August 25, 2011
- Portable, sturdy design
- Strong battery life
- USB 3.0 & lots of wireless options
- Good performance
- Keyboard layout issues
- Matte screen washes out colors
The Dell Vostro V131 is a 13-inch notebook that is affordable and offers an update to Dell's small-business laptop line. The V131 starts with a basic configuration that will be attractive for budget shoppers, but for a little extra money, you get good battery life, a Core i5 CPU and 4GB of RAM.
The Dell Vostro V131 has a sturdy chassis in terms of both look and feel thanks to the magnesium alloy and anodized aluminum body. Because of this, it is a little heavier than other 13-inch notebooks at around 4.1-pounds, but in our eyes the added heft is worth the gain in durability. It comes in two colors, silver and red ($29 extra) and the lid is hinged slightly forward which leaves a back lip that sort of sticks out awkwardly. The V131 measures 13.0 x 9.4 x 0.8-inches (wdh), so it's definitely portable in terms of its size. The aesthetic of the silver version is definitely more business-like and most will probably like it.
The keyboard is an island-style chiclet style keyboard, which is our favorite because the keys are spaced a little more. However, the V131 does give us a little to gripe about with the placement of the column of keys to the very right edge for things like Page Up/Down, which can be accidentally pressed when the Enter or Shift keys are the intent. Most of the V131 configurations come with a backlit keyboard, which is always a nice touch, and the keyboard is also rated as spill-resistant, although I wouldn't recommend spilling anything on it any ways.
The square touchpad below the keyboard is multitouch enabled and is slightly smaller than we would've liked to see, but it isn't overly downsized, so most users shouldn't find it to be a problem. Besides that, the touchpad seemed to be quite responsive and offered a frictionless surface for easy tracking. For added security, there is a fingerprint scanner built-in, which again adds to the small-business appeal.
Dell includes a 13-inch matte display that has a native resolution of 1366 x 768-pixels. The matte finish helped to cut down on reflections and glare, but also reduced the vibrancy of colors, which is usually the trade-off with a matte screen. Watching HD video earned a subjective score of "good" for overall quality and viewing angles were on average with other similar laptops.
The Dell Vostro V131's port selection includes two USB 3.0 ports, one USB 2.0 port, HDMI-out, VGA-out, Ethernet, an SD card reader and the usual audio jacks. Wireless support includes both 802.11b/g/n and Bluetooth, but WiMax/LTE/3G mobile broadband is available too on certain configurations. There is also included support for Intel's Wireless Display (WiDi) technology, which lets you transmit HD video and audio to a nearby WiDi-equipped HDTV. We really appreciated the V131's expansive wireless connectivity, especially the mobile broadband for on-the-go business users. The two USB 3.0 ports also exceed the category average of either one or none of this new input.
The base model is configured with an Intel Celeron CPU with 2GB of RAM for $500 or an Intel Core i3 CPU for $600, which are both decent options for budget buyers, but our configuration had an Intel Core i5-2410M CPU (2.3GHz), 4GB of RAM, a 500GB 7200RPM hard drive and integrated Intel HD 3000 graphics. There is no optical drive included with the V131, so external options via USB are a must if you want that capability. Dell pre-loads Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) as the operating system.
Performance with the Dell Vostro V131 was quite good with the Core i5 model and definitely on-par with other similar laptops. We believe that this laptop is a strong contender for users looking for portability and features without breaking the bank. There were no noticeable issues with multitasking, HD video watching and even photo/video editing. Since this computer does have integrated Intel graphics, you can completely count out any 3D gaming completely, but this isn't the type of computer that gamers should even be looking at any ways.
Battery life was most impressive with the included 6-cell battery. We were able to get about 6 to 6:30 hours of life, which is a big improvement over previous Vostro models and even a little bit more than other similar laptops. This is an improvement over the previous Dell Vostro V130 model, which we also reviewed and commented on the short battery life.