Designed for business professionals on a budget, the Dell Vostro 15 3000 ($349 as tested) aims to deliver all of the essentials you need for cranking out reports, keeping up with email and getting other tasks done. It partially succeeds on that front, offering an excellent keyboard, a decently crisp display and enough battery life to get through the better part of a workday. However, with less-than-stellar CPU performance and a cheap-looking design, the Vostro is far from the best PC you can get in its price range.
You certainly get what you pay for with the Vostro 15, which sports a no-frills, all-black design that looks and feels cheap.
The ridged plastic on the laptop's lid and deck is highly susceptible to fingerprints, and clashes awkwardly with the glossy material that makes up the notebook's edges. This isn't just a style problem -- it also creates some unpleasantly sharp corners between the edges and the deck.
At 14.75 x 10.25 x 0.9 inches and 5.2 pounds, the Vostro is probably best left on your desk rather than used as a travel companion. The Vostro's size is fairly standard for a 15-inch mainstream laptop, though the similarly sized Asus F555LA has a lighter, 4.6-pound chassis.
Ports and Webcam
Dell's PC comes well equipped for work, sporting two USB 2.0 ports, a USB 3.0 port, an Ethernet port and a headphone/mic jack.
There's also a DVD drive, as well as a VGA port for connecting the laptop to an external display.
The Vostro's 720p webcam doesn't take the mos34tht stellar selfies -- my pictures looked notably pale and grainy. Still, it's clear enough to work for basic video calling.
The Vostro's 15-inch, 1366 x 768 display might not offer full HD, but it still makes a fine showpiece for movies and videos. The Captain America: Civil War trailer looked impressively crisp on the notebook's display, which made it easy to pick out every detail of Tony Stark's bruised, goateed face. The clip remained highly watchable at wide angles, even as I tilted the screen as far as roughly 70 degrees away.
However, the myriad of colorful superhero suits in the video could have looked richer, which was reflected in our lab tests. The notebook reproduced only 65 percent of the sRGB color gamut, trailing the Asus F555L (70 percent) as well as Dell's Inspiron 15 3000 (73.2 percent).
The display also wasn't the most color-accurate we've tested, with a Delta-E of 4.42 (closer to 0 is better). The Vostro was less accurate than the Inspiron 15 (3.9) but better than the Asus F55L (6.34) and our 5.7 mainstream notebook average.
MORE: Best Laptops Under $500
The Vostro 15 3000 registered an average brightness of 201.6 nits on our light meter, which is less bright than our 246-nit average but brighter than the F555L (198 nits) and the Inspiron 15 (145 nits).
The Vostro's speakers are surprisingly loud, filling our small TV testing room with the bouncy pop-rock of Fall Out Boy's "Irresistible" and the thumping hip-hop of Kendrick Lamar's "King Kunta." While vocals came through fairly clear, guitars sounded a bit muddy, and there was a general lack of bass.
Fortunately, you can beef up the Vostro's audio output via the built-in Dell Audio app, which features MaxxAudio Pro speaker and headphone enhancement. MaxxAudio is on by default -- my music became much softer and sounded hollow when I turned it off. The app allows you to adjust parameters such as bass, treble and dialogue, as well as dig into an equalizer for extra fine-tuning.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The Vostro's keyboard is excellent, sporting chiclet-island keys that offer just the right mix of feedback and resistance. Despite a fairly low travel of 1.26 millimeters, the keyboard allowed me to comfortably blaze through the Key Hero typing test at 114 words per minute with near-perfect accuracy.
The notebook's spacious 4.1 x 3.1-inch touchpad was equally intuitive, offering a satisfying click while making actions such as pinching-to-zoom feel effortless. More advanced gestures, such as swiping right with three fingers to change apps, also worked well.
The Vostro's Intel Celeron 3215U processor and 4GB of RAM don't exactly make it a multitasking powerhouse, but it still offers the muscle you need for light computing and web surfing. I didn't encounter any major issues while watching two Twitch streams and running a full system scan. However, switching tabs and minimizing pages took a few seconds longer than I would have liked.
The notebook scored 2,939 on the Geekbench 3 general performance test, lagging behind the Core i3-powered F555LA (4,220) while besting the Celeron N3050-powered Inspiron 15 (1,568). The Vostro failed to top the average mainstream notebook (7,812), though this group includes more powerful gaming laptops.
Dell's PC took 8 minutes and 4 seconds to match 20,000 names to addresses on our spreadsheet test. That's notably slower than the F555LA (6:31) and our 5:31 mainstream notebook average, but much faster than the Inspiron 15 (15:03).
The Vostro's 500GB, 5,400-rpm hard drive copied 4.97GB worth of files at 27.6 MB per second, which is a bit behind the F555LA's 500GB drive (32.2 MBps) but faster than the Inspiron's 500GB drive (25.7 MBps).
The Vostro is a machine designed for getting work done -- not for playing high-end PC games or rendering 3D graphics. Still, its integrated Intel 4400 HD graphics should get the job done for the mobile-grade titles on the Windows Store, such as the copy of Candy Crush Soda Saga that comes preinstalled on the system.
Dell's laptop scored 30,877 on the 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited graphics benchmark, losing to the Intel 5500-powered F555LA (46,285) but crushing the Intel HD-powered Inspiron 15 (18,154).
Battery Life and Heat
The Vostro offers decent battery life, but you shouldn't leave the office for long without your charger handy. The notebook lasted for 5 hours and 23 minutes on our battery test (continuous web surfing over Wi-Fi), just barely falling behind the Asus' 5:44 and our 5:54 average for mainstream notebooks.
While you're likely to keep a 15-inch notebook on your desk, the Vostro won't burn a hole in your lap. After streaming 15 minutes of HD video, the laptop's touchpad, keyboard and underside grew to 81, 83, and 93 degrees, respectively, all of which are below our 95-degree comfort threshold.
The Vostro starts at $349, which gets you an Intel Celeron 3215U processor, 4GB of RAM, a 500GB, 5,400-rpm hard drive and integrated Intel HD 4400 graphics.
Stepping up to the $499 model will get you a 5th-gen Intel Core i3-5005U CPU and Intel 5500 graphics, while the $629 version packs a Core i5-6200 processor and Intel 520 graphics. Finally, the highest-end, $729 model ups the RAM to 8GB and sports discrete AMD Radeon R5 M315 graphics.
Interestingly, the starting config ships with Windows 10, while the other three default to Windows 7. You can, however, choose your preferred software before you buy.
Software and Warranty
I was pleased to see how little bloatware was on the Vostro, whose only main extra is a suite of CyberLink media apps. There's the Power Media Player for watching movies and playing music, the PowerDirector for video editing and the Power2Go app for quickly burning CDs.
The Vostro ships with a one-year hardware service warranty, which includes in-home and onsite service after a remote diagnosis. See how Dell fared in our Best and Worst Laptop Brand Report and Tech Support Showdown.
The best word to sum up the $349 Dell Vostro 15 3000 is "fine." The notebook's snappy keyboard and satisfactory battery life are suitable for basic business tasks, and its 1366 x 768 display is crisp enough for reading detailed reports or watching the occasional movie.
While the Vostro's cheap design and relatively slow performance seem like typical trade-offs for a budget PC, some of its competitors prove you don't have to settle. The $375 Asus F555LA offers a sharper 1080p display and a much sleeker design. The Vostro is perfectly usable, but you can do better for the money.