Here's the not-so-secret secret about Dell's new small-business laptop, the Vostro V130: it's not really just for small-business users. Although the Vostro series slots in alongside Dell's Latitude as non-consumer-oriented laptops, the thin, sturdy, compact 13.3-inch Vostro V130 feels more like a more affordable offspring of the original Dell Adamo. The V130 is an upgrade to last year's Vostro V13, outfitted with HDMI-out and new, faster CPUs. Available in a wide variety of configurations ranging from $429 up to a MacBook Air-level $1,073, the Vostro V130 is less of an individual product than it is the latest in a line of high-concept designs kicked off by the original Adamo.
As a result, our recommendations vary based on what cost and specs you'd select from the configuration options available on Dell's Web site. Certain aspects of the V130 are consistent across the board: the rock-solid aluminum-and-magnesium frame, the 13-inch matte screen, and the system's lack of an optical drive. Also, the V130 only has integrated Intel graphics.
The configuration we reviewed, a top-of-the-line $918 model, had an Intel Core i5 U470 CULV processor, 4GB of RAM, and a 500GB hard drive. In this configuration, it underperformed compared to the slightly larger but more affordable Toshiba Portege R705, especially in terms of battery life.
That's the pickle with the Vostro V130: especially when factoring in its poor battery life, there's really nothing that distinguishes it when compared with superior small laptops such as the Portege R705 and the new Apple MacBook Airs. In the middle configurations, especially around $600, the V130 could have been a sweeter choice, especially if its battery performed better.
|Price as reviewed / starting price||$918 / $429|
|Processor||1.33 GHz Intel Core i5 U470|
|Memory||4GB, 1,333MHz DDR3|
|Hard drive||500GB 7,200rpm|
|Graphics||Intel GMA HD|
|Operating system||Windows 7 Professional (64-bit)|
|Dimensions (WD)||13.0 x 9 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||13.3 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||4.4/3.7 pounds|
Much like the Dell Vostro 3300 we reviewed earlier this year, the Vostro V130 is a sleek, angular laptop that feels almost ThinkPad-like in its interior, but also has some exterior style that casts it as the offspring of a MacBook Air and an Adamo. An anodized aluminum frame comes in both attractive steel and metallic red shades (Lucerne red costs an extra $40). An integrated battery underneath keeps the thickness on the V130 universally slim. The slight hinge-forward design of the top lid leaves a little back lip jutting out behind the opened-up lid, which is where all the ports and the V130's heat vents are found. The rear ports are great for desk use but can get confusing on one's lap, while the rear heat vents do a nice job shunting excess warmth away from legs and other delicate parts.
A wide magnesium-alloy palm rest frames a square multitouch touch pad with discrete buttons beneath. The pad's smaller than what you'd find on Apple's MacBook Air, but it's responsive and has all the requisite multitouch gestures enabled.
The keyboard is well-built and feels great, too--it's a semiraised keyboard that's similar to those on other Dell Inspirons. There are a few annoyances: volume and brightness aren't function-reversed and have no dedicated buttons, and a column of page up/page down keys on the right side cramp easy access to the Enter/Shift keys, a trend we've seen growing on many laptops. If you're looking for any dedicated keys other than what the standard keyboard provides, you're out of luck. A tiny power button on the top left is all there is.
The 13.3-inch screen has a native pixel resolution of 1,366x768 and has a matte coating, which helps protect against glare. Text and videos both looked very crisp, and though the screen's maximum brightness still wasn't all that bright, the lack of environmental glare helped make the most of it. A mono speaker situated below the keyboard did a better than expected job with video playback, and it reached an acceptable volume. Sound quality wasn't overly tinny, despite its lack of depth.
An included 2.0 megapixel Webcam can record video or snap pictures at resolutions up to 1,600x1,200, but video recorded in AVI format at that size was extremely choppy. We achieved the smoothest results at 640x480.
|Dell Vostro V130||Average for category [13-inch]|
|Video||VGA-out, HDMI||VGA plus HDMI or DisplayPort|
|Audio||Mono speaker, headphone/microphone jacks||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||3 USB 2.0 (1 combo eSATA port), SD card reader||3 USB 2.0, SD card reader|
|Networking||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, mobile broadband, Bluetooth 3.0||Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional mobile broadband|
|Optical drive||None||DVD burner|
Due perhaps to its size, the Vostro V130 doesn't have a great selection of ports. Most of them are tucked along the back end of the V130, except for an SD card on the right side of the laptop and headphone/mic jacks and a SIM card slot on the front end. In addition to mobile broadband readiness, the V130 also has Bluetooth standard.
Dell offers a huge selection of configurations of the V130 on its small business Web site, starting at the seemingly bargain-basement price of $429 and climbing well above $1,000. That's a vast range for a 13-inch laptop, but a peek under the hood of various configurations reveals that the low-end $429 V130 has a paltry 1GHz Celeron processor, 2GB of RAM and a 250GB hard drive. A more reasonable configuration--and one we'd recommend--would be a $628 model with a Core i3 ULV CPU, 2GB of RAM and a 320GB hard drive. Our version has a high price largely because of its CPU, its doubled RAM, and the upgraded Windows 7 Professional OS. One nice plus: the 500GB hard drive is a fast 7,200rpm. A 128GB SSD drive is also available for an extra $228, but if you're really hungry for SSD in a thin laptop, you might as well go with a 13-inch MacBook Air instead.
The Core i5 ULV processor in our configuration of the Vostro V130 is an ultralow-voltage processor, operating at only 1.3 GHz. It's a less powerful processor than a standard-voltage Core i5 found in most mainstream laptops, and it also underperforms compared to any standard voltage Core i3. It's better, though, than the Core 2 ULV CPUs found in many last-generation thin-and-lights. Apple's MacBook Airs still feature Core 2 Duo ULV processors, but in our benchmarking tests the 11.6-inch MacBook Air came out ahead in a few categories. Functionally, you can expect a nearly mainstream experience from a Core i5 ULV, plenty to do most tasks, although when it came to multitasking the V130 engaged its fans and got quite warm.
Video streaming looked great on the Core i5 ULV Vostro V130; both full-screen Hulu and Netflix were smooth and very watchable. The V130 only has Intel integrated graphics, but that's more than adequate for any video playback needs. The V130 won't handle games well, but that's not something a V130 customer would really be looking for.