We got our hands on one of the first Vostro desktops available, a Vostro 200 mini-tower and, just as Dell advertised, it's built with business in mind. This computer comes configured with an Intel Core 2 Duo E6320 processor, 2GB of 667MHz RAM, a 160GB hard drive, nVidia GeForce 8300 GS graphics, a multi-format DVD burner and a Dell E207WFP 20-inch LCD monitor.
Plug In, Get to Work
Dell said it designed Vostro to be up and running in half the time it typically takes to set up a PC and, as promised, setting up the Vostro 200 is a snap; Just follow the quick-start poster to connect the keyboard, mouse, monitor and power, and youre ready to go. The basic black chassis, with high-gloss side panels offset by matte-finish top and front panels, is attractively unobtrusive.
Dell allocated space for two optical drives placed high on the front of the unit, with a hidden panel concealing front-accessible ports just below. There youll find four USB ports plus headphone and microphone jacks; our test system came with FireWire and a handy 13-in-1 memory-card reader should you opt for that, you'll have to add $50 to the system price listed below.
On the back of the Vostro 200 youll find four more USB ports, an Ethernet jack and the video connectors. Our configuration included S-Video, VGA and DVI connectors on the graphics cards rear panel. One nice touch: Dell covers up the omnipresent VGA connector thats there for people who opt for integrated motherboard graphics as opposed to an add-in card, to avoid any confusion as to which connector is live.
On the downside, you wont find legacy serial and parallel ports or PS/2 keyboard and mouse jacks. If you have a favorite keyboard, mouse or printer that uses the old-style connector, youll need to buy a USB adapter.
|The Dell Vostro 200s all-black chassis is reasonably sleek, in an unobtrusive way.|
Do-it-yourselfers interested in future upgrades and repairs will appreciate the access to the interior of the lockable case. Simply remove two screws and slide off the side panel. The PCI slots are readily accessible, as is a spot for a second hard drive. If you need to add RAM youll have to move aside some cables, and adding or replacing an optical drive will be a bit of a knuckle-scraper due to the placement of the power-supply housing.
Plenty of Ooomph
In hands-on use, the Vostro 200 is a joy. The Windows Vista Business operating system booted in a quick one minute 15 seconds (the 2GB of RAM helps with that), and the nVidia GPU handles Vistas demanding Aero effects without hesitation, even with multiple windows open at once. The Intel CPU isnt the fastest processor available, but unless you are doing serious video editing you would never know it; typical productivity operations happen in a snap. Even better, since its a dual-core processor, when your anti-virus package kicks in to scan in the background, foreground tasks wont slow to a crawl.
The Vostro 200 is also whisper-quiet in operation. Theres just a low whir, which would be barely discernible in a typical office environment without placing your ear right next to the machine. But unlike the HP Compaq dx2300 business PC we recently tested, the Vostro 200 does not include a built-in speaker. That means to get anything more than system beeps, youll need to add external speakers or plug in a headset.
The icing on the cake in our test configuration is the Dell E207WFP 20-inch widescreen monitor. Its matte-black, thin-bezel design nicely complements the desktop. Our only complaint concerns the monitor stand, which we consider just adequate. The adjustability is rather limited -- you can tilt the panel fore and aft but you can't swivel, raise or lower it.
Want a Vostro 200 with this exact configuration? Enter this e-value code when you order through Dell.com: brde2ph
| 1.86GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E6320 processor|
| 2GB of 667MHz RAM|
| 160GB hard drive|
| nVidia GeForce 8300 GS graphics|
| Multi-format DVD burner|
| Dell E207WFP 20-inch LCD monitor|
Price with e-value code: $899
Using the Vostro 200s DVI connector, the monitor delivered a stunning picture. Photo images showed vibrant colors and excellent detail, and video playback was rich, with little motion blur.
The screens 1,680-by-1,050 resolution makes for sharp text and also lets you get the most out of the wide aspect ratio. You can easily have several windows open and visible at once (say, the Word document youre working in with your e-mail pane to the right in peripheral view), and it also gives you a spot for the handy widget mini-apps available for Vista from Microsoft and others.
The price for the bundle is a reasonable $1,178 ($938 if you dont opt for the monitor). See the side box for information on how to purchase the system configuration we tested.
We are impressed with both the Vostro 200 and Dells renewed commitment to the small-business buyer. Dell has managed to add the software and services this market needs, while keeping the value proposition buyers have come to expect.
Jamie Bsales is an award-winning technology writer and editor with nearly 14 years of experience covering the latest hardware, software and Internet products and services.
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