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While we've looked at several notebooks from Dell, the Latitude D410 is the first from its range of business laptops. While the Inspiron brand caters for the consumer, the Latitudes are more corporate minded products. Rather than being frequently refreshed with the latest and greatest technologies, the Latitude range offers the valuable commodity of consistency, with Dell guaranteeing that the products and related parts will be available for a given period of time. This is very important to corporate customers who want to be able to settle on a particular model, roll it out to its employees and be sure it will receive support further down the line.
That said, the D410 is actually based on Intel's latest mobile Centrino platform, codenamed Sonoma. This offers a number of benefits over the first iteration of Centrino, such as support for PCI Express, SATA hard disks, DDR2 memory, and the new Express card format. However, the D410 employs only two of these - PCI Express and DDR2. There's also a D400 available, based on the older 855 chipset, but going for the latest technology will keep the machine current for longer.
The processor is a Pentium M 750, running at 1.86GHz - pretty high for a small notebook and as we'll see, the D410 turned in some pretty impressive scores. This CPU is backed with 512MB of memory and as it’s two pieces of 256MBs, it's running in dual-channel configuration.
But it's not just technology that the D410 has going for it. It's also very compact, with its 278 x 238 x 31.9mm dimensions and 1.72Kg weight placing it into the sub-notebook category, though it's some way off from the ultra portability of something like a Sony X505, Samsung Q30 or even Dell's own Latitude X1. Even so, if you need to carry around a notebook all day, every day, this is at the very least the sort of weight you should be looking at. My Apple iBook is fairly compact but at 2.2Kg I frequantly wish I had something even more lightweight. Inevitably, compromises have had to be made to reach this level of portabilty, but with an sub-notebook, this is inevitable.
First of these is the relatively modest screen size of 12.1 inches offering XGA resolution. Personally, I've found that the 1,024 x 768 resolution on my Apple iBook has become quite restrictive, so corporate clients should take into account what sort of tasks this notebook will be used for. If multiple documents need to be viewed at the same time, an ultra-portable with a small display is probably not the best way to go. But for presentation work, and just text work it will suffice. The screen is a conventional 4:3 ratio and lacks the high contrast reflective coating that is all the rage these days on many consumer notebooks, but again, this isn't the market this notebook is aimed at. It is however, a rather dull display, even on full brightness, but this is merely uninspiring rather than disappointing. This does rather suggest a pun on it not being an Inspiron, but perhaps that's something best avoided. Contrast is pretty good though and the viewing angles are reasonable too. In fact the screen can tilt back until it's virtually flat though try as we might we couldn't find any real benefit for this. Suggestions on a postcard.
The next area of compromise is the keyboard. Corporate fat cats will certainly have difficulty getting their stubby fingers to type at speed on the keys, which are on the small side. The right side Shift key has been shrunk, as has the space bar, but once I got used to it, thanks to a pleasing key action I was able to pick up some speed. After a while though, things do feel a little cramped, and I wouldn’t want to type on it for extended periods of time. Above the keyboard in the middle is the power key and to the right of this is a rocker switch for the speaker volume and a mute button.
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