Dell Latitude XT review

7 May 2008

The newest addition to Dell's Latitude range is an expensive, but highly accomplished Tablet PC.

Price when reviewed 
1,330
4

Tablet PCs never captured the attentions of PC owners in the way that Microsoft might have liked. But while most of the big manufacturers have dipped their toes into the murky waters, and with varying levels of success, one has been notable by its absence: Dell.

Its first attempt at a Tablet PC was made available to the public in December last year, and after calling our Dell contact enough times to etch her phone number indelibly in our minds, last week finally saw the arrival of our very own review unit.

In fact, we would have had this review up last week were it not for the fact that our first review unit had died due to, we presume, a butter fingered courier or two. But where most faulty laptops would have found themselves packed away in seconds, even a non-functioning Latitude XT was a pretty exciting prospect.

It's delightfully compact, measuring just 297 x 218 x 25mm. And while its 1.72kg weight is no match for the lightest of ultraportables, it's only a whisker away from the HP 2710p's 1.7kg.

It's a simply gorgeous looking bit of kit too. There's no hint of Latitude or Vostro-inspired styling; instead it's clear that the Latitude XT has benefited from a blank slate approach to its design. It's not flashy, but the slim grey and black aluminium chassis looks classy and feels genuinely luxurious to the touch. It's surprisingly sturdy too, even if the display's hinge exhibits a little more flex than we'd like. If this is a sign of things to come from Dell's business range, then we can't wait to see what Dell comes up with later this year.

But with the basic specification coming in at £1,129, it's clear that the Latitude XT should be nothing less than strikingly well-constructed. For that stratospheric price tag you get an Intel low voltage processor running at 1.2GHz, 1GB RAM and a teeny 40GB hard disk - a pretty unimpressive set of vital statistics. For the slightly more daunting price at the top of this review, the memory swells to 2GB, the hard disk expands to 120GB and an integrated 3G module is included into the bargain. If you have an even bigger budget to make a dent in, then SSD options can hike the price ever higher.

But, as you'd expect, the Intel Core 2 Duo U7600 processor limits overall performance to a typically underwhelming 0.57 in our benchmarks. The Radeon Xpress 1250's abilities are equally modest - gaming is out of the question - but it's the Latitude XT's battery life that proves the real disappointment.

The slim chassis is attractive, no argument there, but it just doesn't leave much room for a battery (or an optical drive for that matter, but we'll get to that later). Our review unit came with the six-cell 4,200mAh unit which lasted just over three hours while sitting idle, and 1hr 35mins under heavy usage. Compared to the six-and-a-half hours we eked out of HP's 2710p, it's a touch disappointing.

The Dell catches up with its ergonomics, however. The keyboard is a fantastic example and each key is blessed with a crisp, positive feel and a nice, light action. The trackpad works well too and, like many business laptops, finds itself complimented by a trackpoint, so you get the best of both worlds.

Flip the Latitude into Tablet mode and there are more neat touches. A rocker on the laptop's edge allows for quick scrolling and selecting, without recourse to the keyboard or stylus. This is supplemented by four shortcut buttons, which lock the computer, open your preferred email program, lock the computer and flip the screen orientation.