Dell's Vostro V131 is sedately handsome and a good performer, but has little else to distinguish it from the corporate-targeted ultraportable crowd. Unless, that is, you count eye-catching prices for various configurations, two USB 3.0 ports, and a generally excellent set of features.
Our V131 test unit ships with 4GB of DDR3 memory, a 7200-rpm hard drive, and a fast Intel Core i5-2410 CPU, and is priced at a mere £589 (low for a business ultraportable). However, that drops to £359 if you can deal with a Celeron CPU, a smaller 320GB hard drive, and only 2GB of memory. If you're not doing anything taxing with the unit, the lesser configuration is worth considering. Components common to every model include a 13.3-inch, 1366 by 768 display, Bluetooth 3.0, 802.11n wireless, gigabit ethernet, and WiDi wireless display technology.
At 4.1 pounds, the V131 is definitely on the heavy side for an ultraportable-probably the reason Dell refers to it as an ultramobile. The battery in the back, which managed 7 hours and 13 minutes of run time, also makes the unit a bit thicker than the ultraportable norm. A Macbook Air it ain't, but the V131 is certainly svelter than your average all-purpose laptop. Appearance-wise, the pewter-and-black V131 is about an 8 out of 10, with clean lines and a tasteful amount of bling.
The performance of our configuration was quite good, garnering a 118 in our WorldBench test suite. Gaming frame rates are as poor as you can expect from Intel integrated graphics - about 30 frames per second only at low detail and 1024 by 764 resolution. The unit's 1080p video playback was smooth, and audio was better than average through the speakers. The webcam maxes out at 1280 by 720 resolution and is quite a bit smoother than the average at that resolution.
Two USB 3.0 ports are the big news in the connections category. However, as part of a growing trend, the V131 forgoes a microphone input in favour of utilising the dual-array mics on both sides of the webcam. There is, of course, a headphone jack, plus VGA and HDMI output, a SC/MMC card slot, and a gigbit ethernet port. Also included is one of the least ostentatious fingerprint scanners you'll run across--it's barely noticeable just below the right side of the keyboard.
The V131 provides a Chiclet-style keyboard that has a very nice feel, as well as slightly sculpted keys for secure finger positioning. The layout suffers no undersized keys and, outside of Lenovo's keyboards, is as good as anything you'll find. Both the keyboard and the touchpad are outlined in chrome trim, with the latter offset comfortably slightly to the right of the space bar. I found the touchpad a tad too sensitive to tapping, but the feel of the buttons is pleasant.
The V131's £589 price for our test configuration looks even better when you consider that the V131 runs the professional version of Windows 7. Microsoft Office 2010 Starter is on hand, and as is the norm with Vostro machines, you'll find a relatively junk-free software array--just a few useful utilities and Trend Micro's Security Agent trial. The Dell webcam application is one of the better examples you'll see, and digitalPersona is included to take care of the software end of the biometrics.
The Vostro V131 is going to draw a lot of attention solely because of its low price. But it's no good grabbing someone's attention if you can't impress them. The V131 should have no problem doing that.