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Dell Latitude E4200 12.1in Ultra-Portable Review - Dell Latitude E4200 12.1in Ultra-Portable Review

So the E4200 is light, thin and well made, but while it doesn’t sacrifice solidity for its compact look and feel, like the D430 before it, it doesn’t come with an integrated optical drive. Instead you can choose between a Media Base, which is a docking station style attachment that sits underneath the machine, and an External Media Bay — ostensibly just a USB optical drive.

Unfortunately, both of these options are excruciatingly expensive, costing £227 and £122 respectively. Fundamentally, if you think you need the Media Base then you’re probably better off looking at something else that has an optical drive, while if you want an external drive you should buy one from elsewhere and not from Dell itself. Another missing option is that of a webcam, something that’s made impossible by the admittedly very attractive thin bezel at the top of the screen.

Internally, meanwhile, our configuration (costing £1,733.05 inc. VAT) came equipped with an Intel Core 2 Duo U9400 running at 1.4GHz, 2GBs of 800MHz DDR3 RAM (1GB integrated), an ‘Ultra-Performance’ 64GB SSD from Samsung, Draft-N Wi-Fi, Gigabit Ethernet, Bluetooth 2.1, Trusted Platform Module 1.2 (TPM) security and integrated 7.2Mbps HSDPA. Graphics is catered for by Intel’s GMA 4500M HD chip, which is more than sufficient for business use, while the six-cell, 58 Watt-hour battery adds £18 over the somewhat lacking four-cell standard effort.

If one were looking for savings, downgrading the Ultra Performance Samsung SSD for the standard drive saves a whopping £243, while omitting HSDPA saves a further £81 — an option if you have a USB modem or simply don’t need it. These two measures alone bring the price down to £1,360.45 inc. VAT and other savings could be made if required.

One thing you can’t change, however, is the 12.1in, 1,280 x 800 display. As with all notebooks this size it’s an LED backlit effort and is suitably sharp, bright and legible in bright light thanks to the anti-glare finish. It’s a shame there’s no option for a higher resolution, but we’ve yet to see a 12.1in that offers this and all told it garners little complaint. In addition, the E4200 comes equipped with an ambient light sensor, so the screen will automatically adjust the brightness to suit the ambient conditions, saving battery life in the process.

Another battery saving feature is the ‘Extended Battery Life’ mode that’s part of Dell’s ControlPoint software. This powers down all security devices, the FireWire and ExpressCard devices, enables Windows’ Power Saving mode, reduces the screen colour depth to 16-bit and reduces the refresh rate to 40Hz. All of which should provide around eight hours of low intensity usage, though it’s annoying that there’s no shortcut for this mode — you must enter the ControlPoint software and navigate a couple of menus first.

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