The Dell Vostro 3450 laptop was released earlier this year in May, when Dell unveiled it's Vostro 3000 series. Other models in this series come in the 13, 15, and 17-inch screen dimensions and a variable configuration of Intel's second generation Core i Series processors and other such hardware. Packing good technical specifications, let's test whether this Vostro unit stands up to the test as a viable laptop that is intended for "Professionals".
The Dell Vostro 3450 unit comes in an attractive design - the unit we received came in an "Aberdeen Silver" (Lucerne Red and Brisbane Bronze are the other two colour options available for laptops in the Vostro series)colouring that together with the darkish plastic tone of the rest of the laptop provides for a pleasant contrast. The aluminium finish covers the backlid - which has a centred Dell logo - and the sides and overlaps onto the chassis to form a sliver of a lining on the edge of the insides of the laptop. The chassis is all black and the two-colour contrast scheme is seen again with both the keyboard and touchpad bordered by chrome trims. At the same time the dual colour choice does not have a flamboyant or in your face kind of appeal and suits the laptop's use at a professional setting. While another business-oriented laptop we reviewed, the Lenovo ThinkPad Edge 420s, pretty much set the ceiling for what should be considered a solid build, this laptop does provide a good account of itself on the build front. While it has an overall very good build quality, it has to be pointed out that, while this is not a major point of concern, the backlid tends to depress a bit too easily when pressed. I think Dell's choice of going for a flat - as opposed to the tapering front edges you see in most mainstream laptop models - front edge is another appealing design choice and makes the Vostro 3450 stand out on the aesthetic side of things. Dell seems to be on a mission to pack this laptop with as many features as possible - while most of the laptop has a matte finish, except the keyboard area that has a glossy background surface.
You can be sure that fingerprints and smudges won't be an issue you have to deal, especially when considering the Vostro laptops section's which have the aluminium finish. This is not a downside, but just my observation that the parts of the laptop with the plastic finish do attract their fair share of oily impressions; at the end of the day, it's nothing that a little cleaning won't take care of.
The backlit power button is located at the top left corner of the chassis, with three quick launch buttons located at the top right end - the buttons are for activating Windows Mobility Centre - which provides easy access to a wide variety of functions like screen brightness, Bluetooth and Wireless connectivity options and so on and so fort, Dell Support Centre and Dell Instant Launch Manager - along the same horizontal axis. The touchpad and mouse buttons are positioned slightly towards the left, with the fingerprint reader located towards its right, along the same horizontal line. There is a small indicator above the touchpad that lights up when the touchpad has been deactivated - by pressing the Fn and F3 keys: a very handy utility. The laptop's speakers, organized as two outlets, are located at the base of the front of the laptop in two slits that you just might miss out if you don’t look closely enough. The heat exhaust is located towards the left of the chassis. There is a Full HD web cam located at the top middle section of the screen bezel.
The Vostro 3450 laptop weighs around 2.4 kg and comes with a removable 6-cell Lithium Ion battery, unlike the Lenovo ThinkPad Edge 420s. You can also get an optional 9 cell battery when buying this unit.
The screen is kept in its place by two metal - Zinc alloy - hinges that are located along the front side front of the rear elevation. The 14-inch matte screen has a maximum resolution of 1366x768 and provides for decent viewing angles - the top and bottom vertical viewing angles, and to a lesser extent the horizontal viewing angles, produce a colour distortion on the screen picture. Additionally, you won't have to worry about the screen being annoyingly reflective given its matte nature. Due to the rear elevation, the screen can only be tilted back to almost 120-130 degrees. The Dell laptop's screen is sufficiently bright and viewing text, video and images can be a pleasant experience when seen from a centred position relative to the screen.
The touchpad has a smooth surface and is very responsive. The mouse buttons are firm and also provide a good response. The touchpad does provide for multi-touch functionality with two-finger scrolling and zooming.
The keyboard features well-spaced chiclet keys - a total of 86 keys. The edge-rounded keys provided a good tactile response and, subjectively speaking, despite having a comparatively softer feel to the keys, I I quite enjoyed typing on this laptop. The following observation is just my personal opinion and not a downside per se: the keys did seem a tad bit smaller than the ones found on most other mainstream laptops and some folks might find the small size of the keys an annoyance when typing. The keyboard also features keys representing the currencies of Indian Rupee and the Euro - The Rupee and Euro curreny symbols can be accessed by pressing Alt+Ctrl and then pressing '4' and '5' keys to access those respective keys. While our review unit didn’t have a backlit keyboard, this feature is available as an optional choice when buying the Vostro 3450.
The Dell Vostro 3450 features a Intel second generation 2.70 Ghz Intel Core i7-2620M (Sandy Bridge) processor, 4GB DDR3 RAM, Intel HD graphics and (switchable graphics) AMD Radeon 6630M graphics card with 1GB RAM, a 500GB (7200 RPM) hard drive. As I had mentioned in my earlier reviews which feature the Radeon/Intel switchable graphics, the process for selecting the graphics option of your choice is rather cumbersome.
