When I did a round-up of Dell's new consumer products, the Vostro V130 laptop was missing because it was a business laptop and I was under a non-disclosure agreement, which lifted today. I'm not sure why secrecy was a factor since the V130 is basically an upgraded version of the V13 launched a year ago. However, it's a potential buy either for business or pleasure because it looks terrific -- nicer, I think, than some more expensive systems from Apple and Sony. This is somewhat surprising from what started as Dell's functional "value range", but the Vostro V13 and V130 got a style infusion from the now-discontinued Adamo range.
The V130 also feels good, because the top and bottom are aluminium not plastic, and there's a magnesium alloy palm rest. The keyboard is pretty good, too.
The bad news is that the V130 has one feature that would stop me from buying it, or any other laptop with the same "design choice": sealed-in batteries. Dell argues that it couldn't make the machine as thin as it is -- from 0.65 inches (front) to 0.78 inches (rear) -- any other way. But this limitation makes it unsuitable for real "road warriors", though it might be fine for people who don't need more than three or four hours away from a mains plug -- at least until the battery starts failing. (A Dell rep holding a Core i3 said it should last something over 4 hours: I haven't tested it. A U3400 version could last longer.)
In other respects, the V130 is a nippy machine with a few compromises. The processor options are an Intel Celeron CULV U3400, a Core i3-380UM, or a Core i5-470UM with 2GB or 4GB of memory. Both Core chips are ULV (ultra-low voltage) versions that help battery life but run slower than the standard versions. The 13.3 inch anti-glare screen displays the usual 1366 x 768 pixels, but only with Intel integrated graphics. There's also a 2 megapixel webcam and microphone.
The hard drive is 320GB though you can get a 128GB SSD (solid state disk) instead. There are three USB ports (one of which includes eSATA), a Gigabit Ethernet port, and a 5-in-1 card reader. The V130 also has an HDMI port, Bluetooth 3.0 and 802.11n Wi-Fi, plus options for a 3G SIM or, in the US only, WiMax. The standard operating system in the UK is 64-bit Windows 7 Home Premium, with the Pro version costing an extra £35. Weight is about 3.5lbs.
The V130 also features Intel's very efficient Hyperbaric Cooling system, which gently sucks in air to cool the processor.
The starting price is £399 plus delivery and VAT, which is not bad for an ultraportable with 2GB of memory. However, a Core i5 system with 4GB will set you back £850 including delivery and VAT. US prices start at a more attractive $429.
There's a lot to like about the V130 as a style system, and it's certainly cheaper than an Adamo. However, the battery life isn't really competitive when some rival PCs could run roughly twice as long, and a few claim up to 10 hours. The fact that you can't just slot a spare battery into the V130 when needed means that if you really need an ultraportable for travelling, it's probably not this one.