This laptop’s all yours, says Dell

Cheap and easy are the two words that best describe a new line of notebooks and desktops rolled out Tuesday by Dell Inc.

The family of laptop computers under the Vostro brand sells for as low as $549, retail prices for desktop models start at $329.

The machines come with a suite of software products designed to automate system set-up, trouble shooting, network connections, tune-up and other procedures, according to the Round Rock, Texas-based computer maker.

“Small business owners told us they wanted machines that wouldn’t require extensive fiddling or expensive IT administrators. And we listened,” said Michael Dell, chairman and CEO of Dell.

A recent 12-country survey conducted by his company and the International Council for Small Business indicated that small firms rely on technology to provide better service but 75 per cent are constrained by limited budgets, said Dell during a global Webcast of the launch.

He said the Vostro (Latin for “yours”) line comes devoid of free loaded trialware that slow down computers and also enable users to pick low-cost feature combinations suited for their business. “It’s your machine, your business and you get to choose how you want it to run.”

Dell’s notebook offerings start with the Vostro 1000. Priced at $549, its features include: Dual core AMD processors; up to 2GB of memory; up to 120GB hard drive space; 3-1 media card readers; 15.4″ display; and a choice of Windows Vista or Windows XP operating system

The higher-end Vostro 1400, 1500 and 1700 sell from $549 to $799 and include such features such as: Wireless a/g/n WiFi; optional mobile broadband from Telus; optional Bluetooth; optional Intel Core 2 Duo processors; up to 4GB system memory; magnesium-alloy chassis; sealed keyboards; 8-1 media card readers; optional integrated Web cam for video conferencing; 14.1 to 17″ anti-glare display; 128MB or 256MB NVIDIA GeForce graphics card; and a choice of Windows XP or Vista OS.

The Vostro Desktop 200 is available in mini and slim tower configurations and start at $329. It comes with an optional Intel Core 2 Duo processor; up to 4GB of 677 MHz in memory; up to 1TB of internal storage, dual monitor capability; up to 256MB PCI e x16 graphics expansion card; and Windows XP or Vista OS.

All models come with one-year free hardware service support and service tools that include: Dell Network Assistant; Dell Automated PC Tune-Up; and Dell DataSafe online back-up.

Network Assistant, is an automated tool that enables easy connection to simple wired or wireless networks in as little as six mouse clicks compared to 14 clicks required by other services. The product simplifies sharing of files, printers and other peripherals and automates set-up and troubleshooting of network connections.

Automated PC Tune-Up, enables 30 tuning, performance, security and maintenance tasks such as defragmentation and removal of unwanted files in one click. The tool also facilitates automatic Windows updates, security setting checks, activates firewall and verifies restore points for data recovery.

DataSafe online back-up is a service that provides Dell users with safe an easy backup starting from 10GB of data storage to a secure remote site via Internet connection.

All Vostro systems also come with a factory-installed Dell Support 3 program that constantly monitors, pinpoints and fixes systems issues. The program allows customers to tailor control settings to the desired level of support including: real-time health scans of computing environment; and system updates and upgrades and problem alerts.

“These offerings covered all the bases at a very aggressive price,” says Michelle Warren, senior research analyst for Info-Tech Research Group Inc.

She said the base 120GB hard drive memory is ideal for small business operators and the Wi-Fi features included in the bundle will favour the increased mobility demanded by a growing number of entrepreneurs.

Warren also found it “very smart” that Dell offered its desktop model separate from monitor. “This allows buyers to save since most users will probably be able to use their old monitors with the new desktops.”

One Canadian bussiness owner yesterday said he believes the new products will provide immediate benefits to his company’s operations.

“It’s like having an IT administrator built into your computer,” said Michael Mattalo, president of Fifth P Solutions, a blended learning solutions company based in Missisauga, Ont.

The Vostro set-up brings down cost of ownership by reducing the need for systems support, said Mattalo.

Dell also offers the E198WFP 19-inch flat panel monitor with 1,400 x 9,000 resolutions, priced at $429. It offers both analogue (VGA) and digital visual interface (DVI) inputs for playback of high-bandwidth digital content protection (HDCP) and high definition video content.

Apart from the computers, Dell also launched the 1320c colour laser with 600 x 600 dpi resolution capable of 12 ppm in colour and 16 ppm printing speeds in black, start at $299. Networking-capable models are available for $349.

Businesses looking to replace multiple machines can consolidate print, scan, copy and fax functions with the Dell 1125 Mono Laser. The four-in-one device has a 600 x 600 dpi resolution and 21 ppm printing speed and retails for $269.

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