Review Dell Vostro 3500 Notebook

by Martina Osztovits 05/06/2010

New Vostro.

The Vostro 3500 has Intel's latest hardware and Nvidia's GeForce G310M graphic card in a new aluminum case, as well as a few improvements in the configuration to offer in this review. As usual, Dell also offers numerous options besides that.

Dell Vostro 3500 Notebook
Dell Vostro 3500 Notebook

Dell addresses in particular small businesses with the Vostro family. If you are looking for an inexpensive business device with contemporary hardware, you can select either a 15.6 inch Vostro 3500 or the 17.3 inch Vostro 3700.

The 15 inch model with a Core i5 430M processor, dedicated Nvidia GeForce 310M graphic card and a fast 320 GB hard disk with 7200 rpm is put to the test. As typical for Dell, the Vostro 3500 can be configured comprehensively, though. The available options will be dealt with in detail below. Sections that are strongly dependent on the utilized hardware, such as performance, emissions and battery life, aren't necessarily true for other, differently equipped models.

Case

There are three different colors available for the display lid and lateral edges: Silver (Aberdeen Silver) as our prototype, or for a surcharge of 30.00 euro copper (Brisbane Bronze) or red (Lucerne Red). The case itself is made of aluminum and plastic and has been manufactured precisely.

There's nothing to complain about as to the aluminum lid's stability. It only twists marginally when picked up at a corner with one hand and it managed our pressure test without problems.  In any event, there aren't any image deviations. You can be just as satisfied with the base unit's pressure and torsional stiffness. The case merely yields slightly in the area of the optical drive under stronger pressure. The wrist-rest is made in a matt black plastic that has a pleasant feel.

The angled hinges mounted on the screen restrict the opening angle to about 130 degrees. They keep the display securely in position and only teeter a bit after adjusting the opening angle.

The dimensions of 275 millimeter (width) x 250 millimeters (depth) and a height that increases from 22.9 (front) to 31.9 mm (rear) aren't unusual for a 15 incher. The laptop weighs 2.45 kilograms with the battery. There are an additional 0.42 kilograms for the adapter, keeping the carrying weight overall within a limit.

Talking about carrying it around: A transportation lock has been omitted. Therefore, you should take precautions that foreign objects can't penetrate between keyboard and display during transportation.

Connectivity

Kensington SD100 USB port replicator
Kensington SD100 USB port replicator

Although both the front and back edge don't accommodate any ports, Dell has managed placing a really feasible selection of ports. A HDMI port for digital linking of external monitors or TV sets also joins in, aside from an analog VGA-out.  The user can connect peripheral devices, such as a printer or external mouse, to a total of four USB 2.0 ports. One of these has been made as a USB/eSATA combination so that it's possible to achieve a better transfer rate with external drives than via USB.

If this Vostro 3500 functionality isn't enough, you can upgrade further functions with the ExpressCard/34. However, a separate docking port, as common in most business devices, is missing. Instead, USB docking solutions, like the Kensington SD100 USB port replicator for around 50 euro in Germany, are available. This simplifies connecting the device into an existing work environment and extends the connectivity. The Kensington SD 100 however only has five USB ports, an Ethernet connection and audio sockets. It would have been more practical for lefties if the video ports were also available on the docking solution: Depending on the occupation, obstructive cables could especially restrict the notebook's left work area majorly.

Left: Kensington security slot, DC-in, fan, VGA, USB/eSATA combo, HDMI, 2 USB 2.0s
Left: Kensington security slot, DC-in, fan, VGA, USB/eSATA combo, HDMI, 2 USB 2.0s
Right: ExpressCard/34, 8 in 1 cardreader, optical drive, USB 2.0, RJ-45 (LAN)
Right: ExpressCard/34, 8 in 1 cardreader, optical drive, USB 2.0, RJ-45 (LAN)
Video conferences aren't a problem with the 2 MP webcam
2.0 MP Webcam

A wired LAN connection can be set up with the Realtek RTL8168D/8111D Family PCI-E GBE NIC (10/100/1000MBit). Access to WLAN networks can be made via Dell's Wireless 1520 Wireless-N Half mini card. It also supports standard 802.11n. Dell's Wireless HSPA 2.0 mini card is also allegedly available as an option in a few countries. The correlating SIM card slot is found in the battery compartment. This option is currently not available in Germany, though. Video conferences via internet aren't a problem either with the built-in 2.0 MP webcam. Finally, you can exchange data with small mobile devices with Dell's Wireless 365 card via Bluetooth.

