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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  • bijeshn - Thursday, August 19, 2010 - link

    Thanks for the 'to-the point' review.

    However I would really like to see how the Studio 17 fares in comparison...
    Reply
  • shamans33 - Thursday, August 19, 2010 - link

    Same here....I'd like to see Studio 15 and Studio 17 Reply
  • Dustin Sklavos - Thursday, August 19, 2010 - link

    ASK AND YOU SHALL RECEIVE

    Actually finishing up a review of the Studio 17 right now, but here's where I stand on the issues:

    1. I bought mine a month ago, and love it.

    2. It's a little noisy but it's POWERFUL.

    3. Best speakers I've ever heard on a notebook.
    Reply
  • Voldenuit - Thursday, August 19, 2010 - link

    Too expensive - this should be $650-700 as configured, not $900.

    Slow GPU.

    Too heavy - should be 4.5 lbs.

    No Blu-ray drive - at $900, it should come with one.

    Low resolution LCD - just because everyone else sucks, doesn't mean Dell should be left off the hook.

    Unexceptional battery life - it's not bad, just "adequate", which sums up the Studio 14 really.

    Agree with the conclusion that it is a thoroughly bland and unremarkable notebook. Where I don't agree is that it is a solid contender. "Don't be the best be like the rest" should be Dell's motto.
    Reply
  • vol7ron - Thursday, August 19, 2010 - link

    agreed. Reply
  • seanleeforever - Thursday, August 19, 2010 - link

    with all due respect. no one pays retail price for dell.. what happen to those 20~30% off coupons? and 699 out of 1500 dollar coupons?

    900 retail price nicely translate to 600~700 street price.
    Reply
  • neothe0ne - Thursday, August 19, 2010 - link

    You can get the Envy 14 with Core i3-370m (probably faster than the i5-430m) and Radeon 5650 + switchable graphics for $1000. Not to mention the Envy's base Intel 6200 wireless is probably leagues better than "Dell" wireless by their own component upgrade pricing. This Studio 14 for $900 is a crap deal. Reply
  • djjazzyjeff - Thursday, August 19, 2010 - link

    The Envy 14 is an overpriced, gratuitously branded piece of crap. Hideous styling, downclocked GPU and abhorrent trackpad make the Envy 14 a non-starter for most. Reply
  • zoxo - Thursday, August 19, 2010 - link

    what's wrong with the style of the Envy14? My only problems with that machine is the lack of matte screen option, and general availability (especially in Europe) Reply
  • neothe0ne - Thursday, August 19, 2010 - link

    You haven't actually configured and used the touchpad, have you? Reply

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