Dell Studio XPS 13 Ultraportable Notebook

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User Experience

Dell's Studio XPS 13 managed to rack up a respectable 5.3 Vista Experience score, which even trumps the larger Lenovo IdeaPad Y530 by some margin. As predicted, the machine trudged through basic Vista tasks with ease, and we never even thought to disable Aero effects or the like. Sure, we noticed a few hiccups every now and then while trying to switch Firefox tabs while an application was installing.  However overall, there was plenty of power and headroom to have an enjoyable experience within Vista.

Portability was exceptional. As we alluded to earlier, the size here really is ideal for those looking to downsize to an ultraportable without losing many of the amenities they've grown use to on larger machines. The WXGA panel fits the 13.3" WLED display perfectly, providing more screen real estate than your average netbook without straining your eyes. The gliding hinge to open the LCD moved to and fro with minimal effort, and it always stayed put once we had it adequately adjusted. Speaking of which, the recline angle on the LCD is superb; it folds nearly flat, ensuring that you'll be able to see your screen regardless of what tiny, cramped spot you get stuck in.

The display itself was bright, crisp and sharp -- perfect for watching video clips and tickling the retinas. Unfortunately, the high-gloss finish meant that we saw reflections of ourselves (and surroundings) 100% of the time. Eventually we forced ourselves to look through it, but those who are already in love with matte screens will likely not enjoy the look of this panel. It's completely subjective, sure, but we'd prefer just a bit less gloss if we had our druthers. If you're looking to expand your desktop while at home, Dell provides a copious amount of options. VGA, HDMI and DisplayPort sockets are all included, so most everyone should be taken care of.

All in all, we found the Studio XPS 13 to be a real productivity powerhouse. Switching applications was quick, and it never ground to a halt regardless of what we had going on. Even during our gaming sessions (which we'll touch on in more detail later), we were duly impressed with results given the diminutive nature of the notebook. We also appreciated just how easy it was to switch between integrated graphics only (the GeForce 9400M) and the Hybrid SLI system (9500M, which adds in the power of the discrete 9200 chip). Outside of having a dedicated toggle switch, it couldn't have been simpler. Users simply click through the Control Panel and adjust the setting from Highest Performance to Power Saving. Within 15 seconds, the GPU has been activated / deactivated and you can continue about your work. No reboots or logging off required -- nice!

Our only real complaint on a general level was the absolutely astounding amount of heat that the Studio XPS 13 generated. Even with Power Saving mode active, we managed to get the machine so hot that we were forced to use it on a laptop stand while sitting in front of the machine. Mind you, this was doing nothing more than typing, surfing the web and downloading a few files in the background. When we activated the Hybrid SLI system and fired up a demanding 3D title, the heat was so intense that we simply had to move the machine over to a table. Also of note, fan noise becomes noticeable whenever we launched into a game, though the machine's fan systems managed to stay mostly quiet in other scenarios. Honestly, we can't say we're too surprised here -- the Studio XPS 13 has a ton of horsepower in a really, really small shell. Lots of heat is just a byproduct of that combination. In most circumstances, we were able to compensate by using a laptop stand or table, but those who don't take kindly to hot-bottomed machines will want to steer clear of this lap burner.

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