Windows 7 Professional 32 bit has been pre-installed on our test device. Optionally, you can also get the Vostro 3500 with the 64 bit version without extra expenses. Dell charges 10 euro for a downgrade to a pre-installed Windows XP Professional (32 bit). A 32 bit operating system is sufficient for the 3 gigabyte RAM built-in ex-factory. But if you want to extend the main memory, a 64 bit version is recommended.

Aside from a Kensington security slot that can be used to prevent theft, the Vostro 3500 also has a fingerprint reader available. Thus, password input can be replaced by scanning your fingerprint.

In the test device's carton, you'll also find operating system, as well as driver and tools DVDs. Additionally you can create these easily with a Dell tool.

Input Devices

Keyboard

A standard layout without special key grouping and good mechanical traits, a distinct pressure point and a rather long stroke length make it easy to touch type without typos right from the start. However, the subconstruction coils a bit when typing energetically. The soundscape stays within limits, though. In order to prevent damages caused by spilled liquids, the keyboard has been splash water protected. Optionally a LED light is supposed to be available.

The 15 incher has touch-sensitive fields for multimedia functions above the keyboard. A white LED indicates activation. White LEDs have also been used as status LED on the left of it. They aren't as striking as colorful LEDs, but almost invisible in intense light incidence. If you often have to write numbers, you'd likely have hoped for a separate number pad. But there wasn't any place for it so that the user has to fall back on the integrated, makeshift number pad via FN key.

Keyboard
Keyboard
Touchpad
Touchpad

Touchpad

The touchpad supports multi-touch gestures. However these first have to be enabled. You can also use an optically marked vertical scroll bar for scrolling. The touchpad surface's gliding traits are excellent so that the mouse cursor can be controlled precisely. If the touchpad isn't required it can simply be disabled with the FN+F6 key combination. The touchpad keys with a medium-long stroke length, which respond over the entire surface evenly, don't give any reason for complaint, either.

The Vostro 3500 should also have been available with touchscreen since April 2010. However, such models aren't offered on Dell's German homepage yet.

Mouse configuration
Mouse configuration
Mouse configuration
Easy mouse configuration with a Dell tool

Display

Dell has opted for a 15.6 inch sized display with LED backlight for the Vostro 3500. The surface has been AR-coated, typical for business devices. The screen supports a maximum resolution of 1366x768 pixel, so a cinematic-friendly 16:9 format. You would, however, expect a higher and less wide aspect ratio for vertically aligned applications, like office or internet, so that you don't have to scroll as much. That is unless the screen's width would be large enough to accommodate two applications beside one another without problems. A width of 1366 pixel is definitely not enough for that, though.

190.3
cd/m²
214
cd/m²
211
cd/m²
189.2
cd/m²
224
cd/m²
196.5
cd/m²
203
cd/m²
190.3
cd/m²
196.4
cd/m²
Distribution of brightness
Information
Maximum: 224 cd/m²
Average: 201.6 cd/m²
Brightness Distribution: 84 %
Black: 1.24 cd/m²
Contrast: 181:1

The maximum brightness of 224 cd/m2 and the average brightness of 201.6 cd/m2 are beyond the 200 mark. The brightness falls minimally a bit under 190 cd/m2. Overall, the screen achieves a good luminosity rate of 84%. The contrast turns out a bit low with 181:1 due to the high black value of 1.24 cd/m2. If the brightness is reduced to 100 cd/m2 or less, the black value improves to 0:55, but the contrast ratio practically remains unchanged with these rates. The color representation is subjectively alright.

