Review Dell Vostro 3700 (i7-720QM, GT 330M) Notebook
Small businesses in particular are Dell's target group for the Vostro family. Those searching for a reasonably priced business machine with the latest hardware can choose between the Vostro 3500 in 15.6" we recently tested and the Vostro 3700 in 17.3" format. In its as tested configuration, the 17 incher in question houses a Core i7 720QM Quad-Core-Processor, an independent Nvidia GeForce 330M graphics card, four GB RAM and a fast 500 GB harddrive.
Typical of Dell, the Vostro 3700 can to some extent be thoroughly configured. The available options will be dealt with in more detail below. Sections such as performance, emissions and battery life which focus specifically on the hardware are not necessarily applicable to differently configured models.
Apart from size and weight, the Vostro 3700 for the most part resembles its smaller brother, the Vostro 3500. The 17.3 incher sits in an 410mm wide, 230mm deep and up to 34.4mm tall case, which tips the scales at 3 kg. The 620g AC adaptor adds to the total transport weight. Speaking of transport: It does without a transport lock. One should thus take care when transporting to make sure no outside particles find their way in between the keyboard and display screen.
The look of the Vostro can again be individually styled with a range of three different colors for the display lid and edging. On offers are silver (Aberdeen Silver) like on our tester, red (Lucerne Red) or copper (Brisbane Bronze) at a 30 Euro premium.
Using an effective aluminum and plastic surface, the case itself was meticulously constructed. There is basically nothing to criticize in terms of the case's stability. There is typically nothing not to like about aluminum lids. Lifting the corner with one hand causes only minimal buckling and it withstood our press test fine. We are also pleased with the pressing and twisting resistance of the base unit. It is only in the area around the optical driver that the case yields a big to forceful pushing. The working area is still in black plastic with a pleasant look and feel.
The angled hinges attached to the display limit the opening angle to something less than 135 degrees. They hold the display securely in place and only teeter only a bit once the opening angle is set.
The interface setup is for the most part quite generous. In addition to an analogue VGA port, a HDMI interface for digital connections with external monitors or TV devices is also in on the party. The user can hook up peripheral devices such as a printer or external mouse through a total of five USB 2.0 interfaces. One of these is set up as a USB-eSATA combination so that better transfer rates are possible when connecting external drivers than otherwise possible via USB. If the functionality of the Vostro 3700 is not enough, one can upgrade to additional functions through an ExpressCard/34.
An independent docking port usually found on business machines is missing. In its place, USB docking solutions like the Kensington SD100 USB Port Replicator are offered at around 50 Euro in Germany. This enables one to plug the notebook into an existing working space and extend the interface possibilities. But the Kensington SD100 offers only five USB connections, an Ethernet connection and audio connections. Particularly for left-handers, it would have been practical to place the video interfaces on the docking station: Depending on space allocation, annoying cables can limit the working space left of the laptop a great deal.
This can be done either tethered via Realtek RTL8168D/8111D Family PCI-E GBE NIC (10/100/1000MBit) or wireless via Dell Wireless 1520 Wireless-N Half Mini Card (abn). There are currently no alternatives in terms of WLAN cards offered for the Vostro 3700.
A Dell Wireless 365 Bluetooth 2.1 card enables data transfer with small mobile devices like PDA or mobile phones.
Dell delivers the Vostro 3700 with a Windows operating system. In addition to Windows 7 Professional either in 32 or 64 bit variations, a Windows XP downgrade is also available. Because our tester is equipped with four GB of working memory and only Windows 7 Professional in the 32 Bit version is pre-installed, the user only has 2.94 GB in total real memory at his disposal. For more efficient use of the physically available RAMs, the choice of a 64 Bit operating system would be recommended. That is unless the existing peripheral devices could not support a 64 Bit driver.
Those who prefer to service and upgrade their machine themselves have an easy job with the Vostro 3700. After removing only two screws and lifting the cover, one gets access to the RAM modules, the harddrive and the WLAN module.
A recovery medium and driver as well as tools were included with our tester. If none are delivered or ordered with it, these can be easily created using Dell's Backup and Recovery Manager.
The guaranty for the Vostro 3700 in German-speaking areas covers one year ProSupport for the end-user and on-sight service by the next working day as standard. One can currently extend this to three years of ProSupport for a relatively reasonable 65 Euro.
