REVIEW: Dell Vostro V130

Moving into the New Year, small and mid-sized firms are likely to be re-examining their IT needs in order to implement technology that gives them comprehensive access to all the capabilities they need, even while on the road. As companies shift from desktops and implement product refreshes that have long been delayed, laptop PCs are more than likely on the shopping list. Dell continues to keep business needs in focus with effective design, more processing muscle and improved support options.

What is it and who is it for?

Dell’s Vostro V130 (from £399 up to £849 ex. VAT) is one of the thinnest and lightest ultra-portable 13-inch laptops on the market today, but at a much more affordable price point than the company’s now discontinued Adamo. The V130 is actually an upgrade to the Vostro V13, adding an HDMI-out port and choice of newer Intel CPUs.

Purposely built for road warriors and hot-deskers demanding compactness and battery life over workstation performance, the Vostro V130 is a durable laptop that gives business users style and substance without breaking the bank. It’s also the first ultra-thin laptop to offer Intel’s Hyperbaric Cooling, a cooling technology that still makes use of fans, but does so in a much more efficient manner. Instead of drawing air universally into the laptop from its surroundings, it redirects the flow of air as needed toward specific components. This is more efficient also helps to reduce the noise of fans.

Does it do it well?

Powered by Intel Core ULV processors and Windows 7, the Vostro V130 is an attractive corporate machine and would sit well in an office full of ThinkPads. It’s certainly not an Apple MacBook Air (from £849 ex. VAT) or Sony VAIO Z (from £1,443 ex. VAT), but the anodised aluminium silver chassis (also available in red) offsets aesthetically against the black keyboard, and a carrying weight of 1.66kg makes the laptop perfectly portable for dashing between home, office and clients. Constructed from sturdy aluminium and reinforced with zinc hinges and a magnesium alloy palm rest, the Vostro V130 will survive everyday knocks and bumps.

Our top-of-the-line review model (£904 ex. VAT) had a 1.33GHz Intel Core i5-470UM ultra low-voltage processor, 4GB of RAM and a 500GB hard drive. The battery is integrated into the machine, which although helps to keep the thickness on the Vostro V130 universally slim, means you can’t add a high-capacity battery or even swap out the battery on long flights.

The Vostro V130’s heat vents and connectivity ports (HDMI for easy connection to a High Definition TV, two USB 2.0 ports, shared USB/eSATA port, VGA and Gigabit Ethernet) are tidily placed at the rear of the machine. The upside is that connectivity is easier when at your desk, but the downside is that rear-mounted USB ports are impractical when working on your lap—particularly when Flash drives are used. Another plus point is that excess heat is pushed away from your legs.

Working on the Vostro V130 for long periods is relaxed thanks to a full-sized keyboard and 13.3-inch display running at a crisp―although not very bright―resolution of 1366×768 pixels. The screen’s coating is matte rather than glossy, which helps protect against glare in brightly-lit offices, and the mono speaker integrated below the left side of the keyboard does a reasonable job―albeit at a cost of any bass whatsoever.

The multi-touch trackpad is large and the mouse buttons are silent when clicked, ideal for commuting on public transport, and the 2-megapixel Web camera integrated into the display proves useful for recording video and capturing stills at resolutions up to 1600×1200 pixels.

Small businesses can work virtually anywhere wirelessly with 802.11n wireless technology and Bluetooth 3.0 for easy wireless connection to devices and peripherals such as keyboards, mice and headsets within a short distance. The Vostro V130 is also mobile-broadband-ready (something Apple still doesn’t offer), but optional WiMAX technology is available only in the US.

Dell has taken leaf out of Lenovo’s book and integrated productivity enhancing features and support. With the Vostro V130, customers can choose their own level of 24/7 coverage with optional Dell ProSupport services and Accidental Damage Service, as well as get help when they need it with DellConnect which allows tech-support agents to troubleshoot and help repair system issues remotely. The laptop also comes equipped with the latest Trend Micro Worry-Free Business Security Services to protect the system and servers from viruses and virtual threats, as well as CompuTrace anti-theft.

Computrace allows IT managers to remotely delete data on the Vostro V130 and make the computer unusable in case of theft—no matter if it’s on or off the Internet. Designed to keep sensitive information out of the wrong hands, the BIOS-controlled software offers an additional degree of tamper resistance. After remotely deleting data, IT managers can choose to deactivate a missing computer to make it unusable. Or before it goes missing, set the computer to deactivate automatically if it doesn’t contact the “Absolute Monitoring Center” within a set time.

Where does it disappoint?

The Vostro V130 delivers a capable computing experience from the Core i5 ULV processor, but its fans are noisy when multitasking and the machine becomes quite warm. The 500GB hard drive spins at a fast 7,200rpm, but the lack of SSD (Solid State Drive) storage in a big disappointment for an enterprise-level ultraportable. The Vostro V130’s integrated Intel HD Graphics are adequate for any video playback needs, but only the most casual of games are supported for after-hours entertainment.

Similar to all laptops of its size, the Vostro V130 isn’t blessed with a wide range of connectivity ports. And while those that are present are tucked along the back edge―except for an SD/MMC/Memory Stick slot, SIM card slot, and headphone/microphone jacks―using them on the move can be awkward.

There’s a little too much bounce in the keys for our liking (especially toward the centre of the keyboard), and the area of the chassis under the keyboard flexes far too much for comfort when pressure is applied. The biggest disappointment, however, is the machine’s power outlet autonomy. The 6-cell integrated battery is good for just over 3.5 hours which, frankly, is unacceptable. Other ultraportables are typically good for twice that amount of time. By comparison, the MacBook Air 13-inch lasts over an incredible 12 hours.

Would we recommend it?

The Vostro V130 is bit of a mixed bag. It looks good, sports a reasonable range of features and doesn’t break the bank―unless you spec it up, when it then loses its value appeal. Its lightweight and robust design is ideal for frequent travellers, but the lack of built-in security extras such as fingerprint readers and TPM chips won’t wash with corporates. The biggest problem is that there’s really nothing that distinguishes it, especially compared to a ThinkPad or MacBook Air. And then there’s the unacceptable battery life. The Vostro V130 might suit the individual, but it’s not well-rounded enough for enterprises.

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