Dell XPS 15 Vs HP dv6t Quad Edition Comparison: Which is Best?

Two of the most popular mainstream gaming capable laptops on the market at the moment are the Dell XPS 15 and HP dv6t Quad Edition.  The XPS 15 has a 15.6” screen and starts at $799.99 with an Intel Core i5 processor and the HP dv6t Quad Edition has the same size 15.6” screen and starts at $849 with an Intel Quad Core i7 processor.   These prices are before any inevitable coupons that are available.  For this comparison we’ll configure two mid-range laptops with very similar specs and try to come to a conclusion if one is better than the other or what type of buyer profile each laptop fits.

Dell XPS 15 Vs HP dv6t Quad Edition

HP Pavilion dv6t Quad Edition Dell XPS 15 (L502x)
Processor Intel Core i7-2670QM (2.2 GHz, 6MB L3 Cache) Intel Core i7-2670QM (2.2 GHz, 6MB L3 Cache)
Screen 15.6″ Full HD HP Anti-glare LED (1920 x 1080) 15.6 FHD B+RGLED TL (1920×1080)
OS Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit Genuine Windows 7 Home Premium, 64bit
Graphics AMD Radeon HD 6770M Graphics with 1 NVIDIA GeForce GT 540M 2GB graphics with Optimus
Memory 8GB DDR3 Memory 8GB DDR3 Memory
Storage 750GB 7200 RPM SATA Hard Drive 750GB 7200 RPM SATA Hard Drive
Optical Drive Tray Load Blu-ray Disc (Reads BD and Writes to DVD/CD) Tray Load Blu-ray Disc (Reads BD and Writes to DVD/CD)
Weight 5.8 lbs 5.96 lbs
Thickness 1.23″ (front) /1.39” (back) 1.3″ (front) /1.5″ (back)
Ports 4 USB (2 USB 2.0 and 2 USB 3.0), HDMI, VGA, Ethernet RJ-45, Multi-Format Digital Media Card Reader, 2 headphone ports, 1 mic-in port Mini DisplayPort, 2 total USB 3.0, 1 USB 2.0 (eSATA/powershare combo)
Ethernet (RJ-45), HDMI 1.4, headphone (2 total) with SPID/F support (1), 1 Mic-in, 9-in-1 media card reader
Battery Life 5 hours 8 minutes (with 6-cell battery) 4 hours (with 6-cell 56 WHr battery)
Web Camera HP TrueVision HD Webcam (? MP) Skype-Certified 2.0MP HD Webcam
Audio Beats audio with quad speakers for superior sound JBL 2.1 Speakers with Waves Maxx Audio 3
Price as Configured $1,109.99 $1,524.99

Below are screenshots of our final configured products and the price:

Dell XPS 15 Pricing $1,524.99

Dell XPS 15 price

HP dv6t Quad Pricing $1,109.99

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Online Configuration Ease

In boiling down the specs comparison I have to give credit to Dell for being more forthcoming on their site as to what you’re actually getting internally.  HP tries to obfuscate the exact components with marketing fluff.  For instance, when choosing a graphics card for the dv6t Quad Edition HP offers the choices you see below in the screenshot on the graphics card config page:

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How is the description “1GB Discrete GDDR5 Graphics AMD Radeon” useful?  It gives you no idea what the card actually is, and worse you have the option to upgrade to something of the same description for more.  I know from digging that the less expensive graphics card is an AMD 6750 while the more expensive is an AMD 6770, but HP doesn’t display that anywhere.  And this is just one example Let’s already give Dell a +1 for making configuration easier.

 Advantage: Dell XPS 15

Price

The pricing on the XPS 15 starts off competitively at $799.99, but the upgrades are extortionate!  At the time of configuration HP was offering a Free upgrade to 8GB of memory but Dell required me to spend $125 to go from the standard 4GB of memory to 8GB.  If you upgrade memory aftermarket by purchasing RAM from Newegg or Crucial it would cost around $30, save yourself money and don’t pay Dell $125 for something that costs them $30!  While the dv6tqe starts off with a Quad Core processor as the base offering the XPS 15 includes only  a Core i5, the upgrade to a Core i7 was $175, ouch!  The Blu-ray drive was a standard option for the dv6tqe, but it costs $80 to upgrade the XPS 15.  The list goes on for the overpriced upgrades Dell charges, once you move away from the base configuration the XPS 15 becomes very expensive.  HP is much more generous with Free upgrades and being more reasonable when charging for upgrades.

