Dell's Vostro range is billed as a no-frills PC family tailored for small businesses. How odd, then, to take one of the latest Vostro 3500 laptop models out of its box and discover a sleek, 15.6in widescreen machine encased in cherry red aluminum.
PC manufacturers like Dell have been responding to Apple with laptops that incorporate more and more of the sorts of features you see in PCs designed for the home laptop market. Yet many small business owner-managers probably only want one machine - and the Vostro 300 appears to be tailored specifically for them.
The test laptop was powered by an i3 processor running at 2.13GHz and equipped with 3GB of RAM and a 300GB hard disk.
The Vostro handled Windows 7 Home Premium without breaking a sweat, taking 36secs to be up and running from pressing the on switch (remember, this was a virgin machine; once you’ve added some applications and accumulated the usual system detrius, PCs always take longer to boot up).
For most of the test tasks we threw at it – picture manipulation, text editing, music playing and webcam recording (with all windows open simultaneously), the CPU barely registered more than 30% on the visual gauge that comes as part of the PC’s Gadget Gallery (right). And on the graphics side, it typically coped with the Windows 7 interface at 29-32% of capacity.
The most strenuous activity the Vostro 3500 faced was when it ran the tests to calculate its Windows Experience Index (WEI) ratings, during which the CPU peaked at 60% capacity. The results were impressive, scoring 5.9 out of 7 for the CPU power and memory speed and a healthy 5.1 for gaming graphics handled by the integrated Intel Graphics Media Accelerator. The overall WEI rating of 4.2 was determined by the lowest-performing component, which was the graphics processor’s capability to handle the Windows Aero interface. But as already noted, this handicap was imperceptible during the test drive.