Dell Vostro 1500 Review

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by Jerry Jackson

Dell’s new Vostro line of computers developed to meet the needs of small businesses has become very popular among working professionals and consumers alike. The Vostro 1500 is the "twin sister" to the Dell Inspiron 1520, and while this business notebook with a 15.4" display doesn’t come in a variety of colors, the Vostro is packed with enough performance and optional extras to keep anyone happy. But is this "black beauty" a thoroughbred, or is it destined for the pastures?

The Dell Vostro 1500 is available with a range of Intel processors (from the 1.86GHz Celeron M M540 up to the T7500 2.2GHz Core 2 Duo). There are two 15.4" screen offerings, a 1280×800 WXGA and 1440×900 WXGA+ display. The notebook can take up to 4GB of RAM but Dell only offers 32-bit versions of Microsoft Windows Vista or XP … so don’t expect to be able to use all 4GB. Built-in wireless is standard and the system is priced starting at $549 with integrated Intel X3100 graphics at the time of this writing.

Our review unit of the 1500 has the following specifications:

  • Screen: 15.4-inch Wide Screen XGA (1280 x 800) LCD with TrueLife (glossy finish)
  • Processor: 1.6GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T5470 (2MB L2 Cache,800MHz FSB)
  • Hard Drive: 120GB SATA hard drive (5400RPM)
  • Memory: 1GB RAM (PC5300, 667 MHz, DDR2 SDRAM) — 4GB max memory
  • Optical Drive: DVD+-R Double layer / DVD+-RW Drive (Blu-ray drive optional)
  • Ports and Slots: Four USB 2.0, one FireWire 400 port, one ExpressCard slot, one S-Video, one VGA, one 8-in-1 card reader, headphone / line-out, microphone-in, modem, 10/100 Ethernet
  • Wireless: WiFi (802.11a/b/g/n), Bluetooth 2.0
  • Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce 8400M GS (128MB)
  • Operating System: Windows XP Home Edition
  • 6-cell 56WHr Li-Ion battery
  • Dimensions: 14.12" x 10.59" x 1.65" (Width x Depth x Height)
  • Weight: 6 ibs and 11.6 oz with 6-cell battery


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Build and Design

The 1500 caries forward what can only be described as "traditional dell design" with simplified lines. In short, the new Vostro notebooks look identical to the current generation of Dell Inspiron notebooks … but Dell engineers have stripped the available selection of paint jobs. While the design isn’t as innovative as what we saw in the new Dell XPS M1330, the simple lines and solid construction look quite nice for a budget notebook. Business professionals and students certainly shouldn’t be ashamed of how the 1500 looks when they carry this notebook to work or class. From the matte black plastics to the silver media buttons the Vostro 1500 is a design that lacks the flash but isn’t short on style.

The Vostro 1500 lid still uses a latch to hold it closed, but the hinge mechanism also works well and firmly holds the lid in place. There is almost no flex to the screen. After opening the lid and seeing the black plastic interior and rounded surface of the 1500 you’ll notice how solid the notebook feels … at the expense of some added thickness. The entire case is sturdy with relatively thick plastic and magnesium alloy reinforcement in just the right places. There are no creaks or signs of case flex anywhere to be found.

Performance and Benchmarks

The Core 2 Duo processors that come with the Inspiron 1500 provide more than enough performance, even at the 1.4GHz low-end of the T5270. The 1.6GHz T5470 processor in our review unit delivers reasonable speed and the included optional nVidia 8400M GS dedicated graphics card provides enough power for HD video and serious 3D gaming at lower resolutions. While the 3DMark benchmarks below look reasonably impressive, it is important to keep in mind that the standard Intel Graphics Media Accelerator X3100 (Intel 965 chipset) will perform much worse. The available nVidia GeForce 8400M GS dedicated graphics card is a "must have" option if you want to play current games at higher resolutions on this notebook.

Super Pi comparison results:

Notebook Time
Dell Vostro 1500 (1.6GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T5470) 1m 17s
Dell Inspiron 1420 (2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7500) 0m 54s
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
HP Compaq 6515b (1.6GHz AMD Turion 64 X2 TL-52) 2m 05s
HP dv6000t (2.16 GHz Intel T2400) 0m 59s
Dell Inspiron e1705 (2.0GHz Core 2 Duo) 1m 02s



wPrime is a program that forces the processor to do recursive mathematical calculations, the advantage of this program is that it is multi-threaded and can use both processor cores at once, thereby giving more accurate benchmarking measurements than Super Pi.