 Advantage: HP dv6t Quad Edition

Design

The dv6tqe is solidly constructed and has a dark umber brush metal finish, umber is described as a “natural clay brown” color.  It’s quite appealing, but not striking by any means:

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Overall the dv6t Quad design is decent, it has a couple of nice lighting effects with the HP badge glowing on the lid and also the touchpad having a light around it:

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The one big thing missing on the dv6tqe is a backlit keyboard, it simply has no option for such a thing but the XPS 15 offers a backlit keyboard standard.  The XPS 15 uses a silver anodized aluminum lid, it’s not a particularly stunning finish but nothing wrong with it either.

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The XPS logo on the black hinge area lights up to give a pretty cool look.  Most importantly the XPS 15 has a standard backlit keyboard with adjustable lighting, which is both functional and stylish.  This feature alone in my mind gives it the design edge over the dv6tqe.

 Advantage:  Dell XPS 15

Battery Life

If you configure a 6-cell battery with both laptops you stand to get around 4 hours of battery life on the XPS 15 and 5+ hours on the dv6tqe.  Battery life of course varies by usage, those quoted times are based on standard use patterns such as web surfing and productivity, not game playing and video watching which would reduce battery times.  Any way you slice it, the dv6t Quad Edition offers better battery life.

 Advantage: HP dv6t Quad Edition

Screen

Both Dell and HP offer a basic 1366 x 768 resolution screen for those that want to save money or a more expensive but much nicer Full HD 1920 x 1080 option is available.  However, the Dell upgrade to the 1920 x 180 screen is enhanced by the fact it is an B+RGLED display, which is a mouthful to say but technically means the backlight is Red, Green and Blue and not just white (which is typical).  The RGB backlight gives a much wider range of color display and more true color representation at varying angles.  It’s a very nice screen and is what gives the XPS 15 such a good reputation among those that love watching movies where it really stands out.

 Advantage: Dell XPS 15

Processor Options and Performance

Right now the fastest processor you can get with the HP dv6t Quad Edition is the Intel Quad Core i7-2820QM 2.30GHz chip for a $350 upgrade from standard while the XPS 15 L502X offers up to the Core i7-2860QM 2.50GHz processor for a $500 upgrade from standard.  The dv6tqe standard processor is the Core i7-2670QM 2.2GHz processor and the XPS 15 is the Core i5-2430 2.40GHz.  So you get a better starting option with the HP but the Dell lets you top out at a higher performance.  The problem with Dell is that upgrades are a rip off and simply not worth it for the mild performance gain.  At the end of the day the processor options are close, we already evaluated pricing so we’ll ignore that.  We’ll call this a tie.

 Advantage: Tie

Graphics Card

The HP dv6t Quad Edition comes with the AMD Radeon 6770M and 2GB GDDR5 memory and the Dell offers the Nvidia 540M with 2GB of GDDR5 memory.  These cards are very close in performance and are considered to be on the cusp of being high-end cards.  NotebookCheck.net rates the AMD 6700M slightly higher, but it’s a very close call.  The upgrade cost for the dv6tqe to the fastest graphics is +$75 while for the Dell it’s +$100.  We’ll give the slight edge to the HP dv6t Quad Edition here.

 Advantage: HP dv6t Quad Edition

Weight and Thickness

The dv6t Quad Edition weighs 5.8lbs with the 6-cell battery and the XPS 15 weighs about 6lbs with the 6-cell.  The dv6t is 1.39” at its thickest point while the XPS 15 is a fat 1.5” at the back.  Neither laptop is thin or portable, but the HP wins if you do care about this feature in your purchasing decision.

Advantage: HP dv6t Quad Edition

Ports Selection

Here’s a list of the ports you get with the Dell XPS 15:

  • Mini DisplayPort
  • 2 total USB 3.0, 1 USB 2.0 (eSATA/powershare combo)
  • Ethernet (RJ-45)
  • HDMI 1.4
  • headphone (2 total) with SPID/F support (1)
  • 1 Mic-in
  • 9-in-1 media card reader

and the ports for the HP dv6t Quad Edition:

  • 4 USB (2 USB 2.0 and 2 USB 3.0)
  • HDMI 1.4
  • VGA
  • Ethernet RJ-45
  • Multi-Format Digital Media Card Reader
  • 2 headphone ports
  • 1 mic-in port

It’s a tough call to say one is better than the other, the dv6t offers more USB ports total but the XPS 15 offers a Mini DisplayPort that HP does not offer.  I’d say both offer an adequate number of ports and everything you really need.   This is another tie.

Advantage: Tie

Speakers

HP offers JBL branded speakers and Beats Audio, but none of this competes with the XPS 15 offering a sub-woofer.  The XPS 15 has a spacious body and so can fit bigger and better speakers.

