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Battery life using the nine cell unit was pretty impressive at just a smidgen under six hours, while DVD playback was equally impressive at over four and a half hours. Likewise application performance was solid with a SYSmark 2002 score of 319 and a PC Mark score of 2896, which isn't too surprising considering that there's a high-end Core 2 Duo driving things along.
However, with a machine like this the Performance score also needs to take into account the rugged nature, and how much confidence it instills the end user with, and in this respect it doesn’t do quite so well. Likewise, although the ATG D620 is stuffed to the gills with technical features like the HSDPA unit, basic rugged features like proper port covers, a good strong metal latch for the lid and a passive cooling solution are all missing.
With a price of just under £1,500 including VAT, the ATG D620 is definitely a lot cheaper than, say, a business-rugged ToughBook CF-74, but to be honest the ToughBook is in a completely different league. The big difference between the ATG and the ToughBooks is that Panasonic designs and builds its notebooks to be rugged from the outset, whereas Dell has taken an existing notebook and tried to make it rugged. The result is a machine that has, to some degree, been beefed up to survive the trials of life out in the field, but not enough to really instill confidence.
I expect a rugged notebook, even a semi-rugged model, to feel rock solid, but this ATG doesn't. In reality the ATG just feels like a bigger and heavier D620, although I understand that that's a slightly simplistic view, because the very bright screen and shock resistant hard disk enclosure are tangible plus points. Ultimately though, I think that if Dell wants to make real in roads into the rugged market, it needs to design a machine from scratch that covers all the bases rather than try to adapt a current model to cover some of them.
Dell knows how to build great notebooks, and the Latitude D620 that this ATG model is based on is a great machine. However, even with the super-bright screen, shock resistant hard disk and solid steel hinges, this doesn’t really feel like a rugged machine in the way the ToughBook CF-74 does, and that’s not even a fully rugged ToughBook!
If you’re just looking for a version of the D620 that you can use out in bright sunlight, then the ATG will fit the bill, but don’t go thinking that it will survive life out in the desert or continual drops on the floor. If Dell puts enough resource behind this market sector, I have no doubt that it could come up with a compelling alternative to the ToughBook, but this first generation ATG isn’t it.