How They Compare: Dell Studio 15 vs. 15” MacBook Pro

21 09 2008

My name is Keith Hobin, and I’m the managing editor here at theiLife. I originally joined theiLife back in June, but now I’m making my first post. I grew up in Montclair, NJ with Matt, Sidney, and a few of the other iLife writers. I graduated from Montclair High School this year and will be attending Drexel University as an Information Systems major. I prefer the Microsoft side of computers and plan on adding a little diversification into this blog. You will be hearing from me from time to time with new stories and information about the goings on of the blog. If you want to contact me, you can email me at keith@theilife.com . For my full biography, check out the about page section.

In getting ready for my attendance of Drexel, I have recently purchased one of Dell newest Laptop, the Studio 15. The Studio line is intended to have a mix of features from the XPS and Inspiron line at prices starting around $650 and around $750 for a decent configuration. For my Studio 15, I paid $ 1,839.94 with a 4 year warranty, accidental damage protection, and lojack, before tax and shipping. A PDF of the invoice / configuration will be posted along with this (Here). Just the price difference of $460 alone, a MacBook Pro being $2,300, is a good reason to consider another brand. But let’s delve into the features of each computer.

NOTE: All Comparisons made will be between MY Dell Studio 15 and the 15″ 2.5GHz MacBook Pro. However, I will note the optional features I selected for my dell and will note higher features that I opted not to get. When I discuss option prices, the price increase will be from the cheapest configuration available to the general public at the time of writing. To be fair, both of the base prices of the computers are with educational discounts and I received an extra discount for taking the 4 year warranty.

Operating System:

OK, this section is not to debate the quirks and features of Vista/XP and OS X. That is for its own post. This post is focusing on the hardware, but I will say this about the OS. Windows does open up more options for you as hardware goes; you have Dell, HP, Gateway, Lenovo, Acer, and even Apple, now that they run windows with boot camp. The major plus to this is that the more options you have, the more likely you are to get the computer that suits you. And who ever said that competition was a bad thing, it makes innovation happen.

Display and Keyboard:

Each of these computers has bright crisp displays, perfect for surfing the web around campus, writing a report or even a blog post! Both Computers have 1440×900 Resolution LED backlit displays; although I got mine as an option, and there is a $125 price increase (Resolution also goes from 1280×800.) There is also a 1920×1200 Full HD display, but it’s not LED backlit. Both of the Keyboards are also backlit, mine again being a $50 option. The only noticeable extra feature would be the ambient light sensors on the MBP, though I can live without them, I already think the LED display is bright enough on the lowest setting.

Processor:

Both computers have 2.5 GHZ Intel Core 2 Duo processors. Of course, like almost everything on my laptop, it was an option, with a price increase of $350 (The base processor is a Dual Core Pentium at 1.86 GHz, eww). The 2.5 GHz on the Studio is the top processor available, and the MBP has a 2.6 GHz available for an additional $250.

RAM:

Each laptop can support up to 4 GB of RAM. The lowest available on the Studio is 1 GB, with the increase to 4 GB only $150 (about $50 a gig for 4 GB). The lowest available on the MBP is 2 GB with the increase to 4 GB only $200 (About $100 a gig for 4 GB)

Wireless Connectivity and Networking:

One of the best reasons to get a laptop in the first place is that you can have portable connectivity wherever you go. This is true especially for my Dell Studio 15, but I’ll get into that later. Both the Studio and the MBP have Ethernet 10/100/1000 (Gigabit) Standard. For my Studio, this was a surprise to me because Dell never made a mention of it and it wasn’t an option when I was buying the laptop. I didn’t find it out till I was doing research for this article.

On the wireless front, both the Studio and the MBP have a/b/g/draft n wireless internet. It was an upgrade option on the Studio for $25.

Also on my Studio, I have a built in wireless broadband connection card from Verizon. This $150 upgrade lets me connect to the internet where ever I have cell service. You can either tie it to a monthly data plan or pay by the day. Sprint and AT&T also offer built in wireless cards.