 Advantage: Dell XPS 15

Warranty, Support and Return

One thing you should strongly consider when buying a laptop is the standard warranty length, quality of support and what the return polices are.   Dell offers a standard 1-year Basic Support that includes 24 x 7 hardware phone support, in-home service if remote diagnosis fails and fast repair of usually 1 – 2 business days.  HP offers the same 1-year warranty on hardware and you can get technical assistance via phone, chat or email.   HP offers basic software tech support within the warranty while Dell does not.  The cost to upgrade to 3-year accidental damage protection at HP is $247 and with Dell it’s $349 (although you do get a $50 Dell gift card if you choose that).  HP warranty upgrades tend to be cheaper.  I’ve used support from both companies and have to rate them at about even, they have both been good in my experience.

Where HP shines is in their return policy.  You can return an HP laptop within 15-days with no restocking fee for just about any reason.  Over the holidays that is extended to a month window for return, which is awesome!  Dell charges a restocking fee for any return so my nod goes to HP for this reason.

 Advantage: HP dv6t Quad Edition

And the Winner is?

31D2VEYTGHL._SL500_AA300_The dv6tqe and XPS 15 are both good laptops and depending on what you want feature wise one may be a clear winner for you.  If you want one of the best screens on the market for a 15.6” screen laptop and price is no concern, the XPS 15 might be a good choice.  However, since price is a big factor for most the HP dv6t Quad Edition has to be the winner we choose here.  For a similar configuration it’s a full $400 cheaper, and that’s before coupons, which HP usually has available to help price even more.  The upgrade costs for the XPS 15 are extortionate in some cases which is why the base level $799.99 price is misleading, most people will pay well over $1,000 when purchasing this laptop.  For the best value and performance for the buck, go with the dv6t Quad.

Comparison Summary Table (green tick indicates advantage, both with ticks indicates a tie)

Dell XPS 15 HP dv6t Quad Edition
Configuration Ease
Price and Value

$1,524.99

$1,109.99

Design
Thinness and Weight
Durability
Screen
Processor
Graphics
Battery Life
Speakers
Ports Selection
Warranty, Support & Return

 

Where to Buy:

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Dell Offers a Better Online Buying Experience for Laptops than HP and Here’s Why…

Lately buyers have been getting frustrated with HP for being unable to tell them what exactly is inside a laptop they’re configuring and ordering online.  For instance, with the recent Envy 15 and Envy 17 release we couldn’t figure out what graphics card was being offered.  It took banging on the virtual doors of HP and an internal blogger to finally get to the bottom of the issue, but there’s still no telling what the clock speeds are on those AMD 7690M graphics cards.

But this is just one example of HP doing a poor job of making specs transparent for laptops that they sell.  I buy and sell a lot of laptops and am very familiar with the online configuration offered by HP and Dell.  There’s no way to put it nicely, HP sucks for making it easy to figure out what your choices are and bombards you with marketing fluff terms that mean nothing.  Meanwhile, Dell lays it all out there, if you want to know what video card is inside a laptop it’s not hard to find out.

The best way to demonstrate this is through an example, let’s configure one of the most popular HP laptops, the dv6t Quad Edition, and the popular Dell XPS 15 L502x to demonstrate this.

Selecting a Graphics Card:

The graphics card is an important factor for the dv6t Quad Edition, people that want to do some gaming will be buying this laptop and they want to know exactly what they are in for.  However, when given the option of a graphics card it says “1GB Discrete GDDR5 Graphics AMD Radeon)”, which means nothing.  Worse, I can upgrade for $25 to something of the same description.  Am I supposed to assume this is something better, even though it’s of the same description?

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Going to the specs page for the dv6t Quad Edition is no more help, I’m given the same fluff:

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I’ll help you out since HP doesn’t, the base level graphics card is an AMD 6750 and the upgrade is to an AMD 6770.  How do I know this?  I bought and reviewed the dv6t Quad Edition, but having to buy a laptop to figure out what’s inside is not a way to sell more laptops.

Now let’s look at how Dell presents the graphics card options for the XPS 15:

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How about that?  Dell actually puts up front on the configuration page that you can choose between the Nvidia GT 525M or Nvidia GT 540M.  You’ll have to do a bit of independent research to figure out which card is best for your needs and if it’s worth the upgrade, but at least you know your options.

