Friday, March 26, 2010
Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home Hardware & Accessories" @ 07:00 AM
This is my review video of the Dell Vostro V13, a shockingly thin (0.65 inches) and light (3.5 pounds) laptop from Dell. If you missed my unboxing and first impressions video of the V13, you can check it out here. This particular model I'm looking at features an Intel Core 2 Duo SU7300 CPU at 1.3 Ghz, Windows 7 Home Premium (32-bit), 2 GB of RAM, a 320 GB 7200 RPM hard drive, 802.11n WiFi, a 1.3 megapixel Web cam, a 13.3 inch LED-backlit display (1366 x 768), gigabit Ethernet, a VGA-out port, a USB port and a combo USB/eSATA port. It also has a 34mm ExpressCard slot, a microphone jack, a headphone jack, and a 5 in 1 memory card reader. It has no optical drive. The V13 uses the Intel GS45 chipset, and the Intel GMA4500 GPU.
I see a lot of products every month, and rarely do I want to keep them, but I was so impressed with the V13 that I didn't return it to Dell. I was looking for a new laptop to be my main writing tool, largely because my XPS M1330 is heavy, a bit loud, and rarely gets more than 2.5 hours on a charge - and this is my second battery for it. I went back and forth on keeping the V13, largely because the CPU running at 1.3 Ghz had be seeing the occasional system hiccup if I was pushing it hard, and the battery life wasn't quite as much as I'd hoped it would be. This is the first laptop I've owned without a removable battery, but looking back on every laptop I've owned, I've only ever had one spare battery, and that was many years ago when battery life was much worse. Am I concerned that two years from now the battery life on the V13 will degrade to the point that I need to replace it? Maybe, but opening up the laptop wasn't very difficult and replacing the internal battery doesn't look too difficult either. Ultimately I'd prefer to see an externally accessible battery, but not at the cost of a thicker/heavier laptop. Of course, what I'd really like would be a thin battery slice on the bottom to give me more battery life when I really need it.
Performance, as measured by PC Mark Vantage, is about what you'd expect for a laptop with this type of hardware:
PC Mark Suite: 2681 PCMarks
Memories Suite: 1796
TV and Movies Suite: 2122
Gaming Suite: 1497
Music Suite: 3444
Communications Suite: 2588
Productivity Suite: 2243
HDD Test Suite: 3953
The battery life on the V13 (with the original hard drive installed) is around 2.5 to 3 hours. I did a test recently where I powered it up at full brightness, WiFi turned on, and used it to take notes during a series of presentations starting at 9:17 AM. By 12 PM, it was down to 4% battery life. So that makes 2 hours 43 minutes battery life. Not bad, but not great compared to some other ultra-thin laptops on the market today. I opted for the dual-core CPU model, so if you want maximum battery life, go for the single-core CPU and you'll save 4.5 watts of power usage on that CPU (the dual core version uses 10 watts). Ultimately
The 13.3 inch screen is nice and bright, and because it's matte, it works great in all sorts of lighting conditions. The vertical and horizontal viewing angle isn't great on it though - that's not an issue for me, but if you routinely have people packed around your laptop, this isn't a great choice. The screen tilts back really far, which I liked, and the hinge feels robust.
There were a few small things I didn't like: there are only two USB ports, which is a bit slim, and having them on the back means you've got to basically pick up the laptop in order to reach the ports. It's not a big hassle, but it's different than any other laptop/netbook I've owned. The speaker on the laptop is under the keyboard on the left side, and it's a mono speaker - which was also a bit surprising, but I assume some sacrifices had to be made to get the profile that slim. I was a little surprised that there was no option for me to order Windows 7 64-bit - Dell only provides it if you order the unit with 4 GB of RAM. The only other complaint I have about the V13 is the fact that when it's in sleep mode, opening the lid doesn't wake the laptop up. It's a rather curious issue that I can't find a way to solve - any ideas?
This video review takes a bit of an unusual turn near the middle, because in order to test a 128 GB SSD that Imation sent me (their M-Class product), I needed to install it in a laptop. I figured the V13 was a perfect candidate, because the chassis is so thin I could feel the mechanical hard drive spinning, which was slightly irritating. Upon swapping it out for the Imation SSD, I also realized how loud it was when it was in the laptop - now that my V13 has the Imation SSD in it, it's so quiet you have to lift if up and put your ear to the single fan on it just to hear anything at all - and you'll still be straining your ears. I'll be reviewing the Imation SSD in an upcoming article, but the combination of the Vostro V13 and an SSD is fantastic.
Overall, given the starting price of $449 USD, the Vostro V13 offers striking design and excellent value for the money. I'm going to enjoy using mine!
Jason Dunn owns and operates Thoughts Media Inc., a company dedicated to creating the best in online communities. He enjoys photography, mobile devices, blogging, digital media content creation/editing, and pretty much all technology. He lives in Calgary, Alberta, Canada with his lovely wife, his wonderful son, and his sometimes obedient dog. He wishes the V13 had a bit more oomph in the CPU department.
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