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By Tom Manners 9 July 2010

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When it comes to ultra portable notebooks there are those manufacturers who shave a few millimeters off here and there without giving it too much thought and there are those who really consider the device from the ground up. Dell falls into the later category with its recently released Vostro V13 laptop.

The V13 is very similar in makeup to Dell’s Adamo, albeit manufactured with cheaper materials in order to make it more affordable to the average consumer.

Although the V13 is available with a number of specification options regarding processor, hard drive etc. the model that landed on our desk boasted the following features.

Internal features

Keeping the machine ticking over is an Intel SU7300 Dual Core processor which runs at a stock frequency of 1.3 GHz and includes 3 MB of L2 cache with the Intel GS45 Express Chipset which allows for ultra low voltage – resulting in greater battery lifetime. This is well complimented by 4 GB of DDR3 RAM which is set to a frequency of 1066 MHz.

The V13 also features an Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 4500MHD graphical solution and a 300 GB hard drive.

Unfortunately the V13’s Intel Core Duo doesn’t not match up well when compared to Intel’s latest Core i3 and Core i5 CPUs. On the 3D Mark Vantage 06 Benchmark the V13 scored 1107 points for its CPU compared with the HP ProBook 4520S Core i3’s 2361 points and the Dell 1558 Core i5’s 2602 points.

On the Windows Experience Index the V13 scored just 3.4 calculations per second on the CPU compared to the HP’s 6.2 and the Dell’s 6.6.

Build Quality

Although the V13 has come under fire in other reviews for feeling too cheap and ‘clicky’ we found it to be a wonderfully designed machine which should hold a lot of appeal within the consumer market.

The external make up of the V13 is finished in a silver brushed steal which wraps around the device’s body. It almost looks like a metal bound book waiting to be opened, a characteristic which we were particularly fond of.

The device as a whole is also minute, measuring in at 330 x 230 mm with a depth of just 16.5 mm and a total weight of 1.6 Kg, making it one of the thinnest and lightest notebooks currently available on the market.

Its keypad is well situated and the keys felt comfortable during daily use. The V13’s trackpad also shines through, although we found it to be a bit too big for our liking based on the comparative size of the device overall.

Display

The V13 incorporates a 13.3” LED backlit HD enabled display which is HD compatible. The screen is literally wafer thin and almost feels as if it’s not there at all; this can be attributed to its LED backlighting.

Dell also chose to include anti-glare technology which we must admit is surprisingly effective with regards to reducing light pollution onscreen. 

No optical drive

Unfortunately the device is sans optical drive. This may be a problem for some users who are more dependent on software suites such as Adobe’s CS package, which requires an optical drive for installation, although Dell does offer an external 8X DVD+/-RW at an additional price when purchasing the product.

For the average user, who downloads the majority of their applications from the web, the lack of an optical drive shouldn’t be too much of an obstacle.

Included is an OEM copy of Windows 7 Professional.

Connectivity

Despite the lack of an optical drive, the V13 incorporates all of the connectivity features found in larger notebooks. This includes an 802.11n Wireless Module, Bluetooth 2.1, Gigabit Ethernet support, integrated 1.3 Megapixel webcam and an optional Dell 5540 HSPA Mobile Broadband Module.

With regards to ports it features a single USB 2.0 module, a USB 2.0/eSATA combination module, a 5 in 1 card reader, microphone jack, 34 mm ExpressCard and a VGA connector. We do feel however that Dell could have implemented an additional USB port, despite the lack of overall space.

Battery

The V13 boasts a 6 cell Lithium Ion sealed battery pack. Although Dell advertised a battery life of roughly 4.7 hours we found it to be practically capable of 3 hours, which compares well to larger, 9 cell equipped notebooks.

Conclusion

Sure the Dell Vostro V13 isn’t going to win any awards for being blisteringly quick or for delivering pristine gaming quality but, for the average home of office user looking for a dependable and affordable notebook which can be easily carted around, this model is a strong contender.

But if its processing power you're after in a thin and light body, we would still recommend Asus' UL30J with its Core I5 processor. 

The Dell Vostro V13 is available for between R7500 and R11 000 based on which additional options the user chooses to include.

PROS
Ultra thin design
CONS
Arguably outdated CPU, no optical drive, only two USB ports
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