Selecting a Screen:

Now let’s move on to the screen, another very important component.  For the dv6t Quad Edition we’re given two options:

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You can either choose a horribly low resolution 1366 x 768 screen or a better “Full HD” screen with 1920 x 1080 resolution.  What does BrightView mean though?  The “Help me decide” tool tip doesn’t help to explain what BrightView is, in actual fact it means a glossy finish screen.   I’m also left wondering if there is a web camera built into the screen, but a few steps later I find out there is a web cam on the “Personalization step”

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I love option pages where there are no options, what a waste of time.  This page indicates that there is a built-in “HP TrueVision HD Webcam”.  Many people like to know  how many megapixels a web camera is that they’re getting, but HP makes it impossible to find out.  “HD” is a loose term used to describe a lot of things these days, a Google search on “HP TrueVision HD WebCam” brings up a video about the camera, but no specs. 

Let’s see how Dell puts together their XPS 15 screen configuration page:

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Dell shows exactly what the specs are for the screen, they also have a handy “Help me Choose: LCD Displays” pop up that describes what you are getting with each screen.  They specify the web camera is 2.0 megapixels.

Conclusion

This article was mostly inspired by my own frustration in purchasing an HP laptop online and trying to decipher the internal specs along with the recent debacle over misinformation on the new Envy 15 and Envy 17 laptops.  It’s too bad that HP does make high quality laptops that I often recommend, but that it’s often hard to get through some of the marketing speak to figure out what you’re really getting inside.  This is especially important on high end laptops that cost more than $1,000, people need to know what their money is going towards.  You have to be willing to dig through Internet forums to find the answer from people that actually own the laptop, the average person doesn’t have that sort of time or patience.  Dell meanwhile does a good job of presenting actual component specs and going a step further to provide a useful “Help me decide?” page with each selection.  Kudos to Dell on this, and let’s hope HP improves their transparency.

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Dell Latitude ST Tablet Video Surfaces

It appears that Dell is close to releasing the Latitude ST slate tablet as a preview video has shown up on the Dell Malaysia website.    You can view the video below:

 

Based on the video here are the Dell Latitude ST specs that are now known:

  • Screen: 10”
  • Processor: Intel Atom Processor
  • OS: Windows 7
  • Ports: HDMI out, headphone
  • Docking station
  • Touch and Pen Input Technology: N-trig
  • Cameras: Front and rear

Dell Latitude ST

The Latitude ST will offer touchscreen and pen input, but it’s based on N-trig touchscreen technology and not the more popular Wacom.  This is a bit of a shame but at the same time it’s a positive that Dell has made sure that pen input is a feature of this device.  The other disappointment to see is that it will be powered by the much maligned Intel Atom processor, notorious for being underpowered and sluggish with performance.  Windows 7, which will be loaded on the Latitude ST, isn’t a light weight OS so it won’t run as smoothly as iOS or Android with an underpowered processor.

That all said, the Latitude ST may appeal to IT enterprise buyers simply because it will have Windows 7 and all the security features they are used to having.  Furthermore, applications that workers can use on PC desktops or laptops will run on the Latitude ST tablet.  There is a docking station solution for the Latitude ST so that when you’re at your desk you can output the screen to a larger monitor and use it like you would a regular computer via an external keyboard and mouse.

There is no official release date set for the Latitude ST but it appears that could come before year’s end or at the latest Q1 of 2012.

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Dell Vostro 360 All-in-One now Available

vostro-360Dell has started selling their new Vostro 360 All in One Desktop that features a 23” screen and choice of Intel Core i3 or Core i5 processors.  All in One desktops are becoming more and more popular and now take up 1/3 of all desktop sales, so it’s no surprise that Dell is the latest to introduce a small business targeted All in One.  HP last month introduced the TouchSmart Elite and Pro 3420 All in One desktops.

The Vostro 360 All in One starts at $699.99 with the following specs:

  • Processor: Intel Core i3-2100 (3.10GHz)
  • OS: Windows 7 Pro 64-bit
  • Monitor: 23-inch LED backlit 1920 x 1080 resolution, non-Touch (Touch screen optional upgrade)
  • Storage: 500GB SATA 7200RPM Hard Drive
  • Memory: 4GB RAM
  • Optical Drive: 8 x CD/DVD Burner
  • Wireless: 802.11 a/b/g/n
  • Web Camera: 2.0MP Web Cam
  • Ports: 6 externally accessible USB Ports (2 side, 4 back), RJ-45 (10/100/1000 Ethernet), Media card reader
  • Dimensions: 16.93” x 22.36” x 2.97” (Height x Width x Depth)
  • Weight: 19.07lb

The Vostro 360 features several optional upgrades such as a multi-touch screen, dedicated Nvidia graphics, Intel Core i5 processor, a wireless keyboard and VESA mount for positioning the Vostro 360 on the wall.

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Dell Vostro 3450 Review

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.

DSC_3200 DSC_3201

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!

