Dell Vostro 1510 Review

by Jerry Jackson Reads (424,541)

by Jerry Jackson

After last year’s successful launch of the new Vostro line of computers targeted at small businesses, Dell made a serious effort to listen to customer feedback criticizing Dell’s thick and heavy laptops. The result was a bold revision of the Vostro line with thinner and lighter chassis designs for 2008. The new Dell Vostro 1510 is a 15.4″ screen notebook designed for businesses that need a budget desktop replacement. Is this the best choice for businesses or consumers looking for a value-priced notebook? Let’s see.

The Dell Vostro 1510 is available with a range of Intel processors (from the 1.86GHz Celeron M M540 up to the T9500 2.6GHz Core 2 Duo). There are four 15.4″ screen offerings, a WXGA or WXGA+ display with matte anti-glare coating and WXGA or WXGA+ “TrueLife” glossy display. The notebook can take up to 4GB of RAM and Dell offers 32-bit versions of Microsoft Windows Vista Business or Windows XP Professional. The system is priced starting at $599 with integrated Intel X3100 graphics at the time of this writing, but is also available with nVidia 8400M GS dedicated graphics.

Our Vostro 1510 is equipped with the following specs:

  • Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo T5670 (1.8GHz)
  • Memory: 2GB – 2 DIMM (DDR2-667) (4GB max)
  • HDD: 160GB 5400RPM HDD
  • Graphics: Intel X3100 integrated graphics
  • Display: 15.4″ WXGA Antiglare
  • Optical drive: Slot-loading 8x DVD +/- RW
  • OS: XP Professional
  • Software: 30-day security subscription anti-virus, No trail-ware
  • Wireless: Dell 1505 Wireless-N Mini Card (802.11a/g/n)
  • Battery: 6-cell battery
  • Other: Webcam and fingerprint reader
  • Services: Network assistant; 10GB of Datasafe online; Dell Support Center; PC Tune-up
  • Dimensions (HxWxD): 1″ (front)/1.5″ (back) x 14.6″ x 10.16″
  • Weight: 5.75 lbs (with 6-cell battery) as configured
  • Base configuration price: $599
  • Price as tested: $684


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Build and Design

Dell received some much needed attention in 2007 with the introduction of the sleek, high performance XPS M1330 and XPS M1530 notebooks. While these more expensive notebooks in the Dell lineup were praised for their looks and low weight, the Dell Insipron and Vostro notebooks were criticized for being bulky and unattractive laptops. Dell listened closely to this criticism when they designed the refresh for the Vostro line. The Vostro 1510 is thinner and lighter than last year’s Vostro 1500.

Unfortunately, the lighter weight and thinner profile come at some cost. Namely, the plastics used in the chassis feel thin and in some areas, such as above the keyboard and on the palmrests, there is a significant degree of flex. The edges of the chassis are also sharper than what we’ve seen on earlier Dell notebooks and these sharp edges and thin plastics make the design of the Dell Vostro 1510 feel slightly unfinished or unrefined.

Like all Vostro releases, the 1510 doesn’t come in multiple colors or display lid patterns. Black is your only option. However, this year Dell decided to get rid of the matte black finish in favor of a glossy black finish with just a hint of metal flake. The black paint with the fine metal flakes is inlaid with the molds so there’s no risk of the glossy finish coming off.


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Although I wasn’t a huge fan of the glossy black plastic lid with metal flake paint on our Vostro 1510, it does look and feel nice. Still, the new glossy lid design is a magnet for fingerprints and might not resist light scratches as well as the matte black finish on the previous generation Vostro notebooks.

Another of the new innovations for the Vostro line is the “Hyperband Multi-Antenna” housed inside the LCD lid which Dell claims “can provide excellent reception and help reduce dropped signals” for both Wi-Fi and bluetooth. I’ve never had serious problems with dropped signals while using older Dell notebooks so I can’t speak to whether the new internal multi-antenna actually improved wireless reception … but I can say that I never experienced dropped Wi-Fi connections during the testing period.


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Screen

Display options for the Vostro 1510 include a matte finish 15.4″ Widescreen XGA (1280 x 800) and a 15.4″ Widescreen XGA (1280 x 800) with TrueLife (glossy finish). Dell also offers higher resolution WXGA+ (1440 x 900) displays in both matte and glossy configurations.

The screen on our review unit looks flawless from straight on and the horizontal viewing angles are great. Upper vertical viewing angles are good with just a slightly washed out look, but colors did begin to invert at lower viewing angles when the screen is tilted back.


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Keyboard, Touchpad and Media Controls

The keyboard on the Vostro 1510 suffers from severe flex near the center of the keyboard. The keys almost “bounce” as you press them. The keys have a nice matte texture with proper spacing and each of the keys have excellent travel and cushion. There are dedicated page up and page down keys but the home and end keys require the use of the function key, so this might be a little frustrating for users who do a lot of coding.


