Dell Vostro v13 Laptop Review

I’ve just received the Dell Vostro v13 laptop through the mail and so I decided to write my thoughts on it. This laptop is for a friend who wanted a slim laptop. After having used his Asus EeePC netbook for his travel needs, he decided it was too small (something I told him he would eventually come to realize) and that a bigger screen was needed. He didn’t want to deal with bulkiness since it will be used extensively for travel and so our research began from there. We eventually homed in on the Dell Vostro v13 business laptop. Nowadays though, if you really want a sleek and lightweight laptop for travel purposes, you should look into Ultrabooks instead.

To learn more about the Vostro v13, please visit its product page here.

Out of the Box

Vostro Unboxing

Not much going on here. You have your laptop, a AC adapter for charging, some instruction manuals and the restore discs. The Vostro v13 does not come equipped with a standard CD/DVD drive and so in order to use the recovery discs, you will need to use an external drive. Good news is that Dell isn’t stupid. You have a recovery partition installed right on your hard drive to perform that same factory restore you would do with the discs. Of course, this assumes that you didn’t wipe out that recovery partition with some third party tools!

Disk Management

One really nice thing that I like is the Vostro v13’s AC adapter. The transformer is about the size of an iPhone and it’s flat. This makes it a lot easier to shove it in your laptop bag. Most adapters are blocky and bulky in size. Because this one is flat, it definitely fits more nicely inside your travel bag.

Look and Feel

The Vostro v13’s main selling point is its sleek and slim design. Check out the dimensions and weight spec of this laptop:

Width: 13″ / 330mm
Height: (front/back) 0.65-0.78inches/16.5-19.7mm
Depth: 9.06″ / 230mm
Starting weight: 3.5lbs/1.59kg (with 6-cell battery)

Pretty impressive. I doubt this is the thinnest laptop on the market since the Mac Air is most likely even slimmer than this but for the price range, it’s hard to beat the Vostro v13. The laptop feels sturdy and good in your hands. Surprisingly, I thought the build of the laptop would feel cheap but it can certainly hold its own. Here are some pics I took of the v13 showing the front, back, left and right of it:

Front
Back
Left
Right

Here are two comparison pics between the Vostro v13 and my Lenovo R61 laptop. Notice how much thinner the former is:

Size Comparison
Size Comparison B

Features and Specs

The Dell Vostro v13 is not what you would call a feature packed laptop. In fact, it border lines on being a completely stripped down machine save for the usual ports and connection. In the front right corner, you have your standard 3.5mm audio and microphone ports. That’s it. On the left hand side, it is completely bare. No ports or connections whatsoever. On the back side, you have your standard power connection port, standard VGA video out port, two USB ports with one of them also accepting eSATA connections and finally, your standard 10/100 Ethernet network connection.

Here are the major tech specs for my customized Vostro v13:

– Windows 7 Home Premium
– 13.3 inch Wide Display HD (1366 x 768) with Anti-glare
– Intel Core 2 Duo Processor ULV SU73 @ 1.3GHz
– Integrated Intel 4500MHD Graphics Media Accelerator
– 2GB DDR3-1066Mhz SDRAM (1 DIMM)
– 500GB 7200RPM SATA Hard Drive
– Intel Pro/Wireless 5100 802.11 B/G/N
– Dell Wireless 365 Bluetooth
– Dell 1.3MP Camera

If you are looking to customize your Vostro v13 laptop with all the latest bells and whistles, you will be sorely disappointed at the options available. In fact, there’s not much you can configure to begin with. My 1.3GHz Core 2 Duo processor is the highest model allowed for my v13. You could go for 4GB of RAM but I went for 2GB because for the price Dell is charging you, I felt that I could purchase my own RAM in the future and upgrade the laptop myself if the need arises. You are not allowed to choose between different video card options. I was surprised somewhat to find out that Bluetooth connectivity, Wireless N capabilities and a webcam was all installed by default. My order total came out to about $660 with tax and shipping charges boosting it to a final price of about $706.

One of the nice things about the Vostro v13 is that Dell didn’t pre-load it with a bunch of crapware like how HP normally does. The only “trial” software pre-installed was for Trend Micro’s antivirus product. However, I believe I didn’t tick off this option when configuring my laptop at Dell’s website so if I had remembered, I don’t think any crapware would have been installed at all. Nice job Dell! Rather than spending a lot of time having to uninstall every piece of junk or completely reformatting it, I simply got to work at configuring the laptop to exactly how my client wants it right from the get-go.

