Product: Dell Studio HybridManufacturer: DellMSRP: $779
as configured (Varies by configuration)Introduction
The Dell Studio Hybrid has arrived on the scene at a time when energy efficiency has become a topic of national concern. According to Dell, the Studio Hybrid is "Designed to fit into your environment while protecting the environment." The Hybrid is Dell's smallest desktop, and it is available with customizable sleeves including one made out of natural bamboo. Click on through to see our close up take of the Dell Studio Hybrid PC.Unboxing
Part of Dell's plan for the Studio Hybrid is to demonstrate conservation techniques in the packaging process. The Hybrid arrives in a fairly standard cardboard box, but the system itself is not wrapped in thick Styrofoam. Instead, you'll find the system packaged like a retail boxed hard drive, suspended from the box interior by a recyclable plastic form. The included manuals are also minimized to reduce paper waste.Design
The first thing that comes to mind when picking up the Hybrid is that it is remarkably small. In fact, I compared it to a take-out lunch box and found the two to be about the same size. It is way smaller than you'd expect from a desktop system, especially from a manufacturer like Dell that has not gone this path before.Front
The front of this system has a minimalist look. It contains a headphone port, two USB 2.0 ports, a multi-card reader, slot-load DVD+-RW drive, and the main power button. Upon powering up the system a 'hybrid' logo is illuminated as well as the power button & HDD access indicators.Rear
The back panel contains all of the other connections that you'll need to get the Hybrid connected to your peripherals. 3 USB 2.0 ports, microphone in, speakers out, SP/DIF, FireWire, Power, Gigabit Ethernet, HDMI, and DVI.Sleeve
When ordering from Dell, you can specify the color that you want for the removable sleeve on the Hybrid. There's no price premium for any color except for the natural bamboo one, which is a whopping $130 upgrade. Yeah, we splurged for it just to see what it's all about, but the hard fact is that it is not worth $130 for a simple shell. If you're really seeking the woody look, grab some wood veneer from the local wallpaper supplier and wrap your plastic sleeve for a similar look.Under the Hood
Being the engineer that I am, I had to take a look at the guts of the Studio Hybrid. The sleeve comes off with one screw, and the real cover comes off with a single screw as well. The first thing you'll see inside is the storage assembly, which includes the optical drive & 2.5" notebook hard drive (a Western Digital according to the label). The entire storage assembly comes out in one piece after removing a single screw.
Having revealed the motherboard, it is apparent that the Studio Hybrid is based on notebook components. It uses SODIMM memory chips as well as the notebook version of the CPU. On this particular system you can see the unused expansion ports for the WLAN card and BD (blu-ray) decoder card.
The heat sink can be removed fairly easily, revealing the CPU. The thermal connection is made via factory thermal grease, so a quick improvement would be to replace the grease with a high thermal conductivity heat sink compound such as Arctic Silver 5.Performance
Let's get straight to the dirt. The Studio Hybrid is not a powerful machine. It is the Prius of PCs, and you won't be winning any races or surviving any multiplayer gaming matches while behind the wheel of this Hybrid. The notebook components leave the Studio Hybrid feeling sluggish for even basic operations, and the benchmark data only confirms this. The super pi calculation time of 1:40 (1 million digits) is the slowest I've seen from a 'new' computer, and far slower than the 0:18 it takes my XPS m1530
If they're going to slap the Hybrid logo on this system, I'm definitely going to take a careful look at the energy demands. At idle, the Hybrid consumes about 26W. This increases to 60W when the system is subject to a 100% CPU load for an extended period. The CPU idles at 41C, maxing out at 78C under the same torture test conditions. These figures are consistent with the fact that the Hybrid is a notebook computer packaged in an alternate shell.Conclusion
The design of the Dell Studio Hybrid is surprisingly good in terms of usability and upgradeability. The performance, however, is lacking when you consider that similarly priced homebuilt mini-PCs are almost assuredly much faster than the Hybrid. One question that you'll want to ask yourself if you're considering the Hybrid: If you want it to be small and power-efficient, why not just get a laptop?Image Gallery