Dell provides customisable PC sales packages in terms of both hardware and customer service. The Vostro range is aimed at small businesses, and contains both desktops and laptops. We took a look at one of the desktops from this range -- the Vostro 200.
PCMark2005, 3DMark06, Cinebench 9.5, and Sandra Pro provided us with our hard performance scores during our tests. We also looked at 'the Windows Experience Index' scores provided by Vista.
PCMark assesses the machine's overall performance with specific scores given for CPU, memory, graphics and HDD; this gives us a useful indicator of performance with typical office tasks.
3DMark and Cinebench are indicators of the machines graphics capabilities. We also use Sandra Pro to give some specific figures on processor, memory and drive performance.
Useability issues include location (and type) of ports and buttons as well image quality (where monitors are provided) and additional software utilities. Construction elements of interest are case material quality and ease of opening for maintenance and upgrades.
Aside from performance, we also consider a number of physical design issues. Sound quality is also considered along with the software included with the machine.
Design and features
All too often a desktop computer is an item of office equipment that one tries to hide away under the desk, but you will want to display your Vostro 200. The sleek black case hides optical drives and front-mounted ports sit behind finely finished hatches.
Behind a sliding hatch on the front of the machine is a wealth of ports including Smartcards, xD-Picture Card, Compact Flash and various species of SD, MMC and MemoryStick. Four USB ports and audio in/out can also be found here. Behind the machine we find four more USB ports, twin 1394 Firewire ports, plus the usual Ethernet port. There is a PCI fax/modem card plus the Radeon X1300Pro video card which has D-sub VGA, DVI and S-video outputs.
Screws secure the side panels. Drives are also screwed in, but are fairly easy to access once the lockable, left-hand cover has been removed. A minor battle with internal cables would be required to access RAM and other components, but this is not something that needs to be done often. Internal construction differs little from a host of other brands; it is certainly not designed for easy maintenance like Dell's Optiplex range of desktop computers.
Upon opening the machine our first observation was the twin hard drives. There are two 250GB Seagate SATA drives allowing you to potentially have a local backup drive. The supplied optical drive is a DVD writer with Dual-layer write capacity.
The price includes a 20-inch wide-screen LCD, the Dell E207WFP, that has a resolution of 1,680 x 1,050, but this was not supplied for review. Integrated 7.1 channel sound is supplied via six rear mounted jacks and is supported by integrated Sound Blaster Audigy HD software. External speakers are an option, but again were not supplied with the demonstration model sent to us. The black keyboard has no extra multimedia keys and has only a key-hugging outline to distinguish it from other generic devices. The black optical mouse with wheel was a mundane, standard design.
As reviewed, the Vostro 200 ran Windows Vista Business edition, but other versions with Vista and XP are available. It also includes Dell restore software in case the OS needs to be replaced. Security software and Microsoft Office can also be optionally installed prior to delivery.
|Cinebench 9.5||Rendering (1x CPU)||310|
|Rendering (2x CPU)||571|
|Sandra Pro Lite 11.17||Processor, Arithmetic||16962MIPS ; 11836MFLOPS|
|Processor, Multimedia||103218 it/s ; 55617 it/s|
|File System||66MB/s ; 7ms|
[Editor's Note: The test scores published here reflect the review model send to ZDNet Australia by Dell, which contained a 1.86GHz processor and ATI Radeon X1300 Pro graphics card. Since the review, Dell has upgraded the processor to a 2.33GHz and included a NVIDIA 8600GT video card. Thus, the Vostro 200's performance should be slightly better than is reflected by these review scores.]
Windows Vista scores the Vostro 200 at a handy 56 percent overall, (Vista gives the lowest subscore as the overall score.) This machine earns 66 percent on the processor rating; 76 percent for memory; 64 percent for basic graphics; 56 percent for gaming graphics; and 80 percent for the hard disk.
[Editor's Note: Scores have been standardised as percentages for your convenience, these tests normally give scores between 1.0 and 5.9]
All these figures show this machine would make short work of any standard office task, and even do well with many multimedia productivity tasks. Efficient data storage and security are clearly priorities with an office machine and this is certainly reflected in the test results.
The basic warranty is 12 months, but extended warranties are available which include theft insurance. Phone service is available six days a week (24/7 on more advanced service plans) and repair services are available onsite. Cutting down on options can cut the cost of this machine down to less than AU$1,000, although this would result in a very basic machine and the short term savings might be hard to justify given the pace at which new software gobbles system resources. Nonetheless the high level of configurability is definitely a plus.
Overall this is a very attractive and functional machine; while not the fastest computer around it will serve well in any office environment.