The Dell Vostro 3450 is a 14” screen laptop sold via Dell Business. The Vostro 3450 can be purchased in the $500 range and easily fits a small business budget. The 3450 is equipped with the latest Intel Core i5 technology and includes enticing new features such as the latest USB 3.0 port, HD web cam and a backlit keyboard. Because of these features the Vostro 3450 is a laptop that stands out in its price range. Same size and budget laptops that compete with the Vostro 3450 include the Lenovo ThinkPad Edge E420 and HP ProBook 4430s. The specs for the Vostro 3450 being reviewed are below:
- Screen: 14.0 inch LED Display (1366 x 768), matte finish
- Processor: Intel Core i5-2410M processor 2.30 GHz with Turbo Boost 2.0 up to 2.90 GHz Vostro
- Memory: 4GB (1-DIMM, 1333MHZ, DDR3)
- Graphics: Intel HD 3000
- Storage: 320GB 7200RPM Hard Drive
- Input: Backlit Keyboard with Gesture Touchpad, Finger print reader
- OS: Microsoft Genuine Windows 7 Professional 64 bit Service Pack 1
- Battery: 6-cell Lithium Ion
- Optical Drive: 8X DVD+/-RW with double-layer DVD+/-R write capability
- Color: Aberdeen Silver
- Weight: 5.0 lbs
- Dimensions: 13.5” x 9.68” x 1.20 – 1.31” (Width x Depth x Thickness)
- Ports: Ethernet RJ-45, 2 USB 3.0 ports, 1 USB 2.0 port, 1 USB 2.0/eSATA combo port, Microphone jack, Headphone jack, 34mm ExpressCard slot, HDMI port, VGA Monitor port, 8-in-1 Media card reader
- Warranty: 2-year Basic Support: Next Business Day Parts and Labor Onsite Response 1 Year Extended
This Dell Vostro 3450 configuration was purchased for $539 during a great sale on a “Quick Ship” model. It was such a good price and so many people went for it that it caused Dell to run out of inventory and it ended up taking 5-days to receive instead of the promised next day shipping that you’re supposed to get. It wasn’t a big deal for me as I knew the deal was good and Dell updated me each day with an email on the status and there was an option to cancel, no questions asked and no charges incurred. Frankly I was pretty impressed by the way Dell handled the delay, their automated email communication is far superior to the experience I’ve had with other laptop vendors.
Dell Vostro 3450 Build Quality
I knew going into the purchase that the Vostro 3450 would be a bit more beefy than other 14” laptops I’ve used, but I was still surprised by just how heavy and thick this laptop is in the flesh. I weighed the Vostro 3450 and it was almost exactly 5.0lbs, if you include the charger and cord as travel weight then you’re all the way up to 5.7lbs. That’s quite a bit heavier than other 14” laptops and encroaching the weight of 15” laptops. That said, the competing ThinkPad T420 is a quite heavy 4.8lbs so the Vostro 3450 is not leaps and bounds bigger than the rest. At the thinnest point the Vostro 3450 is 1.20-inches and goes all the way up to 1.31” at the back, with 1” of thickness being the standard for a svelte laptop this Vostro definitely felt relatively “fat”. The Vostro 3450 simply does not qualify as a thin and light 14” laptop, but that doesn’t prevent it for being good in other ways.
The good news is that the weight of the Vostro 3450 has a lot to do with the thick casing and metals used in the chassis, it makes for a very rugged overall feel. The lid is made of a sturdy aluminum and the hinges are thick and metallic. There isn’t an ounce of flex anywhere on the body that I could find. The underneath of the laptop was also very solid , this is important for protecting the laptop internals, people tend to clunk laptops down and if you don’t have good protection on the bottom that can lead to damage of internal components. Bottom line, the Vostro 3450 is probably the most durable feeling $500-range laptop I’ve used in some time, rugged and tank are two words that come to mind when you pick this thing up.
Dell Vostro 3450 Design
I was pleasantly surprised with the new design of the Vostro 3000 series. The silver lid is attractive with the black trim, if a silver lid is too boring you have the option of a bronze or red finish to add some design flare. Once opened the all black inside with chrome trim around the keyboard and touchpad are a nice design touch. The chiclet style keyboard with rounded keys is also unique and pretty cool looking, but the real design coup is the backlit keyboard. Not only is the backlit keyboard highly functional and great for working in darkened rooms, it also just looks darn cool!
Vostro 3450 Performance
The Vostro 3450 can be configured online via Dell.com, you can choose anywhere from a budget configuration starting at $499 all the way up to a super fast Intel Core i7-2620M 2.70GHz processor and AMD HD 6630M graphics that will cost over $1,000. The configuration for the Vostro 3450 under review is middle of the road and what I would recommend for most buyers as it’s affordable yet provides ample power for most business users needs. For the price I paid after coupon code of $539 the performance and specs on the Vostro 3450 are quite amazing. The latest Intel Core i5-2410m dual core processor (Sandy Bridge family) is a fast 2.30GHz and can automatically overclock to 2.90GHz when an extra speed boost is needed thanks to the Intel Turbo Boost technology that is built in.
