Dell Vostro V13 & V130

The Vostro sub-brand was specifically established to provide Small Business owners with IT solutions. Until this point, the products were good value and worthy, but the brand had a pretty low profile. We needed a hit.

The insight; a large segment of the small-business market are highly customer-facing, and they need products that shout ‘confidence’. We needed a thin, light, ‘cool’ notebook that could survive life on the road, had the power to punch through work, and that would make no excuses in the business-class lounge.

The result was the V13, and subsequent V130.

Process

Designing a notebook computer is about more than a nice sketch. The two most important things that the Dell design team needs to drive are the architecture, and the specification of the product. Drive poorly, and you end up with a product that is optimised for the factory instead of the user, and crammed full with every possible feature, port and widget. With notebooks especially, it’s what you choose to leave out that makes the product.

Hacking away at early prototypes to work out the mechanical structure.

Hacking away at early prototypes to work out the mechanical structure.

Working with layout teams at our key suppliers and employing new ‘Hyperbaric’ cooling technologies from Intel, we followed precedents set by the Dell Adamo notebook by kicking out the area behind the hinge; the reality is that business owners need traditional network and VGA cables. We also knew that if we could get all the ports away from the sides, we would be left with a blade-like profile, really allowing the thinning effort to shine. However, we also wanted an ‘honest’ front section, eschewing chamfering and other cheats to make things appear thinner than they really are; the ‘dipped’ front portion also houses the antennas and provides a degree of drop protection.

V13 Close Up

V13 Close Up

Breaking traditions of delivering ‘black boxes’ we wrapped the device in a jacket of anodised aluminium. The procurement team really delivered the bacon here; no one expected we could get a completely aluminium chassis in this price bracket.

Opening it up, we wanted a clean, uncluttered environment for getting work done. Getting brutally simple, we hid the hinges away from view; this took engagement with secondary and tertiary suppliers in the USA and China, shaving 0.05mm at time from the zinc alloy and designing one of the smallest hinge profiles ever seen in a notebook. This eventually became an iconic design feature of the product.

Sweating the details of the hinge - the design detail that was capable of making or breaking the product.

Sweating the details of the hinge – the design detail that was capable of making or breaking the product. That ‘T’ shape you can see; boy did we have to work hard so you don’t see it!

But it’s also about getting work done, right? Perceived quality of keyboards is closely related to the stiffness of the chassis. Magnesium is the hero here; it provides by far the best stiffness-to-weight ratio, and allowed us to go even further with the thinning. The aforementioned ‘hidden hinges’ help keep it sober and professional.

Visiting suppliers in China ... many, many days spent here waiting for parts to come off the pilot line, giving feedback, and waiting for the next batch.

Visiting suppliers in China … many, many days spent here waiting for parts to come off the pilot line, giving feedback, and waiting for the next batch.

Camping out at the supplier in Taiwan, and with frequent trips to China to work with suppliers, we finally delivered a product that landed Vostro on the map, scooping multiple awards and praise from the press.

But nothing quite beats seeing my Dad using one.

Media

Dell Vostro V13 Hands On: Bruce Wayne’s Laptop – Gizmodo

The Vostro #v130 gets @guykawasaki’s seal of approval - Flickr

Workbeautifully.com – Featuring an interview with yours truly

Awards

Red Dot Design Award 2010

G-Mark Design Award 2010

iF Design Award 2011

iF China Design Award 2010