On the inside the system is powered by an AMD Turion 64 X2 TL-60, which is the top-of-the-range option for the D531 series. It tops out at a steady 2.0GHz, but there’s only 1MB L2 Cache compared to the 2MB or 4MB found on Intel’s counterparts. This is supported by 2GB 667MHz DDR2, while graphics are provided by ATI’s Radeon 1270, which shares some of the system memory for its limited graphical duties.
Behind this core of components there’s a 120GB 5400rpm SATA HDD, an 8x DVD+/-RW optical drive and plenty of network connectivity thanks to Gigabit Ethernet, Draft-N wireless and Bluetooth 2.0 EDR. The presence of Draft-N wireless is especially important considering recent rumblings suggesting that, in the coming years, 802.11n Wi-Fi will be good enough and prevalent enough to replace wired Ethernet completely. If anything this seems a little premature but, nonetheless, its presence will only enhance the longevity of the machine.
In total this entire configuration will set you back £697.95 inc. VAT before delivery, and this includes the standard six-cell battery and Vista Business Edition. Coming in at just under £700 it’s certainly an attractively priced option – lower than NEC’s budget Intel option, the Versa S970. In many ways these two systems provide quite an interesting comparison; with NEC’s machine opting for faster and more expensive Intel parts at the expense of build quality, while Dell’s offering uses slower and cheaper components but a classier chassis.
This extra level of refinement is fairly evident in many aspects, but especially in the keyboard and display. Starting with the keyboard, the D531 sticks with the same basic layout that’s featured on the D630, and the D620 before it, which is no bad thing. It’s a great layout, matching a decent size Return key with other nice touches such as slightly recessed cursor keys and an extra row of keys to house some of the superfluous keys that often get in the way on more cramped notebooks.
As such it’s a pretty nice match for any standard desktop keyboard and it’s clear that this is what Dell was gunning for. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the keys themselves, which sport a significant amount of travel for a notebook keyboard. If I’m being honest I’m not totally sold on this, though for the sort of users who will be using the D531 it’s probably ideal.
Likewise the display, although by no means wonderful, is perfectly suited to its usage. It’s bright enough to be used in normal office environments, and doesn’t feature a reflective glossy finish which could prove distracting. Viewing angles are nothing special but serviceable and overall it’s very pleasant to work on day to day, which is all one can really ask. If we’re being finicky, it would be nice to see a higher resolution display as standard, but Dell is hardly alone in using 1,280 x 800 for budget machines and that’s not likely to change any time soon.