|Name||Ultraportable laptop: Dell Vostro V131|
|At a glance:||Available with Intel Core i3-2330M or i5-2430M CPU,13-inch screen, but equal in volume to many 11.6-inch competitors,Above the average weight for its class|
|Summary:||A high performance PC, but its portability is marred by average battery life and above-average weight.|
|RRP:||$1,149 - $1,699 (depending on configuration)|
The Vostro V131 is an “ultra-thin and light” laptop from Dell’s small-business range, which we originally planned to review in our November 2011 ultra-portables roundup. Unfortunately, it arrived a couple of days late.
This month, however, we put the V131 through all those tests to see how it stacks up against the seven competing ultraportables in its class. At 329 x 238 x 21mm, the V131 is average volume, compared to those ultraportables, despite a large 13.3-inch screen. Less impressively, at 1.82kg the V131 is 27% above the average. Though it still feels light enough to carry around for long periods, it’s not one for the ultra weight-conscious.
The design is solid. The Vostro has a well thought-out keyboard, reasonably sized touchpad, good connector placement and a user-replaceable battery. Connectivity-wise you get VGA, HDMI, wired Ethernet, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 3.0, two USB 3.0 ports, one USB 2 port, and an SD/Memory Stick reader. While there’s a headphone jack, there’s no microphone port, so for Skype and the like you’ll need to use the internal microphone or a USB-connected one.
Under the keyboard you’ll find a second-generation Intel Core i3-2330M or i5-2430M processor, depending on the configuration you choose. This is backed up by up to 4GB of RAM and a hard drive of up to 750GB capacity. The hard drive comes in speeds up to 7200RPM. In any configuration, graphics are provided by the processor’s on-chip Intel HD Graphics 3000 engine. No model is available with a discrete GPU, limiting the V131’s usefulness for graphically-intensive computing.
My review model differed from the retail products, with a slightly lower-spec Intel Core i5-2410M processor. As a result, the benchmark results of the test model underestimate the performance a commercial model would provide. However, both the i5-2410M and the marginally higher-speed i5-2430M offer significantly higher clock speeds than the i5-2467M seen in last month’s performance winners, the Apple MacBook Air and Acer TravelMate 8481g.
The superior processor in the Vostro V131 shows in the benchmark results, where it comes third to those two models in graphical tests and the all-around PCMark 7, despite lacking a dedicated graphics chip. In CPU-bound Cinebench and 7-Zip tests, the V131 beats all of last month’s models hands-down – Air and TravelMate included.
I can’t speak to the performance of the i3-2330M version of the V131, but the i5-2430M will give excellent CPU performance for the form factor. For heavy processing on the go, it’s going to be a fine choice. Again, though, the lack of a dedicated GPU will limit graphically-intensive processing or gaming.
The downside of that processing power? Our ‘Productivity’ battery life test yielded 3 hours 25 minutes for the V131: 28 minutes below last month’s average. Interestingly, though, that’s 1 hour 8 minutes better than the MacBook Air’s result running Windows, and 28 minutes better than the Acer TravelMate. So, while you do pay in battery life for your processing power, the Vostro makes you pay less than it’s main rivals.
Officially, Dell claims a battery life of up to 9.5 hours of ‘productive computing’. Our test is certainly more demanding than simply hammering out a long document or reading cached web pages with Wi-Fi switched off, but as to whether you could stretch three times the battery life out of the V131? I could achieve 6–7 hours of very light usage with the brightness turned right down, but 9.5 remained out of my grasp. A brand-new battery may yield a better result.
All in all, I’d be happy to call the V131 my primary lab notebook, for running hardware tests and other CPU-intensive activities. As a web browser and word processor for travel, however, the average battery life and above-average weight would be a turn-off.