Dell Vostro 1400 Review

by Jason Reads (625,570)

Buy Direct From Manufacturer


by Jason K.

The Dell Vostro 1400 is a 14.1" screen business notebook recently released. Dell is targeting small business buyers with the Vostro line of notebooks, but given the sturdy build, excellent price and option for installing Windows XP and less bloatware, models such as the Vostro 1400 might appeal to consumers as well.

Specifications:

  • Core 2 Duo T5470 (1.6Ghz, 2MB L2 Cache, 800MHz FSB)
  • 14.1” Wide Screen XGA LCD Display with TrueLife
  • 1GB DDR2 667Mhz
  • 128MB Nvidia Geforce 8400GS
  • 120GB 5400RPM SATA
  • Genuine Windows Vista Home Basic
  • Integrated 10/100 Network Card and Modem
  • 8x CD/DVD Burner w/ double layer DVD+ write capability
  • Integrated High Definition Audtio
  • Dell Wireless 1390 802.11g Wi-Fi Mini Card
  • Integrated 2.0 mega pixel web camera
  • 85 WHr 9-cell Lithium Ion Primary Battery
  • Dell Wireless 355 Bluetooth Internal (2.0 + Enhanced Data Rate)
  • 1 Year Limited Hardware Warranty with Mail-in Service


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Reasons for Buying:

Ever since selling my XPS M140, I have been keeping my eyes open for another notebook deal.  For a while, I was seriously considering the Asus W3j, but I just couldn’t justify the high price.  Instead, I bought a desktop to hold me over.

I wanted a notebook that was portable and had good battery life (4 hours or more was my goal).  I also wanted something in the $600-$800 range.  I wanted my future notebook to have a 12-14” widescreen display, have discreet graphics, have a built in webcam and microphone.  The Vostro 1400 met all of my needs and at a great price!

Shopping

I had my eyes on the Vostro 1400 ever since the day of release and before that.  On the day of release I was playing around with different configurations, all which came out to be around $850-$900.  The next day to my amazement I saw that it had dropped down to $700 for the configuration that I wanted.  I ended up ordering the notebook for $700+ tax.

Between ordering and delivery it took about two weeks for me to get my notebook.  I selected shipping via DHL 3-5 days, but it took only about 24hrs to get to me!

First Impressions

The Vostro 1400 came nicely packed in a brown Dell box.  As I opened it up, the power supply CD’s and some instructions were revealed.  Underneath that was the notebook itself.  It was surrounded by 1" thick styrofoam.


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Construction:

I pulled the notebook out of the Styrofoam and examined it very carefully.  The looks and everything exceeded my expectations.  Though one thing I did notice right away was that the battery didn’t snap in very well.  It rattled a little bit after being inserted and was not a snug fit, but it’s something I have seen in other  notebooks as well.  I found a simple, but inelegant solution to the problem.  A small wedge of paper between the notebook and the battery solved the problem and was not visible, unless removing the battery was necessary.


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Everything else on the notebook felt very sturdy.  The build quality greatly exceeds the Inspiron e1405 (Dell’s previous 14” notebook). There is little to no keyboard flex.  There is very little screen flex.  The screen and hinges feel especially sturdy.  The notebook’s lid closes very nicely.  Unlike previous Inspiron notebooks, the Vostro 1400 has no latch, which is very nice for easy one hand opening and closing.


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Ports and layout:


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The picture above shows the front microphone input and headphone outputs.  On the left is the 9in1 card reader.


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The picture above shows the Optical drive, s-video out, two USB 2.0 ports, and an RGB output.


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The picture above shows the kensignton lock slot, the AC input, a heatsink, an IEE 1394 firewire port, two USB 2.0 ports, and an express card slot.


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The picture above shows several blue activity LED’s, the 9in1 card slot, and wi-fi catcher button.

Keyboard:

The keyboard is a typical Inspiron keyboard.  It feels just like the e1405.  I personally am not super picky about the keyboard.  Although it is not a high-quality Thinkpad keyboard, it still is very comfortable to use, and is relatively quiet (good for taking to class).


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Touchpad:

The touchpad is very similar to the Inspiron e1405, it is dark grey in color.  The touchpad is easy to use and I haven’t had any problems with it.  I still prefer an external mouse if I’m using the notebook for extended periods of time.


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Screen:

I selected the Vostro 1400 with a 1,280 x 1,024 WXGA display with TrueLife.  I love the display.  The colors are very bright, images and text are crisp, and it provides quite a bit of contrast.  There is minor light leakage around the edges.