One very important aspect when buying a laptop that many users seem to leave out is the keyboard and the general layout of it. Since I ordered this laptop via online, I couldn’t test the keyboard beforehand so we just flew in blind. The keyboard on the Vostro v13 is a little below average. After having typed on my Lenovo R61’s keypad for so long, typing on the Vostro v13 (or just about any other laptop) felt like a really big disappointment. The keys feel flat and most importantly, it doesn’t have any spring to it at all when you press them. Like with all things, your experience may vary as each person have their own ideas and whatnot on what constitutes as a good keyboard. They touchpad and keys are decently sized and work as expected. However, I feel as if it could have been moved to the right just a little bit more. As of right now, I find myself accidentally moving the cursor on screen when typing due to my left hand touching it.

Keyboard

Performance

I’m not really a benchmark type of guy when it comes to measuring a computer’s prowess. At times, I find it completely useless. No offense to hardcore geeks who do these kinds of things but in my mind, I find it much more rewarding to see if the computer can handle things that I, or in this case my client, wants to do on it. Since everyone uses their computer differently, I try to mimic what the user usually do on the computer to see how the computer behaves. My client records a lot of videos in 720p high definition so one of the first things I tested on the laptop was HD movie playback. Once again, I was surprised to find that this little laptop can handle 720p HD movie content with ease, all without skipping a beat.

720p Video

So, with 720p out of the way, what about 1080p videos which are much, much more demanding on the hardware? Well, color me surprised once again:

1080p Video

I know, it’s pretty pointless watching such beautiful content on such a small screen but it’s good to know that you can always attach the Vostro v13 to your big screen HDTV for a much better viewing experience. However, remember that you’re using a VGA connection so it won’t be all that good as compared to DVI or more commonly found on laptops these days, HDMI.

With video testing out of the way, everything else was easy. Basically, long story short, every program that my client wanted to perform on the machine worked to perfection. These programs include GIMP, Skype, Youtube, MP3 tagging, music playback, Word, Excel, Outlook, and iTunes. As you can already judge from the specs, the Vostro v13 is not a machine that should be used for gaming. It is however, an awesome machine when used as an everyday type of computer or one that you bring to your travels to check email, browse the web, listen to music, video chat with friends on Skype, print out Google maps and typing reports. The v13 can handle all of these tasks without any problems whatsoever. You’re probably thinking what’s so special about that? Heck, my 4 year old laptop can do that as well! Well, like I said earlier, the main selling point for he Vostro v13 is its slim design and weight. I doubt your 4 year old laptop is as thin as the v13!

Here is the Windows Experience Index for the laptop. Nothing jaw dropping but hey, it’s not suppose to!

Experience Index

Battery life on this laptop is average clocking in at about 2.5-3.5 hours. Once you start performing other more intensive tasks such as watching videos, you can expect to cut that time down. Not good at all. Another thing is that the Vostro v13 does not come with a removable battery pack! The battery is internal and cannot be removed by the user. Therefore, when the battery dies or malfunctions, you’ll have to ship it back to Dell for repairs and you can already guess what you’ll have to do if your warranty has expired. This makes using the Vostro v13 a nightmare for some as you’ll always have to make sure you are or will be in a location with an electrical outlet. Because you can’t swap batteries, forget about purchasing an additional one to take with you on your travels. You are severely limited in this regard.

Pros:

– Slim and sleek design
– Lightweight, yet feels sturdy
– Handles HD videos
– Good multi-purpose, everyday laptop
– No pre-installed crapware

Cons:

– Not much customization options
– Non removable battery
– Sub-par battery life
– Average keyboard
– Badly placed headphone port (wire can get in in the way when typing)

7.5/10

In the End…

If you are looking for a slim and lightweight portable laptop, the Dell Vostro v13 can be a solid candidate if you can look past its shortcomings. One of the biggest disadvantages is the built-in battery. It wouldn’t have been a problem if it provided a good battery life of 5-6 hours but sadly, that’s not the case. There is also no DVD drive equipped so if you need that functionality, you’ll have to lug around an external one. With that being said, the Vostro v13 is a good all around computer to bring with you on your travels to perform your various tasks. As long as you don’t use this laptop as a gaming rig, I’m sure you’ll be pretty satisfied with it in the performance department. Just make sure you have access to an electrical outlet!

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Rating: 2.9/5 (4 votes cast)
Dell Vostro v13 Laptop Review, 2.9 out of 5 based on 4 ratings

Comments

  1. Jason Trenkler says:

    I own this computer, it’s fantastic … I highly recommend!

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