What would a business machine be without well thought out security features? Surely no one would would expect special features like a SmartCard reader and co. on an entry-level machine. However, a fingerprint reader is included on board as standard. According to the "technical data" on Dell's homepage, an encrypted HDD with Wave software with 250 GB of gross capacity should also be an option for the Vostro 3700. But in the online configuration tool, one doesn't find any harddrive alternatives at this time. Like almost all laptops, one can also protect the Vostro 3700 from theft with a Kensington lock.
The sub-construction of the keyboard springs a bit when typing. The mechanical characteristics of the keys are marked by a relatively long stroke distance and a clear pressure point. Due to the standard layout, one quickly finds his rhythm in touch typing. The visual marking of the F and J keys could be somewhat more clear, however. Those who often have to type in numbers will be happy about the independent numeric keypad, also in a standard layout. Additionally, the splash-resistant keyboard offers LED backlighting with two brightness levels which are controlled with the FN modifier key.
Aside from the WLAN switch on the front edge, there is also a touch-sensitive bar for multimedia control above the keyboard.
Due to the numeric keypad, the touchpad is not placed centrally, but rather somewhat to the left so that it is not touched by one's palms when touch typing. The touch-sensitive surface is 94mm wide and 50mm tall and offers a pleasant, easy-gliding surface. The pointer can be precisely controlled even with the standard settings. In addition, the touchpad supports several multi-touch movements. But scrolling can also be done via the scroll area, and the right area is marked for vertical scrolling. The choice of "Dell Touchpad" on the mouse settings (system settings) offers comprehensive configuration possibilities so that the touchpad can be adjusted to meet the personal preferences of the user. The corresponding keys work extremely quietly and respond well over the whole area. Their stroke is rather long.
The display from Samsung built in on our tester is a SyncMaster 710M/710V/MagicSyncMaster and has a screen diagonal of 17.3". With a resolution of 1600X900 pixels (HD+), it offers a movie-friendly 16:9 format. In order to live up to the demands of a business machine, it of course has an anti-glare surface.
According to our measurements, the tester achieved its maximum brightness of 263 cd/m² in the left upper quadrant. The brightness falls to a minimum of 207 cd/m² whereby it puts out a calculated illumination of 79%. The average brightness is still 228.9 cd/m².
Due to the high black level of 1.33 cd/m² and the maximum brightness of white at 235 cd/m² measured in the central picture segment, it displays a somewhat above-average contrast ratio of 177:1.
Subjectively, black does in fact seem somewhat too light. When displaying monotone pictures, no shadowing or schlieren is recognizable to the naked eye. Texts are displayed in a sharp and easily legible way.
At least in the shade, working outside is no problem thanks to the good brightness and the matt display screen surface.
The viewing angles are typical of notebooks: Vertically, they are as usual narrow. Even small changes lead to a darkening or outshining. A further consequence is that you can also perceive color changes. The horizontal viewing angles on the other hand are much more generous. Viewing the screen at the same time presents no problem, so long all those involved are the same height.
The Vostro 3700 uses as its basis the HM57 chip set. With that, the Vostro 3700 can be, and is, offered with various Core i processors. In this case, a Core i7 720QM (-> Manufacturer information), in other words a quad-core processor, is put to work. Depending on the configuration and cooling capacity, the cores can be clocked from 1.6 Ghz up to 2.8 Ghz with turbo technology. Thanks to hyper-threading, up to 8 threads can be processed simultaneously.
With its integrated memory controller, the processor can work with up to a maximum of eight GB DDR3-1066/1333 main memory. The Vostro 3700 is offered with up to six GB RAM. But in our tester system, "only" four GB were built in. In combination with the pre-installed 32 Bit operating system, these, as already mentioned, will not be efficiently used.
Our Vostro 3700 test is equipped with a Nvidia GeForce GT 330M graphic card. The graphic card with the 40nm lithography supports DirectX 10.1. Additionally, it can unburden the CPU when decoding videos. Its video processor 4 (VP4) enables full decoding of H.264, VC-1, MPEG-2 and also MPEG-4 ASP (DivX or xVID).
Thanks to CUDA, DirectX Compute, OpenCL and PhysX Support, the stream processors can also be used for other applications (video coding, physic effects....) and are much faster than typical main processors due to the large number of shaders working parallel to one another.
