The recently reviewed Dell Adamo XPS is an exquisite piece of engineering, but if you're after a 13in thin and light machine, might we humbly suggest you look at this excellent laptop that could prove to be its nemesis? It's called the Vostro 13, and it's by, er, Dell.

Like the company's Latitude line, which recently threw up the gem-like Latitude XT2, the Vostros are designed for business use and rarely crop up on sites like Stuff.

But this trim 13in notebook, which is just 19.4mm deep at its fattest point, is too good to overlook. It doesn't quite have the killer looks of the Adamo or MacBook Air, because the brushed aluminium lid and base are offset by a lesser quality plastic surround for the keyboard and monitor.

But it is a fraction of the price, has a sophisticated design and is close enough to them in performance to be well worth the saving.

Shining screen?

The Vostro's monitor is a typical 1366x768 resolution, but it does differentiate itself as a high-quality affair that's bright, colourful and can be put to good use.

The CULV processor is more than up to the job of filling its perky pixels with 720p movies, photo editing and so on, although you wouldn't want to trust the Intel integrated graphics with games.

Higher-def movies are a bit of a moot point: there's no HDMI port for hooking up an external screen capable of playing 1080p HD. Its business background is betrayed by the sole presence of a projector-friendly VGA connector.

Review continues after the break…


Other interfaces are also conspicuous by their absence. There are only two USB ports, one of which is a hybrid e-SATA socket, an SD card reader and an ExpressPort slot. All bar the latter two run along the back of the machine.

Middling battery life

All these things are easy to live with. What sits less comfortably, though, is the battery life. At around three hours it's terrible by today's standards.

It's hard to see how it's even possible to perform so badly given the power-saving hardware involved, unless there's a watch battery rather than a six-cell unit under that sleek shell. We'll never know, as it's sealed in and can't be swapped out, compounding the problem.

?As a result, we'll stick with the Asus UL30A as our budget ultralight of choice, and the bigger and more powerful Acer Timeline X, if you're willing to spend a bit more money. If you get chance to see the Vostro up close, though, you may not feel the same.

Stuff says... 

Dell Vostro 13 review

An astounding laptop for the price, but the poor battery life lets it down