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Dell Latitude 131L - Dell Latitude 131L
With its primary functions likely to be typing and general office work it’s important to have a decent keyboard, and in this the 131L doesn’t disappoint. The widescreen aspect of the screen allows for wide dimensions, increasing the amount of space for the keyboard and allowing for a generously sized shift key – the one key that often suffers on cramped keyboards. Similarly, the return and backspace keys are all of a decent size and it shouldn’t take too long to get a good typing speed up.
Importantly though, the keyboard in general is pleasingly proportioned and the keys have a decent depth to them. They also feel sturdy enough for those like me who tend to pound the keyboard a little harder than necessary. My only slight complaint, and it is only minor, is how the Caps Lock key juts a little farther out than corresponding keys, making it susceptible to accidental presses. This accepted, it's still a very decent keyboard, and you'll soon learn to avoid that caps key.
The keyboard is complimented by a perfectly serviceable widescreen aspect track pad, and though I’d prefer to have a rather more defined clicking mechanism for the buttons, as opposed the springy variety provided. It's of little significance though when you can use the track pad for most operations.
The 15.4 inch widescreen display, with a native resolution of 1,280 x 800, is a solid performer too and lacks the glossy reflective finishes that are inappropriate for office environments. This means you’ll rarely have problems with reflections from overhead lights, or any other light sources for that matter. Since this is a widescreen display the 131L is also quite handy for watching movies, which is great for those tedious long haul flights and budget airlines.
In general use the screen enables you to view two pages in Word on 70 per cent zoom, or you can run a sidebar program like Google Desktop or a messenger program alongside your normal documents. At this price point, and for this market, you couldn’t ask for much more from a notebook display and though the viewing angles aren’t amazing it’s not of great concern in office environments. Moreover, this might prove beneficial if you dislike people looking over you're shoulder on the train or in the office.
Connections wise the 131L is by no means overloaded with the bare minimum on offer. On the left there are no connections, with just the optical drive, security lock and a small air vent to be found. On the right are an ExpressCard slot, headphone and mic jacks, memory card slot (SD, SDIO and MMC supported) and two USB slots; whilst on the back you’ll find the AC port, 10/100 Ethernet port, modem socket, two further USB ports and a VGA D-Sub port for connecting an external monitor. Sparse this may be, but this is all you’re ever likely to need for business use.
Overall the Latitude 131L is a solid performer. Business notebooks are never going to be the most exciting of things and this is no exception, but it does what it’s supposed to do with aplomb and offers plenty of value for money.