Dell Latitude Z review

12 Feb 2010

A truly innovative business laptop with hordes of interesting features, but its three-hour battery life is a disappointment

Price when reviewed: 
2,321inc VAT
4

The Dell Latitude Z is possibly the strangest laptop we’ve ever reviewed. It’s as if Dell has taken all the conventional rules of building a business notebook, cut them up into tiny pieces and reassembled them to form this: an ultra-wide, ultra-thin, ultra-odd laptop.

The result is certainly striking. The Latitude Z’s chassis stretches all of 396mm wide, a good 50mm wider than a normal laptop. Meanwhile, the rear of the Z extends by an extra 25mm to accommodate the battery: there’s no room in the main body (measuring less than a centimetre thick) for even the four-cell, 2,620mAh unit Dell supplies as standard.

Dell Latitude Z

It's a weird shape too, with that jutting battery set off by a couple of angled brackets. Yet the Latitude Z still manages to look executive, a look that stems from a strip of brushed aluminium bordering the main body, and the sober, dark grey tones everywhere else. Apart, that is, from the soft-touch lid with its dark, maroon hue.

The little things

A multitude of neat touches abound elsewhere. The most headline grabbing is the touch-sensitive strip found to the right of the screen: slide your finger up or down and the page you’re currently looking at moves with you.

Press the button just to the right of the screen and a list of shortcuts appear, and you can adapt these to whatever you like – from launching your favourite programs to playing back media. The trackpad is multitouch-enabled too, so you can pinch, zoom, rotate and scroll to your heart’s content.

More subtly, there’s a contact-free smartcard reader sitting to the right of the trackpad. Press your RFID-equipped smartcard against this and, along with the fingerprint reader to the side, you’ll have two extra layers of security to go above and beyond the usual Windows password.

Dell Latitude Z

The wires-free approach even extends to the optional charging station. For an extra £162 exc VAT this lets you slip the Latitude on and, by the miracle of inductive technology, the Z will start to charge. Be warned, though, it’s huge.

In our view, it’s also an utter waste of money. Of much more use is the (again optional) wireless docking station. This uses UWB (ultra-wideband) technology to not only add an extra four USB ports to the two that sit on the Latitude Z itself, but also to provide headphone and microphone sockets, plus a DVI output. The latter takes advantage of Displaylink technology to extend or mirror the Windows desktop onto an external monitor.

Dell Latitude Z

The only annoyance is the lack of an Ethernet connection, so if you want to use a wired connection in the office rather than the wireless you’ll need to plug it in each time. A tiresome oversight.

Details

Price ex VAT £1,975
Price inc VAT £2,321
Overall rating 4
Features & Design 5
Value for Money 3
Performance 3

Warranty

Warranty 3yr on-site next business day

Physical specifications

Dimensions 396 x 272 x 20.1mm (WDH)
Weight 2.100kg
Travelling weight 2.6kg

Processor and memory

Processor Intel Core 2 Duo SU9600
Motherboard chipset Intel GS45
RAM capacity 4.00GB
Memory type DDR3
SODIMM sockets free 0
SODIMM sockets total 1

Screen and video

Screen size 16.0in
Resolution screen horizontal 1,600
Resolution screen vertical 900
Resolution 1600 x 900
Graphics chipset Intel GMAX4500MHD
Graphics card RAM 1.00GB
VGA (D-SUB) outputs 0
HDMI outputs 0
S-Video outputs 0
DVI-I outputs 0
DVI-D outputs 0
DisplayPort outputs 1

Drives

Capacity 256GB
Hard disk usable capacity 238GB
Spindle speed N/A
Internal disk interface SATA/300
Hard disk Samsung SSD PB22-JS3 TM
Optical disc technology External DVD writer
Battery capacity 2,620mAh
Replacement battery price inc VAT £0

Networking

Wired adapter speed 1,000Mbits/sec
802.11a support yes
802.11b support yes
802.11g support yes
802.11 draft-n support yes
Integrated 3G adapter yes
Bluetooth support yes

Other Features

Wireless hardware on/off switch yes
Wireless key-combination switch no
Modem no
ExpressCard34 slots 0
ExpressCard54 slots 0
PC Card slots 0
USB ports (downstream) 2
eSATA ports 1
PS/2 mouse port no
9-pin serial ports 0
Parallel ports 0
Optical S/PDIF audio output ports 1
Electrical S/PDIF audio ports 0
3.5mm audio jacks 0
SD card reader no
Memory Stick reader no
MMC (multimedia card) reader no
Smart Media reader no
Compact Flash reader no
xD-card reader no
Pointing device type Touchpad
Audio chipset Intel HD Audio
Speaker location Base
Hardware volume control? no
Integrated microphone? yes
Integrated webcam? yes
Camera megapixel rating 2.0mp
TPM yes
Fingerprint reader yes
Smartcard reader yes
Carry case no

Battery and performance tests

Battery life, light use 3hr 53min
Battery life, heavy use 1hr 35min
Overall application benchmark score 0.85
Office application benchmark score 0.87
2D graphics application benchmark score 0.97
Encoding application benchmark score 0.75
Multitasking application benchmark score 0.79
3D performance (crysis) low settings N/A
3D performance setting N/A

Operating system and software

Operating system Windows 7 Professional 32-bit
OS family Windows 7