Some companies try to pack as many features as possible into their notebooks. But the updated Vostro line from Dell, with both 13- and 15-inch versions, is all about getting exactly what you want—nothing more, nothing less. That means plenty of sophisticated design, including a slot-loading DVD burner and capacitive-touch multimedia buttons, as well as personalized tech support and end-user service options, but no bloatware or features you’ll never use. It’s also one of the few systems that still offers Windows XP as an option. It’s the best notebook for small-business users yet.
A Design All Its Own
Thinner and lighter than the 14-inch Vostro, the 4.8-pound Dell Vostro 1310 looks the part of a business notebook without being boring. Take a closer look at the 12.5 x 9.6 x 1.5-inch system, and you’ll see that the magnesium-alloy and titanium chassis has a little sparkle to it, visible in the lid and the keyboard deck. Above the keyboard is a set of blue status lights for Internet, Bluetooth, and more, plus seven touch-sensitive multimedia keys, which were very responsive on our tests.
Above the display is a microphone and 1.3-megapixel webcam, which were fine for video chats. The full-size keyboard is spacious and comfortable, though we did notice some flex when we typed. We had no problems with the very responsive touchpad or comfortable mouse buttons.
Along the sides, you’ll find four USB ports (one on the left and three on the right), FireWire, headphone, mic, an 8-in-1 card reader, and 54mm ExpressCard slot, a Wi-Fi switch, and a slot-loading DVD burner. In the front is the only speaker on the system, and it’s tiny. Around back, you’ll find a VGA port and Ethernet. There’s no old-fashioned modem jack, but we don’t mind that omission.
Display and Audio
The 13.3-inch screen with 1280 x 800-pixel Antiglare resolution (you can also opt for 1440 x 900 on the 1510 model) is perfect for business use. It was plenty bright at the brightest setting, and we saw no glare using it in our office. Viewing angles were excellent both vertically and horizontally. Movies were acceptable but not great. There Will Be Blood looked dark and dingy, but then again, it’s a dark movie. Finding Nemo was plenty colorful, although not as sharp as it should be.
Mediocre sound quality is an issue with this system. Even turned all the way up, we had trouble deciphering the words in There Will be Blood, and our Melissa Ethridge CD sounded so tinny, we actually just wanted to turn it off. Lowering the volume didn’t help, either. If you absolutely must have sound in a small conference room, this mono speaker will do the trick, but listeners will struggle to hear it in a larger space.
Built for Business
What makes the Dell Vostro 1310 stand out from the pack is how well it’s made for business users. On the keyboard deck is a fingerprint scanner; on the back, a cable lock; and inside, TPM circuitry for data encryption, as well as an optional accelerometer (for the 7,200-rpm drives only), which parks the hard drive should the notebook sense it’s in a freefall. And, in general, both the 1310 and 1510 offer plenty of configuration options when it comes to hardware, software, and services.
We like that you can choose Windows XP instead of being forced into Vista. You also have the option of Bluetooth (not included in our configuration), up to 4GB of RAM, integrated or discrete graphics, and several choices of processors. We praised the Dell Vostro 1400 for its extensive business tools, including the Dell Network Assistant utility, PC TuneUp, the Dell Support Center, and Dell DataSafe Online, and the new versions have all those as well; only now, they’re offered à la carte, so if you don’t want them, you don’t have to pay for them. Our $1,357 configuration came with all those services, including 10GB of online storage with Dell DataSafe.
Our one complaint is that Dell doesn’t offer built-in mobile broadband as an option, although you could always add a plug-in card.
Vostro 1310 Performance
Not having all the crapware that typically comes on Vista systems pays off for the Vostro 1310. We had no trouble running Vista’s Aero interface, surfing the Web, watching movies, and managing a handful of open windows. The 2.1-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T8100 and 5,400-rpm 160GB hard drive mustered 2,764 on PCMark Vantage, which is about 300 points above average for a thin-and-light; its 140 on MobileMark 2007 is a hair below average for its class but still plenty good for business apps and multitasking.
Graphics scores were even better. The 1310’s Nvidia graphics GeForce 8400M GS with only 128MB of dedicated video memory turned in an impressive 3DMark03 score of 6,195, nearly triple the average for its class. That’s more than enough power to handle some casual gaming when your work is done or light video encoding for multimedia dabblers. You can also opt for integrated graphics if you think that’s overkill for your needs.
Battery Life and Wireless
Battery life was a little disappointing for a business notebook. The system’s six-cell battery lasted 3 hours and 30 minutes running MobileMark 2007 (about an hour short of average for a thin-and-light), and when we brightened the screen to 100 percent during our hands-on testing, it lasted an hour less. You can opt for a nine-cell battery, which should tip you over the 5-hour mark.
Wireless scores, on the other hand, were solid at 20.0 Mbps at 15 feet and 14.8 Mbps at 50 feet from our access point. Likewise, we had no trouble surfing the Web and never found ourselves waiting for sites to load.
Dell Vostro 1310 Verdict
The Dell Vostro 1310 has all the ingredients of a first-class small-business notebook. Its balance of price, portability, and performance, not to mention all the support and configuration options, make it a no-brainer investment.