Dell: It’s All About You and Vostro

We got our hands on one of the first Vostro desktops available, a Vostro 200 mini-tower and, just as Dell advertised, it’s built with business in mind. This computer comes configured with an Intel Core 2 Duo E6320 processor, 2GB of 667MHz RAM, a 160GB hard drive, nVidia GeForce 8300 GS graphics, a multi-format DVD burner and a Dell E207WFP 20-inch LCD monitor.

Plug In, Get to Work
Dell said it designed Vostro to be up and running in half the time it typically takes to set up a PC and, as promised, setting up the Vostro 200 is a snap; Just follow the quick-start poster to connect the keyboard, mouse, monitor and power, and you’re ready to go. The basic black chassis, with high-gloss side panels offset by matte-finish top and front panels, is attractively unobtrusive.

Dell allocated space for two optical drives placed high on the front of the unit, with a hidden panel concealing front-accessible ports just below. There you’ll find four USB ports plus headphone and microphone jacks; our test system came with FireWire and a handy 13-in-1 memory-card reader – should you opt for that, you’ll have to add $50 to the system price listed below.

On the back of the Vostro 200 you’ll find four more USB ports, an Ethernet jack and the video connectors. Our configuration included S-Video, VGA and DVI connectors on the graphics card’s rear panel. One nice touch: Dell covers up the omnipresent VGA connector that’s there for people who opt for integrated motherboard graphics as opposed to an add-in card, to avoid any confusion as to which connector is live.

On the downside, you won’t find legacy serial and parallel ports or PS/2 keyboard and mouse jacks. If you have a favorite keyboard, mouse or printer that uses the old-style connector, you’ll need to buy a USB adapter.

 The Vostro 200 mini-tower with 20-inch monitor.
The Dell Vostro 200’s all-black chassis is reasonably sleek, in an unobtrusive way.

Do-it-yourselfers interested in future upgrades and repairs will appreciate the access to the interior of the lockable case. Simply remove two screws and slide off the side panel. The PCI slots are readily accessible, as is a spot for a second hard drive. If you need to add RAM you’ll have to move aside some cables, and adding or replacing an optical drive will be a bit of a knuckle-scraper due to the placement of the power-supply housing.

Plenty of Ooomph
In hands-on use, the Vostro 200 is a joy. The Windows Vista Business operating system booted in a quick one minute 15 seconds (the 2GB of RAM helps with that), and the nVidia GPU handles Vista’s demanding Aero effects without hesitation, even with multiple windows open at once. The Intel CPU isn’t the fastest processor available, but unless you are doing serious video editing you would never know it; typical productivity operations happen in a snap. Even better, since it’s a dual-core processor, when your anti-virus package kicks in to scan in the background, foreground tasks won’t slow to a crawl.

The Vostro 200 is also whisper-quiet in operation. There’s just a low whir, which would be barely discernible in a typical office environment without placing your ear right next to the machine. But unlike the HP Compaq dx2300 business PC we recently tested, the Vostro 200 does not include a built-in speaker. That means to get anything more than system beeps, you’ll need to add external speakers or plug in a headset.

The icing on the cake in our test configuration is the Dell E207WFP 20-inch widescreen monitor. Its matte-black, thin-bezel design nicely complements the desktop. Our only complaint concerns the monitor stand, which we consider just adequate. The adjustability is rather limited — you can tilt the panel fore and aft but you can’t swivel, raise or lower it.

Want a Vostro 200 with this exact configuration? Enter this e-value code when you order through brde2ph
• 1.86GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E6320 processor
• 2GB of 667MHz RAM
• 160GB hard drive
• nVidia GeForce 8300 GS graphics
• Multi-format DVD burner
• Dell E207WFP 20-inch LCD monitor

Price with e-value code: $899

Using the Vostro 200’s DVI connector, the monitor delivered a stunning picture. Photo images showed vibrant colors and excellent detail, and video playback was rich, with little motion blur.

The screen’s 1,680-by-1,050 resolution makes for sharp text and also lets you get the most out of the wide aspect ratio. You can easily have several windows open and visible at once (say, the Word document you’re working in with your e-mail pane to the right in peripheral view), and it also gives you a spot for the handy “widget” mini-apps available for Vista from Microsoft and others.

The price for the bundle is a reasonable $1,178 ($938 if you don’t opt for the monitor). See the side box for information on how to purchase the system configuration we tested.

Bottom Line
We are impressed with both the Vostro 200 and Dell’s renewed commitment to the small-business buyer. Dell has managed to add the software and services this market needs, while keeping the value proposition buyers have come to expect.

Jamie Bsales is an award-winning technology writer and editor with nearly 14 years of experience covering the latest hardware, software and Internet products and services.

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