Sometimes an excellent operating system can be made even better
Dell Vostro 1400
- No trialware, Dell Support application, speakers, Dell MediaDirect, excellent battery life
- Viewing angle on screen, no Dell Chat support currently (according to the Dell Web site)
The clean-slate design and trialware-free desktop are immediate pleasures that are soon accompanied by solid performance and some surprising media centre-style capabilities.
Price$ 1,799.00 (AUD)
Dell's Vostro range covers both desktop and notebook PCs and aims to provide a cleaner, more efficient business machine. As far as the Dell Vostro 1400 notebook goes, we feel the job has been done well.
Purely by hardware and benchmarks alone the Dell Vostro 1400 is a very smooth machine to run. It uses Intel's Core 2 Duo T7500 2.2GHz CPU, an NVIDIA GeForce 8400M GS graphics card and 2GB of DDR2 RAM, as well as having a 160GB hard drive and a DVD re-writer with Dual Layer support.
However, the most defining feature of the Vostro range involves what it lacks, rather than what it offers. By this we mean that Dell has taken the hint and removed all trialware and promotional software from the notebook and sold it clean-slate. All you'll find on the desktop are icons for the included software (full version), like Roxio Creator Home and the Dell Support application.
Dell Support has a nice user-friendly interface with links to driver downloads, FAQs and product manuals. There are also links to support sites with help on maintaining your system and improving your system's performance. There are, of course, means to get assistance from Dell; there are e-mail and phone details, as well as links to online chat support.
The software also displays all of your system information under various tabs, including your Dell service tag, a unique number that is attached to the machine and allows you to access these services online. Following links from Dell Support to Dell's Web site will automatically enter your service tag for you, making things smoother.
Although there are a number of self-support methods and means of contacting Dell, the feature that interested us the most is the online chat support. Unfortunately, in our attempt to access this chat support service the Dell Web site informed us that the Vostro 1400 does not currently have chat support.
If you want to get things done with a little more automation, Dell Support also includes the Dell Automated PC TuneUp software, an application that changes settings, installs or uninstalls features and generally tightens up the works. Each tweak can be included or excluded at your will and a small, but generally succinct description of each action will let you know what you're doing and why you might wish to do it.
The Vostro 1400 isn't all about business; Dell has allowed some room for pleasure to go into the mix, too. As is standard on Dell machines, the Vostro 1400 has Dell MediaDirect, a media centre-style software with a music player, photo viewer and DVD player among other features. The best part of MediaDirect is its ability to run a pre-operating system, and can be accessed within a few seconds from an off state. A set of media controls provide quick control over your media.
The 1440x900 screen is adequate, but nothing to write home about. However, the speakers are quite impressive for a business machine. There's a webcam, which can be useful for business or personal reasons and a pair of headphone jacks mean you can share movies, music or business presentations with a friend or colleague.
In WorldBench 6 the Vostro 1400 scored 82, a very decent result, especially for a business unit. The battery test was also very impressive. In our DVD rundown test the Vostro 1400 lasted 195 minutes, well beyond the average. As this is a worst-case scenario test we expect the Dell Vostro 1400 will last longer under normal usage conditions. Encoding tests also showed good results, a testament to the CPU. Encoding 53 minutes worth of WAV files to 192Kbps MP3 files took just 79 seconds in iTunes and 118 seconds in Cdex.
The 1400 is one of three Dell Vostro notebooks. Also in the range are the 15in Dell Vostro 1500 and Dell Vostro 1000 notebooks.
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