It's got a burgundy-coloured lid and a black base, but don't let its looks fool you — the Dell Vostro 1320 isn't a notebook for hipsters to parade at coffee shops (that's what Eee PCs are for). It's a 13.3in laptop that's designed for small business users who want something that avoids the tedious black-on-black that adorns most meeting rooms and cubicles. It's solidly built, it's relatively fast and it's a good size for taking with you when you're travelling.
The Dell Vostro 1320 weighs 2.15kg, but this includes a built-in optical drive and a 4-cell battery, as well as a modest assortment of ports and slots. You get four USB 2.0 ports, FireWire, Gigabit Ethernet, D-Sub, an ExpressCard/54 slot and an SD memory card reader. It doesn't have anything as modern as eSATA or HDMI; these are the types of ports that would make the Vostro 1320, with its powerful 2.53GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P8700 CPU, come into its own as an all-round entertainment and productivity machine. As it stands, it's a great notebook for business users.
Even with only 1GB of DDR2 SDRAM our test model scored 90 in the WorldBench 6 suite of application tests, which represents good speed for office programs, multitasking and even 3D rendering and photo manipulation. It would have performed even better if it had more RAM (perhaps reaching the same level as the Dell Vostro 1520, which scored 96 with a slightly slower CPU). In the Blender 3D and iTunes MP3 encoding tests, it recorded times of 1min 11sec and 1min 06sec, respectively, which is around what we expected of the P8700 CPU.
The Vostro 1320's hard drive (a Seagate Momentus ST9250421ASG) was also very fast. It recorded an average file transfer speed of 28 megabytes per second in our tests. This is approximately 5MBps faster than the hard drive of the Vostro 1520. This means the Vostro 1320 will serve you well when conducting disk-intensive tasks such as compressing data.
An NVIDIA GeForce 9300M GS graphics adapter is present, which has its own memory and gives the Vostro 1320 relatively good graphics performance for a business laptop. It scored 2379 in 3DMark06, meaning it can play games with low-detail settings if you ever get sick of being so productive.
While its performance was impressive despite the very low amount of RAM, the Vostro 1320's build quality is another reason to consider buying this unit. It feels very solidly built — from its base to its lid. You can pick it up from either corner without the chassis bending noticeably or making any disturbing noises. And unlike the chassis around the optical drive in the Dell Vostro 1220, it didn't unnecessarily contact the optical drive's tray and make clicking noises. Furthermore, the lid protects the screen well. There isn't excessive puddling when you move it from the edges; its hinges are strong and hold the screen perfectly in place at the angle you desire. The screen is latch-less, but it can't be lifted open with one hand — that's how strong the hinges are.
The Vostro 1320's 4-cell battery lasted 2hr 20min in our video rundown test, which we conduct with maximum screen brightness and the wireless radio enabled. This result is poor when compared to the 2hr 45min that was returned by the bigger Vostro 1520. We expected the Vostro 1320 to last close to three hours.
Using the Dell Vostro 1320 for a prolonged period will give you a warm lap, but it's not uncomfortable (especially during winter). In summer, you may want to plonk the unit on a notebook cooler or desk instead. Typing on the Vostro 1320 is comfortable after you adjust to the keyboard, although it does tend to bounce a little and its keys need a little less resistance. The primary keys are 18mm wide, which is not exactly full-sized, and the function and arrow keys are half this size. One thing we love about using this laptop is its touchpad, which is responsive and has soft buttons that don't make a noise when you press them.
Our review unit retails for $1968. This includes an Intel WiFi Link 5300 wireless networking adapter, a Dell Wireless 355 Bluetooth 2.0 Mini Card module, the burgundy lid, 4-cell battery, and Windows Vista Ultimate Edition (and the rights to upgrade to Windows 7). It's not a bad price considering the build quality of the laptop, and with cash-back offers and online discounts (as well as free RAM upgrades) it is even better value.
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