- Affordable and highly configurable
- Integrated webcam option
- Hard drives up to 320GB available
- Relatively bulky and heavy
- Base specification is barely adequate for a business user
- Price quickly rises as essential options are added
Dell's Vostro range of notebooks is designed specifically for small businesses, offering computing power and features at an affordable price. The smallest of the range is the 13.3in. Vostro 1310 model, which is available from Dell's web site for as little as £249 (ex. VAT) with a one-year warranty. But what specifications will you need for a credible business system, and what do the necessary upgrades do to the price?
The Vostro 1310 is no ultraportable, the base configuration weighing in at 2.02kg. It's also a little chunky, measuring 3.72cm thick at the back and tapering to 2.38cm at the front. The desktop footprint is a reasonable 31.7cm by 24.3cm.
The lid and system unit sections lack a clasp to hold them together: so you'll need to ensure that foreign objects don't find their way inside the clamshell and damage either the screen or the keyboard. The lid has a shiny black finish, which looks smart and seems quite resistant to greasy fingermarks.
The 13.3in. screen has a native resolution of 1,280 by 800 pixels and the base configuration includes an anti-glare coating. For an additional £15 you can add Dell’s TrueLife coating, which purports to make the screen crisper and more vivid. If you do a lot of multimedia work, this could be worth having.
The heavy-handed may discern some give in the keyboard, but typists with a lighter touch shouldn't notice any give at all. The keys themselves have quite a lot of travel, which may not appeal to all tastes. Above the QWERTY keys is a row of full-height number keys, topped by a row of half-height function keys. Beneath the keyboard a compact two-button touchpad does a competent job.
Above the keyboard is the power switch, a series of status icons, and a touchstrip offering controls for media playback, optical drive eject and audio volume. A mute control would have been a welcome addition. These touch controls sport a blue backlight when they are activated; the same colour is used for the status icons and to backlight the power switch.
A secondary status light on the front edge tells you when the notebook is on and consuming power, and when the battery is charging. This goes out when the battery is fully charged.
Our review sample of the Vostro 1310 had an Intel Core 2 Duo T8100 processor running at 2.1GHz. The base £249 base specification makes do with a Celeron 540 processor, and simply adding the faster Core 2 Duo processor boosts the price to £439 (ex. VAT). There are eight CPU choices in all, the most expensive — Intel's 2.6GHz Core 2 Duo T9500 — pushing the price up to £839 (ex. VAT).
Our review sample had 2GB of RAM. The base configuration comes with 1GB, while the maximum you can configure is 4GB.
Windows Vista Business was installed on our Vostro 1310. Adding this to the base £249 specification, which runs Windows Vista Home Basic, brings the cost up to £299. Other choices include Windows Vista Ultimate, and either Business or Ultimate with the option to downgrade Windows XP Professional.
There are two graphics options. The base configuration uses integrated GMA X3100; a discrete Nvidia GeForce 8400M GS module will cost you an extra £50.
Wi-Fi of some description is present in all configurations. The base specification has 802.11b/g, while our review sample included Intel's WiFi Link 4965AGN module, which supports 802.11a/b/g and Draft-N. Gigabit Ethernet is also standard, but Bluetooth (2.0+EDR) is a £15 option. There is no modem.
The hard drive in the base model is a 5,400rpm 160GB SATA unit. This can be upgraded in four steps to a maximum of 320GB, which adds £100 to the price. An optical drive is included with all configurations. This is a slot loading drive, located on the notebook's right-hand side.
Our review sample came with a fixed-position 1.3 megapixel webcam above the screen. This is an £18 option.
Most things on the Vostro 1310 are configurable, but not the array of ports and connectors. On the right-hand side, behind the optical drive, sits a mechanical switch for the Wi-Fi radio with three USB 2.0 connectors behind that. Two of the USB ports are stacked vertically and unless your peripherals have very thin connectors it's unlikely you'll be able to use both at the same time.
