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Dell Vostro 1500

Started by Carskick, April 02, 2008, 22:02 hrs

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Well, it's new laptop time for me again. My old MSI 1039 doesn't get the battery life I need to take notes in class without a plug, and since from here on out, I will be mostly in older buildings where finding plugs is difficult, I decided it would be much more convenient to search for a 4 hour plus laptop.

So what were my parameters for a laptop? Here they are, not in order of priority, they were all requirements:

- Long lasting battery, 3-4 hours or more.
- Video Card Powerful enough for occasional gaming and CAD
- Very durable, since it is to be carried in a backpack everyday
- Good Wi-Fi and Bluetooth capabilities
- 15.4" was really my only choice, due to it's convenient size and weight for me.
- 2Ghz ish Dual Core CPU
- Good Keyboard and Touchpad
- Less than $900

Some pretty though requirements to say the least. It was nearly impossible to get a laptop that could fulfill all of these. The hardest was the long battery, good video card, and low price in the same package. In fact, the only thing I could find that did fit everything was the Dell Vostro 1500, but it was too expensive at about $1000 customized the way I wanted it. So I waited for a good sale, and it came. Here's what I got:

Dell Vostro 1500
15.4" Laptop, Black with metal and plastic case
1280x800 non-truelife screen (I hate glare)
Intel Core 2 Duo T7250 2x2.0Ghz 2x1MB L2
2x1GB DDR2 667 DIMM
Nvidia 8600M GT 256MB
160GB 7200RPM
9-Cell 85Whr Battery
Dell 802.11g card
Broadcom Bluetooth
Windows Vista Home Premium

$852 including tax w/free shipping

I cannot complain about what I got for that price!

So here is my review of it.

This is one of the best built laptops I have ever seen in this price bracket. Much of the outer shell is Magnesium Alloy, and has virtually no flex. The hinges are strong with little play. I cannot find anything on this case I need be cautious of, ie exposed edges, optical drive faceplate, etc. Everything is tucked away quite nicely. The only thing that sticks out is the oversized battery, which has a little of a wiggle, but nothing bad. The underside is thick metal with no play also, promoting confidence. In addition to the good build, the 7200RPM hard drive has a free fall sensor, and the keyboard claims to be spill proof. So while this laptop is no panasonic touch book, should the unfortunate happen, this laptop has a good change of survival.

For how well it is built, it is suprizing light, though not one of the lighter or thinner 15.4" laptops, though I'll trade a little portability for durability any day.

The design of the laptop is simple, functional, with a slight touch of elegance. The case is all black, and the plastics have a metalic semi-gloss paint job, and the black is accented with silver multimedia buttons on the front and a couple of silver buttons on top, as well as silver dell emblums. The computer lights up with many blue LEDs scattered around, and back lighting the front multimedia keys when pressed. The laptop is sleek and good looking without standing out.

They keyboard is much nicer than the clicker keyboard of the MSI1039, in fact, it is one of the nicest and most well laid out of the laptop keyboards I've used over the years. The key have consistently excellent feedback, and register well, maintaining little wiggle, even if you try to force it. The plastic surrounding the keyboard is relatively soft, giving a good surface for the typist's wrists. The full sized arrow keys are a nice changed from the half sized ones on the MSI. There is also no dead space on the keyboard. There is a mistake in the marking of the keyboard. It indicated Fn + F1 is the Suspend button, but it is actually Fn + Esc. Strange. The keyboard is rounded at it's corners, continuing with this laptop's overall rounded look.

The touchpad looks deceivingly small. It is actually quite a joy to use, and the dell vista touchpad driver is fairly good, but one time forgot my speed setting after a reset. The touchpad has many adjustabilities, including how hard you must touch, disable when USB mouse detected, scrolling, etc. The touchpad is smooth and soft to the touch, though I did like the larger size of the MSI's.

The front contains only the volume and media keys, a very convinient place, and a very useful feature.

The right side holds the optical drive, firewire, VGA, ethernet, and 2xUSB connections. (From front to back)

The left side houses the Express car slot directly above the removable (with screwdriver) hard drive slot, headphone and microphone jacks, air vent, and wireless switch.(From front to back)

The rear of the laptop has the 56k hookup, battery, AC port, 2xUSB, and an S-video port

Internally, one of the memory slots is under the keyboard. It is not really hard to get to, but kind of awkward.

Battery Life
I have not run any official tests, but based on my usage so far, I can estimate the battery life to be 4 to 6 hours in most scenarios. 6 Hours would be with wireless devices turned off, screened turned down, and minimal CPU, hard drive, or GPU usage. 4 hours would be full brightness, and constantly using a fairly intensive application. You would be hard pressed to get less than 3 hours total on this laptop. Quite Excellent.

