The Dell Vostro 1510 is sold by Dell as a small business targeted laptop. It has a 15.4″ widescreen display, relatively thin design, and has a black glossy finish. The Vostro 1510 is available in a wide variety of configurations, with processor configurations ranging from a slower Intel Celeron to speedy Core 2 Duo T9300 2.5GHz, optional dedicated graphics, and storage options of up to 320GB. While the Vostro 1510 is sold through Dell Small Business, it is a laptop that could suit students or indeed anyone looking for a durable well appointed machine that also comes at a very reasonable price and backed by good support.
Specifications of Review Laptop
The Vostro 1510 comes in a wide variety of configurations, the one under review is a budget variety with middle of the road to lower end component choices. Because of this the price was only $730:
- Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo T5870
- Graphics: Intel X3100
- Hard Drive Storage: 160GB 5400RPM
- Screen: 15.4″ WXGA
- Media: Slot loading DVD+ / -RW
- Battery: 6-cell 56WHr
- Wireless: Intel 3945 802.11 a/g
- Ports: 4 USB 2.0, VGA out connector, Ethernet, Modem, 8-in-1 media card reader, 54mm ExpressCard slot, FireWire (IEEE 1394)
- OS: Windows XP Pro
Below is a table comparing the Vostro 1510 to comparable notebooks.
|Dell Vostro 1510 (15.4″ screen, 6-cell battery)||5.66lbs|
|Dell Vostro 1500 (15.4″ screen, 6-cell battery)||6.75lbs|
|Dell Inspiron 1520 (15.4″ screen, 9-cell battery)||7.4lbs|
|Sony VAIO FZ (15.4′ screen, 6-cell battery)||5.62lbs|
|HP Pavilion dv6500t (15.4′ screen, 6-cell battery)||6.10lbs|
Above you can see the glossy finish of the Vostro 1510 lid is quite reflective, so you can imagine the problems it has with showing greasy fingerprints. The previous Vostro line had a matte finish that was admittedly bland, but easier to keep looking clean.
The slot loading optical drive is a nice touch, it also contributes to the laptop looking a bit cooler than just the average small business machine.
With the lid open you can see there are touch sensitive button controls along the top of the keyboard and the interior thankfully has a matte finish so it’s easy to keep looking clean. Speakers are aligned along the left and right side of the keyboard.
One accent the design folks at Dell gave the Vostro 1510 were illuminating buttons that respond to touch. They look nice, but in use are a little annoying. For instance, to turn up volume you have to keep tap, tap, tapping with touch sensitive volume up button and it’s slower to do than a regular button would be.
I like the 1510 look more than the 1500, it’s more up to date looking, but it’s by no means stunning and won’t win any awards. For business users you’ll appreciate the thinner and lighter style, it’s much better for on the go. Students will appreciate the fresher look and the extra mobility will be great for ease of carrying around campus.
Ports and Features
The Vostro 1510 has a decent range of ports. Four USB ports is certainly enough, FireWire is good to have and other than that everything is pretty standard as far as what’s included. The web camera and fingerprint reader are optional. For students the web camera would be a nice option to get ($50 upgrade), I’m not so sure the fingerprint reader is necessary unless you like to have that for easier logins. Missing is any type of higher resolution display output such as HDMI, DVI or even S-Video. If you don’t plan on giving presentations or using a large external LCD screen this won’t be a problem.
There is no dedicated docking solution for the Vostro lineup, though you can get a USB based port replicator if you want to add more ports (just as you can with any laptop).
Keyboard and Touchpad
The keyboard is of course full sized on the Vostro 1510. As far as feel of the keyboard, it is decent as far as key spacing and look, but suffers from some flexing in the middle. If you’re a heavy typer you’ll notice this. The touch sensitive buttons for media control look nice at the top, but to be honest I’d rather have regular old push buttons as they are easier to use. Also, it’s pretty annoying that the Home and End keys require use of the Fn key. The Page Up and Page Down keys seems flipped to me, intuitively the PgUp should be on the right and PgDn on the left. The volume up button is Fn + PgUp and volume down if Fn + PgDn, again you would think increasing volume is the right button and the left button is down, but it is the reverse.
Below is a close-up of the area I found to be confusing, it seems the PgUp should have been to the right and the PgDn to the left:
The touchpad works fine, it could be a little bigger though. The mouse buttons actually have a nice tactile feel providing good feedback. You can get an optional fingerprint reader for an extra $25. This can be used to login to both Windows and save logins for websites that you access, so saves on time.
Performance and Internal Components
Performance of course varies depending on the configuration you select at Dell.com. If you don’t have demanding needs than an el cheapo Intel Celeron processor could be fine, but the middle of the road is usually the best place to be in terms of processor selection. I recommend a Core 2 Duo 2.0GHz processor at the current time. You can get an Intel Core 2 Duo T5870 2.0GHz or T7250 for $75 more right now. The T7250 apparently has a few more features, such as virtualization technology, that are useless to the average consumer (if you don’t know what Intel Virtualization Technology is, chances are you don’t need it!).
