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Dell Latitude XT Tablet PC review

Andy Vandervell




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Despite Dell covering practically every eventuality with its Latitude range of business notebooks it's only recently that the company has offered a Tablet PC option. Given the niche appeal of such machines this wasn't a great surprise, though given this made it all the more unusual when Dell decided to finally announce such an option toward the end of last year. Its offering, named the Latitude XT, has been something of an elusive beast since then and despite being on sale for a while, we've only now managed to get our notebook evaluating hands on one. Is it what every Tablet PC devotee has been waiting for?

Well, if it is then said devotee will need to be a well heeled individual, because the Latitude XT isn't some kind of cheap throwaway item: it's seriously expensive. Even the base spec, which features an Intel Core 2 Duo U7600 ULV CPU, 1GB 533MHz DDR2 and a 1.8in 40GB 4200rpm PATA HDD will set you back £1,129 excluding VAT (£1,326.48 inc. VAT) - an awful lot of money for a modest sounding notebook. Throw in a few extras some might deem necessities and the price quickly increases; for example, upgrading to 2GB RAM and a 120GB HDD and adding an external 8x DVD+/-RW drive pushes the price to just over £1,300 exc. VAT.

And, as with our sample, when you start specifying some of eminently desirable accessories and extra features one could end up spending a great deal. In this instance our system came equipped with the aforementioned 1.2GHz U7600 CPU, the only option available, 2GB of RAM, a 120GB 5400rpm HDD, integrated 3G HSDPA, Draft N wireless and Bluetooth 2.0, along with the £160 MediaBase docking station with integrated 8x DVD+/-RW optical drive and the purpose designed InfoCase Tablet PC Case, a £55 extra. Presuming you specify all these options you'll be shelling out £1,551.90 exc. VAT - £1,823.48 with VAT included. Do you reckon you could sneak that through an expense claim?

Of course, if you really wanted to go to town you could opt for the 32GB or 64GB SSDs, but then things would just be getting out of hand. Can the Latitude XT possibly justify such expense? If you absolutely must have a Tablet PC then it may well do, but it certainly helps that Dell hasn't skimped on the finish and construction of the XT.

Upon opening the box everyone in the office was impressed with both the look and feel of the XT. Finished almost exclusively in graphite grey/black brushed aluminium it's quite a departure from the rest of the Latitude range, perhaps having more in common with the rumoured E-Series Latitudes that have yet to see the light of day.

It's a look that's quite flattering, too. Whereas the rest of the Latitude range is fairly restrained, the XT has a sense of class and exclusivity that certainly reflects the price. One might dare call it ThinkPad-esque. But, though this doubtless has an impact on the price of the XT, it's the touch screen that's the star of the show.


October 19, 2008, 12:36 am

Anyone thinking of purchasing the Dell Latitude XT, especially if you are intending to deploy the tablet in a commercial environment, should be aware of a major and perverse problem with the device.

The N-Trig interfaces to the XT by an internal USB port. ANY other USB device which is plugged in may, and usually does, prevent the applet (program which controls the features) from identifying the N-Trig hardware. In addition, certain other drivers, such as iTunes Helper, may cause this problem. (Or maybe not.) This still leaves you with dual sense but without Multi-Touch and other advanced features. Unfortunately, the driver may crash, catastrophically or non-catastrophically, leaving you with no screen input at all. A re-boot MAY solve the problem, but often the driver installation is damaged, requiring a re-installation of the drivers. But the install program will not un-install if it doesn't recognise the N-Trig hardware. In this case, the alternatives are (1) restore the entire operating system from backup, (2) manually un-install by erasing all N-Trig programs and drivers then editing the registry to remove all references to N-Trig, then re-install the N-Trig software, or (3) do a complete re-install of Windows. These problems occur both with XP and Vista, 32 and 64 bit so it seems to be a pretty significant problem. What is REALLY bad is that Dell sells a MediaBase with an internal DVD drive. Using this MediaBase almost guarantees that you will destroy your system.

