- Attractive, durable aluminium outer shell
- Matt screen and solid matt plastics throughout
- Good keyboard
- Long battery life
- Excellent connectivity including USB 3.0
- Bulky with extended battery
- Average screen
- Review Price: £682.80
- Aluminium outer shell in red, bronze or silver
- 13.3in, 1366 x 768 matt screen
- Core i3-i7, up to 6GB RAM
- Up to 750GB 7200rpm HDD
- Optional backlit, spillproof keyboard
This is a versatile laptop with all the connectivity you could want and some serious power under the hood, including options like latest-gen Core i7 CPU, 6GB of RAM, dedicated Radeon graphics and a fast, 750GB hard drive – all without compromising on rugged good looks or battery life.
The Vostro sports a durable and attractive aluminium outer shell, minimalist aesthetic, and edgy lines. The standard silver aluminium finish looks great, of course, but those with a hankering for a little more colour can go for Lucerne Red or Brisbane Bronze finishes on the metal bits instead, and both look very attractive indeed. In a minor but nice touch, your default wallpaper will match your colour of choice.
This Vostro’s design is very reminiscent of the older Latitude, just a little bulkier. In fact, with the optional extended 80Wh/5240mAh battery that’s attached to our review model, make that a lot bulkier. Frankly, it’s stretching to the point of ridiculous the label of ‘ultraportable’ being attached to this laptop – the additional weight of all that metal adds up to a total weight of just a few grams short of 2.2kg, while the extended battery makes it nigh-on impossible to pack the machine in a normal laptop sleeve or carrying case without removing it first.
Thankfully, the 3350’s build quality is just as solid as its weight suggests. The plastics used are thick, matt and very hard-wearing, while the matt aluminium finish feels like it could easily withstand the demands of your average road warrior. In this regard it almost matches up to the best of the rest, and were it not for the flex in its lid, would be as brick-like as the likes of Lenovo’s Thinkpad range.
Connectivity is also excellent, and we don’t think many will bemoan the lack of an ExpressCard slot here. On the left you’ll find twin USB 3.0 ports for hooking up fast external storage and high-bandwidth peripherals, a Gigabit Ethernet port and a tray-loading DVD rewriter with cleverly recessed eject button to prevent accidental opening.
At the front is an SDXC card reader, while to the right you’ll find VGA and HDMI for video, headphone plus microphone jacks, and a combined USB 2.0/eSATA port which allows for maximum speed with older external drives. Wireless connectivity is also very well catered for with Wi-Fi N, Bluetooth 3.0 and optional mobile broadband.
Usability is, in a word, excellent. Unfortunately it’s still the case that many manufacturers seem to be reserving their best keyboard experiences for their business lines, and Dell is apparently no exception. The typing experience on this Vostro 3350 is far superior to, for example, that on Dell’s premium XPS 15z. Though it’s still a stylish chiclet keyboard, key spacing is perfect and key feedback is nice and crisp with plenty of travel.
The only factor to keep in mind is that the large, protruding battery tilts the keyboard significantly, which is presented as an ergonomic benefit but should actually be the other way around to be healthiest for typing (hence why ergonomic keyboards are usually tilted with their back lower than the front).
Shortcuts are intelligently placed and clearly marked in orange. It’s also spill-resistant, though it might not survive an entire cup of coffee like the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 can. Attractive white backlighting is optional, and unfortunately our model didn’t have it – in fact, Dell annoyingly doesn’t offer it as a selectable option. Rather, you have to select the right preset configuration to get it. Overall then, this is one of the better typing experiences around, though it still doesn’t match the IBM-like awesomeness of the Thinkpad X220.
Above the keyboard are three white-backlit shortcut buttons. The first brings up a range of handy options in Windows’ Mobility Center. The next connects to Dell Support Center, which is a service somewhat similar to VAIO Assist on Sony’s VAIO C Series. Last but certainly not least is a customisable application-launch button, a feature we feel every laptop could do with.
While there’s nothing particularly wrong with it, the Vostro 3350’s touchpad doesn’t hold up quite as well as its keyboard. It’s large, doesn’t interfere with typing and offers a pleasant smooth surface, while well-placed individual buttons give a reassuring click. However, there’s a slightly ‘sharp’ edge between the pad and its buttons on which – in rare circumstances – you may catch your finger.
When it comes to audio, this Vostro is competent by business laptop standards. Its speakers distort quite badly at maximum, but keeping the volume down to medium results in okay output, albeit severely lacking in the bass department. It’s adequate for presentations and YouTube, but for movies, music and games we’d recommend some decent headphones like the MEElectronics HT-21.
With a 1,366 x 768 resolution, the 13.3in semi-matt screen holds up better, with even backlighting and no backlight bleed or noticeable artefacts. Its viewing angles are only average, however, and contrast isn’t great either, with deep blacks lacking in subtle dark detailing. In other words, for productivity this screen is more than adequate, but for entertainment it’s not ideal. Still, if you’re not too picky it will serve for either purpose.
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.
Score in detail
Battery Life 8
Processor, Memory & Storage
|Processor||Intel Core i3-Core i7|
|Memory (RAM) (Gigabyte)||2-6GB|
|Hard Disk Drive (HDD) (Gigabyte)||250-750GB|
|Hard Disk Drive Speed (RPM)||7200rpm|
|Solid State Drive (SSD)||No|
|DVD Optical Drive||Yes|
|Blu-ray Optical Drive||No|
Graphics & Sound
|Audio Connections||3.5mm Headphone, Microphone|
|Operating System||Windows 7|
|Battery life (Hour)||7.5hr|
|Weight (With Battery) (Kilogram)||2.2kg|
|Dimensions Width (Millimeter)||329.2mm|