There was a time not all that long ago when the idea of a Dell product, whether it be a server, desktop or notebook, shipping with an AMD processor was simply laughable. So synonymous was it with Intel, with the highly visible Dell advertisements all featuring the infamous Intel chime, that the average consumer could be forgiven for thinking Intel and Dell to be one of the same. Yet, despite many years of ignoring the better performing AMD alternatives, Dell made the surprise decision in May last year to start using AMD technology in its machines for the first time.
That this move came rather late in the day is a severe understatement, especially since by now Intel has usurped AMD in the performance stakes with its excellent Core 2 Duo range. Nevertheless, starting with servers using AMD Opteron processors, Dell has been slowly introducing further AMD powered desktops and now, with this Latitude 131L, its brought them to notebooks for the first time too.
For the most part Dell has used AMD chips in its lower range affordable solutions and this is still the case with the Latitude 131L. Targeted at the ever lucrative business market, the 131L is a no frills notebook that’s perfect for all those tedious office applications we all love to hate but simply can’t do without.
Coming in at a not unreasonable £586 (inc. VAT) our review model came with a Turion 64 X2 TL-50 running at 1.6GHz, an 80GB SATA hard drive, DVD Rewriter and 512 MB RAM. Naturally, the 131L also has wireless networking built in and though there’s no Bluetooth this could be added via any number of external units should it be required. To top things off it retains a 56k modem for all those golden oldies, and those backward locations where wireless connections are few and far between.
All in all, this spec should prove more than sufficient for the great majority of office workers, and our tests revealed solid performance and decent battery life. It also compares favorably with competing units providing plenty of bang for your business buck. It's also worth noting that, from what we've been able to establish, the Dell website only allows a memory configuration of 1GB or more, though this is really ideal with Vista looming large on the horizon.
Since this is a business orientated notebook it’ll come as little surprise that the 131L is no great looker. That said it’s by no means ugly, sporting a two tone black and darkish grey matte finish that shouldn’t offend anyone and Dell has made an effort to square some of the rough edges seen in previous business notebooks.
It’s slightly bulky, and at 2.8 kg is by no means light, but what it lacks in finesse it makes up for in a sturdy feel that could probably survive minor bumps and scraps without too many problems. Pleasingly, hard drive impact protection is also included as standard along with a standard notebook carry bag and together they should prevent fatal damage occurring on those busy and forever crowded commuter trains, should you wish to actually lug it around with you.