These problems are spread across the Internet in virtually every website relating to Dell XT. I have included links to some of these threads. Maybe 100 to 200 people have related attempting to solve this problem through Technical Support. If ANY had PERMANENTLY (longer than 1 week) solved this problem, it would be SPREAD ACROSS THE INTERNET. To the contrary, most of the posters have stated that Dell denied there was a problem at all and all related that they were totally unable to solve the problem even after hours of attempts.

These problems have existed from day one, and through three revisions of the N-Trig driver. It is inconceivable that Dell has not addressed the problem, so the fact that one cannot identify a single instance here Dell Technical Support as able to solve the problem must mean that the problem is deeply hardware or software based and won't be solved without extensive software modifications. Sadly, it may be unsolvable without replacing the hardware.

Here are the links to the Dell XT - N-Trig problem.











January 6, 2009, 4:46 pm

The N-Trig problem is just the tip of the iceberg - the Dell XT is the most unreliable computer I have ever owned.

Just run a search on the Dell XT at www.gottabemobile.com/forum and you'll see what I mean.

My 1st Dell XT had regular ATI driver hangs, tries to run through the driver recovery process 3-times then BSOD. I rebuild all with a ground-up install of Vista Business and all latest drivers etc. - same problem.

Dell diagnose 'hardware fault' and replace the mainboard. (Then wireless switch won't work any more, physically stuck - turned out to be the routing of the wires in that region).

The repair engineer informs me AFTER completing the work that the replacement mainboard is not a new item but a 'refurbished' item, this is quoted as being 'standard policy' with Dell.

Same problem re-occurs and Dell diagnose a 'hardware fault' and propose to replace the mainboard - I tell them that I am far from happy with them replacing my mainboards with 'refurbished' items. If your new car had an engine failure you wouldn't expect the manufacturer to replace it with a secondhand engine now would you!

I request that they provide a brand-new replacement but they insist that they must be allowed another repair on the existing unit - I agree on the basis that if this repair does not produce a unit free from problems then I will expect a new replacement.

So the engineer comes out again and replaces the mainboard - this produces a unit with a keyboard that doesn't work. Dell diagnose a 'hardware fault' and propose to replace the main board(!) - now I start to get a little testy!!

I had to firmly remind them of the verbal agreement I had entered into, I had made a note of the full name of the support manager I had dealt with, and that it was high time to replace the unit - which they did.

So, 3 mainboards later (including the original) I have a replacement unit - has it solved my original problem.. no! Although not as frequent as before I still experience regular hangs from the ATI display driver and they result in regular BSOD's.

I also experience continued;

1) Regular black screen 'flickers'

2) Regular failure of the N-trig Digitizer driver (as written about extensively elsewhere on the net)

3) Regular 'fits' from the screen input driver, where the cursor goes into a feverish dance around the screen which is only rectified by resetting the Touch Tuning (which is very tricky to do when the cursor is having a merry dance!)

4) Extremely unreliable wireless connectivity, requiring me to disable/re-enable the wireless connection every time I start the unit (whether from cold-boot or sleep) to gain connectivity. Sometimes I have to do this 2 or 3 times before it connects, so it can regularly take 10-15 minutes of fiddling around to gain a wireless connection.

5) Wireless connecitivity regularly drops requiring a reboot to re-connect.

6) Regular failure of the TPM chip/module to initialise on cold-boot.

Oh, and the charger failed and had to be replaced also.

Like others, I expected some 1st-generation issues - but this amount of hassle crosses the line, particularly with the typical non-ownership run-around you get where Dell blame the driver vendor - the driver vendor blames the operating system - and the operating system vendor blames the hardware vendor !

Once I have the funds to replace.. it'll be the end of my relationship with Dell!

Louis 3

May 5, 2009, 2:25 am

I use this computer in my business as a real estate professional with a software solution from Go Paperless Inc. It has allowed me to fully go paperless because i can sign secure documents right on my tablet!! I love this computer it has changed my life and business for the better. i highly recommend this computer and as far as software you can use dashboard in any business check them out http://www.gopaperless.com

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