Dell Vostro 1310

When Dell launched their new Vostro line of computers last year the Vostros where immediately praised for meeting the needs of small businesses and budget-minded consumers alike. The Vostro 1310 is the newest and smallest addition to the Vostro family of notebooks. This compact business notebook comes with a 13.3" display, dedicated graphics option and a slot-loading optical drive, but does it still offer the right combination of features, options, and price that made the Vostro line so popular? Keep reading and you can find out.


The Dell Vostro 1310 is available with a range of Intel processors (from the 1.86GHz Celeron M M540 up to the T9500 2.6GHz Core 2 Duo). There are two 13.3" screen offerings, a 1280x800 WXGA with matte anti-glare coating and 1280x800 WXGA "TrueLife" glossy display. The notebook can take up to 4GB of RAM and Dell offers 32-bit versions of Microsoft Windows Vista Business or Windows XP Professional. The system is priced starting at $749 with integrated Intel X3100 graphics at the time of this writing, but is also available with nVidia 8400M GS dedicated graphics.

Our pre-production Vostro 1310 is equipped with the following specs:

* Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo T8100 (2.1GHz)
* Memory: 2GB - 2 DIMM (DDR2-667) (4GB max)
* HDD: 160GB 5400RPM HDD
* Graphics: 128MB NVIDIA GeForce 8400M GS
* Display: 13.3" WXGA Antiglare
* Optical drive: Slot-loading 8x DVD +/- RW
* OS: Vista Business SP1 (available with XP Professional)
* Software: 30-day security subscription anti-virus, No trail-ware
* Wireless: Dell 1505 Wireless-N Mini Card (802.11a/g/n)
* Battery: 6-cell battery
* Other: Webcam and fingerprint reader
* Services: Network assistant; 10GB of Datasafe online; Dell Support Center; PC Tune-up
* Dimensions (HxWxD): 0.94" (front)/1.59" (back) x 12.48" x 9.57"
* Weight: 4.45 lbs (with 4-cell battery), 4.63 lbs (with 6-cell battery)
* Base configuration price: $749
* Price as tested: $1,357


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Build and Design

Dell received some much needed attention in 2007 with the introduction of the sleek, high performance XPS M1330 and XPS M1530 notebooks. While these more expensive notebooks in the Dell lineup were praised for their looks and low weight, the Dell Insipron and Vostro notebooks were criticized for being bulky and unattractive laptops. Dell listened closely to this criticism when they designed the new Vostro 1310. The Vostro 1310 is in fact roughly 20% smaller and lighter than the Vostro 1400.

Unfortunately, the lighter weight and thinner profile come at some cost. Namely, the plastics used in the chassis feel thin and in some areas, such as above the keyboard and on the palmrests, there is a significant degree of flex. The edges of the chassis are also sharper than what we've seen on earlier Dell notebooks and these sharp edges and thin plastics make the design of the Dell Vostro 1310 feel slightly unfinished or unrefined.

Much like last year's Vostro releases, the 1310 doesn't come in multiple colors or display lid patterns. Black is your only option. However, this year Dell decided to get rid of the matte black finish in favor of a glossy black finish with just a hint of metal flake. The black paint with the fine metal flakes is inlaid with the molds so there's no risk of the glossy finish coming off.


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Although I wasn't a huge fan of the glossy black plastic lid with metal flake paint on our pre-production Vostro 1310, it does look and feel nice. Still, the new glossy lid design is a magnet for fingerprints and might not resist light scratches as well as the matte black finish on the previous generation Vostro notebooks.

Another of the new innovations for the Vostro line is the "Hyperband Multi-Antenna" housed inside the LCD lid which Dell claims "can provide excellent reception and help reduce dropped signals" for both Wi-Fi and bluetooth. I've never had serious problems with dropped signals while using older Dell notebooks so I can't speak to whether the new internal multi-antenna actually improved wireless reception ... but I can say that I never experienced dropped Wi-Fi connections during the testing period.

Conclusion

Overall, the Dell Vostro 1310 is an impressive budget notebook with clean looks and solid performance. Whether you need a simple business notebook or a budget portable laptop with modest gaming capabilities, the Vostro 1310 makes an excellent choice.

That said, the chassis isn't as nice as we hoped ... the edges are sharp and could be smoother or more rounded, the case feels more flimsy than the earlier Vostros, the touchpad button placement is bad, and the mono speaker does not provide a good audio experience. Still, none of these issues are "deal breakers."

The other huge advantage to the Vostro line is the support, lack of bloatware, and excellent return policy. Dell will let you purchase a Vostro, use it for 30 days, and if you don't like it you can send it back for a full refund without any restocking or shipping fees. That's just amazing.

In short, the Vostro 1310 is an excellent addition to the Vostro family and gives business professionals and consumers on a budget a low-cost alternative to the Dell XPS M1330. Unfortunately, the price as configured ($1,357) places it neck-and-neck with the XPS M1330. Although the Vostro is a great system at the entry level price of just $749, once the price exceeds $1,000 most consumers (and even many business professionals) would be better off with the XPS M1330.

Pros

* Thinner and lighter than the Vostro 1400
* Reasonable battery life
* Nice screen and easy-to-use media buttons
* Good selection of ports
* Solid performance
* No bloatware
* Available with Windows XP
* Excellent return policy (NO restocking or shipping fees within 30 days!)

Cons

* Glossy LCD lid is a magnet for fingerprints
* Chassis plastics feel too thin and hollow
* Mono speaker is painfully weak
* Uncomfortable touchpad buttons
* No S-video or HDMI port
* Price as configured is a little expensive compared to the XPS M1330


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