Dell Vostro 1200

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Dell Vostro 1200
  • Dell Vostro 1200
  • Dell Vostro 1200
  • Dell Vostro 1200

Pros

  • Good wireless connectivity, no trialware, built-in webcam and fingerprint reader, price

Cons

  • Potential viewing angle problems, keys too close, no FireWire

Bottom Line

The Vostro 1200 is a good choice at a smart price for the travelling business user with good processing power, Wi-Fi connectivity and battery life, despite being let-down by some design issues.

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If there was ever a notebook that deserved the term "Workhorse", the Dell Vostro 1200 is it. Combining decent connectivity with efficient performance and a fair price tag, the 2.2kg Vostro 1200 is clearly aimed at the mobile business traveller – and it almost hits that target on the nose, barely missing it due to some annoying flaws; including an average viewing angle and a slightly cramped keyboard.

Like any workhorse, the Vostro 1200 isn't flashy when it comes to pure hardware. The Vostro runs on Windows Vista Business and is powered by an Intel Core 2 Duo T7250 2GHz CPU with an 800MHz front side bus speed and a 2MB L2 cache. Included is a DVD re-writer supporting dual-layer writing as well as 2GB of DDR2 RAM, expandable to 4GB.

The 12.1-inch (1280x800) LCD screen is adequate, but not exceptional and the anti-glare aspect certainly works. The screen's viewing angles suffers at times and would probably become a headache, both figuratively and literally, for any user in a cramped plane, train or automobile environment. Given this unit seems almost perfect for the travelling business user you'd think that use-in-transit would be better taken care of. The inclusion of a clasp for the screen would have been a useful addition, given the bumps that go with travel.

As is the case in all of Dell's Vostro range, the pre-installed software is basic and without clutter. What's left are a set of useful tools such as Dell Support Center, which puts all of the system information and tools you'll need in the one place – in case of a problem.

The lack of any dedicated graphics card puts the unit firmly in the "all work, no play" crowd, which is perfectly fine for most small- to mid-sized businesses. The 160GB SATA spins up at an adequate 5400rpm.

What it lacks in exciting extras, it makes up for in business necessities. The built-in 2-megapixel webcam makes video conferencing easy while the Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g and draft-n support, as well as Bluetooth connectivity, will ensure that airport-hoppers are more than capable of logging on at hotspots around the world.

A nifty little extra is the fingerprint scanner that gives users constantly on the move one more layer of security for their confidential documents. Well-designed and inconspicuous, the fingerprint reader works surprisingly well, with the pre-installed software making print registration a breeze.

When it comes to ports, however, the Vostro is a mixed bag. Three USB 2.0 ports, an internal 56Kbps modem, a gigabit Ethernet port, a 4-in-1 card reader supporting SD, MMC, MS and MS-Pro cards and a VGA port are included, which bodes well for presentations and workstation use, but the ExpressCard slot fails to support older PCMCIA cards. The lack of a FireWire port also runs against the current trend, even at this level of pricing.

The keyboard suffers from the unit's portable size, with many of the keys being too close for speed-typing, particularly the comma, full-stop and question mark keys. The sound from the speakers is fairly tinny, but then the unit isn't built with audiophiles in mind.

The efficient office performance showed up in our WorldBench 6 tests scoring a decent 76, meaning good handling of multiple business applications at the same time. In our MP3 encoding test, the Vostro 1200 managed to convert 53 minutes of WAV files into 192Kbps in 88 seconds using iTunes. In our DVD rundown test it lasted a solid 120min. This test is a worst-case scenario, so the Vostro will likely last longer under normal working conditions.

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