Outdoors
Outdoors

Up and out? This isn't a problem with a good brightness and matt surface, at least not in shadows. A brighter display would have been desirable in direct sunlight, though.

The viewing angles turn out notebook-typical: As usual, narrow on the vertical plane. Even slight changes lead to a dimming, respectively to an over illumination. As a result you can also see color deviations. The viewing angles prove to be considerably more generous on the horizontal plane. Looking at the screen with several persons at the same time isn't a problem as long as all participants are about equally tall.

Dell Vostro 3500's viewing angles
Dell Vostro 3500's viewing angles

Performance

The Vostro 3500 is available in a range of various configuration alternatives. Common to all is that they are based on Intel's HM57 (Ibex Peak) chip set. Models with a Core i3, i5 or i7 can be chosen from in regards to processors. The inexpensive Vostro 3500 is, for example, offered with a Core i3 330M.

Our prototype has been equipped with a Core i5 430M. This is a dual-core processor that can be clocked to up to 2.53 GHz due to turbo boost. The processor can manage up to four threads at the same time because of hyperthreading. The Intel Graphics Media Acceleration HD graphic chip is integrated in the Core i Arrandale processors. Whilst it's used by most models, it remains disabled in the test device. Instead, a Nvidia GeForce 310M provides the pixel data. The Nvidia GeForce 310M (GT218 core) supports DirectX 10.1. It can unload the processor, for example in video decoding, with CUDA, DirectX Compute and OpenCL support. Modern, 3D intensive games are only smoothly playable with minimum up to, at best, medium details and low resolutions. Thus, the GeForce 310M isn't recommendable for demanding gamers. Details about the gaming performance of single graphic cards can be found in our column: "Computer games on notebook graphic cards?"

System info CPUZ CPU
System info CPUZ Cache
System info CPUZ Mainboard
System info CPUZ RAM
System info CPUZ RAM SPD
System info CPUZ RAM SPD
System info GPUZ
System info HDTune
System information Dell Vostro 3500
Latencies: Spikes into the red field
DPC Latency Checker Dell Vostro 3500

The Vostro is offered by Dell with a RAM configuration of 2 gigabytes up to a maximum of 6 gigabytes. The HM57 chip set would basically support up to 8 gigabyte of RAM. Our test device uses a RAM of three gigabyte. If this isn't enough, you can easily upgrade the main memory via a maintenance cover on the laptop's bottom. However, you should then also change to a 64 bit operating system.

Cinebench R10 Rendering Multiple CPUs 32Bit
6136
Cinebench R10 Rendering Single 32Bit
2767
Cinebench R10 Shading 32Bit
3123
Help
PC Mark
PCMark Vantage5340 points
Help
5
Windows 7 Experience Index
Processor
Calculations per second
6.3
Memory (RAM)
Memory operations per second
5.5
Graphics
Desktop performance for Windows Aero
5
Gaming graphics
3D business and gaming graphics
6.1
Primary hard disk
Disk data transfer rate
5.9

We use the PCMark Vantage benchmark test to determine the application performance. The Vostro 3500 receives a total score of 5340 points. Thus, it's on par with similarly equipped systems.

The test device reaches 2767 points in Cinebench R10's single rendering and 6136 points in multi rendering. The Core i5 430M CPU can thus keep up with slightly faster clocked Core 2 Duo CPUs, for example the T9500. As expected, the device lags considerably behind identically equipped laptops with a stronger graphic card (for example, HD 5650 from ATI) with 3123 points in the shading test, whilst it can keep up with them in application performance. About a 37% poorer graphic performance in Cinebench shading can be awaited from Vostro 3500 models that use the integrated GMA HD graphic chip in the processor. For instance, the HP ProBook 6440b with Graphics Media Accelerator HD graphics and the same CPU only achieved 1975 points in comparison.

