The Dell Vostro 3500 is a 15.6-inch screen entry level business laptop that comes with the latest Intel Core i3 and i5 family of processors and features a thin and light design. The Vostro 3000 series the 3500 belongs to is replacing the old Vostro 1000 series, specifically the Vostro 3500 replaces the old Dell Vostro 1520. The Vostro 3000 series features an updated design and performance improvements. While the Vostro 3500 is marketed under the Dell Business laptop brand, it can serve very well as a student laptop or home laptop since the price is very competitive and has the performance and features desirable to anyone looking for a portable computer to get work done.
The Vostro 3500 I purchased from Dell.com was the base configuration costing $598 before tax and shipping:
- Processor: Intel Core i3-350M (2.26GHz, dual core, 3MB L3 Cache)
- Screen: 15.6-inch LED display, anti-glare (matte) with 1366 x 768 resolution
- Memory: 3GB DDR3 RAM
- Graphics: Intel GMA
- Storage: 250GB 7200RPM SATA HD
- OS: Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 32-bit
- Optical Drive: 8x DVD+/-RW with double layer DVD+/-R write
- Web camera 2.0MP and digital array Mic
- Wireless cards: 802.11 b/g/n
- Battery: 6-cell Li-Ion
- Ports: Ethernet LAN, USB 2.0 (3), USB 2.0/eSATA combo (1), Microphone jack, Headphone/speaker out, 8-in-1 card reader, 34 mm ExpressCard, 15-pin VGA video connector, HDMI connector
- Weight: 5.3 lbs
- Dimensions: 14.76” x .90 – 1.23” x 9.84” (Width x Height x Depth)
Although this is a low priced configuration, you’re able to configure a lot of cool options on the Vostro 3500 that would be more expensive. You can add a backlit keyboard, fingerprint reader, faster Core i5 processor, Nvidia 310m graphics, up to 8GB of RAM, and integrated WWAN wireless. Once you start adding a lot of the higher end features the price can quickly go up so you need to pick options that make sense for your needs.
Dell Vostro 3500 Design
The Dell Vostro 3500 design is a definite improvement over the Vostro 1520 we reviewed and that this is replacing. I didn’t like the glossy finish of the Vostro 1520, the Vostro 3500 instead uses a matte finish and with the Aberdeen Silver color lid I have it looks like an aluminum finish on top. You can also get an attractive Lucerne Red or Brisbane Bronze color finish. The Vostro 3500 is also overall thinner and lighter than the Vostro 1520, a big plus.
At the top of the keyboard are touch sensitive media buttons that light up when touched, which is a nice and attractive look. There are also indicator lights on the top row to show things like wireless and hard drive status.
While the keyboard area is all black, the lid color carries over to the left and right sides of the laptop, making for a more uniform and colorful look. I really like the fact that the new line of Vostros aren’t totally black like the last generation.
One thing I don’t like about the design is the fact the frame around the screen is so wide. This is no MacBook Pro like design where the glass screen goes right to the edges or the HP “Infinity View” look which are definitely attractive.
Dell Vostro 3500 Build Quality
The Vostro 3500 has an aluminum case, not plastic, so it looks great and feels sturdy. The aluminum body is not as thick as you get in other aluminum case laptops such as the Apple MacBook Pro, so there is a slight amount of flex on the lid and keyboard area. The flex is nothing to be greatly concerned about though, I only noticed this flex when I firmly pushed on the lid and keyboard. During typing I did not notice any flex. The great benefit to aluminum over plastic is that it won’t crack when dropped. The hinges for the screen are very sturdy feeling, there was no wobble to the screen whatsoever and the screen was held firmly in place no matter what angle you place it.
Many people are concerned with the weight of a laptop if they need to move it around. With a 6-cell battery and the optical drive in the Vostro 3500 weighed in at 5lbs and 6.3 ounces on my kitchen scale, this is 5.394 pounds, just slightly above Dell’s quoted weight of 5.3 lbs. Overall that’s not bad for a 15.6-inch sized laptop but it is a bit heavy if you were planning on lugging this laptop around a lot.
Dell also included a hard drive free-fall sensor so that in the case of drops the hard drive head is parked to prevent data loss. The keyboard has spill proof protection so that during a liquid spill onto the keyboard the liquid is carried away from sensitive internal components.
Overall the build quality of the Vostro 3500 is good, it’s not as great or rugged feeling as the Dell Latitude business series but for the price you pay it is impressive.
Dell Vostro 3500 Performance
As I stated at the beginning, the configuration I got for the Vostro 3500 is a budget one and suited for those who do not need amazing performance or tons of processing power to do everyday work. I got the slowest Core i3 processor available and the integrated Intel graphics. You can get up to a Core i5 2.4GHz processor, Nvidia 310m graphics and 6GB of RAM in the Vostro 3500 if you’re looking for more horse power.
Frankly speaking, the Core i3 processor and integrated graphics will be enough for many mobile small business users or students that are just looking to use productivity applications such as Microsoft Office and using the web to get work done. If you’re into gaming, multimedia production and design or tons of multi-tasking then you can certainly benefit from a more powerful configuration. Using the Core i3 and just 3GB of RAM I was satisfied with the performance of the Vostro 3500 for everyday tasks. In addition, HD Video playback using online sites such as Hulu.com or YouTube.com was smooth and flawless thanks to the processing power. While the Core i3 isn’t close to being the most powerful new Intel processor, I think it offers plenty enough power for mainstream users.
The bootup time for the Vostro 3500 takes around 45 seconds. There wasn’t much bloatware on board the Vostro 3500 so that definitely helped bootup time along with the fact the 250GB hard drive is a speedy 7200RPM.