The latency of our tester system continually exceed the critical level. This can lead to problems in terms of real-time processing of data streams. This could for instance be the case with external sound cards. The activity of the WLAN module had no influence on the latency in the test.
|PCMark Vantage Result||5772 points|
Let's first look at the application performance with the results of the PCMarkVantage. Our Vostro achieved here 5772 points on the total score and is about on the level of the Apple MacBook Pro 17 Zoll 2010-04 (Core i5 540M, GeForce GT 330M) or the HP EliteBook 8440p-WJ681AW (Core i5 520M, Graphics Media Accelerator HD). The graphic performance had only a minimal influence on the overall scrore.
In the CPU tests like the Super P1 32M (828 seconds) and wPrime 1024M (1469.6 seconds), there were no surprises when compared to laptops with the same CPU. Also compared to them, the Cinebench Rendering Tests showed unsurprisingly that the Vostro we tested was somewhere midpack.
But, when we carried out the tests again under battery power, the CPU performance sank to 3029 points in Single Rendering and 5968 points in Multi Rendering while the values of the Shading Test only varied a bit. It seems as though the clocking rates under battery power are limited for the sake of extending the life of the battery.
|3DMark 2001SE Standard||31345 points|
|3DMark 03 Standard||19030 points|
|3DMark 05 Standard||13184 points|
|3DMark 06 Standard||6545 points|
|3DMark Vantage P Result||2772 points|
Out test candidate is equipped with a ST9500420AS harddrive from Seagate. This works with a rapid rotational speed of 7200r/min and offers a gross capacity of 500 GB. The harddrive is protected from damage from jarring with a Free-Fall sensor and the Strike ZoneTM impact damping system as standard. The performance values of the harddrive gotten with HDTune were normal. For further mass storage, a HL-DT-ST DVDRAM GT30N, a DVD burner, is built in to our tester.
Usable gaming performance is to be expected with the built-in Geforce GT 330M . It is a mid-range graphic card which should be able to run modern 3D games fluidly, though with lower resolution and detail settings.
F.E.A.R. 2 (2009)
With an average of 32 fps, playing the horror-shooter fluidly on high settings (1280x1024 pixels, high, AA: 4x and AF: bilinear) is possible by a narrow margin. But in order to have reserves in the course of the game, one should be a bit frugal. With middle settings (1024x768, medium, AA: 2x AF: bileniar), the Vostro 3700 still achieves an average framrate of 56 fps.
The strategy game can still be played fluidly on low settings (1024x768, low, AA: 0 AF: 0) and an average framerate of 60 fps is achieved. That way, some reserves are available for higher demands. But one shouldn't go overboard with it. On very high settings (1280x1024, very high, AA: 0, AF: 4), the average framerate falls to 19 fps and thereby under the limit of playability.
Colin McRae: DIRT 2 (2009) runs with an average of 85 fps on lower settings and can also be played at 50 fps on middle settings (1024x768, med presents, AA: 0x). High setting lead, however, to repeated interruptions of the game.
In contrast, Risen is only playable with low settings (800x600, all off, low, AF: 0x) for which we got an average frame rate of 47 fps with Fraps. Even on middle settings (1024x768, all on, med, AF: 2x), the frame rate falls to 23 fps, at which point the game can no longer be played fluidly.
|F.E.A.R. 2 (2009)||153||56||32||fps|
|Anno 1404 (2009)||60||19||fps|
|Colin McRae: DIRT 2 (2009)||85||50||fps|
At idle, the Vostro 3700 always stays in the pleasant zone with a maximum of 34.6 dB(A). Accessing the harddrive makes itself notice a bit with a slightly louder clicking (35.2 dB(A)). Despite a fast 7200er harddrive, we couldn't detect any vibrations of the case. Under load, the sound level rises to 44.8 dB(A) and thanks to the subtle action of the fan is quite tolerable. It is only noticeable from a somewhat louder, low-frequency and constant whooshing.
32.5 / 34.6 / 34.6 dB(A)
||37.3 / dB(A)|
||41.7 / 44.8 dB(A)|
min: , med: , max: (15 cm distance)
A thin case, powerful components and a relatively quiet fan might make one worry about the machine heating up quite a bit under load. Indeed, after an hour-long stresstest in which the Furmark Stability Test and the prime95 In-place large FFTs test were run simultaneously, we tested a maximum temperature of 50.7 degrees Celsius on the underside. The left side, which houses the system components and fan vent, got noticeably warmer than the right. Also on the upper side, heat spread out from the left back. Here we measured a maximum temperature of 50.8 degrees Celsius. The keyboard area and the left palm rest were warmer to the touch.
