Review Dell Vostro A860
Already some time ago Dell introduced two series of entry-level notebooks intended for the emerging markets. Initially, we thought that the Vostro A860 won’t be available in developed countries, but the Texas-based vendor surprised us. We were promised a test sample just after it had been announced, but there was an unexpected delay. Finally we got hold of a test sample, which we'll describe in detail this test report.
With the Vostro A860 Dell tries to penetrate the low-end notebook market once again. However, this marketing concept was already developed before the launch of the two Inspiron Minis. During the test one of our testers even wondered, whether the design of this notebook won't backfire, because it could tarnish Dell's reputation. At least this is an absolute low-end notebook.
Although the Vostro A860 does not look dull in any way, the materials used are in accordance with the price below 500.- euro. This is especially true for the synthetic material used for the palm rest areas, which does not feel nice to the touch. Furthermore, we felt nearly uncomfortable with a keyboard sagging that much.
The cheap plastic is a big contrast to the glossy lid, the frame around the screen, and the cover above the keyboard. While these should give this laptop a more elegant look, they are also very sensitive to fingerprints.
The hinges work properly, nevertheless they can not completely prevent a seesaw after adjusting the opening angle. The lid cannot be opened by more than about 160 degrees, but this does not really limit the usability.
The latch works moderately. In the closed notebook there is still a considerable gap between the top case and the lid. However, this problem is quite common among notebooks of this price category.
The plastics of the bottom side is resistant, but not really nice to the touch. If you lift this laptop and carry it around you'll realize that the DVD drive on the right is not mounted tightly.
One of the disadvantages of the Vostro A860 is that it has only two USB ports which are both on the left side close to the front. This makes working with an external mouse difficult for right-handers.
The keyboard nearly discourages the user from using this laptop intensively. It does not compare to the qualities of other Dell notebooks, not even to their mainstream notebooks. Although one would like to praise the Dell's keyboard layout and the rather large keys, these unfortunately only look good. Once you start using the keyboard, you'll notice that it seriously flexes and that the tapping of the keys is rather loud and unpleasant. Furthermore, the sharp edges of the key heads, make typing feel rather uncomfortable.
The touchpad looks coarse and somewhat inept, as if it lies in a little gentle incline. Measuring 69x37mm is is a little long. Therefore moving the cursor is a bit difficult, because of too little space for comfortably moving it in vertical direction. Furthermore, the default settings are inappropriate – the pointer moves slowly and with very little precision. On the contrary the mouse buttons are quite good, especially if you consider the price of the notebook. Their travel is not too long and they are not too loud.
The WXGA screen with a resolution of 1366x768 pixels is the most interesting item of the Vostro A860 - not only because of the (still) untypical aspect ratio of 16:9, but also because of its matte surface.
To make a long story short – this screen made by AU Optronics is the biggest advantage of this Dell notebook. One could value this as a clear commitment of Dell to quality panels, if even the cheapest models are equipped with such.
If you are used to a 16:10 aspect ratio you might find the 16:9 one a little strange at first, because the vertical axes contains less pixels than usual. Nevertheless, web pages and movies look rather good on this screen and meet our expectations.
First and foremost one has to note the high brightness of this screen. In fact the Vostro 860 trounces any competition in its category, even if you consider all low-priced laptops and not only those with matte screen. An average brightness of 200cd/m² is impressive and the illumination of 78.8% is also rather good.
In regards of colour representation the A860 could also convince. The colours are saturated, bright, and rich in contrast. So, this cheap Dell laptop is better than the more professional HP Compaq 6730b in this aspect.
Considering the price the viewing angles are fairly good too.
The Vostro A860 is equipped with an Intel Pentium Dual-Core CPU, which is often used in budget notebooks. The Pentium DC T2390 has a clock rate of 1.86GHz, 1MB L2 Cache, and a 533MHz frontside bus. This is not one of the fastest processors, because Intel's contemporary mobile CPUs have a frontside bus twice as quick (1066MHz), and the latest Pentium DC (T4200) has even a 800MHz one. Nevertheless the performance is sufficient for usual office tasks and browsing the Internet.
An Intel GMA X3100, an integrated solution without dedicated graphics memory, is responsible for graphics processing. So, this notebook is clearly outperformed by newer notebooks which are equipped with superior integrated graphics processors made by Nvidia or ATI (e.g., GeForce 8200M, Radeon HD 3200). While the later are sufficient for occasional gaming, the X3100 only suffices older, non-demanding games.
|3DMark 2001SE Standard||2836 points|
|3DMark 03 Standard||1482 points|
|3DMark 05 Standard||824 points|
|3DMark 06 1280x768 Score||506 points|
|PCMark 05 Standard||3596 points|
|Shading 32Bit||734 Points|
|Rendering Multiple CPUs 32Bit||3331 Points|
|Rendering Single 32Bit||1771 Points|
|Quake 3 Arena - Timedemo|
|1024x768||highest, 0xAA, 0xAF||67.1 fps|
Unfortunately, the Vostro A860 is somewhat noisy, and in our opinion this is one of its major disadvantage. Even during regular use the noise of the cooling system is very annoying. With profile "Balanced" selected, the situation got really bad when the battery was recharged, while having five Internet browsers open at the same time. In such circumstances the fan permanently blows warm air from the inside of the case to its outside.
Even if the CPU is not stressed, the fan is sometimes audible. Typically, the fan is rather loud at the beginning, but thereafter the noise level falls step by step. The same is true under load. The fan occasionally speeds up and slows down just after that. This behaviour is especially bothersome, because you might even in times of low load and relative silence face a suddenly audible fan.
In contrast the hard drive is really quiet. But, the optical drive is noisy while spinning the disc.
Although the Vostro A860 is not equipped with very powerful hardware and its cooling system works intensely during load, its chassis can heat up quite a bit. Precisely speaking, this occurs on a limited area, in the left front part. In moderate ambient temperature we measured almost 45°C on the bottom part of it, while on the top the temperature reached 36°C after a long period of time.
If standard applications are run and you work with your laptop on your lap, you might feel uncomfortable within minutes. If the computer was used in a hot environment without air-conditioning, it can get seriously inconvenient.
The speakers are not impressive. With high tones the distortions are overwhelming, so that one might get a headache. The basses, on the other hand, sound like stamping, so one might worry, whether the speakers will collapse in a spectacular fashion.
Although Dell chose a modest battery (48 Wh) for this budget laptop, the battery life of the Vostro A860 does not disappoint compared to similar notebooks. 2.5 hours on one charge with the WLAN module turned on and transmitting data is a satisfactory time span. Nevertheless, it has to be mentioned that some of the cheaper HP notebooks have a longer battery life.
The Vostro A860, a direct import from China, looks better than most budget laptops from other manufacturers. The styling reminds on the luxurious Asus W2 series, however, only from the distance. If you look closer, you'll realize that the used materials are of the same quality than of other notebooks of the same price category.
The connectivity is not impressive. Only two USB ports and inconveniently located – one adjacent to the other in the front part of the left side.
The input devices are also not really good. The keyboard flexes clearly, so that the tapping is rather loud. The sharp edges should give the keys a nice look, however, they are not nice to the touch.
Another of numerous weaknesses is that the cooling system is rather loud. Furthermore, we did not like its noise characteristics.
The important advantage of Vostro A860 is its matte screen. If you are looking for a budget laptop with a good non-reflecting screen, you have found one. Considering the price tag of this Dell laptop, the quality of the screen is simply outstanding. The only disadvantage is the 16:9 aspect ratio and the unusual resolution of 1366x768 pixels.