The decent battery life, dual-band wireless adaptor and high-quality screen make this a great laptop, but there are better deals out there.
Dell’s Studio 1558 is a sturdy and attractive laptop with a 15.6in widescreen display. We were very taken by the rubber-textured metallic aubergine finish on the lid. Inside, it is more restrained, with a black bezel around the screen and a silver wrist rest.
Unlike most of the 15.6in laptops we’ve seen recently, the Studio 1558 lacks a numeric keypad. This isn’t likely to be a big problem for most people and means that there’s more space for the keyboard. We found that the standard laptop keyboard was comfortable to use. With no unusual layouts or large gaps between the keys, we didn’t have to adapt our typing style to accommodate it.
The touchpad is sufficiently well positioned to prevent us from brushing it by accident while typing although we occasionally pinched-to-zoom by accident while moving the mouse cursor. The keyboard itself has a backlight, which makes it easy to use under low light levels.
We found that the wrist rest gets rather warm, which can become uncomfortable if you type with your wrists flat against the laptop for an extended period. The base of the laptop also gets warmer than most, particularly on the left-hand side. In general, the Studio 1558 is warmer to touch than most of the Core i5 laptops we’ve reviewed, although not to the point of being unusable.
Dell has left little room for improvement here. The 2.26GHz Intel Core i5-430M processor and 4GB of RAM (all of which is usable thanks to the 64-bit version of Windows) worked to produce an Overall score of 87 in our benchmark tests, showing that this laptop will cope with anything you throw at it.
Graphics are provided by a 512MB ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4570 graphics processor, which managed a more-or-less playable 21.1fps in CoD4 at 1,280×720. At the 15.6in display’s native 1,920×1,080 resolution with AA disabled we got a framerate of 18fps. This is good news for 3D gamers, as most games should be playable if you can live with a few compromises to your graphical quality.
Another advantage of the Studio 1558’s HD graphics processor and native 1080p display is that you’ll be able to play High Definition video files. The display itself looks stunning – evenly lit with accurate colour even on plain white screens.You can also connect the laptop to a TV via its HDMI port. It only has a standard DVD-RW drive, though, so you won’t be able to play Blu-ray discs.
The 1558 has three USB ports and a Firewire port, but no eSATA connection. We were pleasantly surprised to find that it has a dual-band wireless adaptor built into it, with support for both 2.4GHz and 5GHz 802.11n networking, making it one of the first laptops we’ve seen that can connect to the latest dual-band routers. It also has a built-in Bluetooth adaptor.
Three 3.5mm stereo ports which can be configured for 5.1 analogue surround sound speakers. The built-in speaker produces reasonably well balanced but somewhat fuzzy sound. The integrated memory card reader supports SDHC, MMC and Memory Stick PRO formats and a 320GB hard disk provides a reasonable amount of storage. We were pleased with the Studio’s three hour, 33 minute battery life, too.
However, despite the benefits of Bluetooth, dual-band wireless and a good battery life, the £763 Studio 1558 looks much less tempting when compared to Sony’s cheaper Vaio EB1Z0E, which has a similar specification with the addition of a Blu-ray drive. It’s the better choice.
|Processor||Intel Core i5-520M|
|Processor clock speed||2.26GHz|
|Memory slots free||0|
|Sound||IDT HD Audio|
|Viewable size||15.6 in|
|Graphics Processor||ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4570|
|Graphics/video ports||VGA, HDMI|
|Total storage capacity||320GB|
|Optical drive model||PLDS DL-8ATS|
|Optical drive type||DVD+/-RW +/-DL|
Ports and Expansion
|Total Firewire ports||1|
|Wired network ports||1x 10/100/1000|
|Wireless networking support||dual-band 802.11n|
|PC Card slots||none|
|Supported memory cards||SD, SDHC, MMC, Memory Stick PRO|
|Operating system||Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit|
|Operating system restore option||backup and recovery software|
|Software included||Microsoft Works 9|
|Warranty||one year collect and return|