Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Dell Vostro 1000 Review

The Dell Vostro 1000 is the budget offering in the Dell
Small Business lineup of laptops. It has
a 15.4” screen and comes with an AMD Turion processor. The Vostro 1000 is priced at under $500 with
a basic configuration, so the price really can’t be complained about. But does the low price equate to a cheap
product or is this laptop a great deal for the buck? This review will attempt to answer that.





Specs of Vostro 1000 under review:



  • Mobile AMD Sempron Processor 3500+ 1.80GHz


  • 15.4” Widescreen XGA (non-glare)


  • 512MB of RAM at 533MHz


  • ATI Radeon Express 1150


  • 60GB 5400RPM HD


  • Windows XP Home


  • Dell Wireless 1390 802.11 a/b/g Wi-Fi


  • 24X CD Burner DVD Combo


Img_3192


Places to buy


You can buy the Dell Vostro 1000 via Dell.com or over the phone. The Vostro 1000 is easy to configure at Dell.com.
I had to wait less than 10-days for my Vostro to ship after placing the
order. In fact, it shipped 5-days after placing the order and arrived to me in a total of 7-days. Quite impressive!

















Looks and Construction
Quality



Img_3189



It’s quite obvious that a nice design wasn’t even considered
with the Vostro 1000. This laptop
couldn’t possibly be more standard issue looking. It’s made of black plastic and mostly square
looking. There is simply no design flare
to the laptop. It’s fairly ugly in my
opinion, but then again there’s nothing offensive about it. Anyone that cares a lot about the design
looks of tech products they buy probably will not consider the Vostro
1000. A small business looking to buy
cheap laptops will probably not care about the fact the Vostro 1000 looks like
an ugly beast next to say a MacBook Pro.



The build quality of the Vostro 1000 is middling, as you
would expect for this price. It’s made
entirely of plastic, but is not as flimsy as you might assume. In fact, the plastic body doesn’t have too
much give to it. I’ve certainly
experienced worse, cheap Acer laptops sold in CompUSA for $400 definitely feel more flimsy than the Vostro 1000.



One thing you should be aware of is that the chassis and
build quality of the Vostro 1000 is entirely different to the Vostro 1400 and
Vostro 1500. The Vostro 1400 and 1500
have magnesium in their case body, which makes them much sturdier. If you need a laptop to last you 3 – 4 years, the Vostro 1400/1500 are
the way to go. They also look nicer
because they have a bit of a curved finish, media buttons, LED accent lighting
and you can see a metallic finish that’s more professional looking.



Weigh-in



The advantage of the Vostro 1000 being made
of plastic is that it’s actually quite light for a 15.4” screen laptop. It’s only slightly heavier than the Vostro
1400 – a smaller 14.1” screen laptop. In
the picture below you’ll see that the Vostro 1000 tips the scale at 5.8lbs,
which is really quite light for the size:





Img_3212





The small Vostro 1400 tips the scale at 5.64lbs, only
slightly less weight than the Vostro 1000:





Img_3241



And the Vostro 1500 tips the scales at 6.5lbs, much heavier
than the Vostro 1000!





Img_2915



Here's a comparison of the Vostro 1000 weight to some similar sized notebooks:





























Notebook Actual Weight
Dell Vostro 1000 (15.4" screen, 4-cell battery)5.8lbs
Dell Vostro 1500 (15.4" screen, 6-cell battery)6.75lbs
Dell Inspiron 1520 (15.4" screen, 9-cell battery)7.4lbs
HP Pavilion dv6500t (15.4” screen, 6-cell battery)6.10lbs
Sony VAIO FZ (15.4” screen, 6-cell battery)5.62lbs



It's always good to consider how much a notebook weighs when you add
in the power adapter for travel weight, here you can see that with the 4-cell battery and power adapter the total weight of the system comes
to about 6.65lbs




Img_3213





Size-Up



Another interesting metric I like to look at is the dimensions of
the notebook compared to similar notebooks.





























NotebookDimensions
Dell Vostro 1000 (15.4" screen)14.02" (W) x 1.42" (max H) x 10.45" (D)
Dell Vostro 1500 (15.4" screen)14.12" (W) x 1.65" (max H) x 10.59" (D)
HP Pavilion dv6500t (15.4” screen)14.05" (W) x 1” - 1.69" (max H) x 10.12" (D)
Dell Inspiron 1520 (15.4” screen)14.12 (W) x 1.47 - 1.65” (H) x 10.59” (D)
Sony VAIO FE (15.4” screen)14.41” (W) x 1.02” -1.39” (H) x 10.81” (D)
Sony VAIO FZ (15.4” screen)14"(W) x 0.98-1.4"(H) x 10.02"(D)


The Vostro 1000 is overall smaller than the Vostro 1500, but it's not as thin and sleek as the competing VAIO notebooks. Not that the Vostro 1000 was ever trying to be sleek!



