The Dell Vostro range is aimed at small business, with several technology and customer service options available. Options range from processor and screen type to software and theft-insurance. We look at one of Dell's notebook computers from this range -- the Vostro 1400.
PCMark2005, 3DMark06, Cinebench 9.5, and Sandra Pro provided us with our hard performance scores when testing.
We also analysed "The Windows Experience Index" scores provided by Vista. Aside from raw performance, we also considered a number of physical design issues.
PCMark was used to assess the machine's overall performance with scores given for CPU, memory, graphics and HDD; which gives a useful indicator of performance dealing with typical office tasks. 3DMark and Cinebench were used as indicators of the machine's graphics capabilities.
We also used Sandra Pro to give some specific figures on processor, memory and drive performance. Battery life is tested with Battery Eater (Reader's Test), which gives scores very similar to MobileMark. 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 include case material quality and ease of opening for maintenance and upgrades. Sound quality is also considered along with the software included with the machine.
The Vostro 1400 is a sleek black machine with silver buttons for power and multimedia functions. It came supplied with Windows Vista Business edition and its 2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor and 2GB RAM give it strong performance. The 160GB hard-drive comes with a 10GB recovery partition pre-installed. There is also a DVD RW drive with dual-layer writing on the right hand side of the machine.
Dell has paid close attention to durability with hard-drive shock protection, magnesium-alloy casing and a sealed keyboard to keep out dust and moisture. The screen has sturdy, firm hinges, but we were disappointed to note that there is no latch to hold the screen closed, leaving it to rely on the hinge stiffness. The LCD is well supported producing little image distortion under pressure. The black casing is generally good for hiding dirt and other marks, although the screen-backing is inclined to pick up fingerprints. The 85Wh battery is more like something you would find on a significantly larger machine and thus a long battery life can be expected.
The 14.1-inch wide-screen has a 1440x900 pixel resolution and provides sharp images with good colour. However the highly reflective screen would not be great outdoors. There is also a Webcam capable of taking photos and video at up to a 1600x1200 resolution. Refresh rate is nothing special, but Internet lag means this is unlikely to be noticed in Web applications. The camera has excellent depth of field but does not handle colours well in exceptionally bright areas. Sound quality was quite acceptable and was produced by twin speakers located just below the screen hinges.
Ports include a pair of USB ports on either side of the machine; 1394 Firewire, network and modem. Video output is via D-sub VGA or S-video. At the front there are basic audio in/out jacks plus a reader for SD, MMC and MS/Pro memory cards. There is no facility for a port replicator. Also included is Bluetooth and Wireless-N Wi-Fi for fast networking.
The keyboard features full size keys with good tactile response. Secondary functions are shown very clearly with bright blue lettering. The touchpad felt good, but is oddly placed slightly left of the centre of the palm-rest.
|Cinebench 9.5||Rendering (1x CPU)||350|
|Rendering (2x CPU)||623|
|Sandra Pro Lite 11.17||Processor, Arithmetic||18092MIPS ; 12700MFLOPS|
|Processor, Multimedia||110519 it/s ; 59560 it/s|
|File System||40MB/s ; 10ms|
|Battery Eater 2.7||Reader's Test||205 minutes|
|Classic Test||107 minutes|
[See next page for analysis of performance benchmarks and verdict]
Windows Vista scores the Vostro 1400 at 3.5 overall, but this belies the excellent sub-scores for this machine. (Vista gives the lowest sub-score as the overall score.) This machine earns 5.1 on the processor rating; 4.8 for memory; 3.5 for basic graphics; 4.5 for gaming graphics; and 4.7 for the hard disk. The Nvidia GeForce 8400 graphics card provides excellent graphics performance for a notebook computer. The Vostro 1400's results in other areas would not be embarrassing on a desktop machine.
Without making the machine work too hard (Battery Eater running Reader's Test) we observed an impressive battery life of six hours and seven minutes. When we put the pressure on (Battery Eater Classic Test) battery life went down to three hours 48 minutes -- which is great.
The Vostro 1400 is a great machine. It's powerful, classy and comes with an attractive price tag. As tested this model is priced at AU$1,699, but the starting price listed online is as low as AU$948 (smaller battery, 1GB RAM, lower resolution screen, etc). 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 onsite.
Enex TestLab is one of Australia's most experienced, independent technology test facilities. After more than 16 years with RMIT IT TestLab, Enex's founders acquired the business from RMIT in 2005.