Dell laptops closely mimic the Thinkpad series from Lenovo – they tend to be monochromic from an industrial design perspective. This is particularly true if you look at Dell’s laptops by family (Inspiron, Latitude, XPS and Vostro). Occasionally Dell will venture outside of conventional norm and come up with something that takes it out of its comfort zone (sort of).
The XPS Adamo is one good example. This review, though, is not about the Adamo. Rather it is about the Vostro V130. Dell targets the small business with this series. Small business people tend to want to buy devices that are less on feature and more on style (I think). And while I would think that budgets can be tight, the lack of good, depth of IT knowledge often means that purchases are driven by perception and/or first impressions.
Just before Chinese New Year I was offered to test drive the Dell Vostro V130. My first impression when the laptop was delivered to my office was that this isn’t the Dell laptop that I’ve come to know. I’ve used Dell laptops (Inspiron and Latitude) over eight years and during that period associate the brand with no frills, unimpressive computers.
The Vostro V130 is not the first Dell laptop to sport a brushed metal alloy (Alloy is a combination of aluminium, zinc and magnesium). The Dell Vostro V130 has a stylish and distinguished look. At 330mm x 16.5-19.7mm x 23mm, this is one of the slimmer of models that has come out of Dell in recent years. The result is a laptop that will turn heads not only with its looks but certainly when viewing 720P quality videos.
I am made to understand that the V130 is one of a new breed of hybrid laptops that stand between conventional laptops (big and heavy) and netbooks (small and under powered). By taking the best of both worlds, hybrids meet the needs of people who travel around constantly for a computing device that will run almost all of their business and entertainment applications without breaking their backs carrying a computer.
One area where Dell chose to deviate from the norm is with the Vostro V130 keyboard. Most other brands and models use the chicklet keyboard favored by Apple. The V130 uses what I can only quess are conventional keys. Touch typists, or just about anyone who types for long periods at a time will appreciate the tactile feedback that the V130 keyboard delivers.
WHAT I LIKE
While I don’t condone the purchase of laptops because they look cool, Apple has certainly made it ‘almost’ a required practice among laptop manufacturers to bring in industrial design talent to design and build laptops that not only perform well but also look good. Executives who have used laptops, Dell’s in particular, will likely give the Vostro V130 a second look particularly if they see the Dell logo.
I had this running on battery and then on AC adapter for a good day and noticed that it stayed relatively cool, even against the Thinkpad X201s that I use at work. I understand that Dell used Intel’s Hyperbaric cooling technology to keep this laptop cool (the chassis is designed to draw in air fro outside to keep the system cool and quiet). It draws in air from the left side and shoots warmer air from the right side.
I do a lot of video editing work and for my money, I found the Vostro V130 sufficiently capable of helping me crunch video interview footage into stories I push online. Certainly, I find very little difference editing videos on the V130 versus the Thinkpad X201s that I use daily. And at nearly half the price, I certainly find the V130 a real bargain (vendor online pricing: X201 is HK$12,288 (after discount); V130 is HK$6,999 (before discount).
WHAT I DON’T LIKE
This is not a light laptop to carry around. The 1.59kg number is certainly deceiving. After a day of moving this laptop around the house and at work, I found it heavy altough it would be unfair to compare it to my work laptop which is a 12″ laptop.
The deal breaker for me with the V130 is the internal six-cell battery which delivers a mere 1.5 hours at full brightness and WiFi operational. At half-brightness, you get 2.5 hours. If the V130 is truly classed as an ultraportable, then it fails miserably in this one aspect – battery life. Whereas most laptops, even the horrendously expensive Apple Macbook Pros, offer battery life starting at 4.5 hours with some even boasting 8 hours. At 1.5 hours, one cannot but wonder what Dell was thinking when they designed this laptop. Is it possible that Dell used an inferior battery supplier or its designers failed to remember the one reason why people buy laptops, to be able to work away from a power source for long periods at a time.