Dell Vostro 1540 review

Dell's budget business laptop is certainly cheap, but is it cheerful? Mike Jennings pokes and prods the Vostro 1540 to find out.

Processing grunt is provided by the 2.4GHz, dual-core Intel Core i3-370M and, while it's not current-generation or high-end, there's more than enough power here to motor through the average office application. Its application benchmark result of 44 falls behind the 52 scored by the HP but it's certainly enough - especially when coupled with three gigabytes of RAM.

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Elsewhere, there's an 8x speed DVD writer, 802.11n single-band WiFi and a 320GB hard disk. Users who depend on GPGPU-accelerated applications won't be well-served by the Intel integrated graphics, though, which is good for HD playback, Angry Birds and not much else. HP, meanwhile, used its extra budget to fit AMD's Radeon HD 6490m - a current-generation low-end chip that will, nevertheless handle 3D-intensive applications better than the Vostro.

Longevity is merely middling, too. The battery life of four hours and 46 minutes is fine, but the HP outlasted it by around 45m. Neither will see you through a solid day's work, then, but the ProBook is the clear winner here.

Dell has a range of alternative components available for this laptop.

As usual, Dell has a range of alternative components available for this laptop. Drop down to a 2GHz Celeron P4600 processor and 2GB of RAM and prices start from a meagre 190 ex VAT and, if you're willing to spend a little more, you can upgrade the Vostro to 4GB of RAM and a 500GB hard disk, with the price rising to 369 ex VAT.

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Warranty options are extensive, too. The one year collect-and-return deal - the same as you'll get with the HP - is included as standard, and upgrading to a three year basic deal will add 50 ex VAT to the price. A single year of ProSupport and next business day on-site service will cost 37 ex VAT and, if you're particularly protective of your laptop then the three year version costs 108 ex VAT.

There's no doubt the Vostro has several issues from the flimsy build quality and poor quality screen and middling performance. It can't hold a candle to the HP ProBook but, if budget is your priority, this is a perfectly usable machine - as long as you buy a protective case first.

So what's our verdict?

Verdict

The Vostro 1540 is slightly flimsy and slightly underpowered, but its fine ergonomics and unfussy components mean that it's got enough oomph to get the job done. Couple that with the fantastic price, just £319 ex VAT, and you've got a laptop that could tempt budget-conscious businesses - as long as you can cope with its faults.

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Processor: Intel Core i3-370M, 2.4GHz Memory: 3GB 1,333MHz DDR3 RAM Graphics: Intel HD Graphics integrated Hard disk: 320GB Display: 15.6in 1,366x768, LED-backlit screen Features: 1.3 megapixel webcam, microphone Connectivity: 802.11g/n Wi-Fi, Gigabit Ethernet, Bluetooth 3.0 Ports: 3 x USB2, 1 x VGA, 1 x HDMI, 1x 3.5mm headphone output, 1x 3.5mm microphone input, SD/MMC/MS card reader Dimensions: 376 x 260 x 33mm (WxDxH) Weight: 2.4kg Warranty: 1 year collect and return warranty OS: Windows 7 Professional 64-bit E-value code: N1115404 BENCHMARK RESULTS Image editing: 63 Video encoding: 40 Multiple apps: 40 Overall: 44 Light usage battery life: 4hr 46m POWER CONSUMPTION Sleep: 1W Idle: 13W Active: 46W

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