Dell’s Vostro range is aimed at business users, and the notebooks are usually a bit on the chunky side, as is often the case for business notebooks. But the V13 is something different. It is sleek, slim and attractive. Yes, it is short on ports and connectors, and it also lacks an optical drive, but if you can live without these things it certainly adds style to your workday bag, and won’t cost you an arm and a leg.
The chassis is mostly aluminium on the outside, with both lid and base section made of silver sheets of the stuff. This does afford a little more protection than the usual plastic, and it looks attractive, but the single sheet baseplate means you can’t easily get to the battery or RAM slots so you can’t replace the former or upgrade the latter readily.
Inside the chassis the keyboard is pleasing to use. It is a little spongy, but to be honest only the really heaviest of typists will notice. The keys have a good action and deliver a firm click sound that some people like, others find annoying. The touchpad is wide and incorporates both scroll zones and a pinch-to-zoom feature.
The screen measures 13.3-inches across diagonal corners and delivers 1366 x 768 pixels. It lacks the shiny, reflective finish that many consumer focussed notebooks have, making it much easier to work in conditions where there is light going straight onto the screen, such as by a train, coffee shop or office window.
There is a webcam sitting above the screen, and Dell provides some software for use with it which includes a few avatars, some frames and a rather more useful desktop share view so you can show those you are talking to your whole desktop or just a selected portion of it.
The technical specs aren’t top-notch, but then this is designed as a lower cost notebook. There are three Intel processor choices; the Core 2 Duo SU7300 1.3GHz, Core 2 Solo SU3500 1.4GHz and Celeron 743 1.2GHz. RAM configurations are 4GB and 2GB. Operating system choices run to Windows 7 Home Premium and Professional, and a downgrade to Windows XP SP3.
The lowest hard drive capacity of 250GB should be plenty for most people. Wireless runs to 802.11n and Bluetooth. At some point Dell will introduce a version of this notebook with a mobile broadband modem built in, but currently that’s not available.
Ports and connectors are, as we’ve already noted, minimal. There is a 34mm ExpressCard slot, 5-in-1 card reader for SD and compatible and MemoryStick formats, VGA connector and just two USB ports, one of which is a dual eSATA connector. Microphone and headphones connectors sit on the front edge of the chassis.
In everyday use battery life was average. Our review sample played a movie for close to three hours from a USB stick from a full battery charge.
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