There’s no dedicated buttons for enabling or disabling wireless, but this can be done instead by using the function key and pressing F2. To the left of the power switch are two lights that indicate when the integrated Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are enabled and in the base of the screen are indicator lights for power, hard disk activity and charging status. The function keys also provide shortcuts for Standby and Hibernate modes. Dell has also done well to supply both a trackpoint and a trackpad so you can choose which control method you prefer. A utility enables you to turn off the track pad if you want to avoid unwanted screen taps.
The next area of compromise due to the size is the fact that there’s no built-in optical drive. There is however, an external docking station, which Dell supplied with a DVD combo drive enabling you to watch movies or copy files onto a CD-RW. This also provides extra ports in the form of Ethernet, a modem, two USB, a serial and a parallel port and a PS/2 port for an external keyboard or mouse. There’s also a VGA output, a headphone out and an external power connector. There’s also room ofr an second battery, and you can purchase an extra 9-cell battery in addition to the 6-cell unit supplied. The latter has power remaining indicator lights built-in, activated by pressing a button on the battery. Attaching the D410 to the MediaBase was straightforward though I found that it I had to push it down a few times to get it to click into place. Once attached, the MediaBase’s connections and the optical drive appear in Windows Device Manager.
Fixed storage wise, Dell has provided a 40GB hard disk, which isn’t huge but is reasonable for a machine of this size. Round the back of the notebook is a VGA output, two USB 2.0 ports, a Gigabit Ethernet connection and an analogue modem port. There’s also a power socket and the connector attached to the external power block is pleasingly solid, ensuring that it will last the course of a life on the road. Indeed the build quality of the D410 is very solid, with no flimsy surfaces or spongy plastics that often afflict cheaper machines.
At the right hand side of the notebook is a single Type II PC Card connection with Dell. There’s no Express card support – something to bear in mind for the future. Next to this are headphone and microphone sockets, so you can use a headset, useful for making Skype calls.
On the opposite side is another standard USB 2.0 port and a lanyard security connector. Finally there’s a ‘ye olde’ infra red port.
Ultimately though, what’s so impressive about the D410 is the amount of performance that Dell has managed to squeeze into such a small package. This is largely in part to the Sonoma specifications. Certainly the integrated 915 chipset graphics aren’t that impressive but no one would think of doing any serious gaming on a notebook like this. More impressive is the CPU and I/O scores. The overall SYSmark 2002 score of 215 is great, and the Dell thoroughly outpaced the Sonoma based Sony we looked at a few days ago in all tests. This includes the battery tests, with the system lasting almost three hours.
The biggest criticisms that can be levelleled at the Dell is that it is a bit lacking in the style stakes. Certainly when you open it you won’t be as impressed as you would as you might be by an IBM Thinkpad or a up-market Sony. But when you’re in an airport somewhere, and need to get some work done quickly and efficiently, this won’t matter too much.
The D410 is typically Dell. It may be lacking in the style stakes but this is an impressive business ultra portable notebook with a docking station for the hot-desker. Though the screen is average and the keyboard a touch cramped, when you consider the features, performance, build quality and the price, the Dell D410 will win over your mind, if not, perhaps, your heart.