Dell Latitude D410 review

18 Apr 2005

The D410 lets you include all the optional extras you can think of yet still undercuts some competitors' prices for ultraportables. It's great value for money.

Price when reviewed: 
1,099(£1,291 inc VAT),more
5

Beauty isn't the first thing you look for in a business notebook, which Dell has banked on in the past with some rather plain grey boxes. The Latitude D410, however, is a sign that Dell is now putting more effort into this area. It's still the familiar steely grey on the outside, but inside it's a smart combination of light and dark browns.

The D410 brings Intel's revamped Centrino (Sonoma) to the ultraportable space, being built around the 915GM chipset. The review unit came with Intel's Pentium M 750 processor, running at 1.8GHz, accompanied by 512MB of DDR2 SDRAM split across both SODIMM sockets. One is easily accessed underneath the chassis, but the other is hidden beneath the keyboard. Fortunately, the D410 can be purchased with a 512MB stick in this slot, leaving the other slot free. Up to 128MB is dynamically assigned to the 915GM's integrated graphics. That setup won't offer many gaming opportunities, but integrated graphics are the right choice for a business portable where battery life is key.

Intel's original Pentium M processors were powerful enough, but the Sonoma versions are even faster. The 1.88 overall benchmark score shows the processor will be drumming its fingers with boredom over most tasks, and should mean this laptop will cope with future applications.

Battery life is of key importance, and the D410 has some excellent options. The standard six-cell battery lasted one hour, 35 minutes on an intensive workload at maximum brightness. A light workload with a dimmed screen extended this to three hours, 36 minutes. However, the reviewed configuration also includes the nine-cell extended battery that lasted two hours, 26 minutes and five hours, 41 minutes respectively. Both have handy external five-LED charge indicators and, because they clip under the front of the casing, the extended battery becomes a wrist-rest. If you need even more stamina, the bundled Media Slice clips under the notebook and allows both batteries to be used at once.

If you've spent much time using ultraportables in anger, you'll know that cramped keyboards are a common problem. However, a width of 277mm means the D410's casing can fit a board of sufficient size for regular typing. The layout is sensible, with Control outside the Function key, and Delete at the top right. The keys feel a little stunted at the bottom of the stroke, but the board is generally comfortable to use.

The accurate trackpoint, supplied in addition to a touchpad, is nice to use but, because it responds to taps, your insertion point will jump if you accidentally hit it while typing. Its hinged mouse buttons are awful too, requiring pressure in the lower half to activate them. The touchpad is accurate and quick, but there's no pressure-sensitivity setting in the Mouse Control Panel, resulting in some missed taps. But these are minor grumbles and easy to work around.

Build quality is for the most part sturdy, and there's a strike zone over the hard disk for impact protection. The lid section isn't quite as good: we were surprised how much we could twist it for such a small screen. Protection behind the TFT panel itself is adequate for travelling, although pressure points do reveal themselves with firmer treatment so it's worth investing in a good notebook bag. Dell backs up the D410 with an impressive three-year worldwide, on-site next-business-day warranty.

The 12.1in TFT's image quality is good, and the vertical viewing angle wide enough to give a degree of flexibility when placing the screen. Narrow horizontal viewing angles aren't ideal for presentations, but such a small screen is better for personal use, where narrow angles give some degree of privacy.