3D Mark
3DMark 2001SE21821 points
3DMark 0310681 points
3DMark 057196 points
3DMark 06
 1280x1024
3206 points
3DMark Vantage1156 points
Help
Seagate Momentus 7200.4 ST9320423AS
Transfer Rate Minimum: 43.7 MB/s
Transfer Rate Maximum: 93.2 MB/s
Transfer Rate Average: 71.7 MB/s
Access Time: 17 ms
Burst Rate: 52.2 MB/s
CPU Usage: 4.9 %

You even have a choice for the mass memory configuration. A with up to 500 GB SATA hard disk with 7200 rpm, or an encrypted hard disk with 7200 rpm and 250 GB is built in. Other models are available upon request. The Free Fall Sensor and Strike Zone shock absorber system is supposed to protect against data loss caused by shocks. To be precise, a Seagate ST9320423AS with a gross capacity of 320 GB has been built into our prototype. The established performance rates with HDTune are in the same field as comparable hard disks and don't show irregularities. An Optiarc DVD RW AD-7585H burner is available as the optical drive.

Gaming Performance

Wie wir testen - Leistung

There aren't any big leaps to be expected from the built-in Nvidia GeForce 310M graphics card in terms of 3D performance. Our Dell Vostro 3500 is on par with, for example a Lenovo Thinkpad T510 (Core i7 620M, Quadro NVS 3100M), with 3206 points in 3DMark06. HP ProBook 6540b (Core i5 430M, ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4550) is just slightly better with 3465 points (+8%).

Aside from the 3DMark benchmark family, we also looked at two games in practice. As expected, both Anno 1404 and Dirt 2 run smoothly in low details and a low resolution. Above that, you even have enough room for the one or other extra detail in Anno 1404.

Models that use the integrated GMA HD graphic chip would leave to expect a considerably lower gaming performance. Whilst the GeForce 310M still reaches 52 fps in low settings in Anno 1404, the GMA HD in our data bank ranges between 22 and 30 fps. We refer to our special article and benchmark list for details on the gaming capabilities of single graphic cards and graphic performance in comparison.

low med.high ultra
Anno 1404 (2009) 5210.6fps
Colin McRae: DIRT 2 (2009) 2925fps

Emissions

System Noise

The fan usually blows waste air fairly quiet and evenly out of the case under low load. If the demand on hardware is increased, the noise level increases to a relatively loud 44.6 dB (A). The DVD drive can also get quite loud during data transfer with 47.6 dB (A).

Temperature

In terms of temperature, the Vostro 3500 only stays cool as long as it's not, or only just, put under load (Office mode). The device heats up to 45.8 degrees Celsius on the bottom and 41.6 degrees Celsius on the upper side when demand is increased. The touchpad and the left keyboard area then also get notably warm.

Noise Level

Idle 34.7 / 34.7 / 38 dB(A)
HDD 35.1 dB(A)
DVD 36.9 / 47.6 dB(A)
Load 41.3 / 44.6 dB(A)
 
    30 dB
silent
40 dB
audible
50 dB
loud
 
min: , med: , max:     (15 cm distance)
Max. Load
 39.3 °C35.9 °C27.8 °C 
 41.6 °C37.5 °C31.8 °C 
 34.2 °C40.9 °C32.1 °C 
Maximum: 41.6 °C
Average: 35.7 °C
28.1 °C40.8 °C42.6 °C
30.1 °C45.8 °C43 °C
39.9 °C38.1 °C37.7 °C
Maximum: 45.8 °C
Average: 38.5 °C
Power Supply (max.)  51 °C | Room Temperature 22 °C

But as if that's not enough - the device's cooling capacity is obviously not designed for a permanent full load use. We could observe a repeated CPU clock rate throttling during our stress test (Furmark + Prime 95). The CPU is downclocked automatically as soon as the graphic card's temperature reaches 95 degrees until it's sufficiently cool again. After that, the clock rate is increased until the temperature once again reaches the 95 degrees threshold, and so on.

Furmark
Temperature measurement Everest Report
CPU_Z
TMonitor
GPU-Z
Repeated CPU throttling during the stress test

Loudspeakers

The sound quality of both loudspeakers above the keyboard isn't overwhelming but the emitted sound is fairly balanced, even if bass poor, and stays clear even at a good maximum volume.