The Vostro 3450 has both a good number and variety of connectors - a handy feature. At the back of the chassis, there is a power connector slot, a USB 3.0 port and a Gigabit Ethernet port. At the left side of the chassis you will find a VGA port, exhaust vent, HDMI, a USB/eSATA combo port, a regular USB 2.0 port, power plug slot, and a multi card reader positioned below the Express card slot. On the right side of the chassis you will find a USB 3.0 port, headphone and microphone jacks, and an optical drive. In terms of connectivity, the laptop features both Wireless N and Bluetooth 3.0.
More details can be seen on this review's "Specifications" page.
The Vostro 3450 comes pre installed with Windows 7 Professional (Service Pack 1). Among the Dell proprietary software included in the bundle are a variety of programs: The DigitalPersona Fingerprint Software - which utilizes your fingerprint for authenticating your windows login as well as for any App or even Web link; Intel WiDi that allows you to connect to HDTV's without having to use cables - that goes without saying that you would require an adapter with Intel WiDi to connect to a HDTV.; Dell Backup and Recovery Manager for taking care of system backup; Dell Support Centre which has tools such as PC Checkup for finding system diagnostics, and downloading the latest drivers; Dell Webcam Central which lets you do a whole lot of fun stuff like adding effects with inbuilt dell web cam.
Also included in the pre-installed software list is the Microsoft Office Starter 2010 edition, Roxio Creator Starter edition, Trend Micro Client-Server Security Agent - with a limited period subscription, Intel Turbo Boost Tech Monitor, and Skype.
The Vostro 3450 comes with a number of software DVD's including an OS (Windows 7 Professional SP1 32- bit), and a number of other DVD's that carry the executables/drivers for most of the software that is already pre-installed on the laptop.
Given the specs of this unit, I had rather high expectations from this Vostro unit - and our tests confirmed that the Dell laptop delivers on the performance that its specs promise. The Dell Vostro 3450 notched a very good score of 130 on the Worldbench 6 benchmark - on the same benchmark the Lenovo ThinkPad Edge 420s scored 114. When using the Vostro, you should have no problem whatsoever in getting through most processor and memory intensive tasks let alone daily activities such as browsing the internet, listening to music, watching movies and carrying out productivity tasks. During synthetic testing, the laptop's hard disk recorded an average read speed of 86 MB/s and recorded a PC Mark Vantage score of 8042.
As far as gaming goes, here are the scores for Far Cry 2 and Metro 2033 (run at maxed out settings and at 1024x768 resolution): 33.21 FPS and 10.67 FPS respectively. These scores should come as a relief for those professionals who not only want their unit to get them through their usual office work load, but also allow them to let off some steam by playing some games. It has to be noted that for a smoother sailing on the gaming front, playing games at lower to medium settings and resolution would be ideal.
You will have no problems watching both 720p and 1080p HD videos. The inbuilt speakers' audio output is apt for a small-medium sized room. The audio is very clear and while it has better overall sound than most other mainstream laptops, it could still do with some more bass. The audio is clear enough, and while the audio quality is better than most other built in speakers found in mainstream laptops, the bass is rather lacking. As is with most mainstream laptops listening through the headphone would be the best option.
While the laptop was generally inaudible, as it is with most mainstream laptops, you can, at times of heavy load, hear the fan kicking into operation. You will notice that the central base part of the laptop heats up to some extent - for comparison purposes that heat would be slightly more than what was felt with the other units we have reviewed - and it would be advisable to place the laptop on a table rather than on your lap if you plan to use it for a prolonged period of time.
The laptop's battery lasted for a total of 70 minutes on one of our battery tests, with the battery at high performance, at full brightness and wireless connectivity enabled - given the laptop's specifications this result is not too surprising. On a conservative power plan you should be able to extract around three plus hours out of the Vostro 3450 laptop for daily regular activity like browsing the web, listening to music and watching videos. Considering how long the battery lasts, it would be advisable to use the laptop near a power outlet so that you can easily recharge the laptop whenever necessary.
Opening the slot for accessing some of the internal hardware of the Vostro is a pretty straightforward process. At the base of the laptop, at its centre, there is a slot that can be opened up for viewing some of the internal components of the laptop - namely the memory modules and the Hard Disk. There is a memory module slot, out of a total of two slots, which is free and can be used for upgrading the system to have a total of 8GB RAM. The hard disk, while clearly visible is not that easily removable - you will have to remove the entire black cover to get to access the hard disk - this might not be too advisable for regular users.
The Dell Vostro 3450 laptop has a very good build quality, and gives a very good account of itself in the performance spectrum while at the same time not compromising on the style quotient. The Design philosophy of Dell with this model seems to have been to try and add as many feature as possible onto the his laptop - matte surfaces along with a singular glossy keyboard surface, chrome tints, dual tone colouring and so on and so forth. The hardware specifications also seem to follow the same "pack em all in" philosophy - all sorts of connectivity options, good placement of ports, etc.
With this configuration, the Vostro will more than take care of most of your requirements, whether it is heavy office work or even playing a contemporary game. It does have it's drawbacks: I think it could have done with a better screen, say a Full HD display. Having said that this laptop's design and performance make it more than deserving of being regarded as one of the top contenders to buy when you're out looking for a laptop to meet your professional needs.