Vistro 200



Keywords: vistro 200
Description: The Dell Vostro 200 is the first Dell desktop specifically tailored for small business.

No extra included software (aside from Google Desktop and Toolbar). Less expensive alternative to OptiPlex desktops. Intelligent port cover(s). Dual-core performance. Good expansion space. Small-business-oriented features, such as 10GB DataSafe online backup. Small-business tech support line.

Dell's first small-business desktop is basically the business doppelganger of the Inspiron: similar case, specs, and configurations, but it is all business and comes with Vstore services that tailor it for the SMB space.

In early July, Dell launched its Vostro line of desktops and notebooks. The Vostro 200 ($899 direct, E-Value Code OC brde2ph) is a business desktop for the smallish (1 to 30 employees) independent office that can't or won't staff a full-time IT person. The Vostro 200 makes a good PC for your staff, and it can be customized so that the boss's PC can be upgraded inside while looking just like all the rest.

The small-business space is rapidly growing. In the old days, you had two choices. You could buy a consumer-rated PC and get all that goes with that (think: bloatware) or you could spring for a corporate-level PC and hope that you could figure it out, because it came with IT-level support rather than user-level support. Vostro PCs include "small business resources" such as an online community, published case studies so that you can learn from others' experiences, and forums (sort of like a Dell-oriented Inc. magazine Web site in terms of its concept and content.) These services go under the Small Business 360 and StudioDell brands.

Along with the above resources, Vostros come with access to small-business-oriented tech support personnel, trained in talking to nontechnical users. You get DellConnect, a remote-control utility that lets a tech troubleshoot your PC remotely from the tech support center. The package includes a one-year subscription to Dell DataSafe and a 10GB online repository so that you can safely back up your most important files "off-site" in an Internet-accessible, secure storage site. In addition, there's the Dell Network Assistant, which helps you attach your Vostro to a network through a wired or wireless router and the Dell Automated PC TuneUp, an automated system checker. You also get direct links to Dell's support center, both as Web links and a support phone number.

The most useful of these utilities is likely to be the 10GB online DataSafe backup. People never back up often enough, and DataSafe can automatically back up your documents to the Internet. Your business documents may well be the most important items on your computer. DellConnect is also very useful. Just call the Vostro support number, and the tech you speak to can remotely control your PC and fix it. The techs can handle anything from correcting a failed installation of a business program to changing the background picture of your kids to something professional-looking because you have a client coming over. Vostro PCs come without bloatware (so-called "trial" software and the like, most of which you can download on your own anyway if you want it), which is good, but without any antivirus or Internet security software, which is bad. The system I reviewed did come with Google Desktop and Toolbar, but those are easily removed if you don't like them.

My review unit came with Microsoft Windows Vista Business. If your business applications don't work with Vista, you can order Vostro PCs with Windows XP, Red Flag Linux, or FreeDOS. Most businesses will go with Win XP or Vista, but it's good to know that other choices are available, especially if your business uses Linux or has its own license for Windows. You can save a lot of money by not choosing a Windows OS, but just be sure you really want to choose FreeDOS or Linux, because tech support for them is likely to be light to nonexistent.

The Vostro 200 is available in two form factors. The one I reviewed is the mini tower. Also available is a slim tower desktop, which trades some expandability for a smaller case that fits better on crowded desks. Both use the same motherboard and drivers, so you can have a mix of slim and mini tower desktops in your office with minimal impact on standardization. The black metal-and-plastic case is highly expandable, with space for a PCIe x16 graphics card (an nVidia GeForce 8300 GS card came on the system I reviewed, though integrated graphics are standard), another PCIe x1 card, and two PCI cards. You'll need a screwdriver to get into the case, but that's okay, since Vostro systems aren't meant to be as user-upgradable as consumer PCs. That said, it should be easy to get into these PCs to swap components in and out, even if you ultimately have a Dell on-site tech do the work for you. Outside, the VGA port for the internal graphics port was covered, which makes sense, since my unit has a discrete card with its own VGA port. The cover prevents a nontechnical user setting up this PC from plugging the monitor into the internal graphics VGA port instead of the discrete one and thereby not being able to take advantage of the graphics card they paid good money for.

The system I tested was pretty powerful. It came with 2GB of RAM (important for RAM-hogging apps and Windows Vista Premium and Ultimate) and a dual-core E6320 processor, a boon for multitaskers. A dual-layer DVD burner complements the system's 160GB hard drive. You have plenty of space for large documents, and you can burn them to DVDs to give to clients. Last but not least, the system's nVidia GeForce 8300GS graphics card is a nice addition if you're into multimedia or if you work on anything 3D (games, Web interfaces, and architectural programs are included). The Vostro 200's SYSmark 2007 Preview scores were pretty good. It got a 104 overall score; the Lenovo ThinkCentre m55e's got a 93. Some of that is no doubt because of my Vostro's discrete graphics card, as the m55e's integrated graphics uses some of the system memory for graphics. Both systems have similarly clocked 1.86-GHz Core 2 Duo processors.






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