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The Dell Latitude D410 is proof positive that laziness and procrastination come sometimes do you some good. No, really - I had been putting off getting a laptop for ages, and when I eventually got round to it I ended up getting this wonderful piece of technology instead of the older, slower, bulkier laptops that had been on sale when I first started looking about 10 months previously.
Since I got my 410, I've been using it for a variety of purposes: project management, presentations, CAD packages, internet use, MS Office, and so on. So far it's been quick, reliable and easy to use (although it does have its downside, as you'll see later).
Portability: The first thing you notice about the D410 is its size - it's absolutely tiny. The whole thing is just over 3cm thick, and weighs just 1.7kg. This, allied to the 12 inch display panel, makes it fairly easy to use on a crowded bus or commuter train. The overall small size means that the keyboard feels quite cramped but then again, when you've got big paws for hands like I do, all laptop keyboards feel small anyway.
Ease of use: If you can use any kind of computer, you can use this. Although there's a number of new features on this machine, they're mostly automated so you don't have to worry much about them going wrong.
Networkability: The D410 can connect to networks either via a LAN cable, or by wireless networking. This is where I noticed another fairly innovative feature: the wireless networking circuitry has been enclosed within the body of the computer, which does away with the need for a wireless adaptor sticking out of the back of the machine. This wireless feature seems to work well: in the places I've been with wireless hotspots (my own work, Gatwick Airport, and at the house of a friend who has a wireless network), the machine identifies and connects to the network quickly and automatically, and the transfer speed is impressive too (about the equivalent of a 512k modem, if you're interested). The LAN connection is a standard 10/100 mbps card (the standard networking port you find on most PCs these days), and it works well too.
Battery stamina: The six-cell battery that comes with the machine is claimed to be able to run the laptop for up to 6 hours, but I've never been able to get it to keep going that long. Still, it will do around 5 hours on a single charge so unless you've got a very long train journey or are trying to work through a very long power cut, it should be fine for most folks' requirements.
The battery life is helped considerably by the 410's power management options. When functioning in battery mode rather than connected to the mains, the machine automatically switches off any non-essential items athat aren't bieng used (the LAN port, the USB ports, and so on), conserving power and extending the battery's life.
As with all laptops these days, the mains adaptor also severs as the battery charger when it's plugged into the mains.
Speed, memory, storage: These vary according to how much money you wish to spend on the machine, but my 410 came with a 1.8GHz processor, 1Gb of memory and a 40Gb hard disk drive. This has proved to be plenty fast enough to run Windows XP Pro plus standard Windows software such as Office, Acrobat, and even the cumbersome Network Associates anti-virus software that my employer insists must be on every computer.
Another bonus is that not only does the memory have a quick FSB (front side bus - the rate of data transfer between the memory and the rest of the computer), but the actual memory chips themselves are user-accessible, meaning you can upgrade or replace the memory chips yourself without much fuss.
Multimedia and I/O: To save space when designing this laptop, Dell took the decision not to have an integral CD/DVD drive in the D410. Instead, an external CD writer / DVD-ROM combo drive is supplied (you can upgrade this to a DVD writer if you wish), which utilises a modified USB port on the side of the laptop for power and data transfer. In addition to this modified USB port, the 410 also has two standard USB 2.0 ports, handy for using a mouse, flash memory, digital camera or other device.
The 410 also has a standard analogue video-out port so you can connect it to a digital projector if you need to.
Software: Windows XP Pro comes as standard, and for a few extra pounds you can add Norton anti-virus software too. No other software is included.
Reliability, sturdiness: I haven't heard much about the D410's reliability as it hasn't been out long, but i've had mine 10 weeks now and it hasn't crashed once. It's also fairly tough despite its size, and keeps working if you, for example, drop the thing while running for a train (oops!). And even if you do manage to break it, it comes with a 3-year warranty as standard anyway.
Cost: The model I've outlined here will cost £1298 from the Dell website. Not cheap, but in terms of performance and size it's about the going rate these days. This price also includes a 3 year warranty, 3 years customer support and 3 years accidental damage cover.
The downside: There had to be one, didn't there? Things which are not great about this computer:
- the sound is rubbish. Fair enough, you don't buy laptops expecting home cinema stadard sound, but you also don't expect them to sound like a broken cheapo MP3 player either.
- the touchpad is a bloody nuisance. I'm not a fan of touchpads at the best of times, but this one really does require you to claw away at it frantically to get the on-screen pointer to move even a little bit. This can be overcome by using a mouse instead, but this solution isn't really an option for travelling on a train.
- it generates a lot of heat. Inevitably, since Dell have managed to fit a lot of computer technology into a tiny space, the laptop tends to run quite hot. Although it doesn't run hot enough to damage the machine or affect it's performance, if you're working with the machine on your knee then you can end up with rather toasty legs. Shutting the computer down dissipates the heat quickly, but it's not much fun if you're working to a deadline.
Summary: Overall, this is an excellent machine. It combines portability and reliability with impressive speed, and the things it can't do aren't the type of things you buy a laptop for anyway.
Despite the heat it generates, it's still an impressive leap forward in terms of having a big computer in a very small space. If you're buying a laptop and the D410 is in your price range, keep it in mind.
Sounds a lot better than previous Dell products, which bent if you picked them up with one hand thus either unseating or snapping boards. They do have a much larger keyboard which is why they are favoured by my male counterparts are work but this as you mentioned compromises the speaker quality. Good review but I think I'll stick to my HP nc8230. N.x
steffee 04.10.2005 22:36
ooh expensive. Still, my battery lasts probably about two hours and it gets very hot on the bottom, it feels like mini electric shocks if you sit with it on your lap
Lynzie 04.10.2005 22:18
Very detailed review, I like Dells products, Lynz xx