Dell Vostro 3700 Review

Published on by delllaptopparts

Small-business owners that sat out the Windows Vista era, take note: Dell has a powerful, affordable machine to replace your aging desktop—and it’s one you can carry with you (well, occasionally at least.) The Dell Vostro 3700 is the big-screen desktop replacement model in Dell’s new Vostro 3000 series lineup, featuring a 17.3-inch HD display, fast Intel Core i5 or i7 processors, and an available Nvidia GPU that can satisfy your gaming itch when work is done.

The Vostro 3700 is certainly aggressively priced. The base model, with an Intel Core i3 processor and integrated graphics, starts at $629, while a Core i7–powered unit starts at $1,304. Our configuration—with a Core i5 CPU and dedicated Nvidia GeForce GT 330M graphics processor—splits the difference at $1,172 when you add in the $99 nine-cell battery to supplement (not replace) the standard six-cell power pack.

Design, however, is another story, in which you get what you pay for. The silver-and-black model is inoffensive, if a bit generic. If you want to make more of a statement, spend an extra $40 and step up to the red or bronze aluminum chassis. As expected of a laptop with a desktop-size screen on board, the Vostro 3700 is large. Its footprint measures 16.2 by 10.7 inches and the machine is 1.3 inches thick. At 6 pounds with the six-cell battery and 6.5 pounds with the nine-cell, the Vostro 3700 is no lightweight, but the heft is more than reasonable given the size.

 

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The LED-backlit panel has a native resolution of 1,600x900. That puts it in HD territory; some might argue a full 1080p (1,920x1,080) resolution is more appropriate given the panel’s 17.3-inch size. But for business use, the slightly lower resolution delivers readable text and still plenty of pixels to have two application windows open side-by-side. The panel has an extremely wide viewing angle side-to-side, making the Vostro 3700 appropriate as a presentation device. However, there’s a fairly narrow sweet spot in the vertical plane for games and video. If the lid isn’t open to just the right angle relative to your eye position you’ll see an annoying brightness shift. Videophiles should also note that Dell opted for a subtle anti-glare coating to cut down on reflections in typical business lighting environments, but that does rob some of the “pop” from movies and games. We also noticed motion blur in action scenes.

Those are minor nits. Worse is the Vostro 3700’s sound system. Typically a large portable delivers fairly rich sound, given the copious room in the box for decent-size speakers and sometimes even a subwoofer. But the Vostro 3700’s speakers are straight from the bargain bin, with thin, tinny sound that’s especially disappointing for music playback. Better is the 2-megapixel Webcam, which delivered a good (if slightly reddish) image under typical light and a fairly usable image even in low light. We also like the easy-to-use Dell Webcam Central utility for capturing stills and video. The software gives you the option of sharing your desktop with the person you’re chatting with and lets you send a still or video clip to e-mail, YouTube, or Photobucket with a click.

Also on the plus side, Dell did not skimp when it came to the Dell Vostro 3700 keyboard. It's full size, of course, and the wide screen means there’s room for a dedicated number pad. The keys have good up-down travel and a comfortable feel overall. A pleasing white backlight is included on higher-end SKUs (ours included); but lower-priced units do not let you add the backlit keyboard as an option, which is unfortunate. Dell also includes a row of white-backlit touch-sensitive multimedia buttons above the Function-key row, a welcome touch missing from many business laptops.

 

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The Vostro 3700’s touch pad has a low-friction coating for responsive mousing and supports multi-finger gestures for zooming, scrolling, rotating, and so on. The pad is a generous 4x2 inches, but given the expansive keyboard deck, we wish Dell had opted for an oversize pad like on the big-screen Apple MacBook models. The machine delivers a fingerprint reader and four USB ports, a USB/eSATA combo, FireWire port, VGA and HDMI ports, and LAN connector (but no modem). You also get an ExpressCard/34 slot and an SD-MMC-Memory Stick card reader.

An 8X dual-layer DVD±RW drive is standard and is in fact the only optical drive choice; we were surprised to not see a Blu-ray option in Dell’s configurator. As for wireless connectivity, the Vostro 3700 comes standard with Bluetooth and 802.11b/g/n, but embedded wireless broadband is not an option on the 3700 (Dell does offer it on the more portable members of the Vostro 3000 clan). Of course, with wireless companies offering free (or very low cost) ExpressCard or USB WWAN modems when you sign up for service, perhaps that oversight is less of an issue for small business buyers. Our unit came with a generous 500GB 7,200-rpm hard drive, which should be more than enough for most buyers. The drive also has active hard drive protection to protect your data from bumps and drops. That said, with a machine with this much room inside, we would have liked to see a second hard drive option; for many buyers, their whole business life will live on this machine.

The Vostro 3700 delivers plenty of performance for most anyone’s needs. Powered by an Intel Core i5-520M processor (with a base speed of 2.4GHz and a max of 2.93GHz for peak loads), 4GB of fast 1066MHz DDR3 RAM (expandable to 6GB), and an Nvidia GeForce GT330M GPU (with its own 1GB of VRAM), this desktop replacement lived up to that billing. It scored 6,745 on the 32-bit version of Futuremark’s PCMark Vantage, which puts it ahead of workstation-class portables like the HP EliteBook 8440w (which scored 6,697) and the Lenovo ThinkPad W700 (4,966). In fact, the only desktop replacements to top the Vostro 3700 are the uber-pricey boutique rigs AVADirect Clevo M980NU and Malibal Satori. The Vostro’s score of 6,793 on CineBench 10, which taxes all available cores on the CPU, is about 700 points below the average for big rigs like this but still strong overall.

 

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For multimedia chores, the Vostro 3700 was also impressive, requiring a speedy 3 minutes and 38 seconds for our iTunes encoding test and 4:34 to complete our Windows Media Encoder 9 trial, both of which measure the CPU’s ability to encode media. These scores are average for a desktop replacement, but keep in mind that that average includes gaming and entertainment systems that costs four times as much. And multitasking is no sweat for these components: When running a Windows Defender scan in the background, the same Windows Media Encoder chore slowed to just 4:51, less than 20 seconds slower than just running WME by itself.

We weren’t expecting a business machine to impress us with its 3D prowess, but the discrete GPU in the Vostro 3700 helped power it to a score of 7,848 on 3DMark06 at 1,024x768 resolution. Granted, that’s lower than the 9,000+ scores we see from gaming rigs in this class, but it’s far more than most business machines can muster. And if you want to play games when work is done, the Vostro 3700 has you covered. It delivered a phenomenal 100 frames per second on Company of Heroes at 1,024x768, and a still-great 52fps at the panel’s top 1,600x900 resolution. As for battery life, the nine-cell power pack delivered 2 hours 32 minutes of DVD runtime, which is fine for this class but nothing special.

 

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Features and performance are only part of the Vostro equation, however. Dell backs the series with a dedicated support line staffed with ProSupport technicians trained to handle common small-business inquiries. You also get one year of next-business-day on-site warranty support if a problem can’t be solved over the phone or via Dell’s remote diagnostics software. In addition to the 32-bit Windows 7 Professional operating system (a $70 step up from the standard Windows 7 Home Premium), you get Roxio Creator DE 10.3 for burning audio and data CDs and DVDs, the CyberLink PowerDVD player, and Dell Backup & Recovery Manager, plus the option to sign up for the Dell DataSafe Online Backup service.

The Dell Vostro 3700 is a feature-rich portable that delivers more than enough performance without breaking the bank. It may have you putting your desktop PC out to pasture for good.

Published on Dell Laptop Review

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