Dell is not known for producing stylish, desirable looking hardware, and it is likely that if a colleague put a Vostro V13 in front of you and asked who produced it, Dell would be a long way down your list.
This aluminium-clad business-focussed ultraportable laptop looks stunning, and at a starting price of £359 (ex. VAT) it could have every business person who ever wanted to look like a top executive in a client meeting salivating at the thought of owning one. But laptops aren’t all about style. The substance matters too.
What is the Vostro V13 and who is it for?
Dell’s Vostro V13 is an ultraportable laptop aimed at small businesses. Its low price and premium build materials will have definite appeal for smaller businesses on a tight budget which want their staff to give an impression of style and sophistication.
Its core specifications are not cutting edge but they cover the bases well enough to handle tasks that many businesspeople are likely to want to carry out day to day. Processors are not right up there with the leading edge, with choices running to Intel Core 2 Duo SU7300 (1.3GHz), Intel Core 2 Solo SU3500 (1.4GHz) and Intel Celeron 743 (1.2GHz).
Integrated graphics and hard drives up to 250GB, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and Gigabit Ethernet round things out. The Vostro V13 is light at 1.59kg and at 330×230x17mm, it should fit snugly into your bag.
Does it do it well?
In usability terms the Vostro V13’s screen and keyboard are both perfectly adequate. The LED backlit display, at 13.3-inches, delivers 1366×768 pixels onto a screen with a matte antiglare finish. There should be no problem working on a train or in other situations where a light source is behind you. Viewing angles are good enough for you to be able to share information with colleagues and clients—though on the vertical plane they are less good than on the horizontal.
The keyboard bows a little if you type in a very heavy-handed way, but not so much as to cause problems or concern. On the contrary, the keyboard feels comfortable to use and typing at speeds should not be a problem.
Those businesspeople who feel it is important to keep in touch with colleagues and clients on the move via video-call will find the 1.3-Megapixel Web camera—which is integrated into all versions of this laptop—useful. Dell also provides its own Web camera software.
Dell offers a 1-year collect and return warranty, which can be upgraded at the time of purchase to provide up to 4 year’s worth of cover to include onsite support. Dell also offers an optional extra in its DataSafe online backup and recovery service.
Where does the Vostro V13 disappoint?
The Vostro V13 is available at a number of different price points and while the lowest of these may be the initial draw, the average businessperson or corporate buyer may find they need to up the base specifications to get a machine they can use effectively. To give one example, the lower-priced versions of this laptop run Windows 7 Home Premium—Windows 7 Professional is available if you up the price.
All but the most expensive iteration comes with just 2GB of RAM (as opposed to 4GB). Usually it is easy for support staff to upgrade RAM but in this case the aluminium chassis which helps make this laptop look so stunning is a single sheet— there is no hatch which support staff can remove to add RAM.
If you are looking for a laptop with a mobile broadband option to facilitate communication with clients and colleagues while on the move the Vostro V13 is not going to work for you at present. None of the models available support mobile broadband, though Dell says it is coming soon.
There is no optical drive, though Dell does offer an optional external DVD+/-RW or Blu-ray drive. Ports and connectors are on the thin side too with just two USB ports (one doubles as eSATA) lying side by side on the back of the chassis. In addition there is a Gigabit Ethernet connector, VGA out connector, 34mm ExpressCard slot and 5-in-1 card reader for SD and Memory Stick formats. Sadly, there is no option for a solid state drive (SSD).
Annoyingly, the 6-cell battery which powers the machine also resides under that aluminium baseplate we mentioned earlier—so there is no way to swap in a spare. Also, on test we found the battery to be no more than average in performance (3-4 hours), so if you need a laptop that can survive for a full working day in meetings or on the road this may not be the best option.
Would we recommend the Vostro V13?
Dell’s latest ultraportable laptop—otherwise known as the poor man’s Adamo—is a great looking machine, constructed with durable and premium materials at a decent price. Its specifications aren’t cutting edge, but it’s so much faster compared to most netbooks which use Intel’s low-cost Atom processor.
The biggest criticism of the Vostro V13 is that its svelte design results in poor battery life and the inability to swap out the cell or system memory. Graphics performance isn’t too hot, either. But if you or your colleagues are mostly deskbound, need a laptop that impresses at client meetings, or want something that is small and light to carry, then the Vostro V13 could be a prudent choice.