Bluetooth 2.0 is available on both computers, of course it is an option on the Studio and for $25 it is worth it to me, just so I can use things like wireless stereo headphones and remotes.

Video Out:

Both laptops have digital video outputs. The Studio has a HDMI (High Definition Media Interface) port and a VGA port for added convenience. The MBP has a DVI (Digital Video Interface) port. In order to connect a VGA monitor or projector, you have to have the included DVI to VGA adapter. I personally find it annoying that you have to remember to have this adapter, as the Digital video port still aren’t as common as they should be. Most monitors and projectors still only have VGA ports.

Hard Drive:

Both of these computers use a SATA hard drive interface. My Studio has a 320 GB hard drive, with the default in the Studio line being 160 GB, the upgrade costing $75. I should also note that dell only offers one hard drive with an accelerometer to protect your data in the event of you dropping your laptop, its capacity being 200 GB and the upgrade price from the 160 GB being $150. The MBP has a 250 GB and although there is no accelerometer in the hard drive itself, they are located around the computer and provide the same functionality.

Size, Weight and Outward Appearance:

Both of the computers are about the same size, the Studio is 14″x1″x10.3″ and the MBP is 14.1″x1″x10.6″. Although, I must say that my Studio is a little thicker because I got the 9 Cell battery and it acts kind of like a mini laptop stand (hey, at least it makes typing a little more comfy). The Studio’s starting weight is 6.11 Lbs, although this varies by configuration. I would have to say my Studio weighs about 7 Lbs, which is fine for me. The MBP weighs in at 5.4 Lbs. This is probably the most significant difference between the two computers, besides the OS and brand.

One of the great things about the Studio is that you can customize the outside. The Studio comes in 7 different colors, a pattern called “graphite grey” (it reminds me of a topographic map) with the choice of 4 different trim options and 3 different designs by the artist Mike Ming. The default color is “Jet Black” which is what I have. Any of the other 6 colors costs $25 and the designs by Mike Ming cost $75. No matter what design you choose, you have some of the “graphite grey” pattern on the inside of the laptop. The MBP on the other hand only comes in one color, anodized aluminum.

Other Features and Goodies:

Here is a quick list of some other features that the Studio has but the MBP does not:

  • Biometric fingerprint reader
  • eSATA port (The MBP only has Firewire 800 which transfers data at 800 MB/S, eSATA is 3.0 GB/S)
  • 4 USB ports (two on each side, the MBP only has 2)
  • Touch media controls
  • SD Card Reader
  • Blue Ray player available for $200
  • Microphone array (the MBP only has one mic, this is great because you can use built in software to remove background noise when you are using the mics)
  • Right click BUTTON

It is also important to note that the MBP has these features that the Studio does not:

  • Optical audio in/out
  • Multi-touch Trackpad
  • Right Click GESTURE (I prefer the button)
  • Firewire 800 (The Studio does have Firewire, but it is only the mini 4 pin kind, like those found on cameras

Finally, it is important to note that both laptops have these features:

  • 2 Megapixel Webcam / iSight
  • No remote included, But supported (the Apple Remote is $19, the Dell is $22)

Wrap up:

Overall, I really like my Studio 15; it feels like an extension of me and my geeky personality. One of my main reasons for not getting a MacBook Pro was that I felt like I could not customize it enough, and although some people will say “Keith, you didn’t really customize your studio, you upgraded it to the level of the MacBook Pro! The Macbook Pro is more powerful and lighter” But it just wouldn’t be me and I felt I got a much better deal with my Studio. For those of you with Macbook Pro’s (which is almost everyone reading this blog) good for you, but I’m happy with my Studio.

I hope you enjoyed my first article, be sure to keep a look out for more from me and how I put my spin on the iLife.

