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.

Notebook Overview Upgradeability and Internals


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  • bowerfind - Thursday, September 10, 2009 - link

    In your review of the Dell XPS16 Studio notebook, the RGB LED 1080p was highly recommended. Dell offers both a 15.6" and a 16.0" edge to edge glass screen. Dell assures me that both of these displays are of equal quality. Which of these 2 displays was examined in your review and do you agree that they are both of equal quality? Reply
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, September 10, 2009 - link

    The display tested was a 1080p 16.0" model, so I don't know about the 15.6" LCD. Reply
  • arst - Saturday, August 1, 2009 - link

    just want to know is there any gamut data between 13~14 inch display laptop? this article show only 15 inch upper laptops.. Reply
  • tOM Trottier - Monday, August 3, 2009 - link

    Alas, this doesn't cover the wide gamut laptop screens from Sony (on Vaio AW series) nor Lenovo (Thinkpads with "Flexview"). The Sony, in particular, is supposed to have about ~136% of Adobe RBG gamut.

  • arst - Monday, August 3, 2009 - link

    thx for reply
    alright, I think i should give up to choose 13~14 inch screen laptoop
    does anyone know any good 15 inch one?
  • griddley - Sunday, July 12, 2009 - link

    Hmmm.. looks like this thread could be dead. But thought I'd ask anyway: Anyone get this sxps 16 with the 1G GPU option? I am concerned about an increase in system noise over the 3670.
    I want to replace a first-gen xps whose fans run all. the. time. (and I clean them regularly!)
  • mlarma - Wednesday, April 22, 2009 - link

    I got one from the Dell outlet store. Let me say that these things are hot tamales there and you'll need to keep tapping refresh or whatever on the filter for the laptop type and when you see one add it to the cart then decide if it is what you want. If not, remove it. Took me an hour of hitting refresh to get the following for $1269:

    Studio XPS 16
    - T9550 (2.66GHz, 6MB Cache, 1067MHz)
    - 4GB (2x2GB DDR3, 1067MHz)
    - 500GB 7200RPM drive (with fall sensor)
    - DVD-RW
    - 1920x1080 screen (this of course was a must have)
    - 5100 wifi card option
    - Bluetooth
    - 2.0MP Camera with facial recognition
    - 6 cell battery
    - Vista Ultimate 64-bit/SP1
    - Standard 1 year warranty, on-site after on-phone diag

    I'm super stoked. Plan on having dual boot with Linux and Vista. I've toyed with a few Linux flavors. Anyone with one of these laptops have a preference?
  • CStyles357 - Tuesday, April 21, 2009 - link

    This should have been compared with the HP HDX 16-1140US Notebook PC - $1,149.99
    Intel Core 2 Duo P8600 2.4GHz Dual-Core X64-Bit Mobile Processor
    4GB DDR2-800 (2x 2GB) PC2-6400 (400MHz) Cas 5 Latency, 5-5-5-15 Timing Memory Max up to 8GB
    Seagate Momentus ST9500325AS 500GB, 5400RPM, 8MB Cache, SATA 3.0Gb/s
    HardDrive w/HP ProtectSmart HD Protection
    Sony NEC Optiarc AD-7543A LightScribe Super Multi 8X DVD+R/RW
    w/Double Layer Support Multimedia Drive
    Samsung 16.0" WSXGA + High-Definition HP Ultra BrightView Infinity Widescreen Display (1920x1080)
    NVIDIA GeForce Go 9600M GT Graphics w/2302MB Shared Video Memory
    (500MHz DDR2 GPU Clock, 512MB, 128Bit, 65nm), DirectX 10, HD Pure Video,
    128bit FP – Graphics Processing Unit
    Realtek RTL8168/8111 Integrated 10/100/1000Mbps BASE-T Ethernet LAN
    Wireless 802.11a/b/g/n integrated WLAN
    Intel WiFi Link 5100AGN w/Bluetooth 2.0 Wireless Technology
    5-in-1 integrated Digital Media Reader
    Altec Lansing Dolby Home Theater Speakers w/Sub-Woofer & Integrated Digital Microphone
    HP Imprint Finish with Integrated 1.3 Megapixel Webcam & Fingerprint Reader
    3 USB 2.0 ports + 1 eSATA/USB port

  • 7Enigma - Tuesday, April 14, 2009 - link

    Thanks again for including "lower/higher is better" in the display portion of the review. Makes browsing that section much easier for some of us.

    I did have a question as to why it seems the Apple products only show up in the benchmarks they do well at (typically the battery life). Where is the x264 benchmark and the rest? I know some of the benchmarks may not have Mac OS compatibility but is just seems like they are only in benchmarks they do well at.
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, April 16, 2009 - link

    Well, I didn't test the MacBooks - that's Anand - and the different OS severely limits the amount of comparing we can do. Playing DVDs or surfing the 'net isn't all that different on OS X, Linux, etc. so we can compare that aspect. Worth note is that MacBook battery life under Vista drops in half... driver problem, or the underlying OS? You decide. Reply

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