Dell Vostro 3450 lid Vostro 3450 backlit keyboard
Vostro 3450 front shot Vostro 3450 chrome trim

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.

Vostro 3450 Windows Experience Index

– A 5,901 PCMark score, which is a very respectable score

Vostro 3450 pcmark 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

Dell Vostro 3450 underside

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.

Vostro 3450 keyboard

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.

Vostro 3450 backlit keyboard

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.

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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:

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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

Dell Vostro 3450 right side

Vostro 3450 right side: optical drive, headphone out port, microphone in port, USB 3.0 port

Dell Vostro 3450 front side

Vostro 3450 front side: indicator lights (no ports)

Dell Vostro 3450 back side

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.

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Dell Vostro 3555 AMD Powered Laptop now Available

Dell Vostro 3555 laptopDell has released a new addition to their Vostro small business targeted laptop lineup in the form of the Dell Vostro 3555 AMD powered 15” laptop.  The Vostro 3555 comes equipped with the following specs for a price of $529:

  • Processor: AMD E2-3000M 1.8Ghz to 2.4Ghz
  • Graphics: AMD Radeon HD 6380
  • Screen: 15.6” 1366 x 768 resolution
  • Memory: 3GB RAM
  • Storage: 320GB SATA hard drive (7200RPM)
  • Optical Drive: 8X DVD+/-RW with double-layer DVD+/-R
  • Ports: Network connector (RJ45), USB 3.0 (3), USB 2.0/eSATA combo (1), Microphone jack, Headphone/speaker out, 8-in-1 card reader, 34 mm ExpressCard, HDMI connector, 15-pin VGA video connector
  • Weight: 2.475 kg/5.45lb
  • Wireless: Wireless LAN: 802.11 b/g/n (2.4G), Bluetooth Combo(BT V3.0+HS)
  • Warranty: 1-year Basic

The Vostro 3555 is essentially an AMD alternative to the Intel powered Vostro 3550 that has been available for a few months now.   The Vostro 3555 starts at a bare bones configuration price of $429 with an AMD E2-3000M processor while the Vostro 3550 Intel Core i3-2310m equipped Vostro 3550 notebook starts at $529 so there is a chance to save $100 by going with the AMD powered version of this laptop.  For a more powerful and expensive version of the Vostro 3555 you can get up to an AMD Quad Core A8-3500M 1.5GHz – 2.4GHz processor with Radeon HD 6620 graphics.

Especially impressive about the Vostro 3555 is the selection of ports.  You get the latest USB 3.0 fast port technology along with an HDMI port and eSATA combo port.  The weight of 5.45lbs for a 15.6” screen laptop is not too burdensome and you would still be able to carry it comfortably around the office, though a lighter 12” – 14” screen laptop would be recommended for any road warriors out there.

There is no quote regarding battery life of the Vostro 3555 from Dell but based on the processor and battery size, a standard 6-cell Lithium Ion battery Standard (48Whr), I would estimate a battery life of around 4-hours.

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Dell Releases New Vostro V131 13-inch Laptop

OriginalPngDell today unveiled the new Vostro V131 13-inch screen thin and light laptop.  The Vostro V131 comes equipped with either a budget Intel Celeron processor or the latest Intel Core i3 and Core i5 processors and will start at $499.  The base Vostro V131 configuration starting at $499 comes with the following specs:

  • Processor: Intel Celeron ULV 847 1.10GHz with Intel HD 2000 Graphics
  • Screen: 13.3 inch High Definition LED Display (1366 x 768) with anti-glare
  • Memory: 2GB
  • Storage: 320GB SATA hard drive (7200RPM)
  • Ports: Network connector (RJ45), USB 3.0 (2), USB 2.0 (1), Microphone jack, Headphone/speaker out, 8-in-1 card reader, HDMI out, VGA out
  • Dimensions: 12.96″ x 9.36″ x 0.63-0.83 inches
  • Battery: 6-cell
  • Weight: 4.03lbs

The Vostro V131 comes with a choice of Red or Silver color finish, the color appears on the lid and also wraps around the sides where ports are located.  The keyboard has a chiclet design, which is certainly a nod to consumer tastes, however the screen thankfully keeps a matte finish instead of glossy and sticks with more business like tastes.  According to Dell the Vostro V131 has been designed for Small Business professionals who are on the go.  As such there is a multitude of connectivity options including Bluetooth, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, 3G Mobile Broadband, 4G Mobile Broadband using either Intel WiMax or the Verizon LTE network.

Availability

The Dell Vostro V131 is available starting today at Dell.com and can be configured with up to an Intel Core i5-2410m processor.

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