Studio 14: Gaming in Practice

We've recently revised our gaming benchmark suite to make things more consistent and hopefully clean up the data we present to you. We're also adding StarCraft II to the suite and it's hard not to make a convincing case for it: the game is immensely popular, but also stresses a system fairly evenly, capable of being limited at both the CPU and GPU levels. If it has one fatal flaw, it's poor threading: StarCraft II doesn't take advantage of more than two cores, potentially leading to severe CPU-limited situations on quad-core processors that operate at slower clocks. We'll be looking at this more in an upcoming article, but here are some preliminary SC2 results (subject to change if we modify our test sequence). Because of the change in benchmarks, we won't have quite as few systems listed for comparison, but we will be adding more laptops to the mix over the coming weeks and months.

Battlefield: Bad Company 2

DiRT 2

Left 4 Dead 2

Mass Effect 2

Stalker: Call of Pripyat

StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty

And here's where the HD 5470 gets dicey. You would think by 2010 that a dedicated graphics part should be able to handle any modern game at 720p (technically 1366x768 or 768p), at least at the lowest settings. After all, the Xbox 360 is nearly five years old, and 720p is the target for that console. But the Mobility Radeon HD 5470 can't: Mass Effect 2 and Battlefield: Bad Company 2 are basically unplayable. You can probably make a case excusing Bad Company 2 (or drop it to DX9 mode to get frame rates up another 20%), but Mass Effect 2 uses an extremely common engine—Unreal Engine 3—and a fairly well-optimized implementation at that. If you bump the resolution down, you can get these games playable, but we're of the opinion that you shouldn't have to. If you're a glutton for punishment on the other hand…

Midrange Gaming? Not Hardly…

Battlefield: Bad Company 2

DiRT 2

Left 4 Dead 2

Mass Effect 2

Stalker: Call of Pripyat

StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty

Bumping up to our new "Medium" test settings on the same set of games is pain inducing. Literally, the slideshow that was BFBC2 nearly caused me to toss my cookies. Obviously, these settings are not playable, though the 5470 does manage to put paid to NVIDIA's similarly anemic 310M. Less taxing titles might break the 30 FPS mark, but you'll definitely encounter games where even minimum detail is out of reach at the native resolution. The M11x from Dell's Alienware brand manages significantly better gaming performance, although there are instances where games may be CPU limited (i.e. StarCraft II)—we'll be looking at another laptop with a faster CPU and the same GPU soon to see if that's the case.

Paying an extra $160 just to get to this point is extremely difficult to justify; if you mean to do light gaming on the go and are willing to turn down settings, we're comfortable recommending going for the Mobility Radeon HD 540v instead. The 540v should perform very close to the 5470 while reducing the overall system price. If you'd rather get something that can actually handle gaming at medium detail, you might want to check out the ASUS K42JV and N82JV (a review of the latter will be posted in the next couple of weeks).

Synthetic Graphics Performance with 3DMark Studio 14 Battery Life
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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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