The fourth USB 2.0 port is at the very back of the left-hand side. Towards the front is a FireWire (IEEE 1394) connector, headphone and microphone jacks, a PC Card slot and a card reader that accepts SD and Memory Stick media. The back houses an Ethernet (RJ-45) connector and a VGA-out port.
Microsoft Works is included in the base price, but there's no security software and no other trial software.
With the 'high performance' power plan selected, the Vostro 1310's six-cell Li-ion battery gave us four hours' work away from a source of mains power, which is a decent result.
As far as performance is concerned, the review system's overall Windows Experience Index (WEI) rating of 3.5 (out of 5.9) is above average. With less than 2GB of RAM and a slower processor you would save a significant amount of money but performance would undoubtedly suffer.
The most impressive component score was Primary hard disk (Disk data transfer rate) which scored 5.2. The lowest rating of 3.5 came in the two graphics tests — Graphics (desktop performance for Windows Aero) and Gaming Graphics (3D business and gaming graphics performance). RAM (Memory operations per second scored 4.9 while Processor (calculations per second) clocked an impressive 5.1.
Dell produces highly configurable notebooks that you can tailor to meet specific requirements. Want a large hard drive but have no need for a top-end CPU? No problem. Need Draft-N wireless but not bothered about Bluetooth? Easy. Some options are missing, though, notably integrated 3G connectivity — you'll have to rely on a USB dongle for that.
The base price of £249 (ex. VAT) sounds very attractive, but as you examine what you get for that price, you'll almost certainly need to add things. Windows Vista Home Basic needs replacing for start, and a larger hard drive may also be useful. Extending the basic one-year warranty is probably also a must. Tinkering in this way you can easily treble the base price (our review sample came in at £574 (ex. VAT), bringing the Vostro 1310 into line with many other competing notebooks.
|Recommended Use||small business|
|Wireless capabilities||IEEE 802.11b, IEEE 802.11g|
|Notebook type||Thin-and-light (4-6 lbs.)|
|Processor / Chipset|
|CPU||Intel Core 2 Duo T7250 / 2 GHz|
|Number of Cores||Dual-Core|
|Cache||L2 - 2 MB|
|Front Side Bus||800 MHz|
|Chipset||Mobile Intel PM965 Express|
|Max RAM Supported||4 GB|
|Form Factor||SO DIMM 200-pin|
|Optical Drive||DVD±RW (±R DL) - fixed|
|Optical Drive (2nd)||none|
|Min Operating Temperature||32 °F|
|Max Operating Temperature||95 °F|
|Humidity Range Operating||10 - 90%|
|Color Support||18-bit color|
|Audio & Video|
|Graphics Processor||PCI Express x16 - NVIDIA GeForce 8400M GS - 128 MB|
|Sound||Speaker , microphone|
|Compliant Standards||High Definition Audio|
|Wireless Controller||Dell Wireless 1395|
|Network Interface||Gigabit Ethernet|
|Run Time||5 sec|
|Input||AC 120/230 V ( 50/60 Hz )|
|Connections & Expansion|
2 x memory ( 0 free )
1 x ExpressCard/54 ( 1 free )
4 x USB 2.0 - 4 pin USB Type A
1 x display / video - VGA - 15 pin HD D-Sub (HD-15)
1 x IEEE 1394 (FireWire) - 4 pin FireWire
1 x network - Ethernet 10Base-T/100Base-TX/1000Base-T - RJ-45
1 x audio - line-out/headphones - mini-phone stereo 3.5 mm
1 x microphone - input - mini-phone 3.5 mm
|Memory Card Reader||8 in 1 ( SD Card, Memory Stick, Memory Stick PRO, MultiMediaCard, xD-Picture Card, SDIO )|
|Software Included||Adobe Reader 8.1|
|Microsoft Office Preloaded||Includes a pre-loaded image of select Microsoft Office 2010 suites. Purchase an Office 2010 Product Key Card or disc to activate preloaded software on this PC.|
|Features||security lock slot (cable lock sold separately)|
|Dimensions & Weight|