If you get a slower CPU, 5400RPM hard drive, and or a slower or integrated video card, your battery life would likely be even better. The only options available that I could see making the battery life worse than mine would be faster CPU, build in 3G, or smaller battery.

So I opted for Windows Vista, and actually, I am very happy I did. Vista has become a very good OS as a whole. It still has glitches, and if you are a hard core gamer or CAD user, XP is still probably the better choice, but Vista has impressed me with it's improvements.

The best upgrade is the user interface. It loads and switches programs very quickly and smoothly, of course the 7200RPM hard drive and dual core CPU help in this. The graphics look great, with excellent shadowing and the like. While some may find it wasteful, I enjoy the eye candy. It feels less glitchy than XP as far as looks, but it actually has more glitches as far as usability. However, MS is hammering them out slowly but surely.

I have experienced 3 primary Vista glitches, the first one, I have yet to find a fix for. It has gotten better for some reason, but when the laptop was relatively brand new, music played in WMP11 occasionally skipped or stopped for a fraction of a second. However, they have gradually gone away, and it has only had one of these glitches after the first day. Some other programs have a few pops and the like, and I have a feeling it is a combination of Vista, the stupid SigmaTel Sound chip, and the mediocre vista drivers for the chip, which, by the way, don't even include an equalizer. Wish this laptop came with the realtek HD chip like my MSI had. Excellent integrated sound. However, this Dell does have better built in speakers than the MSI did, and despite the lack of an equalizer, both built in speakers and headphone sound reasonably good, though if music or audio is your laptop's primary function, plan on getting an added sound card, or look elsewhere.

The second glitch has to due with bluetooth not working after resuming from hibernation. I had to go through heck and back to get an experimental hotfix from Microsoft, which so far, seems to have fixed it. I use a bluetooth mouse with it, so this is a serious issue for me. The third glitch was with the built in windows synchronizing system for Windows Mobile Edition devices. It improperly recognized my WME6 Asus PDA, so I had to go and search, and found the newest version of the Vista's replacement for Active Sync, which fixed it, but this should have been included in Windows Automatic Updates.

Otherwise, I have been thoroughly enjoying Vista. The Speech Recognition feature is fun to play with, but is only really useful if you have an excellent mic or headset. I am using the one built into the laptop, so the success rate is only about 95% or so, but that's still not bad. Since I am a good typist, using the touchpad and keyboard is still easier, but it is cool to tell the computer to "Switch to Poasters", and it will switch to it if it is open.

So far, I have done little objective testing in this department, but subjectively, this thing flies. Most everything is very smooth and quick, Warcraft 3 played without any hickups, and hopefully it will handle more advanced games as well. When I get more info on this, I will replace this with more detailed information.

One disadvantage I have heard of is that the 8600m GT Dell uses in these has slower clocked DDR2 memory vs the DDR3 memory the card is supposed to come with. 3Dmark tests I have seen don't really reveal this compared to supposedly full speed 8600GT laptops, but it may be a factor.

For a laptop line that runs between $500 and $1600, it is a great choice. Hopefully, Dell didn't skimp on the mainboard, but everything I can see and have tried gives me confidence in Dell's recent lines. If they switched out the sound card and put in faster video memory, I would be hard pressed find any qualms with this machine. I will give an update after I've used it for more than 3 days, but I have used it a total of at least 12 hours for various tasks, and have had little issue. I LOVE that just about any HP printer driver is available to vista without disks. I have successfully and quickly hooked it up to a D4260 USB over a network, a Photosmart 8450 ethernet, and an officejet 6200 series, each very quickly with no problems.

Build:             9.5/10

Design:          8.5/10

Performance:  9/10

Battery:         9.5/10

Value:           10/10

Athlon64 X2 3800+ Machester@2.45Ghz, 4x1GB A-DATA PC3200@204(2.5-3-3-6), XFX 8800GT, ASUS A8N5X NF4, Antec 300 case, Antec EarthWatts 650w, 640GB 16MB and 200GB 8MB 7200RPM SATA WD HDDs, NEC3540, NEC3550, Windows 7 64-bit Ultimate<br />Photos: http://picasaweb.google.com/Carskick


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I couldn't add that above, I apparently hit the 10k character limit  :o
Athlon64 X2 3800+ Machester@2.45Ghz, 4x1GB A-DATA PC3200@204(2.5-3-3-6), XFX 8800GT, ASUS A8N5X NF4, Antec 300 case, Antec EarthWatts 650w, 640GB 16MB and 200GB 8MB 7200RPM SATA WD HDDs, NEC3540, NEC3550, Windows 7 64-bit Ultimate<br />Photos: http://picasaweb.google.com/Carskick