Personal Computers

Dell Chases Rough-and-Tumble Road Warriors With New Laptops

Dell announced on Tuesday seven new laptop models aimed at what it termed today’s “digital nomads.” The new laptops are the fourth generation of the Dell Latitude line and are designed with light weight and durability in mind.

The Latitude laptops use new proprietary Dell technology that extends battery life up to 19 hours on a single charge, the company said. The express charge feature recharges the battery to 80 percent of full capacity in one hour.

Other innovations include the Dell Latitude ON technology that gives fast access to e-mail and is built with reduced Halogen components.

“The new Latitude laptops and Dell Precision mobile workstations represent the largest product development effort in the history of Dell,” said Jeff Clarke, senior vice president, Dell Product Group.

Colors and Lights

The new Latitude line of business-class laptops comes in a variety of five colors, a rarity in the corporate workplace. In addition to Mica-Brushed Metal, the Latitude E4200, E4300, E6400 and E6500 will be available in Regatta Blue, Regal Red and Quartz Pink (E4200 only) in the coming weeks. The E5400 and E500 are available in Matte Black.

To enhance keyboard visibility in dark rooms, Dell added backlighted keys. The lights shine through the underside of the key caps. Users can turn the feature on and off with the press of a key. Dell also built in an ambient light detector that controls the amount of illumination the backlighting puts out.

In creating the new line, Dell sought comments from some 4,000 IT professionals and end users on the features they needed to improve their mobile work environment, said Clarke.

The result brought design changes involving portability and reliability. For example, the ultra-portable E4200 notebook weighs in at 2.2 pounds in a 12.1-inch form factor. The company’s most durable mobile workstation, the Latitude E6400 ATG 14.1-inch, starts at US$2,399. It is built and tested to meet Military 810F standards for dust, vibration and humidity, Dell said.

Dell targeted mainstream mobile business users with the Latitude E6400 and E6500, measuring 14.1 inches and 15.4 inches and starting at $1,139 and $1,169, respectively. Aimed at economy-minded users, the Latitude E5400 is a 14.1-inch notebook that starts at $839. The E5500 is a 15.4-inch notebook that starts at $869.

IT Friendly

One of the key features in the new Latitude line is Dell’s ControlPoint. This provides centralized control of user settings for power management, connectivity configurations and security management in a single application.

A proprietary Control Vault feature hides a nonvolatile RAM volume on the hard drive as an offline subsystem. This helps IT track lost laptops and wipe the hard drive remotely. This security sub-processor centralizes and protects user credentials and security keys in a single, hardened security “vault” away from the system’s main drive.

Dell also announced its Dell Latitude ON, a new technology that enables near-instant access to e-mail, calendar, attachments, contacts and the Web without booting into the device’s main operating system. Expected in the coming months on the Latitude E4200 and E4300, Dell Latitude ON uses a dedicated low-voltage sub-processor and operating system that together enable multi-day battery life.

Other Features

Dell designed the new laptop line for greater durability. It uses full-frame magnesium alloy construction and reinforced, all-metal hinges.

The Latitude line is the first to offer both contactless Smart Card and fingerprint readers that comply with Federal Information Processing Standards, according to Clarke.

The new line is also more green sensitive. The computers are Energy Star 4.0 compliant and meet EPEAT Gold rated configurations. The Latitude E4200 is Dell’s first notebook that offers a motherboard containing halogen-free laminates as well as halogen-free chassis plastics and fan housings. The ultra-portable laptop also ships in packaging that is up to 99 percent recyclable by weight.

Improved Mobile Performance

Dell also unveiled two independent software vendor-certified Dell Precision mobile workstations targeted at performance-oriented customers in the engineering, media, entertainment and biosciences industries.

The Dell Precision M4400, starting at $1,569, is a 15.4-inch mobile workstation with an emphasis on graphics. It supports up to 8 GB of RAM (random access memory).

A second model, Dell’s Precision M2400, is the company’s lightest mobile workstation at 4.77 pounds. It is a 14.1-inch system that starts at $1,449.

The company also introduced a new 17-inch mobile workstation. Housed in an orange anodized aluminum chassis, it supports up to 16 GB of RAM, a 1 GB graphics card, upcoming quad-core processors and up to a terabyte of storage on two drives.

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