If one runs the test for over an hour, however, the CPU cores only exceed the critical mark of 85 degrees Celsius after several hours. The graphic card also reached high temperatures of up to 89 degrees Celsius. If one looks at the clocking speed of the CPUs, a reduction in the clock rate of the individual cores can be seen as the temperatures rise.
It is different in operation with little load. In typical office applications or less-demanding Internet searches, the tester remained pleasantly cool both on the upper and lower sides.
(-) The maximum temperature on the upper side is 50.8 °C / 123 F, compared to the average of 39.9 °C / 104 F, ranging from 21.6 to 68.8 °C for the class Gaming.
(-) The bottom heats up to a maximum of 50.7 °C / 123 F, compared to the average of 42.7 °C / 109 F
(+) In idle usage, the average temperature for the upper side is 31.1 °C / 88 F, compared to the device average of 33.5 °C / 92 F.
(±) The palmrests and touchpad can get very hot to the touch with a maximum of 39.6 °C / 103.3 F.
(-) The average temperature of the palmrest area of similar devices was 28.9 °C / 84 F (-10.7 °C / -19.3 F).
Both of the integrated stereo loudspeakers (4 Ohm, 2W x 2) are found left and right above the keyboard. As is typical of machines without subwoofers, their sound is lacking in bass, but is otherwise relatively balanced and clear. Higher volumes lead to distortions of the higher tones. The test of the 3.5mm headset slot using a high-quality headset ran without any hiccups.
Equipped with a lithium-ion battery with 56 watt hours of capacity, the tester achieved a runtime of just about three hours unplugged in the best case scenario. We got this result with the Reader's Test of the Battery Eater Tool which simulates reading a text. For this test, the WLAN module was turned off and the brightness was reduced to its minimum level.
With usable brightness and an energy savings profile, one can still get almost two and a half hours with good brightness while searching the Internet via WLAN and on battery power. In contrast, the battery is empty after only one and a half hours of DVD-movie watching with a the highest performance setting.
Finally under full load, simulated with the Battery Eater Classic Test with WLAN on and with maximum brightness, one can only count on about one hour of battery operation.
The Vostro 3700 thus offers significantly shorter runtimes than its smaller brother, the Vostro 3500, with the same battery capacity, Core i5 430M CPU and a GeForce 310M graphic card. Comparable battery runtimes are offered for instance by the Dell Studio 1747 (720QM, ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4650, 56 Wh battery).
According to the technical specifications, there should also be an optional 9 cell battery if the runtimes are too short. But there is currently no such offering from Dell's online shop in the German-speaking areas. In the USA, the 9 cell battery with 90 Wh of capacity currently costs 99 USD.
The performance benefits from the fact that components employed in the Vostro 3700 are not exactly oriented toward energy savings. The Core i7 720QM quad-core processor has a TDP of 45 watts. Apart from the small display, the Core i5 430M CPU in the Vostro 3500 makes do with only 35 watts. It is therefore no wonder that the smaller brother comes out better both in terms of current consumption and battery life.
Considering the current consumption of 98.1 hours, the 90 watt power pack is dimensioned a bit too small. In all, the current consumption meets our expectations of a laptop in this configuration. The one and only part which is energy-saving and thereby environmentally-friendly is the display screen with its LED backlighting.
|Off / Standby||0.1 / 0.2 Watt|
|Idle|| 18.5 / 24.3 / 25.8 Watt|
72.4 / 98.1 Watt|
In the end, the Vostro 3700 impresses with more than just its elegant design. The case with its generous use of aluminum also impresses us in terms of its workmanship and good stability.
The laptop also scores points with very good application performance and good graphic performance which allows 3D-intensive computer games to be played fluidly on medium settings. Unfortunately, the machine gets quite warm.
If one wants to take the 17 incher outdoors, this is, at least in the shade, no problem thanks to its brightness. The impact-resistant hard drive and splash-guarded keyboard protect against data loss in the event of one or the other mishap.
Dell did a good job bundling an entry-level business package with extensive features at a reasonable price. Additionally, the Vostro 3700 can to a great extent be customized to personal performance needs of the user.