More than other sectors in the notebook market, ultra-portables are horses for courses choices. Because of their size and weight it's inevitable that compromises must be made somewhere and even when they aren't, as with the Sony VAIO TT, the cost could be deemed prohibitive depending on your standpoint.
Not that there are any cheap ultra-portables, with today's candidate, the Dell Latitude E4200, being no different. This is the minnow of the Latitude range that saw a promising start in the shape of the E6400 -- the all singing, all dancing, all-rounder of the Latitude range. Moreover, the E4200 is replacing the well regarded Latitude D430, a staple of many a company's corporate IT department, so expectations were high when it landed in the office.
And, to a greater extent, those expectations were met when we first unfurled the machine from its ridiculously large box. Measuring 291mm across, 204mm deep and just 19.95mm thick, the E4200 eschews the wedge shaped chassis design so popular of late for a more slab-like appearance. Not that this should be construed as a criticism; the E4200 is every bit as slim and sleek as any other ultra-portable and given it weighs just 1.205kg with its six-cell battery and 1.0kg with the four-cell. In terms of weight, only the Toshiba Portégé R600 can best it.
Unlike the admittedly much improved R600, however, the E4200 doesn't sacrifice anything in terms of build quality to reach this weight, retaining the same solid feel as its larger cousin, the E6400. In fact, thanks in part to its compact size, the E4200 arguably feels more solid, with no element apart from the predictably flexible screen garnering a negative reaction. Moreover, given that the E4200 is only available with an SSD, you needn't worry about shock-protected hard drives anymore -- that's all taken care of.
It's an attractive machine, too. We've got the red version here (other colours include blue, pink and the standard brushed metal black) and while we weren't taken by this immediately, the more time we spent with the E4200, the more we've grown to like it. No doubt the majority of companies will be opting for the black, but more individualistic executives or regular consumers that fancy something a little more eye-catching will welcome the choice even if it adds £29.00 onto the price.
Aside from the colour choices, the basic design continues the angular and functional appearance of the Latitude family. It's a look that works very well for its intended audience, exuding a professional appearance but a little style, too. It's worth noting, though, that the six-cell battery sticks a fair way out of the back of the machine. This takes a little getting used to, but doesn't affect the appearance of the E4200 too adversely and proves handy as a handle to aid usage when standing up.