– Keith Hobin

    Sources:

    Dell Studio 15 Page: http://www.dell.com/…/laptop_studio_15
    Apple MacBook Pro page: http://www.apple.com/macbookpro/
    Cnet review: http://reviews.cnet.com/…/dell-studio-15/….html
    PCmag.com review: http://www.pcmag.com/….asp


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    19 responses to “How They Compare: Dell Studio 15 vs. 15” MacBook Pro”

    22 09 2008
    jay@dell (13:42:51) :

    Keith:

    Thanks for your analysis of the Studio 15, and particularly for your insights on the changing relationship between technology and personal expression — finding the right “fit.” One size/color/OS/config does not fit all, and hurray for that.

    Congrats on your inaugural post.

    22 09 2008
    Matt Williamson (17:07:48) :

    Hey Keith, good article. My only comment would be that there are PC people and then there are Mac people, sometimes you convert PC guys to Mac carriers, but not really the other way around.

    I was a PC guy for a long time, now that I am on a MBP though, I am sold. Real UNIX in my laptop, with Leopard and also the ability to run XP or Vista natively too? Awesomeness.

    22 09 2008
    Keith Hobin (17:52:57) :

    Matt,
    that’s great, i understand that people do switch, and that Apples do support more operating system (Well, at least with ease). But this articles focus was on the hardware.

    Jay, thank you very much, thay is the whole reason i have gone with Dell for a while now, It just offers a level of customization that other manufactures like HP, Sony, and Lenevo don’t offer. Its also why i have never bought a computer in store and always by mail (during the dial up days) or most commonly, the internet.

    25 09 2008
    Hunt (01:01:51) :

    There is nothing wrong with a good Dell, the only problem people run into them is when they buy a $400 laptop and expect it to perform and last as long as their next-door neighbor’s $1200 XPS. My family has had a great desktop for six years now that has worked wonderfully. Vista isn’t a bad workhorse, and its better than XP in most regards. I still prefer Leopard for all of my media and main computing, but its nice to have Vista when I really need to get work done because I leave all my music, movies, and podcasts off the less fun operating system so I can focus a little more on that lab report or english essay. Oh, by the way, I actually have the high-end white Macbook, not a Macbook Pro. I am a student so I could not afford a Pro or and could not justify the black finish. I am perfectly content now because it is a nice feeling to be the only Mac user in a programming class and have the only laptop that can actually code out of the box (Thanks to XCode). The white makes that statement that “I’m have a Mac user and I’m not ashamed to show it off”.

    26 09 2008
    ryan (15:57:01) :

    the studio 15 is the best, i am still waiting for mines to ship

    22 11 2008
    Trevor (08:55:31) :

    Im waiting on my studio 15 to arrive look like a nice machine.

    20 12 2008
    Jun101ph (06:54:57) :

    Hi! I just ordered my Studio 15 yesterday. I am really excited to receive it soon 🙂

    2 03 2009
    zura1977 (19:00:36) :

    Hi Keith thank you for posting this detail review it did help me make a educated choice. At the end of my search i ended up with dell Studio 15 and the biggest reason was not the style or a price but: hdmi and fingerprint reader. However i will try to have this pc run in a dual boot with mac osx leopard and Ubuntu. ilife 09 is just too good.

    2 03 2009
    Keith Hobin (20:31:37) :

    Hi zura,
    I’m glad to hear that my article help you out!
    Good luck trying to tri-boot your studio, it’s easy enough to dual-boot unbutu (try wubi (wubi-installer.org), it makes it super easy)
    Installing leopard is going to be a bit more difficult, especially finding drivers for things like the wi-fi radio and sound. Apple really does not like hacintoshes.
    – Keith

    31 03 2009
    Morales (21:22:41) :

    Hello, Keith
    I can not decided in what laptop to buy, I want to buy the Dell Studio, but many people said to go with a MBP because is so worth it, but personally the software is confusing I like the PC software better. I was reading some comments at Bestbuy.com and by the comments were not so good. Most often said they get a black light when turn on or other issues. How you had any issues with your Dell? I am also considering the MacBook 13inch.. and its is only 949.00..

