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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  • SteelCity1981 - Thursday, August 26, 2010 - link

    Intel Core i7-720QM
    (4x1.6GHz, 45nm, 8MB L3, Turbo to 2.8GHz, 45W)

    It should be....

    Intel Core i7-720QM
    (4x1.6GHz, 45nm, 6MB L3, Turbo to 2.8GHz, 45W)

    The Intel Core i7-72xQM series use only 6MB of L3 cache.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, August 26, 2010 - link

    Fixed. Reply
  • InternetGeek - Thursday, August 26, 2010 - link

    Hi Guys,

    I noticed the benchmarks do not include the HP Pavillion 17". Is it because it was too slow or just not available for the benchmarks?

    Still reading the review...
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, August 26, 2010 - link

    It's a case of reviewing what we've received... or in this case, what Dustin bought for himself. The reason he didn't even consider the Pavilion 17 is because he's a multimedia (video) user. He wanted quad-core i7, but he also needs Firewire support and would really like ExpressCard/34 as well. The Pavilion 17 lacks both features. Reply
  • kmmatney - Thursday, August 26, 2010 - link

    I would love to get a new laptop, but my current Dell, which is over 3 years old, has a 17" 1920 x 1200 screen. Giving up those 300 vertical pixels is going to suck. I really wish they would go back to 16:10 screens, at least for laptops.

    I have to say my Dell Inspiron 9400, with a merom T7200, has been very good. It has taken a tremendous amount of travel and abuse (a 6 foot drop onto a concrete floor once) and has held up well. My next machine will be another Dell laptop, if I can help it, but I really hate the vertial screen resolutions.
    Reply
  • B3an - Thursday, August 26, 2010 - link

    If you read the display page you would have seen that you can choose a 1080p res display. Still less pixels but not many.

    I agree about 16:10, it's much better.
    Reply
  • Nfarce - Thursday, August 26, 2010 - link

    That's exactly what he's referring too (as I did below): 1920x1080 vs. 1920x1200.

    Oh and one other thing I forgot to mention for comparison's sake to the older Dell Inspirons of 2006-2007 E-series: even a 15" E1505 could be optioned with a 1920x1200 high resolution display.
    Reply
  • Nfarce - Thursday, August 26, 2010 - link

    I agree w/kmmatney. I also have a 17" Inspiron (E1705 that's 4 1/2 years old now with ATi x1300 and T7200). It ran the older games like HL2 and Return To Castle Wolfenstein great at 1920x1200. I still use it as a gaming machine for older games when I get the nostalgic feeling. But the days of 1920x1200 are drawing to a close even for regular LCDs, of which I have a 26" Samsung. Everything nowadays is at 1920x1080. Can anyone offer a logical explanation for that? I'm really bothered by this because I use Microsoft FSX a lot and 16x9 aspect resolution pinches the cockpit gauges somewhat. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, August 26, 2010 - link

    Logical? Well, it's simply a case of the LCD panel makers being able to get more displays out of a sheet of glass substrate with 16:9 than with 16:10. If you do the math, of course, a 17" 16:10 panel is around 130 in^2 and a 17.3" 1080p panel is 128 in^2, but the glass sheets they're made from (with all the LCD circuitry and such) may be better sized for the wider+narrower panels.

    The other side of the equation is that with movies going widescreen, and the push for PCs to become more multimedia capable, WS displays make sense. That doesn't mean 16:9 is better than 16:10, but in some marketing departments....
    Reply
  • erple2 - Thursday, August 26, 2010 - link

    <quote>The other side of the equation is that with movies going widescreen, and the push for PCs to become more multimedia capable, WS displays make sense.</quote>

    Normally, I'd agree, but movies are generally far more than 16:9 AR. They're generally in the anamorphic (2.33:1) or 1.87:1 (not the 1.78:1, aka 16:9).

    I think that your second guess (that the glass made for LCD panels lends itself better to 16:9) is probably the right one. I also suspect that became a circular "problem" - Someone somewhere decided to try 16:9 instead of 16:10, marketed that as the AR used for HD (720p or 1080p), then found out it was cheaper to make (for the same "size"), then stuck with it.
    Reply

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