A very audible sound improvement can be achieved with external loudspeakers or high-quality headphones. And as if that's not enough, the HDMI port also allows a digital sound transmission.

Battery Life

The battery runtimes move between at least one and a quarter hour and at most almost four and a half hours. Both rates have been established with the BatteryEater tool. However, a practical working isn't possible during the Reader's test set at minimum brightness and disabled WiFi devices. In return, the minimum runtime is determined with maximum brightness, enabled wireless modules and the Classic test.

You can count with runtimes of two to three hours in real life and depending on the demand. These runtimes have been established with the included 6 cell lithium-ion battery with a 56 watt hour capacity. There is supposed to be an optional 9 cell battery available, but which isn't listed on Dell's German homepage (yet).

Battery Runtime
Idle (without WLAN, min brightness)
4h 28min
WiFi Surfing
3h 07min
DVD
2h 01min
Load (maximum brightness)
1h 17min

The slim 90 W power adapter has been sufficiently sized for the measured power consumption of 64.1 watts. The Vostro 3500 is on par with similarly equipped devices with the determined rates. The low rates in a deactivated state, or rather in standby mode are pleasing.

Power Consumption

Off / Standby 0.2 / 0.2 Watt
Idle 10.1 / 13.8 / 14.9 Watt
Load 44 / 64.1 Watt
 
Key: min: , med: , max:         

Verdict

The Vostro 3500 isn't only a delight because of its elegant design. The case, in which aluminum is used generously, is also convincing in terms of workmanship and good stability.

The laptop can also serve with a good communication configuration, a good application performance and a graphic performance that even allows the one or other 3D intensive game in low details or a low resolution.
An outdoor use with the matt display that has a good brightness is at least not a problem in shadows. A shock proof hard disk and splash water resistant keyboard protect against data loss in case of the one or other mishap. The interface distribution isn't optimal for lefties, but Dell has treated the Vostro 3500 to a few extra goodies in comparison to its predecessor: eSATA and HDMI are now part of the lot.

Overall, Dell has achieved creating a starter business package with circumferential features at a low price. The Vostro 3500 can also be largely configured to suit personal performance requirements. In regards to graphics, you won't surpass the lower midrange even with models that have Nvidia's GeForce 310M graphic card, though.

Dell Vostro 3500
Werbung
In Review: Dell Vostro 3500
In Review:  Dell Vostro 3500

Specifications

Dell Vostro 3500

:: Processor
:: Mainboard
Intel HM57
:: Memory
3072 MB, 1x1024 MB, 1x2048MB PC3-10700 (667 MHz) DDR3
:: Graphics adapter
NVIDIA GeForce 310M - 512 MB, Core: 625 MHz, Memory: 790 MHz, nvlddmkm 8.16.11.8921 (ForceWare 1010189.21)
:: Display
15.6 inch 16:9, 1366x768 pixel, glossy: no
:: Harddisk
Seagate Momentus 7200.4 ST9320423AS, 320 GB 7200 rpm
:: Soundcard
IDT 92HD81B1X @ Intel Ibex Peak PCH - High Definition Audio Controller
:: Connections
1 Express Card 34mm, 4 USB 2.0, 1 VGA, 1 HDMI, 1 Kensington Lock, 1 eSata, Audio Connections: Microphone, headphone, Card Reader: 8-in-1 cardreader,
:: Networking
Realtek RTL8168D/8111D Family PCI-E GBE NIC (10/100/1000MBit), Dell Wireless 1520 Wireless-N Half Mini Card (a b n ), 2.1 (Dell Wireless 365) Bluetooth
:: Optical drive
Optiarc DVD RW AD-7585H
:: Size
height x width x depth (in mm): 31.9 x 375 x 250
:: Weight
2.45 kg Power Supply: 0.42 kg
:: Battery
56 Wh Lithium-Ion, 11.1V
:: Price
700 Euro
:: Operating System
Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 32 Bit
:: Additional features
Webcam: 2.0 MP, Driver and Utilities DVD, operating system DVD, Dell SW License Agreement, Roxio Creator DE 10.3, Dell WebCam Central SW, Digita Persona Personal Fingerprint SW, MS Works 9, Cyberlink DVD, 12 Months Warranty

