- Review Price: £675.63
Last year Dell launched its small business orientated Vostro brand, but at the time its laptop line consisted entirely of repurposed Inspiron machines. This may have sufficed in the short term but if large businesses could benefit from purpose designed laptops in the Latitude range, why not small businesses as well? This was clearly the view taken by Dell and earlier this year it launched a new range of bespoke laptops for its Vostro line.
This new line includes the Vostro 1310, a 13.3in portable laptop and the subject of our review today. This form factor has become incredibly popular over the last year, a trend fuelled largely by another of Dell’s laptops, the excellent XPS M1330. It’s a great form factor, allowing for weights around 2kg or less without sacrificing too much in terms of screen or keyboard size. This makes it relatively comfortable for long sessions without being too heavy to carry around every day – or at least that’s the theory, does the 1310 deliver on this ideal?
Aesthetically, the 1310 is everything you might expect from a “business” laptop. Finished entirely in black, its only attempt at flair is the glossy black section of the lid and around the edges. Otherwise it’s all solid matte black plastic and though it doesn’t make the 1310 a very exciting machine to behold, it does make it strong and durable. This makes it a good choice for the road-bound sales rep or home office worker, who needs a simple and long lasting machine for both in or out of the office – it might even be a great option for a student, too.
Another by product of this design is that it’s cheap to make and this saving is passed onto the customer. Our sample specification of a 2.1GHz T8100 Intel Core 2 Duo, 2GB of RAM, 160GB 5400rpm hard drive, Gigabit Ethernet, Bluetooth, 802.11 b/g Wi-Fi, 1.3-Megapixel camera and a six-cell battery will set you back just £575 exc. VAT (£675 inc.), a very handsome set of components for the price.
Moreover, if you opt for the cheapest dual-core CPU and do away with the WebCam, you’re looking at just £420 before tax, and £493 after it. This is all with integrated Intel X3100 graphics and though an nVidia 8400M GS is an option, it’s hard to see why anyone purchasing such a machine would need it.
Any price will also include a standard One Year Basic Warranty, though unlike those on consumer notebooks this is a Next Business Day Onsite package rather than Collect & Return. This can naturally be extended to two, three or even four years, or you can upgrade to a ProSupport package. This is quite an expensive upgrade but does give you a few advantages, such as the ability to bypass “basic troubleshooting” (i.e. “have you tried turning it off and on”), faster escalation and Microsoft OS and application support. If you’re very short on IT nous this might be worthwhile, but others should find the basic warranty sufficient provided all you need support for is hardware failure.
Opening up the 1310 you’re presented with a typically well laid out Dell keyboard. Everything is in the right place and of the right size, with the cursor keys slightly offset so that right Shift key can sit directly beneath the Return key. There’s even a set of touch sensitive media keys as well.
This is a pretty good start, but clearly Dell has saved a little more money on the keys themselves since they have a slightly muddier, softer feel than on other Dell laptops. As a consequence they don’t bounce back as crisply or quickly as we’d desire and make fluent typing more difficult. It’s still not a ”bad” keyboard by any stretch, but it definitely could have been better.
Another relatively minor complaint is that the 1310 isn’t as light or thin as some 13.3in notebooks. Though Dell quotes a variable thickness of 23.8 to 37.2mm, the thinnest part of this only applies to a tiny section at the front, so for all intent and purposes it is 37.2mm. Moreover, where the M1330 weighs two kilograms with a six-cell battery, the Vostro 1310 comes in at 2.17kg.
This said, when you consider that many people still use 15.4in monstrosities on the train and elsewhere “on the move”, the 13.3 inches and near two kilos of the 1310 would be something of revelation. Moreover, if a few hundred grams tips the balance for you then a four-cell battery will bring the overall weight down to just a shade over two kilos.
Connectivity options once again reflect the focus of the machine, though unlike the Latitude range there’s no support for docking stations – in the traditional sense at least. You do, however, get four USB ports and as such a USB docking station such as the Toshiba DynaDock, or any number of equivalents, would do the job nicely.
Dell has also been quite smart about how it has arranged the ports on the 1310. For example, the D-SUB and Ethernet ports are on the back – a lot easier if you’re using the machine at work. Meanwhile, on the left edge, you’ll find one of the four USB ports, a four-pin FireWire port, headphone and microphone jacks, a memory card reader and a 54mm ExpressCard.
Three more USB ports can be found on the right along with the slot-loading optical drive, the power input and a hardware switch for the wireless radios. Interestingly, Dell has also chosen to omit a modem port. To our minds this is no bad thing, with Wi-Fi or Broadband available in most hotels and HSDPA so prevalent as well, a modem hardly seems necessary – though some may find reasons to disagree and if so the 1310 might not be for you.
One other key advantage that the Vostro has over your regular off the shelf laptop is the screen, which is vitally of the non-glossy variety. This makes it far less susceptible to reflections under the office staple fluorescent lighting, or any other high light situations. Rated at 220nits the 1,280 x 800 13.3in screen isn’t the brightest, but it’s not bad and is suitably sharp and easy to read. Audio isn’t so strong though, with a single puny speaker only sufficient for Windows notifications.
Performance, however, garners no complaints and it is here that the Vostro 1310 shows what a great value and performance proposition it really is. Starting with arguably the most important metric, battery life, it puts in a sterling performance. In the Productivity segment of MobileMark 2007 it managed a superb four hours and 31 minutes, a result matched only by the five hours and 22 minutes of the lower intensity Reader test. Two hours and 49 minutes in the DVD playback segment is no bad effort, either.
Application performance is also strong. Though no powerhouse the 2.1GHz T8100 Intel Core 2 Duo is more than sufficient for most people’s needs and it, combined with the 2GB complement of RAM, crunches through our benchmarks with sufficient speed. All new systems also come pre-installed with Vista SP1 and this helps make performance significantly peppier – if you haven’t already installed this on your own machine then you should!
This excellent performance combined with a competitive price cements the impression of a supremely well targeted machine. Its design and features don’t excite, but Dell has economised in most of the right areas. Utilitarian design makes it durable and cheap and the lack of stereo speakers or a modem helps further to trim the costs, without taking too much away. Indeed, the only real issue is the slightly spongy keyboard and though it does take some shine off the great overall performance, the battery life in particular is enough to make this machine worth recommending.
Superb battery life and good performance at an affordable price make the Vostro 1310 a superb option for the small business in need of portable work horse.
Score in detail