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The viewing angles on the Vostro 1400 are good from left to right.  But if you look from the top, the screen looks dark and it is hard to make out anything.  The backlight is very bright.

Webcam:

Built into the trim of the screen, I selected the 2MP webcam (a $30 upgrade at the time of this review).  The webcam is more than worth the money.  It does exceptionally well at taking pictures of close up objects and people.  When taking pictures of landscapes, it doesn’t do as well.  The camera can capture at resolutions up to 3200×2400.  However, there isn’t much point of capturing pictures at this resolution as the quality is about the same as at 1600×1200.


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Here are some sample pictures I took:


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As far as video recording goes, the 2MP camera can record up to 1600×1200 resolution at very low FPS however (Around 2-3FPS).  Video quality at this resolution is quite blurry when there is movement.  The video does reasonably well at 640×480, and very well at 320×240.  When using the webcam over an instant messaging client, you can select for the camera to use face tracking.  With face tracking it will actually zoom into your face and pan in and out as you move.

The webcam also features a blue LED indicator light, that tells you when your webcam is active.

Sound:

The Vostro 1400 has two tiny speakers on the left and right side above the keyboard.  They appear to be quite a bit smaller than the previous Insprion e1405 speakers.  For their size they really do quite well, and on max volume get loud enough to easily fill a small to medium room.  The quality of the speakers is just average.  The volume these speakers put out is more than enough for one to enjoy a game or a DVD.

Microphone:

The Vostro 1400 comes with two digital microphones which are located in the top trim of the screen, on both the left and right side of the webcam.  Both microphones capture audio very well.  This is great for skype or other VOIP applications.

Operating System:

I selected the Vostro 1400 with Microsoft Vista Home Basic.  I have never used Vista much besides the Beta versions.  There are some really great features that I like a lot in Vista.  But some of the features in Xp that I am used to have seemed to disappear or are harder to find.  It will take some time to get used to, but it sure is a nice looking interface.

Software:

Dell finally started listening to their customers as far as software goes.  You have the option to select if you want various Dell utilities installed on your computer.  Dell also gives you the option to select or not to select trial software and other freebies.

I said no to all of the freebies and trial software.  I did go ahead and opt for installing a couple of Dell utilities.  Even though I didn’t select much, the computer booted up and was running about 60 processes!  In the past when I have purchased a Dell notebook, the first thing I always did, and advised others to do, was to reformat.  Dell would just install so much junk that it made a new computer seem slow.  Out of the box, the machine booted up in about 35 seconds.  After adjusting the startup processes using Microsoft’s “msconfig” utility I was able to shave that number down to about 30.

Benchmarks and Performance

I ran Super Pi to 2 Million digits of accuracy and got 1m 10 seconds as a result.  That’s nothing super fast, but it’s not bad for a budget processor.

Super Pi comparison results:

Notebook Time
Dell Vostro (1.6 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T5470) 1m 10s
Fujitsu E8410 (2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7500) 0m 55s
Sony VAIO FZ (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300) 0m 59s
Dell XPS M1330 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300) 0m 58s
Lenovo ThinkPad X61 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300) 1m 01s
Lenovo 3000 V200 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300) 0m 59s
HP dv2500t (1.80GHz Intel 7100) 1m 09s
Lenovo ThinkPad T61 (2.00GHz Core 2 Duo Intel T7300) 0m 59s
Lenovo ThinkPad T60 (2.00GHz Core 2 Duo T7200) 1m 03s
Toshiba Satellite P205-S6287 (1.73 GHz Core 2 Duo Intel T5300) 1m 24s
Toshiba Satellite A205 (1.66GHz Core 2 Duo) 1m 34s

 

PCMark05 comparison results:

Notebook PCMark05 Score
Dell Vostro 1400 (1.6 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T5470, NVidia 8400m GS) 3,853 PCMarks
Fujitsu E8410 (2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7500, NVIDIA 8400M) 4,618 PCMarks
Sony VAIO FZ (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, Intel X3100) 3,377 PCMarks
Dell XPS M1330 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS) 4,591 PCMarks
Lenovo ThinkPad X61 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, Intel X3100) 4,153 PCMarks
Lenovo 3000 V200 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, Intel X3100) 3,987 PCMarks
Lenovo T60 Widescreen (2.0GHz Intel T7200, ATI X1400 128MB) 4,189 PCMarks
HP dv6000t (2.16GHz Intel T7400, NVIDA GeForce Go 7400) 4,234 PCMarks
Fujitsu N6410 (1.66GHz Core Duo, ATI X1400) 3,487 PCMarks
Sony Vaio SZ-110B in Speed Mode (Using Nvidia GeForce Go 7400) 3,637 PCMarks

