- Elegant, generally sturdy design
- 17.3in., 1,600-by-900 screen
- Full-size keyboard with separate numeric keypad
- Plenty of ports and connectors
- Decent performance
- Flexible graphics subsystem
- No Core i7, mobile broadband or SSD options
- Bulky and heavy
- Moderate battery life
Dell's Vostro 3750 is designed for small businesses — which, translated, means that it omits 'corporate' components such as a Trusted Platform Module (TPM) chip, vPro support and common docking options, but does include business-friendly features like a fingerprint reader and easy access to Dell support services. Also, despite a few 'design' touches and decent 3D graphics performance, this isn't an overtly 'consumer' notebook.
The 3750 model in the Vostro range is a hefty large-screen (17.3in.) model with weights starting at 3.0kg. So, is this the desktop replacement notebook that your (small) business needs?
Despite its bulk, the Vostro 3750 looks quite elegant, with an aluminium casing that looks as if it could take a knock or two, and particularly wide, strong metal screen hinges. The latter are certainly needed on this 17.3in. system, which measures 41.1cm wide by 27.1cm by 2.7-3.5cm thick. That's a big notebook, and with the weight starting at 3kg it's not one you're going to be travelling with often, if at all.
The case isn't entirely rigid, though: not surprisingly given its size, you can flex the screen easily enough, although there's enough gap between the display and the casing to minimise chances of damage. The keyboard can be a bit bouncy in places too, but neither issue gives serious cause for worry.
The LED-backlit screen has a resolution of 1,600 by 900 pixels and, thankfully, has a non-glossy 'anti-glare' finish. You can easily have two document or browser windows open on-screen side by side on this screen, and those big hinges keep it firmly at the angle you select. Above the screen, in the centre of the bezel, is the 2-megapixel HD webcam and a status LED, along with a dual array internal microphone.
The 17.3in. Vostro 3750 has room for a full-size (spill-resistant, optionally backlit) keyboard with a separate numeric keypad
The optionally backlit keyboard is a fashionable 'chiclet'-style unit, and there's plenty of space on the 3750 for a separate numeric keypad. Some may find the flex in the keyboard too much for their liking, but the action is good and the layout for the most part sensible — although we prefer the PgUp, PgDn, Home and End keys nearer to hand than half-height units at the top of the numeric keypad. Between the screen and spill-resistant keyboard are the power button the left, and, on the right, three buttons for launching utilities — the Windows Mobility Center, Dell Support Center and Dell Instant Launch Manager. In the wrist-rest area is a large two-button multi-touch touchpad and, on the right, a fingerprint reader.
The Dell-customised Windows Mobility Center can be called up via a dedicated button
The Vostro range isn't constrained by the need for a sober corporate livery, so Dell offers three chassis colours: Lucerne Red, Brisbane Bronze and Aberdeen Silver. We had the red version.
Our review sample of the Vostro 3750 was powered by Intel's dual-core Core i5-2140M processor running at 2.3GHz. You can opt for a less powerful 2.1GHz Core i3-2130M, but there's currently no quad-core Core i7 option. Our top-end configuration had 4GB of 1,333MHz DDR3 RAM, expandable to 8GB. Other cheaper setups come with 3GB and 2GB installed. The chipset is Intel's Mobile HM67 Express and the operating system is Windows 7 Professional 64-bit.
The graphics subsystem makes use of both the CPU-integrated Intel HD Graphics 3000 with up to 384MB of shared video memory and Nvidia's GeForce GT 525M with 1GB of dedicated video RAM. Thanks to Nvidia's Optimus technology, the system will automatically switch the integrated GPU and the more powerful (and power-hungry) discrete GPU depending on the graphics-heaviness of the workload.
The hard drive on our review sample was a reasonably quick 500GB Western Digital (WD5000BEKT-75KA9T0) spinning at 7,200rpm. Cheaper models use 320GB and 250GB drives, but there are no SSD options for even faster performance.
For connectivity, the Vostro 3750 has Gigabit Ethernet, 2.4GHz 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 3.0+HS. There's plenty of room for ports slots, so you get two USB 3.0 ports and a USB 2.0 port on the right-hand side, along with a multiformat optical drive and a 34mm ExpressCard reader. The left-hand side houses a USB 2.0/eSATA combo connector, an HDMI port, a pair of audio jacks and a reader for SD-compatible media. At the back is an Ethernet (RJ-45) port, a VGA port, a security cable slot and the power input. The AC adapter that recharges the standard 6-cell 48Wh Li-ion battery is admirably slim and lightweight.
Performance & battery life
The Vostro 3750 delivers a Windows Experience Index (WEI) of 4.5 (out of 7.9). The overall WEI is determined by the lowest subsystem score, which in this case was for Graphics (Desktop performance for Windows Aero). The remaining scores were much more impressive: 5.9 each for RAM (Memory operations per second) and Primary hard disk (Disk data transfer rate); 6.6 for Gaming graphics (3D business and gaming graphics performance); and 6.9 for Processor (Calculations per second). The overall impression is of a well-balanced system with good processor speed and a flexible graphics subsystem.
We estimated battery life by measuring the system's power draw (with the battery removed to ensure no recharging issues) when idle at the Windows desktop and when running a reasonably demanding workload — namely, Passmark Software's Performance Test 7.0. We did this using a Voltcraft VC-940 Plus multimeter; dividing the average power consumption (in Watts) into the 6-cell battery's 48 Watt-hour rating gives an estimate for the longevity.
With screen brightness at 100 percent and default Dell power management setting, the Vostro drew 18.48W when idling and 31.73W when running PT 7.0, giving battery life estimates of between 1.51 and 2.6 hours. Reducing the brightness to 50 percent, turning off Wi-Fi and using the Power Saver setting resulted in figures of 10.41W (4.61h) when idling and 23.19W (2.07h) when running PT 7.0. Clearly you're not going to get a day's work done on a single charge of the 6-cell battery, but you'll certainly be able to go for significant spells away from the mains if necessary.
If you're a small business that doesn't require the full panoply of corporate security requirements (TPM, vPro for example), then the visually pleasing Vostro 3750 is a good desktop replacement contender. It delivers solid, if not spectacular, performance and reasonable battery life for a 17.3in. system with dual integrated/discrete graphics and a conventional hard disk.