Like the Dell Studio 15 Artist Edition, the new Dell Studio 14 (Artist Edition) is a 14-inch laptop that combines excellent performance with very good looks. It's based on Intel's PineTrail processor, the Core i3-350M, and comes with a dedicated ATI Radeon HD 5450 graphics card.
Design & Usability
The new Dell Studio 14 screen lid has a glossy surface with customizable colors which you can configure on Dell's website. Our review unit came with purple colored horizontal lines streaking across its screen lid -- clearly not the best look the Studio 14 has to offer. The laptop preserves characteristic Studio design elements like its dropped hinges, sturdy build quality, slot-loading optical drive and the laptop's overall tapering design. The Dell Studio 14 continues to cloak itself in a simple-yet-functional design, which is admirable. In fact, a lot of its design and build characteristics have trickled down to the entry-level Inspiron series of laptops, as we saw on the Dell Inspiron 15-1564 and Dell Inspiron 14-1464.
The laptop preserves characteristic Studio design elements like its dropped hinges, sturdy build quality, slot-loading optical drive and the laptop's overall tapering design.
The Studio 14 laptop's very well built (better than the MSI CX420 laptop), and its dropped central hinge is sturdy to say the least. The laptop weighs a moderate 2.45-kg, which isn't too bad for a 14-inch mainstream laptop. It comes with a glossy LED-backlit 14-inch screen (1366x768 pixel resolution) with a 16:9 aspect ratio. The Dell Studio 14's screen isn't as large as the one on Lenovo Ideapad Y550, but it is very close to it in terms of image quality. The screen displays crisp, clear text and video, and has very good horizontal viewing angles. The Dell Studio 14's keyboard and touchpad are as good as ever. The keyboard sports large, easy-to-type on keycaps that are closely packed -- they are different than the Ideapad Y550's or MSI CX420's keys, and great for fast typing. The touchpad is very finely textured and a treat to use, and the two mouse buttons are nice to press. If anything, the Studio 14's touchpad lacks multi-gesture support (found on the Ideapad Y550).
The Dell Studio 14 laptop has very good hardware components. The basics include an Intel Core i3-350M 2.26-GHz processor, 4GB of DDR3 RAM, 500GB hard drive and an ATI Radeon HD 5450 graphics card with 1GB VRAM -- this is pretty good for a mainstream 14-inch laptop. Unlike the Inspiron series of laptops, the Studio 14 comes with a slot-loading DVD drive. It comes with three USB ports all of which support charging of gadgets (mobile phone, MP3 player, etc). One of these USB ports doubles up as an eSATA port -- convenient to hook up an external storage device. The Dell Studio 14 comes with Gigabit Ethernet, Wi-Fi 802.11n, and Bluetooth 2.1 wireless connectivity. Apart from three audio jacks, the Dell Studio 14 also has an HDMI port, multicard reader, and ExpressCard slot on its chassis. The laptop comes with a six-cell battery and 64-bit Windows 7 Home Premium operating system. The only thing it doesn't have is a FireWire port, compared to the older Studio 15 Artist Edition, but the Studio 14 laptop still has very good features -- it's rivaled only by the Lenovo Ideapad Y550.
In a nutshell, the Dell Studio 14 offers very good performance. A WorldBench 6 score of 95, PC Mark Vantage score of 5296, and PC Mark 05 score of 5811 are the highest we've seen in a sub-Rs. 50,000 mainstream laptop. Multitasking with several processor and memory-intensive tasks is smoother on the Dell Studio 14 Artist Edition. Although a 3D Mark 06 score of 3440 on the Dell Studio 14 is the lowest in our Top 5 Mainstream Laptops, the dedicated ATI Radeon HD 5450 graphics card is good for casual gaming at best -- Far Cry 2 at 1024x768 and High setting gave 22.9 fps.
We had no issues, however, with the Dell Studio 14 laptop's audio-visual experience -- second best to the Lenovo Ideapad Y550, in our opinion. Both 720p and 1080p HD video files played just fine and the combination of cinematic visuals (on the screen) and better-than-average sound (from the onboard speakers) was very good for a 14-inch mainstream laptop. The glossy screen was good to look at both indoors and outdoors, and the Dell Studio 14's keyboard and touchpad combo is nice and simple -- slightly better than the MSI CX420.
As far as battery life is concerned, we clocked a time of 1 hour 28 minutes on the Studio 14's six-cell battery during our benchmark test. This is just a shade below the Lenovo Ideapad Y550's and MSI CX420's time. Expect to get over 3 hours of browsing the Web over Wi-Fi on a conservative power plan on the Dell Studio 14, which is pretty much standard from a mainstream laptop.
The Dell Studio 14 Artist Edition sells for Rs. 45,900. For that price, you get a pretty decent 14-inch mainstream laptop with a nice screen, very good keyboard-touchpad combo, and one of the best feature sets of our Top 5 Mainstream Laptops. Compared to the Lenovo Ideapad Y550 and MSI CX420, the Dell Studio 14 offers better processor, RAM, and greater hard drive space -- but has an inferior graphics card, in comparison. We would still recommend the Dell Studio 14 over the MSI CX420 if you're looking for a 14-inch all purpose laptop for home. However, if you want a laptop with larger screen and better graphics performance, go for the Lenovo Ideapad Y550.
Tip: If you don't care much about the fancy screen lid, the standard Dell Studio 14 with a similar configuration sells for a lesser price. Also check out the brand new Dell Inspiron 14R laptop which has a cool new design.