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Dell keeps new Vostro laptops free of bloatware

Dell Inc. today added three new models to its Vostro line of small-business laptops, continuing a two-year-old policy under which the systems are sold free of any bloatware — the limited-use software that many users hate because it hogs storage space on new machines.

Bloatware, which also has been dubbed trialware or crapware, refers to the trial software that comes preinstalled on new PCs — with software vendors often paying hardware makers to include it. But the trial products can be a headache for users, consuming system resources and potentially introducing security vulnerabilities.

Dell gave users the ability to avoid any bloatware when it introduced the Vostro line in July 2007, a move that closely followed an earlier decision to give online buyers an option to refuse unwanted software on some of its other systems. The company said today that the three new laptops will also be preloaded only with software that buyers request.

The Vostro machines are aimed at business users on tight budgets, but the new laptops include some of the latest storage, security and videoconferencing technologies. For example, they support solid-state disk (SSD) drives, which are faster and more power-efficient than conventional hard drives.

The new models — the Vostro 1320, 1520 and 1720 — come with Intel Core 2 Duo or Celeron processors and run Windows Vista, with the option to “downgrade” to Windows XP.

Screen sizes are 13.3 inches on the 1320, 15.4 inches on the 1520 and 17 inches on the 1720. Dell said the laptops include enhanced security capabilities to protect data, including fingerprint readers that can authenticate users when they log on and software from Wave Systems Corp. for encrypting disk drives.

Users have the option of integrated graphics or a separate Nvidia GeForce graphics card. The systems support up to 8GB of DDR2 memory as much as 320GB of hard drive storage or 128GB of SSD storage. A Dell spokeswoman said the company isn't providing estimates of the battery life on the laptops, since it depends on how customers configure them.

Starting at $569, the 1320 weighs 4.1 lbs. with a 4-cell battery and no optical drive, Dell said. The 1520 starts at $629 and weighs 5.38 lbs., while the 1720 has a base price of $649 and weighs 6.8 lbs.

The laptops are available now in North America and a few South American countries. Dell said they will be released in Europe, the Middle East and Africa next Tuesday and in some countries in Asia next month.

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