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Old July 14, 2009, 05:12 PM
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Default Dell Studio 14z Review (Image Heavy)

Earlier this year I decided that I finally needed a replacement for my venerable T41 Thinkpad. While the system it’s self is just a little more powerful then a netbook, its battery had worn down, and a replacement battery was not economical. So the hunt for a replacement system began. After an exhaustive search, I finally decided on the Dell Studio 14z. It seemed like an excellent balance of power and mobility. But will this newcomer from Dell hold up? Let’s go and take a look!

Laptop overview

Windows Vista Home Premium 64 bit
Intel Core 2 Duo P8600 @ 2.4 ghz,3mb L2 cache, 1066 mhz FSB
3GB DDR3 @1066mhz
14.0” HD (720p) LED backlit screen (1366 by 768)
Nvidia 9400m integrated graphics chip with 256MB of shared memory.
250GB 5400rpm Hardrive
Dell Wireless 1397 802.11g
Dell Bluetooth 365 internal (2.1)
Dimensions: Width: 13.23" (336.0mm), Height: 0.79" (20.0mm) front / 1.22" (30.9mm) back , Depth: 9.02" (229.0mm)
Weight: With 8 Cell Battery Approx. 5.1 LBS.
Total Cost :1159 Canadian






Build Quality


Overall, for being a “plastic” laptop, the Studio 14z has a good solid feel. It uses the wedge design that Dell has been using in it's other Studio laptops. Possibly due to it's small and fairly thin profile, the laptop has very little flex in it's frame. However, the plastic covering above the heat vent did seem to be a little weak, and there was some give in it. That and the black chain-link design on the screen cover pick up finger prints and debris like everything. If this bugs you, I would shell out the extra 30 bucks and get one of the color covers, I believe these use a rubber-ish material, which is bound to pick up less finger prints.










The bottom of this notebook is decent, with only a single cover for the one slot of ram. If you plan on upgrading your hardrive, you'll have to remove the entire bottom panel. That aside, even the bottom of this notebook feels good.





Screen and Sound


Dell chose an excellent screen to use in this laptop. It's very sharp, no doubt due to the 720p HD used. The back light is very bright, even when turned down to conserve battery. There are no faded or dark spots. One thing to note is that this is a glossy screen, and I did notice a definite glare when used close to a lamp or in direct sun light. This picture definitely does no do it justice.




As for the speaker quality, they're better then the average laptops, and the “tweeters” that dell hyped definitely help give it a full sound. Bass is decent, but nothing spectacular. The only thing that I notice was that certain crackle out on the speakers when listening to higher parts of a song at sound above half volume.


Keyboard and Touchpad


The keyboard is solidly designed, with a slight chicklet style to it. There is no flex in the keyboard, and all keys have a nice sounding click to them. Dell followed the trend set by the Studio 1555 and omitted any touch sensitive buttons, instead place them on the function keys. Dell has also set the function keys to those setting by default, meaning you have to use the FN key to use just the function key. This may or may not be a problem for you.

The touchpad is good, with easy to use scrolling and zoom functions. I found that the keys are a little bit flimsy feeling, and the fact that they sit in the same depression as the track pad makes them a little hard to define.


Ports and Features

Dell did a good job of fleshing out the out the laptop here, with two exceptions. The left side has an USB port, vent, Display Port, and HDMI. Nothing on the front. The right side has an Express Card/34, Two line-out, Line-in, Mini-Firewire, eSATA/USB, and a USB port.







Note that there is no optical drive. Dell's reasoning for this is that it's target crowd use online services to download their media. Dell also offers a choice of an external DVD-RW drive, and a Blu-Ray drive. I didn't find this too much of a problem, because I use iTunes and Steam for most of my media. I don't think that lack of an optical drive should detract too much from this laptop.


A card reader would have been a nice feature as well. Most media laptops now include one, and it is disappointing that Dell forces you to buy one as an extra.


Performance

For it's price, the Studio 14z had some good performance numbers. Naturally it worked fine for web use and typing documents. Gaming performance was decent, with handling Left 4 Dead with no problem, even in levels with tons of zombies. However, it did stutter in Fallout 3, mostly due to the large, open areas.

