Small Business Notebook Review: Dell Vostro V130

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If you are looking for an incredibly thin and light small business notebook PC with the right mix of style, portability and affordability, take a look at the Dell Vostro V130. This “ultraportable” laptop measures a scant three-quarters of an inch thick and weighs just 3.4 pounds, which makes it easy to tote as a go-anywhere computing companion.

But don’t call it a netbook: With its 13.3-inch screen, full-size keyboard and available dual-core processor, the Vostro V130 is much more powerful and user-friendly than any netbook.

Vostro V130 Small Business Notebook: Thin, Sleek Design

Time was, you had to spend well over $1,000 to get a notebook as thin and light as the Vostro V130, so Dell should be applauded for bringing this platform in at a price starting at less than $500. The lightweight chassis is nearly effortless to carry with a stack of papers or to tuck under your arm or as you walk around the office, and it slips easily into a bag or briefcase for use on the road.

The satin metallic finish is available in silver, or a deep red (Dell calls it “Lucerne Red”) for $40 more. In either trim, the Vostro V130 has a classy, updated look compared to the more common glossy-finish notebooks out there, and the satin finish helps hide fingerprints and smudges.

As with most other ultraportable-class notebooks, the thin form means there’s no room for an on-board CD/DVD drive, but you’ll find all the other features you would expect in a business laptop. The port selection is good for a budget notebook, and includes two standard USB 2.0 ports, plus a USB/eSATA combo port for connecting the latest high-speed peripherals like external hard drives and Blu-ray drives.

In addition to a VGA port for hooking up to a projector or external monitor, the Vostro V130 also includes an HDMI port for connecting to most flat-screen TVs and an increasing number of business projectors. Dell has included a memory-card reader on the front that accepts SD/MMC cards; but as with other affordable notebooks these days you don’t get an ExpressCard slot, so if you rely on such an expansion card, you’ll have to look for a USB alternative.

In terms of the design, our only regret is that the ultra-thin body dictated a sealed-in battery, so you can’t swap in a fresh battery. In our anecdotal tests we saw 3 to 4 hours of Web-surfing runtime between charges; that could be a concern for road warriors who you need all-day computing away from AC power.

Dell Vostro V130; small business notebook
The Dell Vostro V130 is incredibly thin and light, and it looks terrific in either the standard silver finish or this $40 Lucerne Red cloak.
(Click for larger image)

It also means that when the lithium-ion battery stops holding a sufficient charge — Dell estimates that will be in about 300 charge/discharge cycles — you’ll have to send the machine back to Dell to have the battery replaced. That service call will not only cost you a couple hundred dollars, it also means you’ll have to do without your machine while the work is done.

Vostro V130: Excellent Screen and Keyboard

The central feature of the Vostro V130 is its bright, crisp 13.3-inch screen. Colors in applications and photo images are deep and well-saturated. The 1366×768 screen resolution makes for crisp, legible text. The LCD panel’s backlight is an array of white LEDs that not only delivers a brighter, higher-contrast image than the old-style tube backlights, it also consumes less energy.

Another highlight is the Vostro V130’s full-size keyboard. The keys are responsive and quiet, which makes typing all day a comfortable chore. The Vostro V130’s built-in speaker delivers decent audio quality for a budget-priced, compact laptop. The laptop also includes a built-in webcam above the screen. We felt the image was overexposed in bright light, but in general it gets the job done for video-chatting and the like.

For connectivity on the go, all models include Wi-Fi wireless radios for connecting to a local wireless network. Some configs add WiMAX circuitry for connecting to the growing footprint of wide-area wireless networks available in places like airports, conference venues and even public spaces like city centers.

If you’re hooked on 3G/4G wireless data service on your phone, you may want to opt for the Mobile Broadband Vostro V130 models, which let you connect at broadband speeds wirelessly where such cell service is available.

V130: Small Business Extras from Dell

The real draw of the Vostro family for small business laptop buyers is the extras Dell includes for the target market. Dedicated Vostro ProSupport reps, available 24/7, are specially trained to handle technical questions from small business buyers. Dell says this means they are as capable of troubleshooting software or networking issues — as well as hardware — without giving you the run-around.

Dell also says the average wait time to speak with a live support rep is 2 minutes or less. And you can let that rep connect to your machine via DellConnect, a remote troubleshooting and repair offering. With your permission, the Dell technician can take control of your PC to see and resolve any issues while you sit back and watch.

Notably, even the sub-$500 Vostro V130 comes with a one-year warranty with next-business-day on-site service — a perk that’s unheard of in this price range. For peace of mind, you can up the warranty coverage to three years with on-site service for an additional $190.

Depending on the configuration you choose, you’ll also get a smattering of software extras beyond the operating system’s components. For example, the Dell Webcam Central utility makes it easy to put the camera to good use. The intuitive interface will have you video chatting or grabbing stills and video clips in no time, and well-marked icons make it easy to upload your creations directly to YouTube and other online services.

Most configurations come with Norton Internet Security or Trend Micro Worry Free Business Services preloaded, and some even include Microsoft Office Starter 2010 (which includes Word and Excel). You can also sign up for Dell Online Backup, a Web-based service that automatically backs up your important files to the cloud for quick retrieval should your hard drive crash or your laptop go missing.

V130: A Configuration for Every Budget

As you would expect from Dell, the Vostro V130 comes in a range of default configurations — eight, in fact –that you can customize to suit your business needs. The base model starts at $429 and comes with a 1.06-GHz Celeron U3400 CPU, 2GB of RAM, a 250GB hard drive and the Ubuntu Linux operating system. That price puts it in netbook territory, but you get the bigger screen and full-size keyboard a netbook lacks.

The lowest-priced Windows default configuration offers the Celeron processor and 2GB of RAM along with a 320GB hard drive. WiMAX and Mobile Broadband models started around $750, and the standard configurations top out at around $900 for a 1.33GHz Intel Core i5 CPU, 2GB RAM (upgradeable to 4GB for $70 more), 500GB hard drive and built-in mobile broadband.

If you need a sleek, compact business laptop, the Vostro V130 is worth a look. The sealed-in battery and relatively short runtime between charges may make the Vostro V130 better suited as a second machine for some, but for an affordable ultraportable that’s a step up from a netbook, the Vostro V130 delivers.

Jamie Bsales is an award-winning technology editor and writer with 18 years experience in the high-tech arena. In his 14 years at PC Magazine he worked with the full range of hardware and software products. His specialties include notebook and desktop PCs, printers, displays, and small-business software and Web services.

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