Notebook / CPU wPrime 32M time
Dell Vostro 1500 (Intel Core 2 Duo T5470 @ 1.6GHz) 53.827s
HP Pavilion dv6500z (AMD Turion 64 X2 TL-60 @ 2.0GHz) 40.759s
Systemax Assault Ruggedized (Core 2 Duo T7200 @2.0GHz) 41.982s
Toshiba Tecra M9 (Core 2 Duo T7500 @2.2GHz) 37.299s
HP Compaq 6910p (Core 2 Duo T7300 @ 2GHz) 40.965s
Sony VAIO TZ (Core 2 Duo U7600 @ 1.20GHz) 76.240s
Zepto 6024W (Core 2 Duo T7300 @ 2GHz) 42.385s
Lenovo T61 (Core 2 Duo T7500 @ 2.2GHz) 37.705s
Alienware M5750 (Core 2 Duo T7600 @ 2.33GHz) 38.327s
Hewlett Packard DV6000z (Turion X2 TL-60 @ 2.0GHz) 38.720s
Samsung Q70 (Core 2 Duo T7300 @ 2.0GHz) 42.218s
Acer Travelmate 8204WLMi (Core Duo T2500 @ 2.0GHz) 42.947s
Samsung X60plus (Core 2 Duo T7200 @ 2.0GHz) 44.922s
Zepto Znote 6224W (Core 2 Duo T7300 @ 2.0GHz) 45.788s
Samsung Q35 (Core 2 Duo T5600 @ 1.83GHz) 46.274s

PCMark05 comparison results:

Notebook PCMark05 Score
Dell Vostro 1500 (1.6GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T5470, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS) 3,585 PCMarks
Dell Inspiron 1420 (2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7500, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS) 4,925 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
Alienware M7700 (AMD Athlon FX-60, Nvidia Go 7800GTX) 5,597 PCMarks
Sony Vaio SZ-110B in Speed Mode (Using Nvidia GeForce Go 7400) 3,637 PCMarks
Asus V6J (1.86GHz Core Duo T2400, Nvidia Go 7400) 3,646 PCMarks

3DMark05 comparison results:

Notebook 3D Mark 05 Results
Dell Vostro 1500 (1.6GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T5470, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS) 2,447 3DMarks
Dell Inspiron 1420 (2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7500, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS 128MB) 2,840 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 Compaq 6515b (1.6GHz AMD Turion 64 X2 TL-52, ATI x1270) 871 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
Alienware Aurora M-7700(AMD Dual Core FX-60, ATI X1600 256MB) 7,078 3D Marks
Lenovo ThinkPad T60 (2.0GHz Core Duo, ATI X1400 128MB) 2,092 3D Marks
Asus V6Va (2.13 GHz Pentium M, ATI x700 128 MB) 2,530 3D Marks
Fujitsu n6410 (1.66 GHz Core Duo, ATI X1400 128MB) 2,273 3DMarks
Dell XPS M1210 (2.16 GHz Core Duo, nVidia Go 7400 256MB) 2,090 3D Marks

3DMark06 comparison results:

Notebook 3DMark06 Score
Dell Vostro 1500 (1.6GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T5470, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS) 1,269 3DMarks
Dell Inspiron 1420 (2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7500, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS 128MB) 1,329 3DMarks
Sony VAIO FZ (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, Intel X3100) 532 3DMarks
Dell XPS M1330 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS 128MB) 1,408 3DMarks
Samsung Q70 (2.0GHz Core 2 Duo T7300 and nVidia 8400M G GPU) 1,069 3DMarks
Asus F3sv-A1 (Core 2 Duo T7300 2.0GHz, Nvidia 8600M GS 256MB) 2,344 3DMarks
Alienware Area 51 m5550 (2.33GHz Core 2 Duo, nVidia GeForce Go 7600 256MB 2,183 3DMarks
Fujitsu Siemens Amilo Xi 1526 (1.66 Core Duo, nVidia 7600Go 256 MB) 2,144 3DMarks
Samsung X60plus (2.0GHz Core 2 Duo T7200, ATI X1700 256MB) 1,831 3DMarks
Asus A6J (1.83GHz Core Duo, ATI X1600 128MB) 1,819 3DMarks
HP dv6000t (2.16 GHz Intel T7400, NVIDA GeForce Go 7400) 827 3DMarks
Sony Vaio SZ-110B in Speed Mode (Using Nvidia GeForce Go 7400) 794 3DMarks
Samsung R20 (1.73GHz T2250 and ATI 1250M chipset / GPU) 476 3DMarks

HD Tune results:


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Screen

The 15.4" glossy screen in our review unit is a bright WXGA 1280 x800 display with excellent contrast and rich colors. Several Inspiron and Vostro owners in our discussion forums claim that the standard WXGA 1280 x 800 display suffers from "graininess" but the optional higher resolution WXGA+ 1440 x 900 screen suffered from no such problems. The display in our review unit did indeed suffer from "graininess" but features fairly bright and even backlighting. Horizontal and vertical viewing angles were good enough for two or three people to watch a DVD on the screen.