    31 03 2009
    Keith Hobin (22:42:16) :

    Hi Morales,
    I am very happy with my studio. I don’t have any major problems with it. The one thing that annoys me a lot is that sometimes it does not wake up from sleep immediately, specially if it was hibernated for a long period. What happens is that it just has a black screen, but it is powered up and the keyboard back lights will activate if you have them turned on. The trick is to just let it sit and it will start up with no problems, bit just takes a minute, be patient. This has been reported to be a general Vista problem, so its not really the Studio 15.
    Really the choice is yours, although it is easy to switch, and you can always install windows on any of the intel macs, I liked the fact that I could customize my Studio to just the way I wanted it, instead of being stuck with two configurations, and still pay more. Plus I got features like a EDVO card and biometric scanner that you can’t get on a mac.

    Thanks for writing in, be sure to check out the rest of the site!

    – Keith

    19 06 2009
    Ben (22:22:11) :

    Hi Keith,
    I am still not decided if I will get a mac book or a dell studio laptop. I will be using it for word processing, video chatting and online banking. Any recommendation?

    19 06 2009
    Keith Hobin (22:30:28) :

    Ben: Sounds like both of thoese are a bit overkill (at least my Dell Studio config) and overpriced for want you want to do.

    Have you looked at netbooks? If your committed to Dell, look at the Dell mini 10. The mini 10 starts at $299 (but you would have to step up to the model that starts at $349 to have the ability to get a built in webcam).

    Other netbooks to look at is the HP mini 1000 and Asus has a buch of netbooks too.

    Hope this helps!

    9 07 2009
    Mikey (02:50:10) :

    Hey Keith,
    I am a student in high school and looking to buy either a Mac book pro or a Dell studio 15. I might even use this for university. I am not gonna be hardcore gaming, but certainly for normal gaming. Definitely MS word, surfing, downloading movies, music, videos, etc. Any recommendations?

    Also which would perform better 2.4GHz with DDR3 3GB OR 2.66GHz with DDR2 4GB?

    9 07 2009
    Keith Hobin (16:01:10) :

    Mikey: I think both the MBP and Dell Studio like would be good options for you. The final decision would come down to the price point and if you prefer the mac or widows OS. If your looking to save some cash, the Dell Inspiron line might be something to look at. If you take that $630 model and upgrade the graphics card and the wireless card to N, it should be a decent computer for you.

    Oh. And in the example you presented (assuming they are the same processes line, just running at different clock speeds), you should get better performance from the 2.66 GHz processor with 4 GB of DDR2. If you had said 6 GB of DDR3 (3 2GB sticks of ram), with a Core i7, then of course that would get the best performance.

    28 07 2009
    single threaded tartiflet (16:53:25) :

    I have a Studio 17 (P8400, 4GB RAM, 5400rpmhd blabla bla bla) and it’s such a dreadfull machine. It’s painly slow. In fact it’s Vista that’s slow. But never the less, it’s not a nice combo.

    Mac’s are way cooler, faster, nicer.

    4 04 2010
    Merton (21:33:25) :

    How much was the MBP and how much was the final price of the Dell Studio 15 after upgading?…

    i guess that the studio (fully upgraded to match the MBP) was cheaper by at least a 100 bucks

    8 04 2010
    daniel (12:46:20) :

    I think that the problem in analyzing dells is that mostly no one has the same computer, each one has been personalized, instead there is only a few mac versions. I believe that a dell can perform as good or better now with the i7 quad core that is not available on mac for way less the price.

    18 07 2010
    Shruti (03:13:23) :

    Hi Keith

    I was quite sure that I’d buy Studio 15 and really liked your review.
    I’d be using studio 15/ MBP for video editing mostly. My concern is I really don’t know which one to go for. I haven’t used Mac before.

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