Dell’s Studio XPS laptops really do underscore design leadership. Sure there are those who believe the only laptop to own is a MacBook, but for those in the market for a Windows-based multimedia machine, Dell (and Sony) is pressing all the right buttons. The only problem with portable systems from these manufactures – Sony in particular – is that they don’t tend to include the latest cutting-edge processors and graphics chipsets, which is a problem for hardcore gamers and power users. Nonetheless, for all-round multimedia performance they are excellent.

The Studio XPS 16 and Studio XPS 13 are Dell’s first Studio laptops to bear the XPS high-performance designation. The Studio XPS 16 is a laptop with a – you’ve guessed it – 16-inch screen. If you don’t need that amount of real estate, the Studio XPS 13 is pretty much an identical machine with a 13-inch display. Regardless of which machine you go for, you are presented with a stunning industrial design that’s guaranteed to impress – just check out the way Dell locks down the screen by bolting the hinges firmly into both sides of the bezel! Not only gorgeous, but the Studio XPS 16 delivers an immersive cinematic experience thanks to the edge-to-edge 16:9 aspect ratio, common in HDTVs, RGB-LED display and 7-Watt Dolby 5.1 audio with subwoofer, along with a slot-loading Blu-ray burner and more connectivity options than you probably need.

Succeeding the XPS M1530 and available from £799, the Studio XPS 16 (385×255×24mm, 2.91kg) features beautifully crafted genuine leather and anodised aluminium accents on top of a high-gloss Obsidian Black finish. The keyboard is backlit and comfortable, and there are plenty of flashing LEDs for eye candy. The machine that I reviewed was arguably the best I’ve seen in a media centre laptop. It sported a 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P8600 processor (upgradable to a 2.80GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T9600 for £270), 512MB ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3670 graphics processor, and 4GB of 1067MHz DDR3 RAM (upgradable to 8GB for £643) running the 64-bit edition of Windows Vista.

It also had the highly recommended Truelife 1080p Full HD (1080p) RGB LED display, which costs an extra £139. Intel’s Centrino 2 processor isn’t the best chip, while ATI’s 512MB Mobility Radeon HD 3670 graphics chipset isn’t good enough for running the latest 3D games with all the graphics options maxed out. It really is a shame Dell doesn’t offer better graphics options because the Studio XPS 16 would make for a really sweet gaming rig. Other niceties include a 250GB (7200rpm) SATA hard disk drive, but if your budget isn’t tight and your storage needs not too plentiful, the optional 128GB SSD drive is the option to go for (adds £280).

The fun doesn’t stop there. There’s a high-quality 2.0-Megapixel Web camera with digital array microphone and facial recognition security capability, along with a full range of ports and connection options including two USB ports and one shared eSATA/USB jack, DisplayPort, HDMI-out, analogue VGA-out, IEEE 1394a port, 8-in-1 memory card reader, 54mm ExpressCard slot, and a slot-loading Blu-ray Disc drive (adds £99.99). My review unit came with both a 6-cell battery and a 9-cell battery for the price. If the specification you are looking at doesn’t come with the 9-cell battery, I recommend you purchase it as an optional extra because the 6-cell battery only lasts around 3 hours compared to the 9-cell’s 4.5 hours.

For true cinemaphiles and amateur photographers, the optional Full HD 1080p display (RGB LED) is optimised for 16:9 content and features 100% colour gamut for truer colours combined with 300 nit brightness to help produce brilliant colour and detail to create a truly enhanced entertainment experience. The 8 millisecond response time means smoother gaming and movie viewing, and the 130-degree viewing angle ensures that multiple people can view the display together without distortion. The display really is something to behold and puts most other laptops to shame – including others from Dell. If you intend to watch a lot of DVDs or Blu-ray movies on the laptop, you will be highly impressed – as will casual gamers. Provided that you don’t have bright daylight bouncing off the colourful and glossy display, you’re in for a treat.

With the Studio XPS 16, I had no problems running all the latest Windows programs (Office, Photoshop, Premiere etc) and playing modern games (such as Dark Sector and Left 4 Dead) at the screen’s native resolution of 1920×1080 pixels. Having said that, frame rates weren’t as good as those on dedicated gaming machines. And while the design of the laptop is very modern, it is a finger-print magnet – get your microfiber cloth ready! The illuminated keyboard is a neat touch when you need it, such as taking notes in a dimly lit room, and the facial recognition software is cool. The Studio XPS 16 runs a little warm, but is more than tolerable. This strikingly gorgeous all-rounder is hard to beat.