The Vostro lineup offers up to a 320GB hard drive, you know what you’re storage needs are, so get what you need to store all the files you need when on the go. Don’t forget that external storage becomes cheaper and cheaper and it isn’t necessary (or even wise) to store all of your documents right on your laptop, just the files you like to have within easy reach and that go with you everywhere. You should be backing up to an external drive and store really large files there. It might be better to opt for a faster 7200RPM hard drive with less storage if speed is more important to you than actual capacity. A 160GB – 250GB internal hard drive should probably be more than enough for most students. No expensive yet speedy SSD (Solid State Drive) is available with the Vostro 1510, which makes sense since this is a budget computer.
If you plan on playing games the Vostro 1510 isn’t for you. Dell only offers up to an Nvidia 8400M GS graphics card, this will allow for older 3D games to be played, but will not support running more recent high-end games such as Bioshock or Crysis. If all you plan on doing is productivity work and a few light games, then just going with Intel X3100 integrated graphics will be fine.
With the specifications for the Vostro 1510 under review I got the following results in PCMark05, a benchmarking application that tests the system as a whole: 3,783 PCMarks
Obviously the more you pay for better internal components the better performance you will get, but for most tasks except gaming your average student will have ample power with this configuration. If you’re an engineering student and need a computer for CAD design you will also need to consider getting a laptop with a more powerful graphics options.
Dell gives quite a selection of screens you can configure with the Vostro 1510. You can choose the following resolutions:
- 15.4″ Widescreen WXGA (1280 x 800) Display
- 15.4″ Widescreen WXGA+ (1440 x 900) Display
- 15.4″ Widescreen WXGA+ (1440 x 900) Display with TrueLife
- 15.4″ UltraSharp Widescreen WUXGA (1920 x 1200) Display with TrueLife
“TrueLife” means a glossy screen finish, most will prefer this as it does make colors look brighter, if you’re in an office setting with bright lights it’s not so great though because glossy screen equates to a lot of reflection of lights. Since most students aren’t working in an office and will also use a laptop to double as an entertainment machine, glossy is the way to go.
The standard resolution of WXGA is the most comfortable for viewing, but if you like to fit more on a screen, which is important for design or computer science students, then a higher resolution is better. The WUXGA is almost too high of a resolution because text will be extremely small on the screen, so unless you know you really want that resolution level be warned most will not agree with it.
The brightness of the Vostro 1510 screen is good, right where it should be. Below are a few pictures of the screen, note that it is a matte variety on the configuration under review so colors are not as bold as they would be with a TrueLife screen:
Dell gives you the option of getting a standard 6-cell battery or an extended life 9-cell battery. The 9-cell of course adds extra weight and will stick out a bit from the back. Under normal usage, wireless on and screen brightness two notches below full I was able to get 3 hours and 8 minutes of life out of the 6-cell battery, which is actually really quite good. Unless you know you need longer battery life for a marathon lecture the standard battery would seem to be just fine.
The Vostro 1510 comes with a standard 1-year limited warranty, you can of course get various upgrades. The really nice thing about buying a Vostro is that Dell offers a 30-day return window in which you can return the laptop without incurring a restocking fee if you are not satisfied with it for any reason. This is great since on the purchase of an Inspiron you will be generally charged about 15% restocking fee, so if you buy a $1,000 laptop you lose $150 just returning it. This is why I think many students as well as small business buyers will find buying from the Vostro series attractive.
When buying through Dell Small Business there is no student discount such as is offered on the Inspiron and XPS line. Rarely will you see coupon codes on the Vostro line either, so you just have to keep an eye on the different marketing offers Dell runs on the Vostro, usually they refresh the offers to something different on a Thursday.
If you configure the Vostro 1510 to be over $1,200 it’s probably worth considering an extended warranty to protect such a large investment. If you get a budget configuration skip the expense of an extended warranty. Also keep in mind that if you use an American Express card to make your purchase then American Express will automatically double your warranty with a max of one extra year coverage, effectively making your 1-year warranty a 2-year warranty or turning a 2-year warranty into a 3-year warranty — it certainly makes getting an Amex card worth it.
If you just need a basic notebook for school that will certainly last you for 3-years and don’t have a huge budget then the Vostro 1510 can be a good choice. If you know you’ll be moving around campus a lot and want to take a laptop to class, you might want to consider down-sizing to something smaller — a 15.4″ screen notebook will not fit on some smaller size desks and could be a little cumbersome. The smaller 13.3″ screen Vostro 1310 would certainly be worth a look if you know smaller is more your thing. However, if you’ll be using the Vostro 1510 mostly in your dorm room or apartment, then it’s a great size to have and easy just to carry around your living space or back home. You probably won’t get any kudos or double takes from passers by due to the design of the Vostro 1510, and other kids using a Mac will probably be considered cooler than someone with a Vostro, but if getting attention isn’t your goal but rather practicality and price are more important, the Vostro 1510 is worth considering as an option for college.