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Dell's Little Idea: the Studio Hybrid Desktop

In general, I like small, clever things. I'm more impressed by efficiency than excess. So a computer that packs the functions of a desktop PC into the smallest possible size is much more exciting to me than one that emphasizes power at all costs.

So a few years ago, I found myself trying out a shoebox-sized computer, the Shuttle XPC. The review unit had some build-quality issues, but I thought the concept made a huge amount of sense and deserved to be emulated by other manufacturers.

So far, that hasn't happened. Most name-brand manufacturers have shunned "small-form-factor" designs in favor of the same old tower-case designs, interspersed with cut-down tower units like HP's Slimline desktops.

Apple's Mac mini has been a welcome exception, but it's also seen few updates by Apple.

Today, however, I try out a small, shapely model from one of most mainstream manufacturers of them all, strong>Dell. Its Studio Hybrid may have a gimmicky name and an expensive price ($499 and up) compared to Dell's other desktops, but it gets a lot of the basics right. With the right modifications, it could become a smart middle-ground alternative to big desktops and more expensive laptops. I hope the company sticks with this idea (unlike such earlier, unsuccessful ventures into creative design as the shortlived WebPC).

I could, of course, simply be reacting to this model as a writer who's gotten bored from reviewing too many bulky, lookalike tower-case desktops. So what do you think? Is the Studio Hybrid worth the higher price? How much more would you pay for a design like this, over a more traditional desktop?

By Rob Pegoraro  |  September 4, 2008; 9:35 AM ET
Categories:  Computers  
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Comments

It's an interesting idea, but the lack of truely wireless interaction capability (eg, no built-in Bluetooth) really limits it's attractiveness. That's one area where the Mac mini got that right -- people who will pay this much for "style" are the same people who don't like wires (and yes, I know you could add a USB Bluetooth adapter, but for upwards of $800, why should I have to?),

It'd be a nifty media PC, though. I wonder whether they were thinking of it as a competitor to the AppleTV device?

Posted by: David | September 4, 2008 10:56 AM | Report abuse

Nice piece on this little machine. It would be welcome instead of my clunky tower. Any word about cooling and fans in this device? I would think that might be a problem, given it's so compact, but less likely to be noticeable (and rectified) by the user as with a laptop.

Also: strong>Dell should be Dell

Though strong>Dell has a nice ring to it.

Posted by: josef | September 4, 2008 10:58 AM | Report abuse

In fact, another thought: now that 802.11n wireless network chipsets are in mass production, a device like this that added a dedicated 11n link from computer to monitor, and a monitor with 11n connectivity, plus the Bluetooth link I mentioned earlier -- *that* would be cool, and really, really practical.

Posted by: David | September 4, 2008 11:02 AM | Report abuse

I got a Gateway 610 Media Center all-in-one (with the monitor and everything in one structure) four years ago. I liked it. But a couple of months ago, the power supply failed. Since it was four years old, I decided to get a new PC instead of repairing the old one. But I needed the data from the hard drive. I got an external case for the hard drive, but I had to almost completely dismantle the computer, piece by piece, to get to where the hard drive was located. Luckily, someone had posted step-by-step instructions, with photos, on the web. It took a few hours, but I finally got to the hard drive and got it out. You said that you couldn't just add a new hard drive to the Dell machine. I hope that it is at least easy to get to the drive, in case you need to remove or replace it.

Posted by: Ghak | September 4, 2008 11:05 AM | Report abuse

I got a Gateway 610 Media Center all-in-one (with the monitor and everything in one structure) four years ago. I liked it. But a couple of months ago, the power supply failed. Since it was four years old, I decided to get a new PC instead of repairing the old one. But I needed the data from the hard drive. I got an external case for the hard drive, but I had to almost completely dismantle the computer, piece by piece, to get to where the hard drive was located. Luckily, someone had posted step-by-step instructions, with photos, on the web. It took a few hours, but I finally got to the hard drive and got it out. You said that you couldn't just add a new hard drive to the Dell machine. I hope that it is at least easy to get to the drive, in case you need to remove or replace it.