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The touchpad surface utilizes the same matte texture with just a hint of metal flake that is used on the palm rest surface. The touchpad is nice and responsive but feels a little smaller than it should be. The touchpad buttons have excellent travel and cushion. Unfortunately, because of the way in which the touchpad buttons are slightly recessed the touchpad buttons are not very comfortable to use.


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A series of touch-sensitive media buttons with blue LED backlights are located above the keyboard similar to the buttons on the XPS notebooks. One nice feature about the media buttons is that the blue LEDs only stay lit for a fraction of a second after being pressed, so they won’t distract you by staying lit all the time. The power button also features a blue LED backlight, but this light says on whenever the notebook is on.

Ports and Features

The port selection of the 1510 is reasonably good for a notebook of this size. Here’s a quick rundown of what you get:

Front profile view: LED status lights, microphone jack, headphone out, media card reader.


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Left side: Two USB ports, ExpressCard slot, and WiFi on/off switch.


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Right side: Firewire, two USB ports, Slot-loading optical drive, and security lock slot.


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Back profile view: Battery, VGA out, Ethernet and power jack.


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Perhaps the most interesting omission from the ports selection is the lack of either S-video out or HDMI. Some older video projectors still use the S-video port and most newer external monitors and high-resolution projectors use the HDMI port. The absence of both the S-video port and the HDMI port means that this notebook won’t be 100 percent friendly with all external displays used for presentations. This might indeed be a serious problem for traveling business professionals who never know exactly what type of video-out port they’ll need for their next business presentation.

Another curious omission is the lack of a docking station port on the bottom of the notebook. Most businesses prefer the Dell Latitude and Lenovo ThinkPad line because of the ability to easily dock those laptops with desktop hardware in an office environment. Since the Vostro is targeted at businesses, it would have been nice to have a dedicated docking station port.

That said, with the addition of FireWire, four USB ports, a media card reader, a headphone jack, microphone jack, ExpressCard slot and Ethernet port you’re well equipped in terms of ports.

Although most users will find four USB ports to be more than enough to meet everyday needs, I perfer to have more USB ports on 15-inch and larger notebooks. The fact that the smaller Vostro 1310 packs four USB ports into a reasonably thin and light 13.3″ notebook is a perfect indication that the Vostro 1510 needs more USB ports.

Audio

The speaker quality was on par with notebooks of this size and price range. The stereo speakers on the 1510 are located on either side ofthe keyboard and produces relatively shallow sound with limited range and no bass. You can get the volume loud without much distortion, but the audio coming out of these tiny speakers is less than impressive.


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This is unfortunate because many 12″ and smaller notebooks (such as the HP tx2000z or HP 2133 Mini-Note) have stereo speakers that produce high quality sound with excellent range of highs, middles, and lows. The Vostro 1510 is a budget business notebook, but I’m certain that Dell can do better than this.

On the bright side, both speakers are positioned perfectly for directing sound up and towards the user. Also, the headphone out port delivered crystal clear audio to my headphones during the test period.

Performance and Benchmarks

This budget 15.4″ notebook is available with either integrated graphics or a dedicated graphics card option. While most business professionals only need integrated graphics, the optional Nvidia 8400M GS is great for mobile video editing and Photoshop as well as budget gaming.

Our configuration of the Vostro 1510 with the 1.8GHz T5670 Intel Core 2 Duo processor and Intel X3100 integrated graphics performed adequately during testing. This configuration will meet or exceed the performance needs of small business users.

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. Lower scores indicate better performance.


Notebook / CPU wPrime 32M time
Dell Vostro 1510 (Core 2 Duo T5670 @ 1.8GHz) 51.875s
Dell Vostro 1310 (Core 2 Duo T8100 @ 2.1GHz) 37.736s
Dell Inspiron 1525 (Core 2 Duo T7250 @ 2.0GHz) 43.569s
Dell XPS M1530 (Core 2 Duo T7500 @ 2.2GHz)
37.485s
Portable One SXS37 (Core 2 Duo T7250 @ 2.0GHz) 41.908s
Sony VAIO NR (Core 2 Duo T5250 @ 1.5GHz) 58.233s
Toshiba Tecra A9 (Core 2 Duo T7500 @ 2.2GHz) 38.343s
Toshiba Tecra M9 (Core 2 Duo T7500 @ 2.2GHz) 37.299s
HP Compaq 6910p (Core 2 Duo T7300 @ 2GHz) 40.965s
Zepto 6024W (Core 2 Duo T7300 @ 2GHz) 42.385s
Lenovo T61 (Core 2 Duo T7500 @ 2.2GHz) 37.705s
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
Samsung Q35 (Core 2 Duo T5600 @ 1.83GHz) 46.274s

