Dell Vostro 131 review

Ultrabooks may be hogging the limelight for now, but Dell’s new Vostro 131 is a solid business ultraportable that costs considerably less. Julian Prokaza assesses its suitability for life on the move.

The panel covering the memory slots might as well have been glued in place for all the forceful prying and twisting it took to free it. Quick access' it is not. Access to the Vostro 131's two DIMM slots and hard drive is via a plastic panel on the underside of the case that's held in place by a single captive screw.

Removing this panel is no easy feat though, and it might as well have been glued in place for all the forceful prying and twisting it took to free the clips that hold it in place. Quick access' it most decidedly is not.

The Vostro 131's lid is held firmly shut magnetically and sits on a stiff hinge that doesn't quite eliminate wobble. The slight forward position of the hinge does allow the screen to sit at a more useful 90-odd degree angle when the laptop is pushed flat against a seat back on a plane or train, though.

The screen is clear enough in use, but it isn't particularly bright and so not that easy to see in sunshine. This is unfortunate, since the matte finish otherwise makes it suited to outdoor use.

That metal panel is stiff enough to prevent pressure on the exterior from showing through on the screen, although it isn't quite stiff enough to stop the lid from flexing. Viewing angles aren't particularly wide either, and three people sitting side-by-side is about all the screen can cope with.

Keyboard quality is largely subjective, but we found the Vostro 131 comfortable to type on, even if the keys felt a little too small for our fingers and the gaps between them too large.

There was lots of flex across the whole width of the keyboard and parts of it visibly buckled when pressed lightly, but this didn't cause any particular problems in normal use. A backlit keyboard is a 30 (inc VAT) option that wasn't supplied on our review model.