Connectivity is predictably very good. Starting on the left there’s a Kensington lock slot and this is followed by a D-SUB (VGA) video output and two USB ports, one of which doubles as an e-SATA port. Closer to the front is the Smart Card reader while on the front edge, just to the right of the lid clasp, is a 5-in-1 memory card reader with support for SD, MMC, Memory Stick, Memory Stick Pro and xD card formats.
On the right there are a further two USB ports. These are, like the other ones, placed one above the other so you might find that large USB devices block one of the ports during use. Next to these are headphone and microphone ports and above these sit a hardware wireless radio switch and a Dell regular, the Wi-Fi Catcher button. Both of these are good to have, though truth be told we’ve yet to find a time when the Wi-Fi Catcher feature on a Dell laptop was that useful. On the other side of the optical drive is the 54mm ExpressCard slot and below this is a mini-FireWire port.
As you might expect on a business laptop, the Ethernet port and power input can be found on the back and these are also joined by a DisplayPort connection. This can be viewed in one of two ways. Either it’s a rather prescient addition that should ensure future-proofing, or it’s there to help ensure DisplayPort, a technology Dell is backing extensively, is eventually adopted by companies. If you’re a cynic you’d say the latter and wonder why a DVI port isn’t there instead, but given the size of a DVI port and the difficulty in integrating one, DisplayPort is a sensible addition. Finally, on the bottom, is a docking port and Dell also continues to put a battery meter on its battery packs, something that in our opinion all notebooks should have. Unlike a lot of batteries, we also found the release mechanism on the E6400 very easy to operate so switching batteries is pretty painless.
As for options on the E6400, there’s so many that’s difficult to list them all here. Processor options start with the 2.26Ghz Intel Core 2 Duo P8400, but you can also select the 2.4GHz P8600, the 2.53GHz P9500, the 2.53GHz (35W) T9400 and the 2.8GHz T9600. These can be matched with up to 8GBs of 800MHz DDR2, though that will cost you a massive £1,055 extra! You can also choose between pretty much every version of Windows Vista (excluding Home Premium), or “downgrade” to XP Pro SP3.
Hard drive options are copious. You can get normal 5,400rpm SATA HDDs in 80GB, 120GB and 160GB capacities as well as 80GB and 120GB capacities that come pre-encrypted. You can also get 7,200rpm drives ranging from 80GB all the way up to 250GB and all with Free Fall Sensors, though as yet there are no SSD options to choose from. In addition to all this, you can specify custom hard drive partitioning. As standard you get integrated Intel GMA X4500HD graphics, but discrete nVidia Quadro 160M graphics with 256MB of memory is available as well. You can also choose whether to have ExpressCard slots or PC Card slots, which is handy if you use legacy PC Card devices such as HSDPA modems.
Of course you could have this functionality integrated and if you do so you’ll get HSDPA capable of 7.2Mbps, the fastest speed currently available. As for Wi-Fi you can select either Dell’s own wireless modules, including either 802.11b/g or Draft N, or Intel’s own Wireless-N capable modules. Wired Ethernet is, of course, of the Gigabit variety. All systems come with a three year basic warranty, as opposed to the one year you’d normally get on a consumer notebook and this obviously contributes to the higher than normal price.
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