Dell Studio XPS 16: the Eyes Have Itby Jarred Walton on April 2, 2009 6:00 PM EST
- Posted in
Design and Appearance
For whatever reason, 16:9 aspect ratio displays and notebooks are becoming all the rage. What's odd about this is that most multimedia content (i.e. Blu-ray movies) target even wider aspect ratios like 2.35:1. Personally, I wouldn't consider 16:9 any better than 16:10, but it's not worse either. The Dell Studio XPS 16 is a 16" chassis with one of these "new" 16:9 displays.
The Studio XPS 16 sports a stylish black exterior, with a glossy plastic finish and a leather patch on the lower half of the LCD cover. Whether that's to make carrying the laptop more comfortable or simply for styling purposes, we do think the overall appearance is quite nice. At least, it looks great initially... once you start using the laptop all the dark glossy surfaces quickly accumulate fingerprints and smudge marks. Dell is kind enough to include a cloth to help you wipe away those fingerprints, but many people are getting tired of dark, glossy laptop finishes.
Fingerprints are also a problem with the display, which has an edge-to-edge glossy sheet of plastic covering the panel. The surface of the display is highly reflective in the wrong lighting conditions, although that's balanced somewhat by this being the brightest LCD panel we have used in a laptop to date. Some people will absolutely love the design but others would prefer the option of selecting a matte LCD finish. Apple offers such an option with their MacBook Pro, which is one area where Apple can claim a victory in terms of the LCD.
Another rather odd design decision also involves the LCD cover. If you look at the pictures above showing the rear of the laptop, you can see the only ventilation is at the back-left corner. The problem is that when you open up the laptop, the bottom edge of the panel blocks this exhaust port. We didn't have any issues with instability, but Studio XPS 16 does tend to get rather warm at times and we can't help but feel the position of the top panel relative to the exhaust is partly to blame.
If it sounds as though we are being overly harsh on the Studio XPS 16, most of these complaints are relatively minor. Fingerprints and smudge marks aren't the end of the world, and only the obstructed ventilation port is a real issue. The chassis is otherwise quite good, and we like that Dell has used metal instead of plastic on the bottom. It's probably no surprise that we still give the nod to Apple in terms of style and build quality, but the Studio XPS 16 is better than most laptops.