PCMark 05 scores (highest to lowest)
Lenovo T400s (SP9600 @ 2.53 ghz) 7590 PCMarks

Dell Studio XPS 13 (P8600@ 2.4ghz) 5450 PCMarks

Dell Studio 14z (P8600@ 2.4 ghz) 5257 PCMarks

HP Pavilion dv3510nr (P7350@ 2.0 ghz) 4920 PCMarks

Apple Macbook Pro 13 (P8400 @ 2.26 ghz) 4136 PCMarks

3DMark 06 (highest to lowest)

Dell Studio XPS 13 (P8600@ 2.4ghz, 9500m GE hybrid SLI) 3542 3DMarks

Dell Studio 14z (P8600@ 2.4ghz, 9400m) 2230 3DMarks

Macbook Pro 13 (P8400@ 2.26ghz, 9400m) 2139 3DMarks

HP Pavilion dv3510nr (P7350@ 2.0ghz, 9500m/512mb) 1865 3DMarks

Lenovo T400s (SP9600@ 2.53ghz, Intel X4500) 996 3DMarks


Heat and Battery
The Studio 14z does a good job of managing heat. All the time I used it during my rundown test it never became uncomfortable warm. However, during more intense use, it definitely became warm near the vent, and dead center underneath the laptop. This didn't really detract from the experience, seeing that this was during benchmarking and gaming (something you should be doing on a desk.)


Battery life was good, not quite the 6 and a half hours promised, but not bad either. I managed to get 5 hours and 25 minutes with the screen turned down just below half, wireless on, and in power saver mode. This isn't too bad, but it seems like an 8 cell battery should get a tad more.


Conclusion
I was very pleased with the Studio 14z. It seems like a great combination of power and portablility. At 1159, the price wasn't too bad either. This laptop is an excellent choice for students who need to carry around a laptop, but also want to do some light gaming and such. While not having an optical drive is kind of a kicker, it really isn't that much of an inconvenience, not in today's world of online media.


One thing I would like to note though, while not having anything to do with the laptop itself Dell took an extraordinary long time to build and ship this laptop. I ordered it on the 4 of June, not to receive it until Monday July 13th. I had to go through 3 delays, for which Dells only explanation was they didn't have the parts. I found this funny, considering none of the parts I ordered had the “may delay ship date”.


Pros
Portable
Good Power/Portability
Plenty of Ports
Excellent quality


Cons
No optical drive
Glossy screen
Ship Time
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Windows 7-64
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Old July 14, 2009, 06:22 PM
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Glossy screen on a laptop = idiotic. Actually, what I really want to say about glossy laptop screens can't be said on the forums.
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Old July 14, 2009, 06:29 PM
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Yea, it would be an amazing screen if Dell would realize that.
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Asus P7P55D motherboard
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Plextor DVD +/- RW
Corsair TX 750 W power supply
Windows 7-64
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Old July 14, 2009, 06:52 PM
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That was a great review! I have been looking for a laptop for myself and this looks like a great purchase. I noticed you have steam installed, what games do you play and how well do they run on that laptop?
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Old July 14, 2009, 08:52 PM
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Well, so far I've only play tested L4D and TF2. L4D works great, even in areas with a large amount of zombies. I've only been able to play TF2 on empty servers (valve patch screwed stuff up), but it seems to work great too. Are there any other games you'd like me to play test?
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Antec 900
Intel Core i5 @ 2.66GHz
Asus P7P55D motherboard
EVGA 9800 GTX+ Superclocked
4GB of Patriot Viper II DDR3 RAM
2X320 GB Western Digital @ 7200 RPM
Plextor DVD +/- RW
Corsair TX 750 W power supply
Windows 7-64
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Old July 14, 2009, 08:55 PM
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Nope, TF2 was just what I was looking for. Thanks!
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Old July 23, 2009, 01:35 PM
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An interesting thing to note, this laptop really has some good gaming potential. I was able to get Dead Space running very smoothly at medium settings. The only place it had trouble was during scenes with multiple flashing light sources; but even that was tough to notice. I'm planning on giving Crysis Warhead this evening. A note on battery life, with wifi turned off on a full charge, estimated time got up to 7 hours.
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Antec 900
Intel Core i5 @ 2.66GHz
Asus P7P55D motherboard
EVGA 9800 GTX+ Superclocked
4GB of Patriot Viper II DDR3 RAM
2X320 GB Western Digital @ 7200 RPM
Plextor DVD +/- RW
Corsair TX 750 W power supply
Windows 7-64
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Old July 23, 2009, 02:29 PM
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Nice review Wolf. Sad to hear about your delayed shipment though. Just seems to be the luck of the draw I guess. My friend just got a Vostro 1520 and it showed up in just over a week. That Nvidia 9400m is kicking the snot out of Intel's integrated solutions. I am glad to it in Dell's models.

Did you reformat this puppy or are you running it with the Dell default install?
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Old September 28, 2009, 06:55 PM
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I don't understand, what does this have that is better than the similarly priced macbook? (Genuinely wondering, not wanting any sort of flame war :P)
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Old September 28, 2009, 07:18 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by esperasoppa View Post
I don't understand, what does this have that is better than the similarly priced macbook? (Genuinely wondering, not wanting any sort of flame war :P)
It has more RAM, a bigger HDD, a faster CPU, better battery life, bigger screen, than a 1149$ Macbook. It is possible the macbook has things going for itself...
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