Dell's Vostro 3500 does exactly what it says on the tin. The laptop is a value-for-money mid-range system for small business customers. Although it has few frills, this Vostro meets all a customer's basic requirements, and looks a bit more stylish than the original Vostro models. However, adding to the basic features soon bumps up the price.
Good performance; good keyboard; relatively low cost.
Windows 7 Home Premium; relatively low battery life.
£ 469+VAT (including delivery)
As tested: 2.13GHz Intel Core i3 330m processor, 3GB memory, 320GB hard drive, DVD/RW drive, 15.6in 1,366 x 768 display, 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Gigabit Ethernet, Windows 7 Home Premium.
Dell's Vostro range of laptops is aimed at smaller businesses, and intended to be a cost-effective choice without necessarily compromising on features or performance.
The Vostro 3500, announced in March, is the middle model of the new 2010 Vostro laptop line-up. With a 15.6in screen, it is essentially the mainstream model, while the others available in the UK are the Vostro 3300 ultraportable and Vostro 3700 desktop replacement.
As befits its target market, the Vostro is a no-fuss laptop with a price tag comparable with many consumer models. It has all the features required to get the job done, such as a built-in DVD drive, optional 3G broadband to get connected anywhere, and numerous I/O ports to plug in other devices.
However, Dell has chosen Windows 7 Home Premium as the default operating system. This version of Windows, as its name suggests, is intended for home users, and lacks features such as the ability to join a Windows server domain.
This may not be an issue for many of the smallest businesses, but companies running a server-based infrastructure using Windows Small Business Server, for example, may need to specify Windows 7 Professional in order to be able to connect the laptop to their server, and this costs £35 extra.
Also extra is Dell's ProSupport, which promises 24x7 hardware and software support with next working day onsite repair if necessary. As standard, customers get the basic one-year collect and return service.
We found the Vostro 3500 had ample performance for business productivity, and Dell has even managed to pay a little more attention to styling with this new generation of Vostro portables.
Our review model was based on Intel's Core i3 330M at 2.13GHz, a dual-core processor with hyper-threading support so it appears to the operating system to be four separate processors, plus 3GB of DDR3 memory and a 320GB hard drive.
This configuration delivers a fairly decent level of performance as measured by the Windows Experience Index built into Windows 7. The Vostro achieved a score of 4.2, which represents the score achieved by the graphics subsystem. The processor, memory and hard drive all scored higher than this.
The Vostro has an eye-catching brushed aluminium lid, coloured metallic red on our review model, which extends to the sides of the casing as well. This adds to the overall sturdiness of the unit, which felt like it would stand up to a few knocks while out on the road. Other colour options are bronze and silver.
At 2.4kg, the Vostro 3500 is not the lightest of models, but equally it is not especially heavy for its size. At 37.5cm wide, 25cm deep and about 3cm thick when closed, it looks quite large when sitting on your lap, but this size is largely determined by the dimensions of the 15.6in wide-screen display.
Opening up the Vostro reveals a large amount of empty space surrounding the keyboard, which is not exactly small itself. All the keys are full-sized, although they have a rather flat profile like scrabble tiles. We found it perfectly serviceable for typing. Below the keyboard is a decent-sized touchpad, which has a marked vertical area for scrolling up and down in applications.