Dell Latitude D520 review

18 Aug 2006

Look past the staid styling and you'll find a portable workhorse with a superb warranty

Price when reviewed 
599
5

If you want the freedom to work anywhere, it's vital your notebook's battery lasts a long time. You could carry a spare battery with you, but shutting down Windows and swapping them over is a clear inconvenience when there are notebooks like the D520, which lasted 5hrs 11mins in our light-use battery test.

The D520 isn't the smallest here - the Apple and MV are lighter and more compact. And, as we're getting the drawbacks out of the way, we have to admit the D520 is short on a few features. In particular, it doesn't have a DVD writer, just a CD-RW/DVD-ROM combo. If you want to upgrade, it's an extra £70 exc VAT, or you can use the bay for a floppy drive, hard disk or second battery instead.

But the D520 succeeds by getting the basics right. It's a no-nonsense, well-built workhorse. The 14in, 1,024 x 768-pixel screen isn't the best for entertainment (it isn't widescreen), but it's fine for getting work done. It's a decent quality display and is well protected from behind. Plus, at only 336mm wide, the D520 fits a narrower bag than its widescreen comrades.

The keyboard, as we've come to expect from Dell, is firm and comfortable to use, with enough width so it never feels cramped. Page control keys are tucked out of the way at the top-right, and there's a double-height Enter key.

There's plenty of processing power from the 1.66GHz Core Duo T2300E CPU. This means you can encode video files and convert audio tracks quicker than with the HP, for example, although the real benefit is the responsiveness that comes from the two CPU cores. This is reflected in the overall 2D benchmark score of 0.85. The 80GB hard disk will allow you to store plenty of data, while 802.11a/b/g Wi-Fi means you can get online easily.

Some may bemoan the lack of a media card reader, but four USB 2 ports and mini-FireWire are welcome. And, let's not forget the three-year on-site next-business-day warranty - something you don't often see at this price.

Dell's D520 is easy to overlook on paper; the XGA screen and lack of a DVD writer could be enough to put some off. But the great battery life and exceptional warranty make it a fine, work-focused alternative to the Lenovo if you don't need a DVD writer. Use E-Value code MAG-520PCP to get this exact spec.