Despite the prevailing opinion that Dell's reliance on direct selling is a weakness, it remains one of the largest and most recognised brands in computing. It's a fact that cannot easily be ignored or underestimated and, though its colourful new Inspiron range drew a muted reaction, its Latitude range of corporate notebooks is in rather better shape. Clarity and consistency in design has helped it develop an enviable pedigree over the years, with the D630 proving a particular success. Today I'm looking at another member of the Latitude family, the D430, which is the ultra-portable of the range.
The attributes of an ultra-portable are well documented, but they're worth reiterating for the uninitiated. Typically they weigh below 1.5kg, making them uniquely portable. They're also slim and some, like Sony's TZ Series, can be breathtakingly good looking. A good ultra-portable should boast exceptional battery life and this, rather than raw speed, is the most important consideration in judging an ultra-portable's overall performance.
Much of this battery performance can be attributed to the Ultra-Low Voltage (ULV) CPUs, which are designed to reduce power usage and heat output. Currently there are two dual core ULV CPU options, the Intel Core 2 Duo U7500 and U7600, which have 1.06GHz and 1.2GHz clock speeds respectively and share the same 533MHz front-side bus and 2MB L2 Cache. Our sample version represents more or less the highest possible specification of the D430, using the faster U7600 and benefitting from a number or market leading features.
Primary among these is the inclusion of a SanDisk 32GB Solid State Drive (SSD), which helps improve battery life due to the complete lack of moving parts. Naturally, it also means you get less disk space, but for business use the 20GB of free space after Windows XP installation is more than enough. Indeed, if you specify an SSD then you're better off going with XP since it doesn't take up as much space on the drive.
In support of the U7600 CPU, our sample came equipped with 2GB 533MHz DDR2, which is configured as 1GB wired to the motherboard and one further 1GB stick. Graphics obviously isn't a high priority, with the integrated Intel GMA950 providing just enough power to run the Aeroglass in Vista but nothing more than that.
A higher priority is network connectivity, and Dell doesn't disappoint. Our sample came with Draft N wireless, Gigabit Ethernet and embedded HSDPA, which is everything you're ever going to need. As ever there's 56k modem as well if you're desperate, while Bluetooth 2.0 EDR rounds off the wireless options. Of all these things, clearly HSDPA is the key attraction and makes the D430 a proper mobile system.