We weren’t that impressed by the Vostro range’s debut back in 2007. While dedicated support packages and enhanced next-business-day warranties were certainly attractive extras in their own right, the hardware itself wasn’t really designed for the needs of small businesses. It was, in fact, just the familiar Inspiron chassis finished in a more dour and businesslike black.
But for its new Vostro range, Dell has taken the criticisms on board and started entirely from scratch. It’s a good thing too, as in addition to the usual 15.4in and 17in models – the 1510 and 1710 – Dell has added a 13.3in laptop to the range, the Vostro 1310.
Visually, the emphasis across the range is firmly on clean lines and uncomplicated design. The lid is finished in a glossy black, with specks of silver sparkling under the surface, while a petite Dell logo nestles in its centre. The acres of matt-black plastic are no rival for the luxurious charms of Dell’s own XPS M1330, but that’s reflected in the price: a similar specified M1330 costs over $750 more.
Despite that 13.3in screen, though, it’s actually a pretty chunky laptop, and it stands 38mm proud of the desk at its front edge. Its girth might not give it the streamlined appeal of other 13.3in laptops, but its portly frame does have benefits. The 1310 feels pleasingly substantial, especially so given its cost. Try as we might, the chassis resisted our heavy-handed abuse. If you need a laptop that’ll survive the daily journey from bag to desk and back again, the Vostro inspires confidence – and at a modest 2.16kg, it’s far from overweight.
Factor in the 1310’s fine battery life, and its plain, boxy figure becomes less of an issue. Our heavy usage test is a considerable strain for any laptop battery, but the Dell’s lasted just six minutes short of the two-hour mark. Sitting idle, the Dell survived for more than five hours away from the mains.
But the real beauty of 13.3in laptops is that, in addition to being far more portable than 14.1in or 15.4in models, they also don’t have to suffer the ergonomic pitfalls which beset ultraportables. And, when it comes to ergonomics, the 1310 is a shining example of the breed.
Despite the relatively compact dimensions, there’s a full-sized keyboard, which is a genuine joy to type upon. There’s no evidence of any compromise whatsoever – no shrunken keys, no bizarre layouts; just a solid, sensible, usable keyboard.
The matte display is similarly free from any nasty traits. It’s bright, evenly lit and blessed with fine contrast. Viewing angles are a touch narrower than we’d like, and the native resolution of 1280 x 800 pixels is beginning to look a little cramped, but it’s still more than good enough for business purposes. And although we’d like a few more pixels to make it roomier, the lower resolution does keep text comfortably legible.
Performance, of course, depends on the specification you opt for. If budgets are tight, and you don’t need oodles of horsepower, the basic specification of an Intel Celeron processor, 1GB RAM and an 80GB hard disk will be ample. And at just $899 and delivery, it’s surprisingly affordable.
Dell has opted for a more capable array of components in our review unit, however. An Intel Core 2 Duo T8100 processor operates at 2.1GHz and, combined with the 2GB of memory, it scored a solid 1.03 in our benchmarks. If performance is crucial, then processor options stretch right up to the 2.6GHz T9500, for an extra $813.
The rest of the specification is eminently sensible. A 160GB hard drive is generous, and the slot-loading DVD writer adds a welcome touch of class.
The cherry on the top is the comprehensive support package. Any business will appreciate the peace of mind that comes from the one-year next-business-day on-site warranty. If that’s not comprehensive enough, you can always expand to three years or opt to upgrade to Dell’s business-centric telephone support, dubbed Pro Support.
Even in its most meagre specification, the Dell Vostro 1310 is a superb business laptop. It’s affordable, well built and has clearly been designed with a keen eye on its intended audience. But to label it a business laptop is almost to deny the breadth of its appeal. In fact, it would be as comfortable in a home environment as any consumer portable. This alone is enough to earn it a Recommended award.
This Review appeared in the September, 2008 issue of PC & Tech Authority Magazine
Source: Copyright © PC Pro, Dennis Publishing