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The Dell Vostro 14 5490 business laptop is a capable, beautifully designed and well configured product. However, it suffers from a chronically flawed pricing strategy that is not unique to it. It needs to be significantly cheaper at least by 20% to be a viable alternative to other models.
Dell Vostro Or Inspiron Which Is Better
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The Dell Vostro 14 5490 business laptop comes from an unusual place in the wide range of Dell laptops. The Vostro doesn't spark interest like the XPS or Latitude. For example, we've reviewed almost every iteration of the Dell XPS 15 line that comes out. But the Vostro machines have a clear and distinct purpose as portable devices for smaller businesses who may find Latitude's offerings too much PCs for their needs.
The Dell Vostro 5490 (opens in a new tab) may not be available right now, at least not directly from Dell, but it's no longer one of the newest in the range. That would be the Dell Vostro 5510, a model trying to capture the attention of the business market, where price is key, with a design that could evoke comparisons to the award-winning XPS series.
The Vostro 14 5490 has a case that reminds us of Dell's premium sub-brand XPS series. The metallic color scheme (called Ice Gray) gives it an impression of luxury quality - small details that have their importance when it comes to perception. Note that only the lid uses metal; the rest of the case is plastic but smooth and unlike the cheap gritty tacky type usually found on entry-level models.
One long hinge connects the screen and base unit. Open the 5490 and you'll find a screen with small bezels on three sides - very similar to the XPS 13 (opens in a new tab). Here the designers have managed to squeeze a webcam on top, albeit a redesigned one with a diameter of 2.7mm.
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The design philosophy is simplicity; pushing the screen back slightly raises the laptop to facilitate airflow. There are plenty of vents just behind the hinge and under the laptop to keep it cool. Nine screws hold the bottom panel in place and two long rubber bands support the Vostro 14 when it is on a flat surface.
On the left side of the device you will find a proprietary power plug, an HDMI connector, two USB Type-A 3.1 (Gen. 1) ports, and a USB Type-C port with DisplayPort capabilities; unfortunately no Thunderbolt 3.
On the other side is an RJ-45 connector, a USB Type-A 2.0 port, a headphone jack and a MicroSD card reader.
In terms of dimensions, it is about 18mm thick, 322mm wide, 228mm deep and weighs 1.49kg, which makes it quite compact for a 14-inch display.
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Here are the full configuration specs of the Dell Vostro 14 5490 sent to Pro for review:
Connections: 1 x USB 2.0, 2 x USB 3.1, 1 x USB Type C, 1 x HDMI, 1 x DisplayPort, audio port, MicroSD card reader, Ethernet
This new Vostro range includes the 10th generation Comet Lake Intel range of CPUs. The model we tested is the top model with a quad-core Core i7 CPU, 16GB DDR4 RAM, an Nvidia Geforce MX250 GPU with 2GB dedicated GDDR5 memory, a 512GB Toshiba PCIe NVMe SSD and a 14-inch full HD display.
Both memory and internal storage are easily upgradeable (while one memory module is removable, the other is soldered in); the 39.9 Whr battery is powered by a 65 W power adapter with a barrel connector. The lack of a TB3 or Type-C option with Power Delivery means you can't connect a docking station to it to enable a seamless office experience.
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On the other hand, Dell claims that thanks to the ExpressCharge technology, you can charge the battery from empty to 80% in an hour. When it comes to connectivity, you get the usual 802.11ac 1x1 WiFi and Bluetooth via the Intel chipset.
The input peripherals on the Vostro 14 5490 won't set the world on fire; the keyboard has decent travel, but it's not soft enough for our taste (yes, a very subjective measure). It has a large space between the keys and a backlight. We like that it has separate page up/down buttons.
The touchpad is a decent size, but has no physical buttons. Works well without hypersensitivity. The display was also equally pleasant to use.
In terms of sheer performance, this is one of the fastest business laptops we've tested to date. No surprise considering what's inside. It delivered record numbers in most of our tests, which was to be expected, but what surprised us most was the extremely good battery life during our grueling video test, which is one of the best we've seen at just over seven hours.
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Of the included software, Dell Mobile Connect seems the most useful, as it allows you to link an iOS or Android smartphone to the laptop. You can call, text, receive notifications and even mirror your Android phone to your computer to interact with all your apps. The amazing thing is that this feature is NOT available on the more expensive Latitude laptops.
Other bundled software worth noting is a 12-month subscription to McAfee Small Business Security (opens in a new tab) that can be upgraded to 3 years for $70.
The fingerprint reader is in the power button, which is actually a really good idea that we'd like to see more of elsewhere. Sorry it's not clear. Dell says the new lid-open sensor will turn on your laptop even if it's completely powered off, complementing Windows 10's power-saving features (opens in a new tab).
This laptop comes with a one-year hardware warranty with on-site service after remote diagnosis. It's worth investing in the "4 Year ProSupport Plus with Next Business Day Onsite Service" option, which costs an additional $200 and includes accidental damage.
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In the world of Dell, business and consumer markets overlap. This explains why the Inspiron 14 5485 (opens in new tab), which is theoretically a consumer-oriented laptop, is sold with Windows 10 Pro. Priced at $792 at the time of writing, it's significantly cheaper than the Vostro 14 5490. It doesn't offer the same CPU + GPU combo, swapping Intel and Nvidia for the AMD Ryzen 7 3700U, while it's 2-in-1 functionality with a touchscreen and 360 design that will appeal to many.
If you don't mind the larger form factor, the Dell G3 15 3590 (opens in a new tab) is another reason why you shouldn't buy the 14 5490. It's cheaper, $1,049 at the time of writing, yet packs a much more powerful GPU, the Geforce GTX 1660 Ti with 6GB of GDDR6, and a much more powerful CPU, the six-core Intel Core i7-9750H. We're not sure what logic Dell is following to turn a gaming laptop into a business laptop (by throwing Windows 10 Pro in) and drop the price like there's no tomorrow.
Other competitors include the Lenovo ThinkPad E490S (opens in a new tab) and the HP Probook 440 G6 (opens in a new tab).
Focusing only on the laptop, we can safely say that it is well designed and has all the features of a mature product. It performs well, has great battery life, plenty of connectivity options, many SMB-friendly features, dedicated battery life and premium design plus extensive support options from Dell.
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All in all, the Vostro 14 5490 is a good workhorse for the target group. We think it loses the competition in its own stable, though, especially if you're willing to go for the 8GB/256GB combo or larger display. Another example of a product with a poor pricing strategy.
Désiré has spent a career spanning four decades thinking and writing about technology. He was involved in website development and web hosting when DHTML and frameworks were all the rage, and he started telling stories about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium . This article has several issues. Please help improve it or discuss these issues on the talk page. (Find out how and what to delete these message templates)
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