Ports



The port selection for the Vostro 1500 is on par with other 15.4" notebooks. Again I’ll compare it to what
similar notebooks have so you get an idea of where it stands relative
to competition:























































































































































PortsVostro 1000HP dv6500tSony VAIO FZ
USB 2.0433
FireWireNoYesYes
Media Card ReaderYes (3-in-1)4-in-1Yes (MS and SD)
EthernetYesYesYes
ModemYesYesYes
Headphone outYesYesYes
Microphone inYesYesYes
Monitor outYesYesYes
HDMINoYesYes (optional)
DVI-DNoNoNo
S-VideoNoYesYes
ExpressCard SlotYes (54mm)Yes (34mm/54mm)Yes (34mm)
PCMCIA SlotNoNoNo
Expansion Dock PortNoYesNo

Unsurprisingly there are no high-definition video output ports such as HDMI, DVI or even so much as S-Video on the Vostro 1000. Though the Vostro 1000 doesn't have a stunning array of ports, it at least offers all of the essentials and a generous four USB ports.



Let's take a tour around the ports of the Vostro 1000 to see where they're located:



Front side



Img_3183

On the front you just see the speakers and the latch on the lid. The latch is pretty cheap feeling, it's made of plastic.



Left Side



Img_3179



On the left side you just have the optical drive, which can be either a DVD/CD-RW Combo or Dual Layer DVD+R write drive.



Right Side




Img_3172

On the right side you have the Express card 54mm slot, 3-in-1
media card reader, headphone out, microphone in and then two USB ports.



Back Side





Img_3187



On the back you have the power jack, Ethernet port, modem port, two more USB ports, and a monitor out port.





Performance



The AMD Turion and Sempron processor family is lacking when
compared to the Intel Core 2 Duo offerings. It’s pretty amazing how AMD went from being competitive with its mobile
processors 2 years ago to being almost stagnant and non-competitive today. They haven’t updated their mobile processors
in quite some time.



However, if you’re not going to be using a laptop for
high-end demanding work, then the cheaper AMD offerings might be just the right
ticket. Dell obviously is able to sell
the Vostro 1000 for cheaper because it contains a budget AMD processor. The AMD Sempron and Turion processors offered
will run Office applications and web browsers just fine. If you’re a multi-tasking fiend and have
several applications open at once, you might be upset by the performance of the
processor, but if you’re more of a one task at a time person then it won’t make
any difference to you if there’s an AMD Sempron 3000 processor or a much more
expensive (and faster) Intel Core 2 Duo 2.20 GHz processor powering your
laptop.



One thing that’s probably as important as the processor is
getting enough memory. If you go with
Windows XP I would say 1GB is the optimal amount of memory, but you could get
away with just 512MB. If you’re running
Windows Vista then you really want 2GB of memory, but you could get away with
just 1GB. The Vostro 1000 under review
has Windows XP installed. With 512MB of
memory it runs ‘okay’, but it does lag a bit when opening programs or clicking
on menus. If there was 1 – 2GB of memory
in this machine that lag would definitely go away.



The hard drive offerings for the Vostro 1000 range from 60GB
– 120GB. They’re all the same speed of
5400RPM, which is adequate. I’d go with
80GB or up for storage, if you think you’ll be storing a lot of videos and
music then the 120GB size is preferable. If the only thing you’ll be storing is word docs, power point
presentations and email then 80GB should be fine.



Some Benchmarks



It always helps to put some numbers to the perceived
performance level. In the comparison
table below, you’ll see that the Vostro 1000 doesn’t keep up with laptops that
have faster internal components:



In the following benchmark the program Super Pi was used to force the processor to calculate the number Pi to 2 million digits of accuracy. The lower the score the better, as that equates to faster. The Vostro 1000 was much slower than the Intel based competitors

Super_pi_2









WPrime is another program that forces the processor to do intense calculations, this time to calculate Prime numbers out to 32M. Again, lower scores (in seconds) mean faster performance:



Wprime_2


HDTune was run to measure the disk drive performance, which was in line for what you'd expect from a 5400RPM hard drive:



Hdtune_benchmark_hitachi_hts541660j






Screen




Img_3207_2



The screen is a 15.4” Widescreen XGA display (1280 x 800
resolution). XGA is the most standard
resolution you can get with laptops, and suits most people. You can choose between a glossy screen finish
and matte finish screen, the glossy finish is a $30 upgrade. If you plan on watching movies and prefer
more vibrant and bold colors then go with the glossy screen. The only warning to heed with the glossy
screen is that it is a lot more reflective, in a bright light setting you’ll
see a lot of lights reflecting off the screen.



