Notebook Overview

The Studio XPS 16 comes in a 16" chassis, similar to the Acer 6920G we reviewed last year. In fact, there are many similarities between the two products, with multimedia functions definitely being a key component. The Dell Studio XPS 16 tends to focus a bit more on performance than the Acer 6920 line, with a higher performance GPU included in all models. As with the majority of Dell products, you can also custom build a Studio XPS 16 rather than choosing among several different preconfigured models. We'll start with an overview of the configuration options.

Dell Studio XPS 16 Specs and Configuration Options
Processor Core 2 Duo P8600, P8700, T9550, T9800 (subject to change)
Chipset Intel PM45 + ICH9M
Memory 2x2048MB up to 2x4096MB DDR3-1066
Graphics ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3670 512MB
Display 16.0" Edge-to-Edge Glossy White LED 720p (1366x768)
16.0" Edge-to-Edge Glossy RGB LED 1080p (1920x1080)
Hard Drive Up to 256GB SSD or 500GB 7200RPM
Optical Drive 8x DVDR SuperMulti or 4X Blu-ray Combo Drive (DVDR + BD-ROM)
Networking Broadcom Gigabit Ethernet (BCM5784M PCI-E)
Intel WiFi Link 5100 or 5300
Bluetooth v2.0 (optional)
Mobile Broadband of AT&T, Sprint, or Verizon (optional)
Audio 2-Channel Sigmatel 9273 HD Audio (2.1 Speakers)
Optional ExpressCard Sound Blaster X-Fi Xtreme
Battery 6-Cell 56Whr, 9-cell 85Whr
Front Side None
Left Side Kensington Lock
VGA
Gigabit Ethernet
DisplayPort
HDMI
2 x USB 2.0
Microphone, 2 x Headphone
Right Side ExpressCard/54
SD/MMC/MS Pro reader
1 x Mini FireWire
Slot-load Optical Drive
1 x eSATA/USB 2.0
Power Adapter
Back Side Heat Exhaust
Operating System Windows Vista Home Premium 32/64-bit
Windows Vista Ultimate 32/64-bit
Dimensions 16.2" x 12.0" x 1.7"-2.5" (WxDxH)
Weight 6.41 lbs (with 6-cell battery)
Extras 2.0MP Webcam
87-Key Backlit Keyboard
15-month McAfee, Norton, or Trend Micro Internet Security (free)
Warranty 1-year standard; up to 4-year extended (add up to $700 with Complete Care)
Price Starting at ~$1100 online

At the heart of the XPS 16, you can select from several different dual-core processors. These range from the 2.4GHz P8600 up to the 2.93GHz T9800. Note that the 8000 series processors include 3MB of cache while the 9000 series includes 6MB, so even at the same clock speed you can expect a 5 to 10% performance boost. The unit we received for testing includes the least expensive P8600, but it's unlikely most people will need more processing power in a laptop. If you do need more power, you might want to look at offerings that allow you to select a quad-core CPU, like the Gateway P-7808u FX or Toshiba X305 - both of which are larger and cost more than a standard Studio XPS 16.

Graphics duties are handled by the ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3670 512MB, which is capable of handling most modern games at moderate resolutions. As you might expect, playing through demanding titles at the native 1080p resolution of the upgraded LCD often results in very poor performance, but you can always run games at 720p or 1366x768 - or with lower detail settings - to improve the situation. In terms of overall performance, ATI's HD 3670 will generally outpace most of the midrange mobile NVIDIA products; you need to get into the 9700M, 9800M, or the GT 200M GPUs to clearly surpass the HD 3670.

Of course, besides the performance question there's also the matter of drivers, and NVIDIA has really stepped things up in that area by offering reference mobile drivers for most NVIDIA laptops. We didn't encounter any issues with the included ATI drivers on the Dell Studio XPS 16, but we know from past experience that such problems can and do occur, and it would be great if users could find updated drivers from ATI/AMD rather than waiting on the manufacturer. To their credit, Dell is usually pretty good about releasing updated drivers, at least early in the product lifecycle; however, we know plenty of users that have been left out in the cold in the past, especially once a laptop is more than a year old.

As a side note, the drivers initially installed on the laptop were version 8.512-080703a - if that doesn't make sense, the second field is apparently the date of the driver build, which in this case is July 3, 2008. Yeah, that's a bit out of date, considering this laptop wasn't even available for purchase until early 2009. Dell has released updated drivers (version 8.59-090213, available from Dell as of March 29, 2009), but we're not sure how the old original drivers ended up on the laptop in the first place. This is supposed to be a standard retail build, so hopefully this was just an oversight on our test system. The latest drivers do improve performance somewhat, but it's only a difference of about 3-5% in spot testing of several games. Rather than delay this article further, we kept the testing results from the original drivers.

The remaining specifications are about what you would expect from a modern midrange to high-end notebook. Our sample laptop shipped with a Blu-ray drive and the upgraded LCD - and again, we can't stress how much we like the high-end LCD option. SSDs are available in sizes up to 256GB, which is quite large for a $400 SSD! It's not an Intel or Indilinx model, but one reader indicates the SSD uses a new Samsung controller and performs quite well. We'll reserve final judgment until we can personally test it, but a price of "only" $1.56 per GB for a good quality SSD would be a great deal.

We have to applaud Dell in regards to memory options on the Studio XPS 16. Even the entry-level $1100 configuration comes standard with 4GB (2x2GB) of DDR3-1066 memory. Upgrading to even more memory is possible, but the price hike is steep starting at $400 for 5GB (1x4GB + 1x1GB). That's not too surprising, as 4GB SO-DIMM modules are quite a bit more expensive than their 2GB counterparts. 2x2GB will cost somewhere between $50 and $75; a single 4GB DDR3 SO-DIMM on the other hand currently sells for over $350. Ouch! So unless you really need more memory, we recommend sticking with 2x2GB for now.

As configured, our test system has a price of around $1600 with the default 1-year warranty. That includes a 320GB 7200RPM HDD, Blu-ray drive, Bluetooth, and the 1080p LCD. If you start with the basic $1100 model and just add the LCD, you can get everything we really want from the Studio XPS 16 for $1350.

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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.

    tOM
    Reply
  • 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?
    Reply
  • 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!)
    Reply
  • 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?
    Reply
  • 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

    Reply
  • 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.
    Reply
  • 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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