The Dell Vostro V130 is the latest model in the company's Vostro lineup, joining such earlier entrants as the Vostro 3300 and the Vostro V13. With its snazzy anodised aluminum case, thin profile (a hair over 0.75 inch at its thickest) and widescreen 13.3-inch LED-backlit display, the Vostro V130 covers pretty much all the style bases for a contemporary ultraportable. And a respectable audio system makes it a good choice for multimedia presentations on the road.

But inside that handsome exterior beats... nothing special, performance-wise. The V130 scored a humble 77 on WorldBench 6, and ran for a disappointing 3 hours, 37 minutes in our battery life tests, putting it well toward the bottom of the pack, even among ultraportable laptops.

True, the better performers generally cost more, but the Vostro V130 that I tested isn't supercheap, by any means: Configured with Windows 7 Pro (64-bit), Intel's ultra-low-voltage Core i3 U380 CPU (which probably accounts for the mediocre WorldBench 6 score), 4GB of RAM and a 128GB solid-state drive. That's more than double the base price listed on Dell's website, but Dell achieved that low number by setting Linux as the default operating system.

Still, if you're not a heavy duty number cruncher or video editor, and if you do most of your work with your laptop plugged in, you'll find that the Vostro V130 has some significant virtues. The red metal case looks sharp and gives the notebook a nice solid feel.

Dell has touted new cooling technology in the Vostro V130, but in my tests the bottom of the case got warm after 15 minutes of use. The laptop is pretty quiet: I heard no loud fans.

The matte finish full-size keyboard and touchpad are a pleasure to work on, though I would have appreciated some backlighting (beyond the lights for icons above and below the keys) for low light situations. The 1366 by 768 screen looks a tad dark unless you turn the brightness all the way up, but it boasts a wide range of satisfactory viewing angles.

The Vostro V130 also brings some multimedia goodies to the table, including Dell's webcam software and a surprisingly robust audio system (with an integrated digital microphone). I actually had to turn down the volume on some YouTube music videos and Rhapsody tunes, all of which sounded fine through a headset plugged into audio ports on the notebook's front edge.

The webcam software lets you adjust the resolution of the 2-megapixel camera's video capture to settings that range from 320 by 480 to 1600 by 1200. You can use the webcam for video chat, to capture videos for uploads or email, or to snap still photos. The video quality ranges from okay to quite good.

The V130's connectivity features are adequate though not outstanding. You get two USB ports, a combo USB/E-SATA port, VGA and HDMI display outputs and gigabit ethernet.

Dell doesn't supply an ExpressCard slot or optical drive, but it does provide a five-in-one SD/MMC slot that should enable you to download content from most digital cameras. Wireless connectivity consists of the built-in 802.11n Wi-Fi (limited to the 2.4GHz band in my test unit) and Bluetooth. Dell offers dual-band Wi-Fi and mobile broadband as extra cost options.

Aside from the aforementioned Dell Webcam software, the Vostro V130 doesn't carry a lot of preloaded programs. You get the Starter Edition of Office 2010 (stripped-down versions of Word and Excel) and a Bluetooth utility. At least you don't get any junkware, either.

OUR VERDICT

Overall, the Vostro V130 seems designed for travellers who don't expect to use their laptop on the road so much as at their destination. It should handle mainstream business tasks, particularly presentations, fine but if performance or battery life matter a lot to you, you might want to look beyond this pretty face, or case.