Dell Studio Hybrid: Small, Stylish... but Quiet?

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Dell Studio Hybrid
Mini Desktop Computer
Starts at $449; depends on components selected by buyer.

There has always been interest in smaller computers, starting from the time when the simplest ones (by today's standards) filled entire rooms. In more recent times, the Small Form Factor PC was born when Shuttle launched its breadbox PCs half a decade ago, around the same time that VIA launched their mini-ITX 6.5" square motherboard form factor. Since then, most PC makers have flirted with very small PC designs, and the big ATX box towers have continually shrunk to the point where most big brand PCs are housed in cases that would have seemed very modest just a few years ago.

IBM´s Selective Sequence Electronic Calculator computed scientific data in public display near the company´s Manhattan headquarters. Before its decommissioning in 1952, the SSEC produced the moon-position tables used for plotting the course of the 1969 Apollo flight to the moon.
Speed: 50 multiplications per second
Input/output: cards, punched tape
Memory type: punched tape, vacuum tubes, relays
Technology: 20,000 relays, 12,500 vacuum tubes
Floor space: 25 feet by 40 feet

Photo and caption ©

2008 Dell Studio Hybrid: About the size of a large college dictionary and infinitely more capable than the IBM SSEC.

The Hybrid Studio PC is Dell's first serious entry into the realm of mini computers. It is more than a nettop in that it uses a CPU considerably more capable than most nettops, yet it belongs firmly in the SFF tradition which has liberally employed notebook components in desktop systems for useful size, heat and power reductions. Like the Asus Eee Box we reviewed a couple of months ago, the Hybrid Studio is, in large part, a notebook stuffed into a desktop box. But a very stylish box it is, especially for Dell, not usually known for cool designs. A clever sleeve fits over the PC box and combines with an equally clever metal stand that allows for great cosmetic appeal and variety.

Changing the color is just a matter of changing the sleeve.

A small change in the stand. This configuration doesn't really make sense as it just takes up more desk space, but if you want to place it this way, you can. Note the SD card reader, dual USB 2.0 ports, headphone jack, power and optical disk eject buttons. The slot for the DVD drive is cleverly hidden on the left (or top) side of the front panel.

Dell also states that Studio Hybrid is their greenest consumer desktop PC:

Size and materials
Our smallest design is about 80% smaller than standard desktops, and it contains about 75% less printed documentation by weight when compared to typical tower desktops.
Power usage Uses about 70% less power than a typical desktop, and meets Energy Star® 4.0 standards with an 87% efficient power supply.
Packaging Studio Hybrid packaging is made from 95% recyclable materials. And the Studio Hybrid comes with a system-recycling kit, so you can help preserve and protect the environment.

All this is very laudable. Dell offers consumers worldwide free recycling of any Dell-branded computer equipment at any time. Dell also provides no-charge recycling of any brand of used computer or printer with the purchase of a new Dell computer or printer.

The base $449 Studio Hybrid configuration has the following main components:

- Pentium Dual Core T3200 (2.0GHz/667Mhz FSB/1MB cache)
- 2GB Shared Dual Channel DDR2 at 667MHz (2 DIMM)
- 160GB SATA Hard Drive (5400RPM)
- Windows Vista® Home Basic Service Pack 1
- Slot Load CD / DVD Burner (Dual Layer DVD+/-RW Drive)
- Intel Integrated Graphics Media Accelerator X3100
- Integrated Stereo Audio with 5.1ch digital output (S/P DIF)

A wide range of options and individual upgrades are available. The sample we received had the following upgrades:

Dell no longer lists the T5850 processor, but a similar package with a T8100 processor (2.1GHz) and 2GB of RAM was listed on Dec 4/08 for $774. With this being the prime shopping season, prices may be bouncing up and down.


The small size, notebook components, and Dell's own environmental specification (for a model equipped with a more powerful T9500 2.6Ghz CPU) of just 24.2 dBA SPL at the ISO 7779 defined "operator position" (a little over 0.5 meter from the PC) gives us reason to be hopeful that the Studio Hybrid is a quiet PC.

(An aside: It is a shock and surprise that Dell's comprehensive environmental test data is not accessible directly from the web product pages. You have to dig through the corporate information section of Dell's main site or the separate Dell Earth site to find this page: Why this info is not linked directly from the product pages is a question no one at Dell could answer. They can't really believe consumers don't care, not when the marketing for the Studio Hybrid pushes its green aspects!?) Some of Dell's larger desktop PCs have had the reputation of being reasonably quiet, although no one has suggested they are "SPCR" quiet. This is, in fact, the first official opportunity we have had to examine a Dell PC.

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