 

With stock drivers, out of the box, the notebook scored 2,942 on 3DMark05

3DMark05 comparison results:

Notebook 3D Mark 05 Results
Dell Vostro 1400 (1.6 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T5470, NVidia 8400m GS) 2,942 3DMarks
Dell Latitude D830 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, Nvidia Quadro NVS 140m 256MB) 3,063 3DMarks
Fujitsu E8410 (2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7500, NVIDIA 8400M) 1,925 3DMarks
Sony VAIO FZ (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, Intel X3100) 910 3DMarks
Dell XPS M1330 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS 128MB) 3,116 3DMarks
HP Compaq 6510b (2.20GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7500, Intel X3100) 916 3DMarks
HP dv6000t (2.16 GHz Intel T7400, NVIDA GeForce Go 7400) 2,013 3D Marks
Dell Inspiron e1705 (2.0GHz Core Duo, ATI X1400) 1,791 3D Marks
Acer TravelMate 8204WLMi (2.0GHz Core Duo, ATI X1600 256MB) 4,236 3DMarks
Lenovo ThinkPad T60 (2.0GHz Core Duo, ATI X1400 128MB) 2,092 3D Marks
Fujitsu n6410 (1.66 GHz Core Duo, ATI X1400 128MB) 2,273 3DMarks

HDtune:


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Heat and Noise:

The Vostro 1400 is very quiet.  The fan stays off unless I start playing a game or run some other demanding application on it.  It puts out a little bit of heat out from the left side of the notebook, but for the most part it runs cool and I can’t feel any heat coming out.

Battery Life:

I ran a battery benchmark application that maxed out the CPU to 100% load and put the sytem under a lot of stress, including the graphics card as it rendered 3D graphics.  The notebook kept going for 2 hours 24minutes, until it shut down with 3% battery life to spare.  This would be the worst case scenario.  I can’t imagine ever getting under 3 hours with the 9 cell battery. 

Dell claims that the Vostro 1400 can get up to 8hrs.  So far the longest I have seen is 6.5hrs.

The battery is an 11.1 Volt, 9 cell 85Wh Li-ion battery.  The battery cells were made in Japan.  Similar to previous batteries, there is a battery tester right on the battery showing you how much of a charge it has.  Right under the battery, I was surprised to find a SIM card reader.  I didn’t pay extra for it, and don’t think it is active, but there might be a way to enable it.


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Service and Support:

The day after I purchased the notebook, the price dropped by $50!  So Immediately I went to the Dell small business site, and tried to chat with someone from Dell small business.  I was connected with a guy from Dell home, who was unable to help me request a $50 refund, or to help me cancel my order and re-order.  He just gave me Dell small businesses’ number and told me that they only work Monday-Friday.  So, I was unable to contact them.  I eventually decided just to write Dell an email asking for $50 credit back.

The next day I was surprised to receive a response, I thought Dell Small Business only worked Money-Friday?  In the email, the rep told me that he would issue me a $50 refund after the notebook had shipped.  I agreed and waited.  A few days after I received the notebook, I got my $50 refund, which dropped the price down to $650+ tax!  (I also used fatwallet to save an additional 1.5% or $10)

What I have concluded from this and previous experiences with Dell is that, they are really hard to get a hold of usually.  You will usually have to play the Dell “game” of phone tag, or wait online from a rep and chat with them.  It usually takes a few tries to get a hold of someone with the authority to address most problems.  Once you do get a hold of them, they are usually quite responsive and help you with the problem right away!  In the past, I have had Hard drive replacements and optical drive replacements sent next day air by Dell, and arrive the next day!

Conclusion:

The Dell Vostro 1400 is an excellent choice for the price!  It offers a wide variety of special features, including a webcam (optional), microphone, discreet graphics card (optional).  It also provides impressive battery life for its size and price.  The notebook is very business looking and has some tough features which include:  a magnesium alloy chassis, spill proof keyboard, and shock resistant hard drive.

Pros:

  • Excellent Price!
  • Impressive build quality
  • Optional Webcam and dedicated Graphics
  • Great battery life, especially with the 9 cell battery.
  • Great looking screen, bright and crisp

Cons:

  • Battery didn’t snap in as tight as it should.
  • Notebook lid easily smudges and shows your fingerprints
  • Dell’s always hard to get a hold of


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