We thought it’d be a good idea to get all touchy-feely with Dell’s latest — and its most family friendly — all-in-one, the Studio One 19, and while there are things we like, there are certainly a bunch of things that we wish they had done differently. Although it’s already gotten some lukewarm reviews, we decided to put it through its paces and check it out for ourselves. Click on after the break for more of our impressions and what we really thought about this interesting machine.
Design and Feel
The first thing we noticed about the Studio One 19 was its weight: clocking in at over 22-pounds, this isn’t something you’ll wanna be moving often. The handle on the box actually broke as we were moving it to conduct this review, if that’s any indication. However, once you get it out of the box and onto your workspace, this AIO doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb. We have to give Dell some credit for for continuing to refining the aesthetics of its product lines, because for all intents and purposes the Studio One 19 is a really nice looking PC.
It’s got a fairly slim body (just over 3-inches at its greatest depth), with a nice curved back that further marks a move away from boxiness. In fact, there isn’t a sharp corner to be found anywhere on the actual PC itself, but rather rounded edges and curves almost everywhere. The stand seems very solid, and we even took notice of the absence of the usual deluge of labels and stickers from the front of the machine — except for the Windows Vista and Intel Core 2 Duo ones, everything’s located on the bottom of the stand.
The 18.5-inch WXSGA screen is also spacious and bright, if not excessively glossy. If you’re not a fan of glossy screens on Apple’s latest generation of computers, the Studio One won’t make you a believer. When on, the glare isn’t terrible, but there is certainly more than there would be if was matte. The cloth accents around the bezel are also prominent in the design, and they’re either nice to look at or horribly ugly depending on your preferences. The charcoal model we tested wasn’t that bad, but we definitely wouldn’t want a pink or blue model staring back at us all day.
Software and Functionality
At its heart, the Studio One is a Vista PC. You know what you’re in for when purchasing, and all of Vista’s quirks are still there on the 19. Dell has put a lot of energy into making the most of its multitouch screen — which doesn’t come standard on the base models, we might add. There’s a hefty amount of custom software that capitalizes on this headline feature, and it seems that Dell has done a fairly good job at it.
Everything starts with Dell’s “Touch Zone” launcher, which uses a carousel-esque launcher to place its custom touch-enabled apps (literally) at your fingertips. There’s a drum simulator — which is bound to keep you occupied for a whole three minutes, a slew of basic games like Mahjong and Spider Solitaire, and touch-optimized music and photo apps that add to the entertainment factor of this particular all-in-one. They certainly got the job done in terms of media functionality, but we didn’t dig that deep into extended functionality.
We did really like Dell’s “YouPaint” app and its “TouchCam” app. The former is a fairly detailed art app that would really appeal to the younger set. It’s essentially a digital coloring book, complete with templates, different mediums, and the touch sensitivity. It’s got a lot of eye candy and cheesy sound effects, but it was certainly fun and entertaining. There’s also a quick notes app that lets you easily jot down short reminders (or practice doodling) and organize them visually in a tabletop-like setting. The TouchCam app is essentially PhotoBooth on steroids, complete with distortion filters and video / still image capture. It goes further, however, offering dynamic frames, various different emotions and visual effects, and also integrated YouTube posting. We can’t guarantee that you won’t make a fool out of yourself, but you can certainly have fun trying. We have to say though, some of the included avatars are pretty creepy — we’re looking at you, winking sock puppet.
Dell has tried to make the Vista experience more finger-friendly, but unfortunately it’s held back by the limitations of the OS. Familiar tablet PC features like handwriting recognition are implemented, but past that, Dell has basically added some multitouch gesture support to an OS that isn’t meant for touch — two finger scrolling and pinch-zooming are the headliners in this department. The preinstalled drivers were able to get the job done, but we needed to do a little tweaking of our own to make it worthwhile to ditch the mouse. Out of the box, there isn’t really enough inertia, and you have to press fairly hard to start a flicking motion. The pinching worked a bit better, but its behavior still varies from app to app. We’re pretty sure that the screen is running at less-than-maximum resolution to make UI elements a bit easier to select, but we’re not sure that’s a viable solution in the long run. Hopefully, with the arrival of Windows 7 and its basic multitouch features, the necessity of these “tweaks” will be negated.
For the purpose of this set of impressions, we didn’t run a comprehensive set of benchmarks, but we can safely say that this machine is perfectly adequate for moderate home use. Our particular test model was rocking an Intel Core 2 Duo CPU running at 3GHz with four gigs of RAM. The NVIDIA GeForce 9200 graphics chip handled HD video fairly well, and it was an enjoyable experience to watch a streaming finale of LOST. It scored a 4.3 on Vista’s obscure rating scale, and bootup times seem to be plenty fast. Of course, over time as the number of apps installed and startup processes grows, it’s bound to slow down or at least take somewhat of a drop in performance.
Overall, we’re pretty impressed with the Studio One 19. Its touchscreen and multitouch capabilities open up many possibilities, which still need a bit of time to incubate and permeate other mainstream apps. We hope this will change in time, however, as more and more PCs start to incorporate touch features. Dell’s included apps and tweaks make the all-in-one enjoyable and fun to use, and we have no doubt that it will be very appealing to kids and adults alike — especially for the price.