Overall, I am very pleased with this notebook and I have Windows 7 Pro on it and it runs great! It's also nice to watch Hulu and other HD content via HDMI on my HDTV.
  • fokka - Tuesday, October 20, 2009 - link

    im very interested in this laptop and cant wait till it arives in europe. dell is always a little slow with that.

    imho the most attractive features of this laptop are the cheap keyboard backlight (25$), the hdmi-out in compination with the 9400m and the 1600x900 screen. also the speakers should be quite good in comparison to the competition and for those who need a cardreader, there is an expresscard-option for 25$, too iirc.

    after reading your article, the biggest turn-offs are the battery life, which i think is poor for a 70+wh battery and the poor contrast ratio.

    also i would like to see some metal-cases from dell, but i think in the budget-sector this will remain a dream.

    i now own a dell vostro 1310 and the resolution, grafics, hdmi and speakers would be a welcome upgrade for me, but with only 4 hours of runtime i dont think the 14z will cut it for me. also im dieing for higher contrast and better colours and looking at your measurements i doubt this one will deliver.

    i think the best option for me is the 13" macbook pro, although it still is very expensive.

    however, keep up the good work!
  • beastyben1 - Tuesday, October 20, 2009 - link

    the speakers are the best I've had in a laptop. very loud and clear. Reply
  • BPB - Tuesday, October 20, 2009 - link

    Got this a few months ago for my daughter and we have been VERY happy with it. I believe we went with an 8400 CPU, and I do think as mentioned they were offering higher than the 8600 option mentioned in the article. My daughter got her's in pink, by the way. I guess they got rid of that color option. We went with the higher res screen and backlit keyboard. Again, very, very happy with it. Reply
  • beastyben1 - Tuesday, October 20, 2009 - link

    I've owned this laptop since August.

    Everything is perfect, except the worst touchpad drivers I have ever used. Sticks, freezes just terrible. Must use a mouse. Otherwise I love it. T6500, 8-cell, 1600X900 LED.
  • FATCamaro - Tuesday, October 20, 2009 - link

    How do you people accept this kind of junk. I'm glad I switched to Mac once I started buying laptops. Reply
  • The0ne - Wednesday, October 21, 2009 - link

    Your single interpretation of defect means absolutely nothing in regards to the quality of the laptop. Having said that why in the world you any one of you start a "mine is better than yours" or "Mac is better than Windows PC" debate? It's pointless and childish.

    You're going to have to face that fact that there is NO SINGLE product made without defects. There is no Quality system that will give your 100%, and no TPS doesn't either.

    But you all know this and yet lower yourself to this type of discussion. I wouldn't mind so much if this was in other tech sites but I don't like it on Anandtech where there are typically very knowledgeable and respectful users.

    And lastly I'm 100% sure none of you voicing your opinion is not even in the industry or manufacturing/logistic to know what you're saying other than Google-ing. Trust me when I say this, there are no perfect product. What you call junk isn't junk and what you hail as the mightiest is not either. All you can do is try to Google, or what I call it research, as much as you can and hope that what you paid for isn't in one of the bad ones made.
  • Eagle17 - Wednesday, October 21, 2009 - link

    I have a macbook pro with the santa rosa chips. I have frequent problems with it. I am on my third battery (at $130 ea) the backlit keyboard does not always light up anymore, only 2 usb slots, a funky not always works hold two fingers and press the button for right clicks. The OS is so/so I would be just as happy with linux since there are not many native macos applications that I find usefull.

    the unit is all aluminum which at first glance makes it seem very sturdy however in the three years i have owned it the lid has started to stick and requires more force to open. And like most modern laptops it does get blistering hot.. the metal case just makes that worse.

    The led backlit screen is very good though. that is the one thing i really like about this device. maybe the only thing.
  • JimmyJimmington - Wednesday, October 21, 2009 - link

    "And like most modern laptops it does get blistering hot.. the metal case just makes that worse."

    I don't know what you mean by "most modern laptops." If a laptop is too hard to put on your lap then it's poorly designed.
  • Eagle17 - Wednesday, October 21, 2009 - link

    sorry I mean the last few C2D laptops I have had (2 hp 8xxx series, the macbook pro, and a lenovo t500) they all get pretty hot althought the macbook is the worst.

    both of my atom based netbooks are just fine though. (acer 9in and asus 1005ha)
  • Pirks - Tuesday, October 20, 2009 - link

    Junk? My Alineware notebook pwns any MacBook Pro and dances on its unicorpse, including the top of the line MBP 17, because it has faster hardware. The Alienware's trackpad is shitty, you're right on that, PC trackpads are mostly shit these days compared to Macs but my Alienware still plays all my games REAL fast while MBP craaawls slooowly given same resolution and detail settings... so to each his own. When MBP starts playing games as fast as my Alienware then I may think about it, but it'll never happen, alas. At least not with Jobs at helm. Reply
  • beastyben1 - Tuesday, October 20, 2009 - link

    like Macs are not subject to faults? I'd much rather have this. my .02. Reply
  • GeorgeH - Tuesday, October 20, 2009 - link

    That was an excellent review, thanks. The commentary on each section was just enough to highlight important takeaways and asides without a lot of fluff.

    The only other (very minor) thing that I would have mentioned is that the external DVD burner (slim, eSATA, USB powered) from Dell is a $90 option or about $50-60 for a decentish USB unit from online retailers.
  • tiberious - Tuesday, October 20, 2009 - link

    When i bought mine a few months ago, they included the CPU option of: Intel® Core™ 2 Duo T9550 (2.66GHz/1066Mhz FSB/6MB cache).

    Which makes it a much more useful machine.
  • tiberious - Monday, October 26, 2009 - link

    I should also note the only reason i bought this laptop over other similar sized laptops (hp elitebook's/macbook) was the screen resolution. Short of splashing out on a sony Z series, there doesn't seem to be anyone making smallish laptops with decent resolutions. Reply
  • maddoctor - Tuesday, October 20, 2009 - link

    Good, because it's Intel Inside and with new Core Ix based laptops, nvidia will not have any chance with Intel's chipsets infrastructure business. Reply
  • themadmilkman - Tuesday, October 20, 2009 - link

    Just when I thought there was nothing worse than an Apple fanboy... Reply
  • stmok - Tuesday, October 20, 2009 - link

    themadmilkman, just ignore him. Reply
  • JohnConnor - Sunday, September 12, 2010 - link


    I've read your reviews for many years. Please don't throw your personal color choice, preferences, into a review, as it isn't professional.
    I'm a straight male who is 43, and I like the plum purple, out of the choices given
    It 's one of the reasons why I bought my 14z. I got it refurbished, with a T4200, for $648
    with 3GB of RAM.(I bought the Dell USB dvd-drive, which can blaze using 2 USB ports.

    To all others who don't have this notebook should know this. with, the stock CPU, it was slow.

    Add a T9550 CPU, and a 4GB stick of DDR3 1066Mhz[for 5GB total RAM)
    [both of which I upgraded myself)] and the 8 cell battery, and you have a portable notebook, just above netbook size, which will give you over 8 hours of runtime without the AC!

    I run OS X 10.6.4 SL with Windows 7 Pro x64, in Virtual Box, and love it


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