Posted by: Ghak | September 4, 2008 11:09 AM | Report abuse

I got a Gateway 610 Media Center all-in-one (with the monitor and everything in one structure) four years ago. I liked it. But a couple of months ago, the power supply failed. Since it was four years old, I decided to get a new PC instead of repairing the old one. But I needed the data from the hard drive. I got an external case for the hard drive, but I had to almost completely dismantle the computer, piece by piece, to get to where the hard drive was located. Luckily, someone had posted step-by-step instructions, with photos, on the web. It took a few hours, but I finally got to the hard drive and got it out. You said that you couldn't just add a new hard drive to the Dell machine. I hope that it is at least easy to get to the drive, in case you need to remove or replace it.

Posted by: Ghak | September 4, 2008 11:12 AM | Report abuse

I got a Gateway 610 Media Center all-in-one (with the monitor and everything in one structure) four years ago. I liked it. But a couple of months ago, the power supply failed. Since it was four years old, I decided to get a new PC instead of repairing the old one. But I needed the data from the hard drive. I got an external case for the hard drive, but I had to almost completely dismantle the computer, piece by piece, to get to where the hard drive was located. Luckily, someone had posted step-by-step instructions, with photos, on the web. It took a few hours, but I finally got to the hard drive and got it out. You said that you couldn't just add a new hard drive to the Dell machine. I hope that it is at least easy to get to the drive, in case you need to remove or replace it.

Posted by: Ghak | September 4, 2008 11:18 AM | Report abuse

I love the look of the studio hybrid, however for a few hundred more (the cost of a nice display), you're in the range of an entry-level Dell Vostro laptop.

Posted by: horton | September 4, 2008 11:18 AM | Report abuse

I got a Gateway 610 Media Center all-in-one (with the monitor and everything in one structure) four years ago. I liked it. But a couple of months ago, the power supply failed. Since it was four years old, I decided to get a new PC instead of repairing the old one. But I needed the data from the hard drive. I got an external case for the hard drive, but I had to almost completely dismantle the computer, piece by piece, to get to where the hard drive was located. Luckily, someone had posted step-by-step instructions, with photos, on the web. It took a few hours, but I finally got to the hard drive and got it out. You said that you couldn't just add a new hard drive to the Dell machine. I hope that it is at least easy to get to the drive, in case you need to remove or replace it.

Posted by: Ghak | September 4, 2008 11:20 AM | Report abuse

Sorry about the multiple posts. It kept telling me that there was a server error, so I kept retrying.

Posted by: Ghak | September 4, 2008 11:21 AM | Report abuse

This little machine is far too expensive. Its only value seems to be cuteness. The small form factor has appeal but I am not willing to pay a premium for it.

Posted by: Philip De Groot | September 4, 2008 1:17 PM | Report abuse

no firewire, no go!

Posted by: umm.huh | September 4, 2008 1:26 PM | Report abuse

At first glance it looks like decent competition for the mini. Aside from not offering much in the way of a price break (once you factor in the included wireless and bluetooth for the mini) it also doesn't offer the one thing many Apple fans have been screaming about the mini needing for years: A dedicated GPU.

So assuming Apple gets off their but and updates the mini to Santa Rosa the only reason to to pick up one of these is because you either hate Apple or are really smitten by Dell's color options.

Posted by: Norm | September 4, 2008 3:28 PM | Report abuse

HOW ABOUT A COMPUTER THE SIZE OF A PACK OF SMALL WOODEN MATCHES, WITH PLUG IN EVERYTHING FROM POWER SOURCE TO MONITOR TO EXTERNAL DRIVES.

IF HAM RADIO OPERATORS CAN BUILD MATCHBOOK SIZE QRP [LOW POWER] TRANSCEIVERS THAT SIZE THAT CAN WORK THE WORLD, USUALLY IN MORSE CODE -.-./ -.-/ -../.
-.-/ ...--/ --/ -.--/ ..
-.-

Posted by: BRUCEREALTOR@GMAIL.COM | September 5, 2008 12:35 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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