Dell Latitude XT3 Review - Usability, Stylus and Screen Review


The Dell XT3’s ergonomics are, quite simply, excellent. The keyboard offers a logical layout and well-spaced keys, with deep, positive feedback. Combined with the soft-touch wrist rest it’s a pleasure to type on, and additionally sports attractive white backlighting.

You can choose to move your cursor using either the smooth multi-touch trackpad or tiny rubber pointing stick nestled between the keyboard’s keys. Both are responsive and the button sets for both are easy to press while offering a firm click. The trackpad buttons are soft-touch like their surround, lending the final touch to a great navigation experience.

Other controls on the laptop are found below the screen and can be utilised in tablet mode. On the left side, these include the white-backlit silver power button, an orientation control, programmable button and one that’s the equivalent of white-backlit silver power button. To the right you’ll find volume down/up/mute controls. Cleverly, the side of the laptop also houses a forward/back rocker switch and select button, which are welcome additions on a Windows 7 tablet.

Of course, there’s also a stylus for navigating your way
around. Unfortunately, Dell has stuck with the same N-Trig digitizer as can be
found accompanying the HTC Flyer. Compared to Wacom’s solution, the pen requires a battery (also
making it thicker and heavier) and doesn’t recognise as many pressure levels
(99 vs. 512), which are already few enough compared to a proper graphics tablet.
In other words, it does a great job for handwriting, but artists, designers and
the like will probably want to stick with Lenovo’s convertible tablet.

Unfortunately, things get worse when we come to the capacitive 13in, 1,366 x 768 screen. Mind you, it gives you more room to play with than other convertibles, which tend to top out at 12.5in, and we like its matt finish and bright colours combined with decent contrast. The problem is that it uses a TN panel, so viewing angles are weak at best. While this isn’t a big issue on a laptop, on a tablet it’s a whole other story, and TN’s notoriously poor vertical viewing performance doesn’t do the XT3 any favours.

On the other hand, it’s worth noting that this effect is nowhere near as bad as on the HP Tm2, and if you can live with the colour and contrast shift it’s perfectly usable. Again though, imaging and picture enthusiasts will want to opt for the X220T instead, which offers a beautiful IPS panel.

That there’s no IPS screen option for Dell’s convertible really is a shame, belying the TX3’s premium design, build, ergonomics and internals. However, if you can live with this shortcoming, it’s a very attractive and quite flexible option. No exact pricing or release date have been announced yet, but we’re looking forward to giving you all the details and our definitive verdict in our upcoming review.

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