posted by Thom Holwerda on Tue 8th Dec 2009 23:57 UTC
IconOn a number of occasions, Apple has stated that it cannot design a laptop at around 400-500 USD that isn't total crap. This seems like a reasonable point to make - but why, then, is Dell - of all companies - seemingly able to do so? Dell just launched the Dell Vostro V13 (official press release), and it looks pretty good.

The Dell Vostro V13 is an ultra-portable laptop (the imaginary category between grown-up laptops and netbooks), and is made completely out of metal. It more or les sports the same design as the chique Dell Adamo, but obviously some corners have been cut to bring the price down - to a mere 449 USD (with Ubuntu).

The Dell Adamo-like design won't please everyone, but I'm personally a big fan. It's something different, something new, something other companies don't offer. Apple's MacBooks are of course the set standard here, and while they are indeed very, very fine products, Apple's laptops have become a bit bland. Dell's Adamo design is more outspoken, and now that everyone and their dog has an Apple laptop, that counts for some people.

The entire casing is made out of various metals, but no unibody design. The palm rests are made out of a magnesium composite, the lid out of anodised aluminium, and the hinges and 'strip' (that thing at the back) is made out of a zinc composite. It's only 0.65" thick (1.65cm), and weighs in at 3.5 pounds (1.6kg).

It has a 13" 1366x768 display, with a sort-of matte finish (no glossy, thank god). It has a full-size keyboard and a large touchpad. You can pick from a range of ULV processors: a 1.2GHz Celeron, a 1.3GHz Core 2 Duo, or a 1.4GHz Core 2 Solo. It comes with an integrated X4500MHD graphics chip, and 2.0GB DDR3 1066MHz SDRAM (expandable up to 4GB).

The 449 USD model (1.2Ghz Celeron, 2GB) comes with Ubuntu pre-installed, while the 599 USD (1.4GHz Core 2 Solo, 2GB) and 649 USD (1.3GHz Core 2 Duo, 2GB) both come with Windows 7 Home Premium pre-installed. They are available worldwide, starting today.

It's not all rose petals and sunshine, however. The battery is non-removable, and only packs six cells, which shouldn't give you more than 3.5 hours of battery life (Dell claims 4h32m). It only has two USB ports (one doubles as an eSATA port), and doesn't come with HDMI or DisplayPort, but instead only packs a measly VGA port. Engadget had a go with the V13, and while they were impressed, they did find the keyboard "bendy and 'clacky' (the bad version of 'clicky')".

All in all though, the 449 USD model is a pretty serious machine, which blows most netbooks out there straight out of the water. It's probably also a lot sturdier than those plastic-fantastic netbooks. In any case, it proves that you can most certainly build a decent laptop for under 500 USD.

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