Keyboard, Touchpad and Other Input Buttons

The full-sized keyboard on the 1500 is solid with almost no flex. The keys have minimal travel with excellent cushion and response, and there are dedicated keys for home, end, page up, and page down.


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The touchpad is nice and large with a very usable and responsive surface. Both the vertical and horizontal scroll sections are accurate and responsive. The touchpad buttons have deep, cushioned feedback and produce quiet clicks.


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The 1500 also features dedicated media buttons beneath the touchpad at the front of the notebook. The media buttons make watching DVDs or listening to music files as easy as using a DVD or CD player. Like most media buttons on notebooks from other manufacturers these media buttons have blue LED backlights. However, unlike most other media buttons we’ve seen the blue LED lights automatically turn off a few seconds after you press them. While this might sound like a useless feature it’s nice not to have bright blue LEDs lit up all the time.

Input and Output Ports

Let’s take a quick tour around the port offerings of the Vostro 1500:


Front side: Speakers, multimedia buttons, IR port, and screen latch. (view large image)


Back side: S-video out, two USB ports, AC adapter jack, battery, and modem port (RJ-11). (view large image)


Left side: Kingston lock slot, wireless switch and "Wi-Fi Catcher," heat vent, audio connectors, and an ExpressCard slot. (view large image)


Right side: Optical drive, 8-in-1 card reader, Firewire, VGA out, Ethernet jack (RJ-45), and two USB ports. (view large image)

Since it’s not uncommon for 15.4" notebooks from other manufacturers to only have three USB ports we were glad to see that Dell included four USB ports on the 1500. That said, since a Blu-ray optical drive is an available upgrade we would have liked to see an HDMI port rather than just an S-video port for connecting the notebook to an HDTV.

Audio

The 1500 has stereo sound via speakers located on the front edge of the notebook at the bottom. With the speakers located on the bottom of the notebook in this way they tend to direct the sound downward and make for an unusual listening experience when the notebook is on your lap. I suppose Dell engineers believe customers listen with their laps rather than their ears … and if that is the case then this is a wonderful location for speakers. However, if your ears tend to be your organ of choice for listening to music then the placement of the speakers on the 1500 might be problematic.

While the built-in speakers aren’t the worst that I’ve heard in a notebook of this size, the sound they produce has a "tin can" quality with only average clarity and loudness and almost no bass. The headphone jack is located on the left side … a great location for using external speakers but not the best position for people who like to use headphones or earbuds.


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Heat and Noise

The 1500 runs extremely quiet even with the 1.6GHz Core 2 Duo processor. The fan remained whisper quiet yet kept heat under control. The areas near both the memory and hard drive (left palm rest) did feel warm during benchmarking, but temperatures remained comfortable enough to keep the 1500 on the lap. Temperatures are likely kept within acceptable limits thanks to a rather large heatsink visible through the vent on the left side of the 1500. Below are images with temperature overlays listed in degrees Fahrenheit.


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Battery

Battery life on the 1500 with the standard 6-cell battery was only average at best. Even with the screen brightness set to less than half, wireless on, and XP power settings set to maximize battery life, the 1500 powered down in just above 2 hours (2 hours and 3 minutes). Using the same settings the 9-cell battery provided 3 hours and 51 minutes of battery life. Unless size and travel weight are your primary concerns I highly recommend purchasing the 9-cell battery for the 1500.

Conclusion

The Dell Vostro 1500 is a solid notebook with an impressive set of features at a value price. As the holiday buying season jumps into full swing the Vostro 1500 will certainly be a strong candidate for a small business or school notebook. The choice of processors, graphics cards, and other configuration options means that the 1500 can serve just about anyone’s needs. While the entry-level version of the 1500 with integrated Intel graphics lacks the power for serious gaming, the dedicated nVidia graphics card makes for a capable value gaming machine and mobile multimedia center. Given the fact that the Vostro 1500 is virtually identical to the Inspiron 1520, this notebook is an amazing value if you can live with a notebook that is available in only one color.

Bottom line, the Vostro 1500 is a solid notebook at a value price … and we can’t help but say that black is indeed beautiful.

Pros

  • Fast Core 2 Duo processors, and up to 4GB of RAM provide plenty of system performance
  • Dedicated graphics option performs well
  • Still available with XP and zero bloatware!
  • Solid build quality and sturdiness
  • Good keyboard and touchpad

Cons

  • Not-so-stylish design
  • Lower-resolution screen isn’t great … select the higher resolution option
  • Average battery life
  • A bit bulky and heavy for a 15.4" notebook
  • Bad location for built-in speakers



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