Dell Latitude E4200 review
A striking laptop that's also incredibly portable. But the screen is a big disappointment.
Review Date: 22 Dec 2008
Reviewed By: Tim Danton
Price when reviewed: £1,109 (£1,275 inc VAT)
They just don't make business laptops like they used to. Gone are the dull grey boxes that used to typify Dell's Latitude range, to be replaced by stunning machines like this E4200. Its rich finish - a deep burgundy red in our review sample's case - will make an immediate and positive impression on any clients you visit, which is surely one of the aims of a modern-day business laptop.
Dell piles in the features too. The integrated HSDPA modem is almost a given, and Dell complements it with not only Bluetooth and draft-n wireless but also a GPS receiver.
While we struggle to think of any killer business application for GPS in a laptop, it's an interesting inclusion that could well come in useful in the future. And in the meantime, it means your staff can always check where they are on Google Maps when they get lost.
This laptop also boasts a huge number of security tools. Again, a fingerprint reader and TPM 1.2 chip are de facto in business machines, but it's good to see Dell offering full-disk encryption as part of its software package. Our review system also included a smart card reader for an extra physical layer of protection.
And there's more. Thanks to its Solid State Disk, the E4200 should prove more resilient to life on the move than a laptop containing a mechanical hard disk. The Latitude's overall build quality is good too, with a magnesium alloy chassis and no obvious areas of weakness.
Dell's website makes much of the Latitude ON 'communication module' too. It's a Linux-on-a-chip affair that can connect directly with an Exchange server over wireless, and also includes a web browser, Microsoft Office and PDF reader. Or at least so we're told - unfortunately it didn't work on our review sample.
Built for mobile professionals
We should also point out that the extended life battery, a 5,200mAh unit, sticks out rather inelegantly by 22mm from the rear of the chassis.
With the normal battery in place the E4200 would measure 296 x 204 x 27mm (WDH), but in return for the extra bulk you also get lots of extra battery life: the E4200 lasted for 5hrs 35mins in our light-use test. With the standard battery, expect half that.
Then again, it's never been easier to sling a power supply into a bag than it is with the Latitude. It measures just 88 x 63 x 15mm (WDH), slightly wider but slightly slimmer than a standard pack of cards. The only drawback is the size of the British three pin plug.
While a five-and-a-half hour battery life is pretty respectable, take note of the Lenovo ThinkPad X200 (web ID: 228786). It will never match the E4200's glamourpuss styling, but it kept going for 5hrs 57mins in our light-use tests and weighs 1.54kg - 350g more than the E4200.
In return for the X200's greater weight, though, there's also greater power: it scored 1.10 in our benchmarks compared to 0.73 from the E4200. While that gulf in power may seem quite damning, it's more a sign of the X200's workstation-like capabilities - the E4200 still has enough grunt to double up as a main PC.
Around the chassis
One obvious sacrifice is the optical drive, or lack of one, which is another trait the E4200 shares with the X200. Surprisingly, Dell doesn't find space around the chassis for more than two USB ports, but at least one of these doubles up as an eSATA port - an excellent inclusion - and it's kept company by mini-FireWire, an SD slot and an ExpressCard/34 slot.
The right-hand side of the chassis also includes a wireless on/off switch, but awkwardly this controls all four radios: WLAN, Bluetooth, GPS and the mobile broadband modem. To take more granular control you've got to use Dell's ControlPoint software, which isn't the finely polished tool we hoped it would be.
Just bought one of these for work, and am pretty impressed with it. The build quality is excellent, and the SSD makes it fast and responsive - the weak point in its predecessors, the otherwise-excellent D420/430 was that they had 1.8" 4200 RPM hard drives, and the slow disk access was noticeable.
My only major criticism is that the media base available for the 420/430 has not been reproduced, and although a media base is available it only has a DVD drive and two USB ports whereas the earlier model reproduced all ports and was a proper docking station. A fairly minor irritiation, but I can't really see why Dell have done this. The only other option was a full docking station and external DVD drive, but this isn't as convenient as a media base.
By davidbryant4 on 15 Aug 2009
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