Also included in this configuration is a fast 7200RPM 320GB hard drive, this is the fastest spinning hard drive you can buy, only an expensive SSD would be faster. Faster hard drive speeds help with bootup times. The 4GB of RAM included is the perfect amount to provide a smoothly performing laptop, if you wanted to upgrade to as much as 8GB of RAM you can easily access the memory on the bottom of the laptop.
The standard Intel 3000 integrated graphics are good enough for some light 3D gaming, serious gamers that want to play 3D games on high frame rate settings would need dedicated graphics, the AMD HD 6630M dedicated graphics card is available with more expensive configurations of the Vostro 3450 for this. However, most people buying the Vostro 3450 will want it for its productivity and affordability, not for gaming, so I don’t think it makes sense to spend a ton on an unnecessary graphics card as it won’t help with overall productivity performance. For a majority of business users, the Vostro 3450 configured with the Intel Core i5-2410m processor is going to provide more than enough power and will still not be outdated 4-years from now.
For those that like to see benchmark scores to get an idea of performance, I ran the Windows Experience Index and also PCMark Vantage:
– A 4.7 score on Windows Experience Index (scores range from 1.0 to 7.9, higher is better). The processor scores a high 6.9 while the graphics performance is the lowest score at 4.7.
– A 5,901 PCMark score, which is a very respectable score
Comparison to other 14.0” screen business laptops:
|Laptop||PCMark Vantage Score||Windows Experience Index|
|Dell Vostro 3450 (Core i5-2410m, 4GB RAM, 320GB 7200 RPM HD)||5,901||4.7|
|Lenovo ThinkPad Edge E420 (Core i5-2410m, 4GB RAM, 320GB 7200RPM)||6,056||5.9|
|Lenovo ThinkPad T420 (Core i3-2310m, 2GB RAM, 250GB 5400RPM)||3,204||4.5|
You’ll notice that the Vostro 3450 performance is in line with similarly equipped 14” screen laptops, other than the lower graphics performance on the Windows Experience Index, which is somewhat odd since the same graphics card is used in all three laptops. Whatever the case, you’ll have no problems multi-tasking and having several browser tabs open with the Vostro 3450’s processing power when equipped with an Intel Core i5. HD video playback will be excellent, many people mistakenly believe Flash video (which is what a majority of online streaming video sites use) needs a good graphics card to run smoothly, but in fact processing power is more important.
Dell Vostro 3450 Battery Life
Battery life is one of the most important considerations for any business user that has to travel and leave the confines of their cube. The Vostro 3450 comes with a default 6-cell sized Lithium-Ion battery that is user replaceable. I tested the battery life on the Vostro 3450 by setting the screen brightness to half, leaving wireless on and then doing some light work for a couple of hours and leaving a browser open set to refresh every 60 seconds. Under this scenario the Vostro 3450 battery lasted 4 hours and 45 minutes before going into hibernation due to a low battery. That’s a pretty respectable battery life for this sized laptop and I think enough for most people. You could get over 5 hours of battery life by turning the brightness down, wireless off and disabling the keyboard backlight however that’s not a very realistic usage scenario. Here’s how the Vostro 3450 stacks up in terms of battery life relative to other 14” laptops I’ve recently used:
|Laptop||Battery Life (with standard battery)|
|Dell Vostro 3450||4 hours and 45 minutes|
|Lenovo ThinkPad Edge E420||4 hours and 9 minutes|
|Lenovo ThinkPad T420||5 hours|
The battery seen here on the underside of the Vostro 3450 is easily removed from the bottom of the laptop by pulling the two locks on the battery outwards.
Dell Vostro 3450 Keyboard and Touchpad
The keyboard on the Vostro 3450 is both attractive and very usable. I love the look of the island style rounded keys, even the orange accents on the function keys to indicate the media actions those buttons control is a nice touch. The backlit keyboard is the sugar and cherry on top in terms of making the looks and usability all that much better. The keys themselves have a nice travel distance and are pleasant to press, no annoying noises or clickety-clack. The keyboard is firm, there are no locations where you’ll find annoying keyboard flex. The backlighting is great for making keys more visible in darkened rooms, and even in lit rooms I find it helps. There is no ambient light sensor to automatically detect when the keyboard backlighting should turn on/off, it’s just always on unless you disable it.
While the keyboard is a dream, I’m less enamored by the touchpad. It’s a bit small and I found it to be flaky when it comes to using gestures. Even two finger scrolling, a very basic feature, was rather hit or miss to use. The mouse buttons are also middling, they make a hollow click noise when pressed and don’t have a good travel distance or overall feel.
