So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
Dell Studio 17 1749 17in notebook
The new Dell Studio is a large and powerful 17in notebook that can be used as a business laptop, media centre or gaming PC
- Fast overall performance, two internal hard drives, Blu-ray player, good quality 17in screen
- Screen and bezel are too glossy, keyboard bounces when typing
Dell's Studio 17 1749 is a 17in notebook that can be used as a business laptop, gaming PC or even as a media centre. It provides good performance, plenty of hard drive space and even its battery life is acceptable considering the size of the notebook. A less glossy screen and bezel, and a solid keyboard would improve the overall package. But apart from those quibbles, there is a lot to like about the Dell Studio 17.
Price$ 1,899.00 (AUD)
Dell's Studio 17 1749 is a 3.5kg, 17in laptop with a Core i5-based CPU and plenty of built-in features. It's a laptop that's designed for users who want an affordable desktop replacement, media centre or gaming PC. There are some things about it that we'd change — we'd make its panels less glossy, and we'd also make its keyboard a little more solid. But overall it is a very good all-round notebook.
Dell Studio 17 1749 laptop: Specifications and performance
The Studio 17/1749's specifications are solid; not only do you get a fast 2.53GHz Intel Core i5-540M CPU, it also includes 4GB of DDR3 SDRAM, an ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5650 graphics adapter and — most impressively — it has two 500GB, 7200rpm hard drives. The hard drives aren't installed in a RAID array, instead they are separate drives so that you can use one for the operating system and applications and the other for your data. The system drive averaged a very quick 36.27 megabytes per second (MBps) in our transfer tests, so the overall performance of the Studio 17 1749 will be relatively swift in applications that require data to be duplicated, such as file compression. However, it still wasn't as fast as the hard drive in the Dell Inspiron M501R quad-core notebook , which averaged 40MBps.
In our Blender 3D rendering tests, the Studio 17 1749 averaged a time of 55sec, which is faster than the 60sec achieved by the 2.26GHz, Intel Core i5-430M-based Dell Inspiron 15R N5010 notebook, but nevertheless this result was a little slower than what we expected. For example, the Dell Vostro 3700 notebook and the Samaung R580 notebook, both of which use the 2.4GHz Intel Core i5-520M CPU, also recorded 55sec in the same test; the faster processing speed in the Studio 17 1749 didn’t translate into quicker rendering times in the Blender test.
In our DVD encoding test, in which we use AutoGordianKnot to encode a DVD file to a 1.5GB Xvid file, the Studio 17 1749 recorded a time of 1hr 4min, which is 6min faster than what the Dell Inspiron 15R N5010 recorded, and 1min faster than result recorded in our tests by the Core i7-620M-based Fujitsu LifeBook E780 notebook. The overall combination of the fast CPU and hard drive really helped the Dell Studio 17 1749 to shine in this encoding test.
The Studio 17/1749's graphics performance is also very good, and this was highlighted in the 3DMark06 test, in which the 1GB ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5650 graphics adapter recorded 7534. You will definitely be able to play many of the latest games on this laptop, although some might require you to use medium or low quality graphics details.
Dell Studio 17/1749: Battery life
With so much power under the hood, we didn't expect the Studio 17/1749's 56 Watt-hour battery to last long at all in our rundown test, but for a moment there we thought it would shame us. Its result of 1hr 49min is a reasonable score for a 17in notebook and it will provide enough battery life to allow you to watch a standard-length movie while sitting in your backyard or balcony, for example. It even outlasted the 16in Samsung R580 laptop by 14min. We test the battery performance without any power management settings, with WiFi enabled, with maximum screen brightness, and while looping an Xvid-encoded video. You should get more battery life out of the Dell Studio 17 if you employ the power management settings and only use the laptop for basic office tasks and browsing the Web.
Studio 17/1749: Features and design
Along the sides of the Studio 17 1749 you'll find three USB 2.0 ports (one less than we'd expect on a laptop of this size), eSATA (shared with one of the USB 2.0 ports), Gigabit Ethernet, FireWire, HDMI, DisplayPort and VGA ports. There is also an ExpressCard/34 slot, an SD card slot and two headphone ports in addition to a microphone port. The right side of the chassis has a slot-loading DVD burner and Blu-ray player, which adds a touch of style to the overall design of the notebook. You can eject discs by pressing the illuminated eject touch-button just above the keyboard next to the illuminated volume and media controls.
If you plan to use the Studio 17 1749 as a media centre, the integrated TV tuner will come in handy, but it doesn't ship with a remote control. A webcam is installed in the screen, and there is an 802.11n WiFi adapter and Bluetooth, too.
The speakers are located at the base of the laptop, at the edge of the vast palm rest and while they provide excellent sound quality (for a notebook), if you listen to music while you type, then the left speaker will be muffled due to it’s position. In our tests of the Toshiba Qosmio X300 we came across a similar issue with its speakers.
The screen has a native resolution of 1600x900 (you can specify a 1920x1080 panel for an extra $258.50) and it possesses very good brightness and contrast, making it perfect for viewing and working on images and photos. However, it's a glossy screen that will reflect any lights that are behind you — it was apparent when using the laptop in an office environment. The bezel around the screen is also glossy, which is also distracting when viewing videos and movies.
We found the keyboard of the Studio 17 1749 to be a little too bouncy for our liking, but the keys themselves felt comfortable to type on. There is a full-sized number pad on the right side that is useful if you often work with spreadsheets and accounting programs, for example. The touchpad is large and has soft buttons, and it was smooth and responsive during our tests. It sports the same pattern as the rest of the palm rest, which makes it difficult to distinguish.
There's no doubt the Dell Studio 17 1749 is a great notebook: it's big, powerful and comfortable to use for the most part. You get a lot of good features — including two hard drives — and you can use it as a business notebook, a gaming PC or as a media centre. Ultimately the choice is yours.
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