Catering to companies with one to 25 employees, Dell's Vostro line of laptops occupies the space between the company's consumer Inspiron and corporate Latitude lines. Like the Inspirons, the Vostro laptops offer a decent selection of components at a sub-$1,000 starting price. Like Latitudes, they incorporate business-level features, such as a Trusted Platform Module, fingerprint reader, and Gigabit Ethernet. But while the Latitudes also include features that are important for large corporations (a stable image, docking stations, standard three-year warranty, common peripherals), the Vostro line instead offers a service package that's slightly more robust than what you get with an Inspiron and designed for companies without a dedicated IT staff.
The smallest laptop in the Vostro family, the 13.3-inch Vostro 1310, starts at just $749 but offers a range of configuration options from ultrabudget to high-end. Our $1,258 review unit strikes a comfortable balance between performance and affordability, and it's less expensive than competing systems, such as the Toshiba Tecra M8 and the Portable One SXS37. (A similarly configured Latitude D630, the closest analogy from the Latitude line, costs $1,637.) What's more, the Vostro 1310 has an upscale look that will fit in to a variety of business environments, and its support package includes such nice touches as a dedicated small-business support line and a yearlong subscription to Dell's Automated PC Tune-up service. None of these seems all that spectacular on its own (except the price), but they do add up; we think the Vostro will meet the small-business owner's needs better than an Inspiron--for a similar price.
|Price as reviewed / Starting price||$1,258 / $749|
|Processor||2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7250|
|Memory||2GB of 667MHz|
|Hard drive||160GB at 5,400rpm|
|Chipset||Mobile Intel 965 Express|
|Graphics||128MB Nvidia GeForce 8400M GS|
|Operating system||Windows Vista Business|
|Dimensions (wide x deep x thick)||12.5 x 9.6 x 1.0-1.4 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||13.3 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||4.8 / 5.7 pounds|
With a round Dell logo in the center of its glossy lid, the Vostro 1310 looks very similar to the XPS M1330--though the Vostro is both boxier and heavier than its sibling. Overall we're pleased with the design of the Vostro 1310: it looks more expensive than it is, and it's businesslike without being stuffy. Also, its 4.8-pound weight (5.7 pounds with the AC adapter) is reasonable enough to carry on frequent trips to client offices or other work sites.
The Vostro 1310's portable weight can, in large part, be attributed to its 13.3-inch display, which provides ample screen real estate for spreadsheets, documents, and business apps. Our review unit featured a 1,280x800 resolution that kept text and icons readable; it also features an antiglare finish so you can read the screen in brightly lit office environments. Though movies are a secondary concern for business laptops such as this, we thought the movie-watching experience on the Vostro 1310 was more than adequate for watching flicks in-flight.
The keyboard on the Dell Vostro 1310 was adequately sized, but the clacking noise and minimal key resistance make the board seem a little bit cheap. We appreciate the recessed touch pad, which makes it less likely that you'll accidentally graze the pad while typing. However, the touch pad feels a bit cramped and would benefit from a slightly larger surface. On the lower right of the keyboard sits a fingerprint reader, which lets you log onto Windows with the swipe of a finger. Above the keyboard you'll find a handy row of light-touch volume and playback controls, of the type usually found on consumer-focused media machines.
|Dell Vostro 1310||Average for thin-and-light category|
|Video||VGA-out, Webcam||VGA-out, S-Video|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||4 USB 2.0, mini-FireWire, multiformat memory card reader||3 USB 2.0, mini-FireWire, multiformat memory card reader|
|Expansion||ExpressCard||PC Card or ExpressCard|
|Networking||modem, Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11 b/g Wi-Fi, Bluetooth||modem, Ethernet, 802.11 a/b/g Wi-Fi|
|Optical drive||DVD burner||DVD burner|
The Dell Vostro 1310's list of features compares favorably with both competitive systems and the average for the thin-and-light category. The extra USB port comes in handy in a small office where most peripherals are connected directly to the computer. The Webcam, Bluetooth radio, and Gigabit Ethernet will also likely be of value to the business user, while the slot-loading DVD burner was a surprise but a welcome inclusion nonetheless. Worth noting, too, are the security features, such as a Trusted Platform Module and fingerprint reader, that are often found on corporate laptops. (Many of these security features are also found on competitive systems, such as the Toshiba Tecra M8 and the Portable One SXS37.)
Dell offers a broad range of configuration options on its Vostro line, from budget-friendly Celeron processors to the top of Intel's Core 2 Duo line, integrated or discrete graphics, and up to 4GB of RAM. Our $1,258 Vostro 1310 test configuration fell in the middle of that range, with a 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7250 CPU, 128MB Nvidia GeForce 8400M GS graphics, and 2GB of RAM. That's very similar to the Dell XPS M1330 we tested nearly a year ago (current price: $1,724), and the two sibling systems posted similar scores on CNET Labs' benchmarks. The Vostro 1310 did trail the XPS M1330 on the multimedia multitasking portion of our tests, most likely because of its processor's smaller L2 cache. But during our use we found it more than adequate for switching back and forth between a media player, Web browser, and Office applications. It's also worth noting that our standard benchmarks don't take the graphics subsystem into large account; however, the Vostro 1310's Nvidia card should provide a modest boost to performance on video- and graphics-intensive applications.
The Vostro's six-cell battery lasted a respectable 2 hours, 28 minutes on our DVD drain test, putting it in the same range as the Toshiba Tecra M8 and nearly 40 minutes ahead of the Toshiba Satellite Pro A210. It's also longer than average for a thin-and-light, especially one with discrete graphics. Our DVD drain test is particularly grueling, so you can expect to see longer life during typical Windows use.
To keep prices low, the Vostro 1310's base warranty lasts one year (the industry standard); an upgrade to three years costs a reasonable $169. Vostro customers get their own dedicated 24-7, toll-free support line with technicians who can remotely access the laptop to diagnose problems. In addition, Dell's Pro Support program (not exclusive to Vostro) provides assistance on software and networking issues as well as hardware problems. The Vostro line also includes one year of free access to 10GB of online backup space and to the company's Automated PC Tune-up (also available on Inspirons for a fee), which regularly performs basic system maintenance.