Below are some benchmark scores for the Vostro 3500. When comparing the Vostro 3500 to other laptops you can see that the Core i3 processor helps to boost performance over older laptops with Pentium and Core 2 Duo processors.
|Dell Vostro 3500 (Intel Core i3 2.26GHz, 3GB RAM, Intel Graphics)||Sony VAIO CW (Intel Core i3 2.13GHz, 4GB RAM, Nvidia 310m graphics)||Lenovo G450 (Intel Pentium Dual Core 2.1GHz, 3GB, Intel Graphics)||Dell Inspiron 14 (Intel Pentium Dual Core 2.0GHz, 3GB RAM, Intel graphics)||Dell Studio 14z (Intel Core 2 Duo 2.1GHz, 3GB RAM, Nvidia 9400 graphics)|
|PC Wizard Global Performance||30,839||27,952||23,468||–||–|
|Windows Experience Index||4.2||4.9||3.3||3.2||4.8|
Dell Vostro 3500 Screen
The screen on the Vostro 3500 is 15.6” diagonally in size and has a standard 1366 x 768 widescreen resolution, there are no higher resolution offerings for the Vostro 3500. Many will be happy to know the screen is not glossy but instead matte and anti-glare. This is great for working in an office environment since you won’t get any annoying reflections off of the screen. The downside to a matte screen is that colors do not pop as much, but if you’re just trying to get work done that’s no matter.
The actual brightness of the screen is good, it’s as bright as you’ll need inside but of course not bright enough for outdoor viewing (for that you need a specially equipped laptop with a high brightness screen). The viewing angles are not so great, colors change quite a bit if you do not view the screen straight on at a nearly perpendicular angle – which most users do so it’s not a problem.
Dell Vostro 3500 Battery Life
The Vostro 3500 comes standard with a 6-cell battery that fits flush with the body of the laptop. You can get a higher capacity 9-cell battery that juts out the back, but currently those are on back order so you have to order it separately from the Vostro 3500 as an upgrade accessory. Using the 6-cell battery I was able to get exactly 4 hours and 4 minutes with screen brightness set to the third level, wireless on and light usage of the laptop over that 4 hour period. Under more realistic usage conditions in which I actually used the laptop to do web browsing, had screen brightness set high and installing applications I got between 3 – 3.5 hours. For a 15.6-inch screen laptop I consider this battery life more than acceptable – this sized laptop is not designed to be ultraportable and used away from a desk for a long time so you don’t expect marathon length battery life.
Also worth noting, the power adapter on the Vostro 3500 is quite small, it only added about 12 ounces of weight when carried with the laptop so that’s a bonus.
Dell Vostro 3500 keyboard and touchpad
The keyboard on the Vostro 3500 is full sized and comfortable to use and type on. An added bonus is that it’s spill proof. I mentioned before that there is a bit of flex in the keyboard, especially towards the center and right side, I didn’t notice the flex too much while typing, but it is there if you push physically push down or are a firm typist. The key travel is solid and fairly short, which allows for fast typing.
I really like the touchpad on the Vostro 3500. I’ve come across so many bad touchpads over the past few months that it was a relief to use one that felt good and simply worked. I think it’s great that the touchpad is recessed so you can easily feel it and slide your finger around. The mouse buttons are fantastic, they’re just the right size and have a nice and soft travel providing just the right amount of feedback to indicate you have clicked. The touchpad supports gestures such as zooming and also offers vertical and horizontal scroll areas – the multi-touch gestures are nice but for me the important thing is that the basic functions of the touchpad work well.
Dell Vostro 3500 Port Selection
The Vostro 3500 has a pretty standard selection of ports for a 15” laptop. Below is a full list of the ports you get with the Vostro 3500:
- 3 USB 2.0 ports Network connector (RJ45)
- 1 USB 2.0/eSATA combo
- Ethernet LAN port (RJ45)
- Microphone jack
- Headphone/speaker out
- 8-in-1 card reader
- 34 mm ExpressCard
- 15-pin VGA video connector
- HDMI connector
It’s nice to have the HDMI port included for high-definition video output as this is not a standard port on business laptops. To see where each port is on the laptop let’s take a tour of the sides:
Left side: Power jack, 2 USB ports, USB/eSATA combo port, HDMI port, VGA monitor-out port
Front side: microphone and headphone jack, wireless on/off switch
Right side: USB port, 8-in-1 media card reader, 34mm ExpressCard slot, Optical Drive, Ethernet port
Vostro 3500 underneath view:
Dell Vostro 3500 Audio
The Vostro 3500 only has two speakers that are located at the bottom of the laptop screen. The speaker quality is quite poor, audio comes out sounding tinny and bass is very limited. A pair of decent headphones to plug-in will definitely be needed if you want good audio quality when watching a movie or listening to your favorite tunes.
Dell Vostro 3500 Heat and Noise
The Vostro 3500 configuration I had gave no issues with overheating or constant fan noise. The only time the fan (located on the left side) got loud and revved into high speed was during the running of a benchmarking program, which is to be expected. In general the fan was running at a low speed and very quiet.
Overall the Dell Vostro 3500 offers a lot of bang for the buck. It’s not a fancy laptop, but for under $700 I got a quality built laptop with good performance. The look may be a little bland for some, there’s no glossy finish or fancy design at work here. Another minor complaint is the laptop is not as configurable online at Dell.com as I’d like it to be. However, at the end of the day the fact you get a new Core i3 or i5 processor, aluminum case, standard speedy 7200 RPM hard drive, built-in web-camera, and solid build all for $600 – $1,000 depending on the configuration I would consider the Vostro 3500 a strong buy for students and business workers that are interested in this desktop replacement style laptop.