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Dell Vostro 200 Computer

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We were certain that “vostro” must have some significance other than the obvious – “vostro” is the Latin word for “yours.” It turns out that this is not the case – it’s really meant as the Latin word for “yours.” This seems a bit superfluous, as once you’ve handed over four hundred dollars for one of these things, it’s unlikely to be anyone else’s unless you forget to lock your office.

We’ve used Dell computers almost exclusively for well over a decade, and every one of them is either still working or got trashed due to unrepentant antiquity. None of them has ever blown up, caught fire or even refused to boot up one morning.

The Vostro 200 represents Dell’s current entry level PCs – it’s inexpensive, laudably powerful and refreshingly uncomplicated. In that Dell’s systems are usually ordered directly from the manufacturer, you can have a Vostro with whichever processor you like the look of, as much memory as you can afford and a whole box of peripherals or none at all.

Vostros come with Windows installed – sadly, whether you want it or not. Ours was bought to run Linux. If you want to use a Vostro as a Windows system, it will boot up ready to work, subject only to your completing the initial Windows startup and configuring its desktop to your liking.

Despite the official demise of Windows XP by the time you read this, Dell appears to be intent on continuing to offer the Vostro with Windows XP as an option through a loophole in its licensing. Vista being something of a pig’s breakfast – and the Vostro 200 being a capable but hardly high-end system – we’d seriously recommend choosing XP.

The case of the Vostro is black steel and plastic. The front panel is on the one hand easy to remove, and on the other, designed far more for appearance than functionality. Its two drive bays live behind hinged plastic doors which make them effectively useless for anything other than a CD-ROM drive. We had thought briefly about installing a removable hard drive rack in ours, until we realized that it wasn’t to be.

The front panel of the Vostro includes four USB ports and a set of audio jacks, which are profoundly handy.

Our experience buying the Vostro 200 wasn’t anywhere near as seamless as the computer itself. Being in Canada, we started by trying to buy it from Dell Canada, which was largely a mistake. The configuration we wanted wasn’t available through the dell.ca web page, and Dell’s Canadian sales people just flat-out didn’t seem to want to speak with us. Their 800 number appears to have been answered by a call desk on the other side of the planet. Over multiple attempts to contact them by telephone, we encountered dropped calls, perpetual hold and several voice mail messages left with a sales person which were never returned.

The phrase “all our representatives are currently assisting other callers… your call is very important to us” doesn’t get any less preposterous no matter how many times it’s repeated.

We eventually called Dell’s US sales number and had the computer shipped to an address in the States, from whence it was collected and brought north. The US 800 number was answered promptly, professionally and by a live human being. When we subsequently had to deal with a minor warrantee issue – one of the plastic parts of our system was damaged in transit, and had to be replaced – we were able to get in touch with a live human being as well, and a new part arrived the next day.

The opportunity to have a computer configured exactly as you want it at a reasonable price arguably makes the Vostro 200 a worthwhile consideration – if the configuration you want is available through Dell’s web page, or if you live in a country in which Dell will deign to speak to you. Failing this, there are a lot of other really good computer manufacturers.

Comments (1)

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