One thing the D430 does lack, however, is an integrated optical drive. Instead, you get an external 8x DVD+/-RW drive, while you can also opt for a MediaBase dock that includes either this or a DVD and CD-RW combo drive. Our sample came with a MediaBase and a DVD+/-RW drive, which inflates the price by healthy £238. You do get some extra connectivity, including a DVI port and legacy connections, but unless you really need these things then it’s best to avoid this option.
As to whether the lack of a built-in drive is a weakness, it would have to be a qualified, yes. Though many may find they don’t use an optical drive all that often, especially when out and about, inevitably there are moments when you’re caught out, having either decided not to take the external drive with you, or simply forgotten. As ever, it’s a judgement call. It’s not a fatal problem, but some will find more fault with it than others and it’s an important consideration for anyone who’s thinking of investing in the D430.
Moving away from the technical details, Dell has been careful to remain relatively consistent in the design of its Latitude range. As such, if you’ve seen or used previous iterations such as D410 or D420, this D430 will be instantly recognisable. There’s the same combination of silver and charcoal grey, and elements such as keyboard layout have remained much the same. Still, this isn’t to say Dell hasn’t been improving the design over time, adding plenty of features and neat touches that make using its machine as painless as possible.
That keyboard is a good case in point. It’s intelligently arranged, with a proper size Return key and offset cursor keys to keep them out the way, while keys are weighty yet responsive. Having the Page Up/Down keys to the right of the Shift key did prove slightly awkward when typing, though they’re well placed for scrolling through documents and overall the keyboard is great to use. Another useful day-to-day feature is the combination of both a touch point and touch pad, the former allowing you to control your cursor without moving your hands away from the keyboard.
It’s not just these things that make the D430 great to use though; there are all sorts of small details that make it a great notebook to use. Items such as the secure screen clasp and the wrist rest on the extended battery are tidy additions, inspiring a sense of ruggedness and quality that’s only reinforced by the magnesium outer casing, which prevents any flex and protects the screen from external pressure.
There’s also the ambient light sensor that automatically adjusts the display backlight to suit the ambient light, while the display itself is perfectly suited for working on the move with a non reflective finish and great brightness levels. It’s all these design elements that make the D430 a genuinely intuitive and reliable work companion, one which rarely gets more than slightly warm and runs near silent 90 per cent of the time.