 

Dell Vostro 3500
Dell Vostro 3500
Dell Vostro 3500
Not only available in silver, but also in red and copper.
Not only available in silver, but also in red and copper.
a broadband modem is supposed to be optionally available (Picture: SIM slot in the battery compartment).
a broadband modem is supposed to be optionally available (Picture: SIM slot in the battery compartment).
A fingerprint reader can replace the password input.
A fingerprint reader can replace the password input.
Good application performance and feasible graphic performance.
Good application performance and feasible graphic performance.
In return, the components and case heat up extremely in the stress test.
In return, the components and case heat up extremely in the stress test.
Maintenance made easy with big maintenance opening.
Maintenance made easy with big maintenance opening.
The hard disk can
The hard disk can
be replaced easily.
be replaced easily.
A module is redundant for a RAM upgrade.
A module is redundant for a RAM upgrade.
The Vostro merely has a battery life of two hours in the tested configuration with a 6 cell battery, in the practical tests.
The Vostro merely has a battery life of two hours in the tested configuration with a 6 cell battery, in the practical tests.
The power plug's blue LED lights up when the cable is put under power.
The power plug's blue LED lights up when the cable is put under power.
Beside the good standard communication configuration
Beside the good standard communication configuration
The right rear part accommodates another USB 2.0 port and the RJ-45 (LAN) interface.
The right rear part accommodates another USB 2.0 port and the RJ-45 (LAN) interface.
Can only be opened to a maximum of ca. 130 degrees
Can only be opened to a maximum of ca. 130 degrees
to turn it on.
to turn it on.
The status LEDs are hardly visible in bright light, though.
The status LEDs are hardly visible in bright light, though.
Excellent keyboard, but regrettably on a coiling subconstruction.
Excellent keyboard, but regrettably on a coiling subconstruction.
Touch-sensitive fields simplify multimedia control.
Touch-sensitive fields simplify multimedia control.
The touchpad works precisely and also supports multi-touch gestures.
The touchpad works precisely and also supports multi-touch gestures.
Lefties won't be pleased
Lefties won't be pleased
about the interface placement with VGA and USB/eSATA combo in the center and
about the interface placement with VGA and USB/eSATA combo in the center and
HDMI and 2 USB 2.0s in the front area.
HDMI and 2 USB 2.0s in the front area.
The front right area remains devoid of obstructive cables.
The front right area remains devoid of obstructive cables.
The slim adapter has an adequate size.
The slim adapter has an adequate size.

Similar Notebooks

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» Review Samsung R730-JT06 Notebook
Core i3 370M, 17.3", 2.84 kg
» Review Asus U36JC-RX081V Notebook
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» Review Samsung Q330 Suri Subnotebook
Core i3 350M, 13.3", 2.019 kg

Links

Compare Prices

Pro

+Good application performance
+Matt display with a good brightness
+Connectivity including eSATA and HDMI
+Comprehensive communication configuration
 

Cons

-Unfavorable interface placement for lefties
-No separate docking port (USB solution only)

Shortcut

What we like

Good communication configuration and application performance in an elegant case.

What we miss

A better cooling that makes a downclocking superfluous.

What surprises us

The temperature increase of the starter GPU.

The competitors

Other 15.6 inch business laptops at a low price with the latest hardware, such as Toshiba's Tecra A11-125 with a GMA HD or HP's ProBook 6540b with an ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4550.

Rating

Dell Vostro 3500
05/06/2010
Martina Osztovits

Chassis
88%
Keyboard
88%
Pointing Device
88%
Connectivity
84%
Weight
81%
Battery
77%
Display
84%
Games Performance
79%
Application Performance
92%
Temperature
80%
Noise
77%
Add Points
84%
Average
84%
84%
Office *
Weighted Average

> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > Reviews > Archive of our own reviews > Review Dell Vostro 3500 Notebook
Author: Martina Osztovits, 2010-05- 9 (Update: 2013-06- 6)