As with previous Latitude’s you also have the option to use either a trackpoint or a touchpad and like the keyboard, both are excellent. Indeed, the trackpoint in particular has seen a bit of an upgrade thanks to a slightly concave shape as opposed to the convex “nipple” trackpoints of previous models. Its three buttons, the middle one being for scrolling, are nice and firm and hinged well to make them easy to use. Likewise the touchpad’s buttons have a pleasingly crisp mechanism and the touchpad itself is smooth, well proportioned and features both vertical and horizontal scroll zones.
Things only get better when you look at the screen. Standard configurations feature a regular 1,280 x 800 display but, if your budget stretches far enough, the 1,440 x 900 LED backlit panel we have here is worth serious consideration. Not only is the desktop acreage vastly superior, the screen itself is very sharp, bright and has decent horizontal viewing angles. This makes it very comfortable to use for prolonged periods and needless to say it also features an anti-glare, not glossy, finish so reflections aren’t an issue.
Dell hasn’t skimped on the security options, either. Like pretty much any business notebook worth its salt, there’s a Trusted Platform Module (TPM) for secure encryption and authentication and in the E6400 you get both a Smart Card reader on the side and a “contactless” RFID Smart Card reader (ala Oyster Card) just to the right of the touch pad. You can also specify a fingerprint reader, though this is an optional extra. All this is ably managed by Dell’s ControlPoint software, which makes it relatively painless to manage boot, hard drive and Windows passwords as well fingerprints and all the other security functions available.
Indeed, ControlPoint is a surprisingly well put together piece of software. Among its duties include power management and unlike similar manufacturer applications that simply replicate native Windows functionality, ControlPoint throws in some features of its own.
These include a handy ‘Extended Battery Life’ mode that enables a number of effective battery saving elements. These include: disabling Aero, reducing colour depth to 16-bit, reducing display refresh rate to 40Hz, turning off all security devices and disabling both your optical drive and the FireWire port. This mode also enables the integrated ambient light sensor, thus adapting screen brightness according to available light.
It’s these kinds of touches that obviously separate this from your ordinary consumer notebook, though the E6400 does still feature some consumerist touches. There are, for instance, dedicated volume control buttons just above the keyboard, including a mute button, and stereo speakers, though they’re predictably abject. There’s also the option for a webcam making video conferencing a possibility.