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Dell Latitude XT Tablet PC - Dell Latitude XT Tablet PC

Andy Vandervell

By Andy Vandervell



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So, what's so special about the 12.1in touch screen on the Latitude XT? Much like the Apple iPhone, the Latitude XT uses capacitive touch screen technology, as opposed to the resistive technology used on the majority of Tablet PCs. Without going into too much detail, capacitive screens use a layer that holds a constant electrical current, which when touched is altered. This provides the information required to locate the impact, without the physical pressure required by resistive screens. Ultimately, it's far more accurate and easier to use and since there are fewer layers, the capacitive screen has little impact on image clarity.

This essentially buries two of the greatest criticisms of Tablet PCs: a) that they're not sensitive or accurate enough and b) that they look blurry and lack clarity. It makes a massive difference, too. In use the touch screen is an absolute joy compared to those we've become accustomed to, helping to improve both general accuracy and handwriting recognition when using the pen. Likewise image quality is excellent, and Dell offers an "outdoor viewing" CCFL display that can reach 400cd/m2 - bright enough to fend off bright sunshine. Overall, if you've ever used a Tablet PC and been frustrated by the intransigence of the touch interface or quality of the screen, then you'll find the XT a marked improvement.

Unfortunately, this is still qualified somewhat by the fact that even Windows Vista - perhaps one shouldn't be that surprised - still isn't very finger friendly. Regardless of this new found accuracy, some elements of the Windows interface remain simply too small to be comfortably accessed using just the finger. As such, you'll still need the provided stylus and by and large it's a very good effort. It has a nice weight and shape to it and though the two-button arrangement is a little crowded, it's a tolerable issue.

And, while this may be a Tablet PC, you'll still want to type on the XT and when you do you'll be greeted by a truly excellent keyboard. It's still not quite as good as the example found on the awesome Lenovo ThinkPad X300, but it's not that far behind either. Keys feel extremely firm, crisp and with nary a hint of flex. Its layout is excellent too, making typing on the XT as effortless as possible.

As with the rest of Latitude range you also get a choice between a trackpoint and touchpad, with each having its own corresponding buttons. Some may not like using a trackpoint, but it does mean you can use the cursor without removing your hands from the keyboard. Likewise, when in tablet mode there's a rocker on the bezel that allows you to easily scroll and select items without using the screen.

Also on the bezel is the power button, a fingerprint reader and an assortment of shortcut buttons, including one for selecting the screen orientation. Oddly, the power button doesn't provide much by way of positive feedback, so sometimes it's not entirely clear if you're pressing it down fully, but it's a minor annoyance one gets used to quickly.


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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