I got the matte finish screen. The brightness of the Vostro 1000 screen
isn’t all that great, it’s certainly below average relative to other laptops. The other major flaw is the amount of light
leakage you get from the bottom of the screen. If you look at some pictures I’ll took you’ll see a lot of the backlight
bleeding from the bottom of the screen, this is especially noticeable when
you’ve got a lot of dark colors on the screen.





Img_3210_2



Overall the Vostro 1000 screen is pretty bad in terms of
quality, it’s not the worst screen I’ve seen but it’s far from the top. Obviously the LCD panel is a cheaper one,
which is what you should expect to get for the price.



Keyboard



The keyboard is rather dull in its feel. The feedback from the keys isn’t very good
and it seems as if some of these keys are just waiting to jump off. You can’t describe the keyboard as anything
but cheap feeling. I’m a snob and very
particular when it comes to keyboards though, others might not be so put off.





Img_3199



Touchpad



The touchpad itself works just fine, no real complaints
there. The mouse buttons are clunky and
cheap feeling, they’re not very pleasing to use.



Software



The really great thing about the Vostro 1000 is that it
comes with very little bloatware. There
were only 44 processes at startup out of the box. That’s literally half of the amount you’ll
get on most consumer notebooks these days that are sold with a glut of “free”
software that you’ll never use and rather not have. Having such a clean system really helps with
performance, it’s a beautiful thing not to see a bunch of garbage already on
your new computer.







Processes



The other great news is that Dell provides all necessary
recovery disks and drivers on disks. There’s no need to have to burn your own recovery disks like some
manufacturers are now making you do.



Battery



Img_3178



There are three battery options for the Dell Vostro 1000: 4-cell, 6-cell or 9-cell. I purchased the cheapest option 4-cell 29WHr
variety battery. I regret this because the
6-cell is only about a $20 upgrade and would have provided far better battery
life. With brightness set to half way
and wireless on and the system idling, the battery on the Vostro 1000 conked
out after 1hour and 50 minutes. If you’re
actually working on the notebook you can expect about 1h 30m of battery
life. If you’re watching a movie with
the screen at full brightness you’ll be lucky to get an hour of battery life
out of the 4-cell.



I understand that the 6-cell battery provides almost 3 hours
of battery life under normal usage, so I’d go with that option. The 6-cell will be slightly heavier, but that’s
a worthwhile trade off for the longer battery life.



Audio



There are two front firing speakers on the Vostro 1000. As is typical for notebook speakers, the
audio is very tinny and not pleasing to the ears. If you’re an audiophile you’ll find the
speakers painful, if you’re not discriminating then the sound might be
considered adequate. Using headphones
will provide a much richer listening experience.



Noise level



The Vostro 1000 runs quietly, the size, plastic body and low
power of the laptop all contribute to keeping this notebook quite cool so that
the fan doesn’t have to run very often and thus keeps things quiet.



Conclusion



The Vostro 1000 is good for the price, though you certainly
get what you pay for. The screen is
middling, the keyboard mediocre, performance is ho-hum, and the build is all
plastic and lacking quality. However, if
all you’re looking for is a cheap laptop to sit on a desk and be used for
productivity tasks such as Office applications and web surfing, then the Vostro
1000 will serve that need. At the end of
the day I’d encourage most people to pay an extra $100 - $200 to upgrade to the
better quality Vostro 1500, but if you’re on a tight budget then the Vostro
1000 is an okay buy for the price.



Cheers



  • The price is right, starting at under $500


  • Easy to order and configure via Dell.com, quick delivery in under 10-days


  • Very clean install of Windows without a bunch of garbage software


  • You get all restore disks and necessary drivers on disks with the computer


  • Works fine for general usage


Jeers



  • Made of plastic, not very resistant to hard knocks or drops that a laptop might take


  • Screen is not very bright and suffers light leakage at the bottom


  • Keyboard is somewhat clunky


  • Not a computer meant for power users that game and do lots of multi-tasking