Dell is known as the cut-price Windows brand, and within its business line-up sits the Vostro series of budget laptops. The Vostro 15 was updated early this year and can now be found with the latest 5th-generation Intel Core processors, an unusual feature in entry models. Here’s our Dell Vostro 15 3558 review.
BUILD AND DESIGN
The Vostro is another no-nonsense design, all black plastic with matt textured finish. It’s a large laptop by modern standards, with a large footprint spreading 378 x 259 mm, but 2.4kg and 25mm thickness means it’s not a complete brick either. Like many 15in models, Dell has found space to include a DVD±RW drive.
Pick up the Vostro and you can feel the whole chassis flex a little but otherwise it feels tough enough to survive the battering meted out to commodity Windows appliances.
The 40Wh battery is removable, and access for service and upgrades is very good. A third-width plastic bottom cover lifts to reveal hard disk, wireless card, CMOS battery and SO-DIMM slots. Our sample had 4GB memory in one slot, with another empty slot available.
It may run with the latest Intel chip but costs have clearly been cut elsewhere. The 500GB WD disk is a noisy example of the breed, there is no HDMI output, and quality of the matt low-resolution display is poor. It has notably restricted viewing angles and about the worst colour accuracy, contrast ratio and gamut on test. At least its anti-glare finish means reflections won’t superimpose over the lousy image.
Elsewhere ports are limited to three USB ports (including one USB 3.0), ethernet and SD card slot.
Keyboard and trackpad are not so bad, the regular Scrabble-style keyboard working well with a clean responsive action while the buttonless trackpad followed our fingertip directions with little extraneous jumps despite the buttonless design that hides left/right switches under the panel.
Various processor options are listed – our sample had a 2.2GHz Intel Core i5 that includes Turbo Boost and Hyper Threading Technology, yet still keeps the overall price below £500. And that’s with the dearer Windows 8.1 Pro OS too. (This is eligible for a free upgrade to Windows 10 Pro.)
Wi-Fi should be more versatile than most budget models, a recent 11ac single-stream adaptor from Intel.
Synthetic benchmark results for the Dell Vostro were the best in this group, peaking with 5177 multi-core points in Geekbench 3 (and 2624 single-core, comfortably besting the multi-core results of Celeron chips).
PCMark 8 Home unit returned an accelerated score of 2732 points, and business credentials were underlined by a decent 3734 points in the Business test from the same suite.
The scores look good but for some reason we also found this Dell took an extraordinarily long time to apply updates and restart every boot.
Usable graphics performance from the Intel HD Graphics 5500 meant some light gaming is feasible: we averaged 25fps in Batman at 1366 x 768 Low detail, rising to 29fps at 720p.
Despite the 14nm processor designed to cut power consumption, and a reasonable 40Wh battery, we saw less than 4 hours unplugged runtime in our wireless video test.
- Windows 8.1 Pro
- 15.6in (1366×768, 100dpi) TN matt anti-glare display
- 2.2GHz Intel Core i5-5200U
- Intel HD Graphics 5000
- 4GB 1600MHz DDR3 RAM
- 500GB 5400rpm SATA HDD
- gigabit ethernet
- 802.11b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi
- Bluetooth 4.0
- DVD+/-RW DL drive
- 1x USB 3.0
- 2x USB 2.0
- VGA D-Sub output
- Kensington lock slot
- SD card slot
- stereo speakers
- 0.9Mp webcam
- 3.5mm headset jack
- UK tiled keyboard with numberpad
- buttonless, multitouch (105x80mm) trackpad
- 40Wh lithium-polymer removable battery
- 45W wall charger
- Battery life: 5 hrs 17 mins
Battery life is disappointing and screen quality is poor. Application performance measures well but it often felt slow to respond in actual use. Corners have been cut but overall the Dell Vostro is a workable machine that leads with the latest Intel silicon.