Dell recently updated their Vostro range with the 3000 Series, a collection of notebooks and laptops designed with small to medium businesses in mind. There are a variety of models to choose from the range – the Vostro 3300 measures up at 13.3″; the 3400 is 14″ across; the 3500 is 15.6″ and the 3700 is 17.3″ – and, as usual for Dell, each model can be customized to your liking.
We’ve grabbed the 15.6″ Vostro 3500 for this review to put it through its paces. Depending on your preferred specs, there’s a wide range of pricing, starting from around £510 for a basic model and then up to over £870 for the all-singing, all-dancing version. We’ve selected a mid-range model priced at under £688 which should give a rough guide to performance levels.
Our Dell Vostro 3500 comes equipped with a 15.6″ LED screen, the Intel Core i5-430M processor running at 2.26GHz, 4GB RAM with 320GB storage and Win 7 Home Premium is bundled in. Here’s how we found it……
Dell’s efforts with the previous incarnations of the Vostro have been criticized in some quarters as having a lack of brand identity, so it’s good news to see that that problem appears to be fixed. Sporting a lightweight, thin and stylish aluminium shell, the Vostro 3500 exudes a smartness that underlines its business credentials from the outset. You can pick up any model within the 3000 range in silver, or if you want to fork out an extra little bit, in bronze or red.
The aluminium shell is attractive to the eye as well as to touch and keeps itself clear of fingerprint smudges more than most. Although its lightweight frame is fantastic for portability, it does come at a price; the 3500 feels a little bit weak and the shell has too much bend in it for my liking. That said, the build quality is sturdy enough; the hinges feel strong and the protective plates at the bottom are safe and secure.
On the left hand side of the unit you’ll find a VGA port for an external monitor, 2 USB 2.0 slots, a USB/eSATA combo, an HDMI out (which you can hook up to your HDTV), power port and Kensington lock slot, as well as the outlet for the fan. The right hand side is home to another USB 2.0, LAN, 34mm Expresscard slot and an 8-in-1 card reader, alongside the optical drive. There’s headphone and mic sockets located at the front.
SCREEN & KEYBOARD
Open up the Vostro 3500 and you’ll find the keyboard and screen. The keyboard is a typical laptop layout, with optional backlighting and well-spaced, responsive keys that offer enough resistance to avoid indirect typing errors. One glaring omission is the lack of number pad, which may well be a turn-off for some of you although you can easily access the on-screen virtual equivalent by hitting the dedicated Function button.
Beneath the keyboard is the touch pad, which features multi-touch gesture support. Like the keyboard, the touchpad is responsive and is large enough to swipe or pinch with comfort. The on-screen cursor control is smooth and there’s a scroll bar to the right which works well. The two mouse buttons below respond with satisfying clicks which completes a well-designed, all-round experience.
The 15.6″ LED backlit screen displays a 1366 x 768 pixel resolution – meaning it’s great for watching movies in 16:9 widescreen ratio. The display is impressive – nice and bright, with vivid colours and solid contrasts – although the viewing angles suffer a little bit from the side and above. This shouldn’t give you too many problems if you’re planning to watch a film with another person, but a larger group will likely be too much.
The screen is the proud owner of a non-reflective TFT coating, which gives it a matte finish and is visible outdoors under full sunlight, which offers an extra boost to the Vostro 3500′s portability.
SPECS & PERFORMANCE
As I mentioned earlier, you can pick up a Vostro 3500 in a variety of specifications, depending on how powerful you need/want it to be, or how much you can warrant spending. Our laptop is from the higher end of the mid-range – but it should give you a view of how much it’ll cost to suit your own requirements. Everything extra costs, so make sure you’re getting the most out of your money by only getting what you need.
Our Dell Vostro 3500 is based around the Intel Core i5-430M processor, which has a clock speed of 2.26GHz, 4GB RAM and a 320GB hard drive. The engine keeps things zipping along nicely and you won’t have any problem multi-tasking, even with the more CPU-intensive programs.
Gaming is supported, but don’t expect to play the latest 3D titles – the Intel integrated graphics card won’t manage those, but will handle the older titles with ease, as well as providing some good display functions.
320GB should provide enough storage for the average user’s data, music and film collections, although you can grab an external hard drive if you think you’ll fill her up quickly. Audio quality is as you would expect from a laptop – reasonably balanced levels, but slightly tinny; particularly at higher volumes. Buy some headphones if you want decent sound quality.
The Vostro 3500 performed quietly, but was apt to getting very hot when put under strain for prolonged periods. If you’re planning on buying one to use 24/7, it might be necessary to hold back a bit on the multi-tasking to keep things cool and avoid battery burn-out. Battery life is OK, but not jaw-dropping. Depending on how your levels are set and what tasks you are performing, you can expect between 2.5 – 3 hours of use on average.
Extra features include a hard drive shock absorber which protects your data from the damage a nasty bang may bring, a 2MP webcam which allows you to video conference and a fingerprint reader for extra security. The keyboard is splash-resistant and you also gets a 12 month warranty.
The Dell Vostro 3500 is a decent laptop at a reasonable price and combines a stylish design with good performance. If you’re not wanting to play the latest 3D games in full resolution, the 3500 will offer enough quality in most departments to please a wide audience. Small to medium business users will find a lot to love and the price should make the Vostro 3000 range a good seller for Dell.