Parsing the intended markets for Dell's ever-shifting in-house brand names requires some tea-leaf reading. It's been easier lately, with the company stripping down its consumer brands to just the Inspiron and XPS lines.
Now the company is adding a new line between the budget Inspiron and the high-end XPS. The new Studio line, as personified by the 15.4-inch Studio 15, has the same tapered shape, slot-loading optical drive and rounded hinge as the Dell XPS M1530, but a similarly configured Studio system costs roughly £350 less than a similarly outfitted XPS.
The base model of the Studio 15 costs around £479. We've reviewed a model that includes an upgraded CPU, which costs around £540 from Dell. All prices were correct at the time of writing.
The trade-off is mostly in size and finish. Even though it has a similar look, the Studio laptop is about 25 per cent thicker and slightly heavier than its more upscale XPS cousin, with plastic accents instead of metal.
We'd be tempted to toss in the extra £350 for the brushed-metal wrist rest and slimmer design of the XPS, but the Studio line does offer personalisation options -- including lots of colours and graphic imprints -- beyond what's available for Dell's other laptops.
While clearly inspired by the popular XPS M1530, the Studio 15 has a more angular look, with its large side hinges curving the screen down at a sharp angle; the XPS presents a more rounded look. At 2.77kg, it's too heavy to tote around every day, but still at the lower end of the 15-inch scale.
Our early review unit had a matte midnight blue lid, but as mentioned, there are a variety of colour options. It's also available in several artistic design motifs.
The Studio 15 follows Dell's recent -- and welcome -- trend of putting HDMI outputs and touch-sensitive control buttons on just about every laptop. You can also get those on even the cheapest Inspiron 15-inch models. Like the XPS M1530, it has a slot-loading optical drive and an Express Card slot that doubles as a holder for a credit-card-style media remote.
Also like the XPS M1530, the Studio 15 has a 15.4-inch LED-backlit display with a native resolution of 1,440x900 pixels, which is standard for higher-end mid-size laptops. Dell's cheaper Inspiron 1525 has a 1,280x800-pixel display, but the extra screen real estate at the higher resolution in the Studio 15 makes for a much less cluttered desktop. We prefer these newer LED displays over older LCD models lit by a fluorescent lamp because of their lighter weight, brighter whites and lower power consumption.
Dell includes plenty of additional upgrade options and an industry-standard one-year parts-and-labour warranty
with the system.