The Dell Vostro range is the equivalent of the Ford T, a workhorse that's reliable and available in all colours as long as it is black, targetting small businesses alongside the more upmarket Optiplex.
Dell divides the Vostro family into three separate strands; the mainstream versions (Vostro 230), the advanced ones (Vostro 430) and the All in One Vostros.
We got hold of the Vostro 230 Mini Tower as part of the refresh cycle at ITProPortal.com towers and to be honest, while it is not the sexiest beasts around, it does deliver the goods effectively.
The model we tested came with an Intel Core 2 Duo E7500 processor clocked at 2.93GHz with 3MB L2 cache paired with an Intel G41 Express Chipset with ICH7, two 1GB memory modules (DDR3 1333), a 320GB hard disk drive, 512MB Nvidia G310 video card, a 16x DVD writer, Microsoft Office 2007 Basic (which can be upgraded to Office 2010 Home and Business), Microsoft Windows 7 Professional, Dell Optical mouse and keyboard and 3-year ProSupport for End Users and Next Business Day On-Site Service, all for an acceptable £655.65 including VAT and delivery.
The default warranty is a one year Collect & Return one. The Vostro 230 also included the Cyberlink PowerDVD DX, Roxio Creator 10.0 DE and Trend Micro PC-Cilin Internet Security (15 months subscription); the addition of these applications means that Vostro loses one of its earlier USPs, the lack of bloatware.
Dell regularly issues vouchers that significantly decrease the recommended retail price of the computers and the company limits the number of computers a customer can purchase to five per order to weed out abuse.
The Vostro 230 Mini Tower differs from its smaller Vostro 230s Slim tower version by allowing full size cards rather than low profile ones and offers more expansion options altogether plus it does offer legacy PS/2 and serial connectors with six USB ports. The first thing you notice when you handle the Vostro 230 MT is how light it is.
The front of the computer is what you'd expect from a bog standard business oriented machine. No fancy media card reader, just two USB ports, two audio ports, two external 5.25-inch bays (one of which holds the DVD writer) and one 3.5-inch one, two stickers, Dell's logo and the power button with a black bezel.
The keyboard and optical mouse are decent although unfanciful; the latter though did feature three other buttons (one to alter sensitivity, one for front and back navigation) other than the scroll wheel and the two buttons while the former, dubbed the Quietkey, had a nice blue LED.
At the back are enough space for four expansion slots (one taken by the video card (which offers DVI, HDMI and Dsub connections), audio, LAN and four USB ports. Also as mentioned, there's three legacy ports and an unused D-Sub port powered by the onboard GMA X4500 video graphics module.
Opening the computer can easily be done by removing two screws which reveals acres of space occupied by a motherboard, a 200W Liteon power supply unit, the DVD writer and one hard disk drive with space for an additional one. Cable management could have been better and the 80mm fans not as noisy as one might have thought.
There's a third HSF on the low-profile video card, which occupies a PCI-e x16 slot, with another x1 one and two PCI slots free. Performance on the Dell Vostro 230 is solid and scored a decent 4.9 on Windows Experience Index benchmark out of a maximum of 9, the same as the Gateway DT70 we reviewed a few weeks ago.
As expected, the G310 video card is the "weak" link (other components' scores topped 6.9) as it is still based on the GT200-architecture with a GPU clocked at 589MHz and 16 stream processors running at 1,402MHz, in other words, little more than a rebadged Geforce 210.
Overall, the Dell Vostro 230 performed admirably and is fast enough for most tasks, which in our office is limited to word processing, some light number crunching, watching videos, surfing the interweb and spending time on IM.
In other words, the Dell Vostro 230 is vastly overkill for what you would consider to be a traditional day job. Nevertheless, more power than needed was never a bad thing especially as it doesn't come at an extra cost and doesn't add much to power consumption. You can learn more about the Vostro 230 range and purchase models from here.