Dell :: Studio 17, 21 Day Return, And HP

Mar 14, 2009

I have been using my new studio 17 for the last three days had several questions that I would appreciate input on. First my MO: Most of my laptop computing is word processing, net surfing, picture stuff, occasional spreadsheet, occasional movie, no gaming. Most of my laptop use is sitting up in bed with the machine on my lap, balanced on my right leg, or set down on the bed to my right side, or sitting in the recliner with the unit on my lap, or on the back deck with unit on my lap. Only travel with the laptop 1-3 times per year (car travel).

I'm coming from a 2001 dell latitude 14" machine which has been stone cold reliable but of course severely outdated. I'm old and not concerned with the style or look of a computer, I have old eyes and need easy to read screens and font sizes. I tend to buy more computer than I need initially and keep it for many years past when people would normally upgrade. I tend to be more concerned with ergonomics, user friendliness, and robustness of design than I am with processor speed, video cards, memory etc. The one exception here is I really like/need a bright clear display.

My studio 17 is configured with the T6400, 4gb ram, backlite keyboard, wled 1440x900 display, ATI HD 3650 etc.

Initial impressions
Good: It is of course much faster than my 2001 dell, especially on boot up and shut down. The clarity and brightness of the display is a beautiful thing and the viewing angles are good as well. I pulled up an instant movie from netflix and it is very impressive, although the movie didn't play fullscreen as there was about an inch of unused screen on either side of the movie. The backlite keyboard is nice.

Uncertain:
- Maybe it is my imagination but the keyboard on this thing seems squishy. Almost like it is uneven and set too low in the chassis. The keys have very little tactile feedback. A number of times now I've been flying along wordprocessing and find that even though I pressed the key the entry was never made.

- There is quite a bit of flex in the screen it seems. I learned real quick to make sure to grasp the screen right in the middle when closing/opening the lid. It's a bit disconcerting to see the dell symbol on the back of the lid distort when the screen flexes as you close the lid if you don't grasp it right in the middle.

- There are no standoffs at the top of the screen to keep it from contacting the palm rests when the lid is closed. Picking the machine up with one hand in the center front as I normally do results in the lid flexing and touching the palm rest in the camera/mic area at the top of the display.

- While there is a boatload of screen real estate, the icons/text are small which is not good at all. Can these be increased in size without loosing any clarity? I need all aspects of the display - icons, text, menus, etc bumped up in size a bit.

- While I like the 17" screen, and I thought the number pad would be nice to have, I really dislike that the it causes the alpha keyboard and corresponding touch pad to be offset to the left of the chassis. The touch pad obviously has to be centered relative to the alpha keyboard for proper word processing and data entry. This is not that big of an issue when the machine is used on the desk but it causes an imbalance when used on the lap. In order to use the machine with keyboard/touchpad centered the whole machine has to be shifted to the right which causes the right side to tip over to the right. In short it makes it very awkward to use this machine on anything other than a desk. In addition, I think compounding this lap unfriendly nature is the whole gigantic hinge design and how deep this laptop is.

I fully understand that this machine is marketed as a "desktop replacement" and maybe I would be better served with a 15" model. What would be really nice though is to have the 17" screen, lose the number pad, and center the alpha keyboard and touchpad in the center of the chassis. This would make laptop computer more user friendly.

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