The torrent of business laptop announcements continue. Earlier this week, we took a look at the new Lenono Thinkpad W700 and HP Elitebook 8730w 17” mobile workstations announcements, and now Dell is making itself heard with a completely revamped Latitude Business notebook lineup. We attended the Dell Mobility press conference event in San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Art to check out the new laptops, which are infused with some very interesting technologies: 19-hour battery life and an always-on Linux-based OS frontend.
The new lineup of Latitude E-series notebooks rolled out at the event showcase Dell’s new commitment to extending battery life, adding robust connectivity, and enhancing product design. Here’s how Dell lists the new features, according to their engineering blogs:
• Excellent battery life: some system configurations can get up to 19 hours. But it's not just the largest batteries that benefit—we've made improvements on battery life whether you use a 6-cell, 9-cell battery or a battery slice. • All models offer lots of connectivity options: Wi-Fi (802.11n), several mobile broadband options, WWAN, Ultra-wideband and Bluetooth 2.1. Most are WiMAX ready, and can be ordered with an optional GPS. • All kinds of security options: smart card and fingerprint readers, hardware-based disk encryption, contactless smart card technology. Another hardware-based security feature is Dell's ControlVault solution that centralizes user identity key management and storage. • Centralized control via software—Dell's ControlPoint software allows users to manage battery power, network and connectivity configurations and system security settings all in one place. • In the coming weeks, we will offer color options on the E4200, E4300, E6400 and E6500 in addition to Mica-Brushed Metal Black: Regatta Blue and Regal Red. The E4200 adds Quartz Pink as an option, and the Latitude E5400 and E5500 are available in Matte Black. • Slick design that doesn't sacrifice functionality: our team focused on balancing aesthetics with durability and functionality. Besides the looks, these laptops feature full-frame magnesium alloy construction and all-metal hinges.
Sounds pretty sweet. In addition, the new laptops can be equipped with backlit keyboards, LED displays, and solid-state hard drives.
So how does Dell get 19-hours of battery life out of a laptop? The 19-hour rating (which we’re skeptical about) is actually only achieved if you use a large 9-cell battery (upgraded from the default 6-cell) in conjunction with a thin battery slice that covers the entire base of the laptop. Because of the large surface area of the battery slice, it’s supposedly not very thick – but it’ll no doubt add heft to the system. Dell also claims that it has made significant improvements to overall battery utilization – an “all day” mode can be enabled with software to extend battery life by reducing and optimizing power usage (ie. lowering the screen’s refresh rate to 40Hz).
Another feature that Dell will be rolling out in the coming months is the “Latitude ON” technology, which, like the HP/Voodoo Omen’s Instant-On feature, is a Linux-based UI that loads instead of Windows. Dell execs said that they weren’t creating the OS themselves, but have partnered with a yet-to-be announced third party to create the embedded Linux solution (apparently not SplastTop). What will differentiate Latitude ON from HP’s solution is that Dell is also utilize a separate low-voltage sub-processor to power the Linux OS, which in theory will let the laptop run for multiple DAYS.
But on to the actual laptops. Bookending the product line are a 2.2 pound ultraportable and a massive 17” workstation powerhouse.
The Latitude E4200 is a 12” ultraportable, which at its lightest weighs in at 2.2 pounds– the smallest Dell corporate laptop to date. Along with its 13” sibling (the E4300), the 4200 supports options like a built-in camera, contactless smart card, LED backlit display, SSD drive, and backlit keyboard. Getting our hands on a working pre-production model confirmed that yes, it is pretty light! But we also couldn’t help but notice that the laptop’s plastic construction also felt a little flimsy – it definitely didn’t feel as solid or rugged as the larger Latitudes sporting anodized aluminum chassis. Still, we were impressed by its weight and compact size.
On the high end was Dell’s Precision M6400 model, which was a concept workstation built to compete with HP and Lenovo’s high-end offerings. The 17” laptop supports up to 16GB of DDR 3 RAM (!!!), terabytes of storage on two hard drives in RAID, Intel’s quad-core mobile processors, and Nvidia’s 1GB Quadro 3700M GPUs. The LED backlit display on this beast also supposedly covers 100 percent of the Adobe color gamut, which makes it well-suited for image editing.
No word on the pricing for these models, but they should be popping up on Dell’s website in the next few weeks.