Above is a picture of the Vostro 3450 keyboard with the backlight on, notice how it’s much easier to see the letters with the lighting turned on, the backlight feature is useful even in a lit room.
Dell Vostro 3450 Screen
The Vostro 3450 has a 14” screen with 1366 x 768 resolution, it has a matte finish. There are no options for upgrading the screen, for those who want a higher resolution you’d have to look to the Dell Latitude series. I found the screen to be above average for other 14” business laptops I’ve used. The screen is plenty bright enough on the highest setting, the display is crisp and the colors are great. As is typical for laptop screens, unless you have a more expensive IPS display, the vertical viewing angles are somewhat limited so you’re best off viewing things straight on with your eyes perpendicular to the screen. Below are some different viewing angles of the Vostro 3450 screen so you can get an idea of the range and what happens to colors from various angles.
Also worth a strong mention is the fact you get an integrated HD web cam at the top of the screen, the picture resolution this camera provides is above the standard web cam and works well for Skype which is pre-installed on the Vostro 3450.
Dell Vostro 3450 Heat and Noise
If you’re in a meeting room you want a laptop to be as quiet as possible so and prevent distraction from the business at hand. Unfortunately, the Vostro 3450 has a habit of kicking on its fans quite frequently, even under light usage, so unless there is other ambient noise in the room these fans will be heard when they spin up to try and cool the computer. The fan noise was definitely more noticeable with the Vostro 3450 than other laptops I’ve recently reviewed. On top of all that, the Vostro 3450 got a whole lot hotter than recently used laptops. It was uncomfortable to use this laptop on the knees for a length of time over 30 minutes as the entire underside got quite hot. The palm rest areas also got warm to the touch after 30 minutes of usage. On the whole, the amount of heat and noise the Vostro 3450 produced is quite disappointing and inferior to other laptops that do a better job of staying cool in a passive manner.
Dell Vostro 3450 Port Selection
One area the Vostro 3450 stands out is in the ports selection. The new USB 3.0 port technology which provides faster data transfer times to external peripherals (up to 10 times faster than USB 2.0) is provided in two ports. You also get one regular USB 2.0 port and then a USB / eSata combo port. The USB 3.0 ports are distinguished by the blue pin connectors inside. You also get an 8-in-1 media card reader slot to easily pop up media cards from your camera or smartphone. There’s an all important HDMI connector for output to a higher resolution display such as an LCD TV. If there’s not already enough ports on board then you have a 34mm ExpressCard slot for expansion needs. Below is a picture of each side of the laptop along with details of port locations:
Vostro 3450 left side: VGA Monitor out, HDMI port, USB 2.0 / eSata combo port, USB 2.0 port, 34mm ExpressCard slot, 8-in-1 media card reader
Vostro 3450 right side: optical drive, headphone out port, microphone in port, USB 3.0 port
Vostro 3450 front side: indicator lights (no ports)
Vostro 3450 back side: RJ-45 Ethernet LAN jack, USB 3.0 port, Kensington slot lock, power jack
The Vostro 3450 clearly provides one of the best port availability features for a laptop in its size and price range and will really appeal to those that like multiple options to interface with other devices and the latest port technology.
Dell Vostro 3450 Speakers
The Vostro 3450 speakers are located on the underside at the front of the laptop, they’re actually quite hard to see as they’re just two little slits emitting audio. As you’d expect based on the location and size, the audio isn’t exactly that great. While the mid to high range of audio is crisp and clear, making movie dialogue and video chat just fine, there is no bass so you won’t have a rich sound experience when it comes to music listening. This is a business laptop, so you just don’t expect much emphasis to be placed on the speakers. You can easily plug in a set of headphones on the right side for a much better audio experience.
Dell Vostro 3450 Review Conclusion and Summary
The Vostro 3450 certainly has a lot of things going for it and features that will appeal to small business buyers. The price is definitely right, for $500 something you get the latest Intel Core i5 processor technology, a fast 7200RPM hard drive, an ample 4GB of RAM and highly durable laptop. The screen is great, the look of the laptop is appealing and offers color customization and the backlit keyboard not only looks fantastic but is a pleasure to use. The battery life of close to 5 hours is also very good and an important factor for those on the go. If you like to have lots of ports and the latest port technology you’re well taken care of with the Vostro 3450. On the downside the Vostro 3450 is quite heavy and thick for its class, it could be more bulky that some students will want to carry. The amount of heat and noise the Vostro 3450 generates is also disappointing, given the weight and heat buildup it’s ironically not a great laptop to use in the lap. While I prefer the ThinkPad Edge E420 as an option for a 14” small business computer, the Dell Vostro 3450 is still a good choice and has unique features that will fit better with some users needs.