Screen & Audio Quality / Included Software
Let’s start this section off with two words: matte screen. In our opinion, this is an integral part of any notebook that will be used by on-the-go individuals. It allows for the virtual elimination of headache inducing reflections but to some it will make the screen look a bit washed out when compared to panels that use ultra reflective coatings. Honestly though, when you’re sitting in a bright airport, on a park bench, in a conference room or at a window seat on a plane, you’ll be counting your blessings for the lack of glare.
While the overall build quality is quite good for a sub-$1000 notebook, we did notice some flexing around the V131’s plastic screen bezel and top lid. It didn’t warp to the extent seen on some models and there’s no danger of screen damage but this was one of the only noticeable slip ups.
The TN panel used on the V131 may not be able to produce the rich and vibrant colours of IPS technology and it should only be used for photo editing in a pinch. However, this is still one of the better panels we’ve seen on a budget friendly notebook in some time. Its contrast may be far from great and colour reproduction tended to shift towards the blue end of the spectrum but it doesn’t tend to wash out lighter colours like the 14Z did and blacks remained relatively true to form. Don't worry about output either since the panel’s backlight can be increased to retina burning levels, which certainly comes in handy when the V131 is used in brighter environments.
Unfortunately the viewing angles we see here are typical for TN panels. In short, they are horrible and you’ll need to be looking at the screen straight on in order to get an optimal viewing experience. A few degrees off from center in any direction will result in washed out colours and diminishing contrast.
In our recent reviews, we have only come across one notebook that really stood out from the pack for its auditory abilities: the Alienware M14x with its Klipsch designed speaker system and audio software. The Vostro V131 doesn’t come anywhere close to the M14x but it does boast some surprising attributes in this area.
Instead of the tinny, hollow and relatively quiet sound we’ve become used to from small, thin and light notebook designs, this Vostro has the ability to really pump out sound even though it lacked significant distinction between the extreme high and low ends of the spectrum. Even with the speakers blasting, there was nary a hint of distortion which is a huge accomplishment for a product in this price category.
One of the main reasons most of us gravitate towards professional oriented notebooks is their near lack of unnecessary pre installed software. If you recall, our Dell 14Z sample came with a litany of pointless fluff that not only dragged down its performance but also ate up a good portion of hard drive space and made a significant footprint upon the system memory allocation. The V131 on the other hand still has a few pre installed bits and pieces but the Trend Micro Titanium Business Edition antivirus software is a full version with 15 months of protection (an upgrade to 36 months is available for $40 through Dell) and features some decent protection. An easily removable version of Skype is also included but there are no oddball apps and the Apple wannabe custom launch bar from other notebook families is completely MIA. Dell’s DataSafe Local Backup is included as well.
This limited amount of software results in a compact Windows memory footprint of just 1.18GB which should give plenty of overhead for application running without sacrificing multitasking performance. All in all, we’d call this a relatively clean installation on Dell’s part.
Dell’s backup utility may be a royal pain in the ass when it comes to initial popup notifications but once it has your data synced, it happily runs in the background without bothering you all that much and can really come in handy if you’ve lost information.
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