The Vostro 3350's 'Sandy Bridge' Core i5 processor holds its own in the performance stakes. A dual-core CPU with support for up to four virtual cores and running at up to 2.9GHz Turbo-clocked (2.3GHz regular speed), the i5-2410M will happily chomp through most tasks. However, if you do want more power you can opt for a dual-core Core i7. Alternatively, if it's more grunt than you need, opting for a Core i3 will save you £50 pre-VAT.
It's backed by 4GB of RAM, though you can upgrade this to 6GB or, again, downgrade to 2GB, though that's a little less than we would be comfortable with. Likewise, the hard drive can go from 250GB to 750GB, all running at a speedy 7,200rpm by default. On the graphical side of things, our review sample comes with the basic Intel integrated HD 3000, but all but the cheapest 3350 model will upgrade this to a dedicated HD 6470M, a surprisingly competent solution for a business-oriented laptop and sufficient for light gaming. That's not really an option on Intel's solution, which will only cope with older titles at medium detail settings, as evidenced by its 39.7 frames per second average in TrackMania Nations Forever.
The webcam is of the HD variety, as is becoming ever more common. As this is primarily a business machine, it sports a Professional edition of Windows 7 64-bit and offers a fingerprint scanner for easy yet secure logins.
As already mentioned, the Vostro 3350's huge eight-cell (80Wh/5240mAh) battery is good for an entire working day away from a socket, with it managing just over seven and a half hours in our light battery test. Admittedly that's with wireless radios disabled and screen brightness at a very usable 40 percent, but if you need longer Dell makes it very easy to order a second battery you can swap with.
If you'd rather keep the bulk and weight down a little or won't be away from the mains for extended periods, you can also opt for a four-cell battery, which will also save you £50.
So how will your wallet feel about Dell's latest offering? Our specific model, with Intel graphics, a Core i5, 4GB of RAM and a 320GB HDD along with its eight-cell battery comes to reasonable £549 ex. VAT, or £682.80 if you're a consumer. If you're the latter and are after a powerful ultraportable, then spending a little more will net you the Toshiba Satellite R830. However, the Dell offers more ruggedness and better usability, not to mention more configuration flexibility. A closer competitor is HP's ProBook 6360b, which offers near-identical specs for similar money. You don't, however, get the Vostro's USB 3.0 ports or its rather fetching metal exterior in various shades.
With its attractive aluminium shell in a choice of three striking colours, general ruggedness, excellent usability and great connectivity - combined with some decent specs - Dell's 13.3in Vostro 3350 is well worth its asking price, despite an average screen. Admittedly its high-capacity battery makes it somewhat heavy and chunky, but then you do get to stay away from a socket for hours at a time.