Hardware, design & build
The Vostro V131 has the same aluminium casing as the V130: solid, well-finished and with no glossy plastic.
The keyboard has undergone a small transformation. Backlit chiclet keys are used here but otherwise nothing else has changed. The keying is still supple and pleasant and the keys are all in their usual places.
The multitouch touchpad is the same as that on the V130: precise and with a nice fluid glide.
The V131's webcam gives a decent image. The black isn't blocked, the white not burnt and movement fluidly represented. The only fault is that the image has a slight tendency to flicker.
While the connectivity on the V130 was concentrated at the back, on the V131 it's on the sides. On the right, there's an RJ45 port (Ethernet), a VGA out, two USB 3.0 ports and a headphones socket. On the left, there's an HDMI out, a USB 2.0 port and an SD card reader. At the back, there's a power socket.
Relatively quiet on start-up, this laptop makes itself heard when installing software or when you push the components hard. Unless there's any background noise, you will hear it. The way hot air is expelled from the casing could have been better conceived. As it comes out the side and underneath, it quickly becomes disagreeable to have it on your knees. Sending the air out through the gap between the chassis and the screen would, for example, have made things more comfortable.
The V131's temperature readings when you push the components hard
Readings taken using a Fluke Ti25 (Distrame) camera
HDMI out, USB 2.0 port and SD card reader
Headphones/mic combo, USB 3.0 port (X 2), VGA and RJ45
Processor power: good performance
While the V130 only had a low-consumption processor, a Core i5-2410M has been chosen here this gives the V131 a lot more power. This processor has been widely used in 2011 notebooks and allows you to do a bit of everything. Office document processing and Internet browsing are a walk in the park as far as it's concerned and it's also efficient with more demanding applications (video encoding, 3D modelling, decompression), displaying perfectly reasonable processing times.
You can also play HD 1080p (Blu-Ray equivalent) without any issues on this machine. We advise you to use the video playback capacities of the integrated graphics solution (Intel HD 3000) as this hardware acceleration allows you to decode Full HD 1080p videos without occupying the processor, which is then freed up for other tasks.
Windows 7 Family Pro 64-bit takes 43 seconds to boot. You then have to wait another 10 to 20 seconds for the various pieces of software and connection to a wi-fi network to launch. It turns off in under 10 seconds.
Gaming: decent capacity
The V131 doesn't have a discrete graphics card and is therefore very much on a par with the V130 when it comes to gaming. It doesn't handle 3D very well but does allow you to play recent titles such as Starcraft 2 or Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 with graphics options at a minimum; nothing that'll set an avid gamer's pulse racing but okay for retro gaming.
Audio: stereo at last
The previous generation had mono only whereas the V131 has two speakers and can give stereo sound: it's clean but nothing out of the ordinary. Don't bother with the various sound processing options however.
There's only the one combo socket for heaphones/mic. Strangely, while the headphones signal is powerful and clean, of excellent quality, the mic in isn't as good. The maximum level is too low and having to use software amplification makes for a deterioration in the sound.