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
eSATA/USB 2.0 combo
Antenna (not functional in this unit)
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

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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  • Hrel - Friday, September 3, 2010 - link

    I'd love to have basically this exact same laptop in a 15" Variant. I'd pay for the 1080p screen, and I'd even be ok with a mobile hyperthreaded dual core CPU, like the Core i7620. This type of laptop is exactly the class I want, good for media purposes, viewing and editing, and still able to play all the games I play. I REALLY REALLY don't care if it can max out crysis. As long as it plays the games, even if the graphics settings are on minimum, then I'm good. My desktop can handle all that eye candy.

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