 

3DMark06 comparison results for graphics performance (higher scores indicate better performance):

Notebook 3DMark06 Score
Dell Vostro 1510 (1.8GHz Intel T5670, Intel X3100) 519 3DMarks
Dell Vostro 1310 (2.1GHz Intel T8100, Nvidia 8400M GS 128MB) 1,679 3DMarks
Dell Inspiron 1525 (2.0GHz Intel T7250, Intel X3100) 545 3DMarks
Sony VAIO NR (1.5GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T5250, Intel X3100) 504 3DMarks
Dell XPS M1530 (2.20GHz Intel T7500, Nvidia 8600M GT 256MB) 4,332 3DMarks
Dell Inspiron 1520 (2.0GHz Intel T7300, NVIDIA 8600M GT) 2,905 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 (1.66GHz 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

PCMark05 measures overall notebook performance (higher scores indicate better performance):

Notebook PCMark05 Score
Dell Vostro 1510 (1.8GHz Intel T5670, Intel X3100) 3,568 PCMarks
Dell Vostro 1310 (2.1GHz Intel T8100, Nvidia 8400M GS 128MB) 4,813 PCMarks
Dell Inspiron 1525 (2.0GHz Intel T7250, Intel X3100) 4,149 PCMarks
Dell XPS M1530 (2.20GHz Intel T7500, Nvidia 8600M GT 256MB) 5,412 PCMarks
Dell Inspiron 1520 (2.0GHz Intel T7300, NVIDIA 8600M GT) 4,616 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


HDTune measures the performance of the notebook’s hard drive in terms of both transfer rate (read/write speed) and access time (how long it takes to find data stored on the drive):


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Heat and Noise

The Vostro 1510 does an impressive job keeping heat under control. The system fan and heatsinks in the 1510 do a great job managing heat when the system is under load … as we discovered when we ran multiple benchmarks back to back. What we found most impressive was the fact that the bottom of the notebook (usually the hottest side) ended up being slightly cooler than the surface of the keyboard and palm rests. This is quite nice and makes for a more enjoyable “laptop” experience. Below are images with temperature readings listed in degrees Fahrenheit:



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Fortunately, noise was likewise a non-issue with the fan on the 1510. The fan moved a significant amount of hot air and the noise was exceptionally quiet. The fan was so quiet, even when running at full speed, that the air rushing past the heatsink actually made more noise than the fan itself.

Battery Life

The 6-cell 58WHr Li-Ion battery provides reasonable battery life for the 1510. With screen brightness set to maximum and wireless on, the 6-cell battery delivered 3 hours and 26 minutes of battery life

There is also an available 9-cell 87WHr Li-Ion battery for those users needing extended battery life. Unfortunately, our configuration did not ship with the 9-cell battery, so we cannot provide any information on battery life with these batteries.

Conclusion

Overall, the Dell Vostro 1510 is a solid budget notebook with clean looks and acceptable performance. Whether you need a simple business notebook or a budget portable laptop with modest gaming capabilities, the Vostro 1510 makes a fine choice.

That said, the chassis isn’t as nice as we hoped … the edges are sharp and could be smoother or more rounded, the case feels hollow and flimsy compared to the earlier Vostros, the touchpad button placement is bad, keyboard suffers from significant flex.

So why buy a Vostro 1510? One huge advantage to the Vostro line is the support, lack of bloatware, and excellent return policy. Dell will let you purchase a Vostro, use it for 30 days, and if you don’t like it you can send it back for a full refund without any restocking or shipping fees. That’s just amazing.

In short, the Vostro 1510 is a good addition to the Vostro family and gives business professionals and consumers on a budget another alternative to the Dell Inspiron 1525. Unfortunately, the price as configured ($684) places it neck-and-neck with the Inspiron 1525. Although the Vostro has a lot to offer, the Inspiron 1525 has a better chassis design, and for roughly the same amount of money businesses can purchase a 15.4″ Dell Latitude notebook or Lenovo ThinkPad R61.

Pros

  • Thinner and lighter than the Vostro 1500
  • Reasonable battery life
  • Nice screen and easy-to-use media buttons
  • Solid performance
  • No bloatware
  • Available with Windows XP
  • Excellent return policy (NO restocking or shipping fees within 30 days!)

Cons

  • Glossy LCD lid is a magnet for fingerprints
  • Chassis plastics feel too thin and hollow
  • Uncomfortable touchpad buttons
  • No docking station port for desktop use
  • No S-video or HDMI port
  • Price is a little expensive compared to the Inspiron 1525, Latitude D530 or D531




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