One of three Dell business laptops recently refreshed inside and out, the Latitude D810 is a desktop replacement for employees who don't require a highly portable system. It comes equipped with Intel's new Sonoma platform, a high-end graphics card, and a few design enhancements, including a reinforced frame.
The Latitude D810's design tweaks are subtle, and the system doesn't look much different from the old Latitude D800. At 1.7 inches thick, 14.2 inches wide, and 10.3 inches deep, the Latitude D810 is slightly wider and shallower than the D800. Dell trimmed the system's weight: the Latitude D810 weighs 7 pounds (or 8.2 pounds with the three-pronged AC adapter)--a bit lighter than the typical desktop replacement, though you'll still want to think twice before slinging it over your shoulder for a long haul. The case is still constructed of stately silver magnesium alloy, appropriate for corporate environments.
Similar to the new thin-and-light Latitude D610, the Latitude D810 has a reinforced keyboard, lid, and internal frame that are noticeably firmer (read: less likely to break) than those of the previous model. Both the Latitude D610 and the D810 feature an identical pointing stick (with small, dedicated mouse buttons) that sits in the middle of the keyboard and a large, rectangular touch pad that has its own mouse buttons. The Latitude D810's keyboard is big and has an intuitive layout; the touch pad is far away enough from the keyboard so that your right pinkie won't accidentally hit the up-arrow key while typing. The Latitude D810 has handy LEDs that light up when Wi-Fi or Bluetooth is activated. This notebook is not intended for intense multimedia use, and it doesn't offer external CD-play buttons, though there are external volume and mute buttons.
Our Latitude D810 test unit was configured with some fairly high-end components. Priced at $2,519 (as of February 2005), it carried a 2GHz Pentium M Sonoma CPU; 1GB of 533MHz DDR 2 memory; a 15.4-inch display, with a very fine 1,680x1,050 native resolution; an 80GB, 5,400rpm hard drive; and an ATI Mobility Radeon X600 graphics chip with 128MB of dedicated video RAM. The included Intel Pro Wireless 802.11b/g card and the CD-RW/DVD-ROM combo drive aren't the absolute highest-end options, but they will serve most corporations just fine. Plus, the Latitude D810's optical storage bay is swappable, and you can always exchange the CD-RW/DVD-ROM combo drive for a DVD burner at a later date. Check out our series review for more information on the range of configurations available.
In CNET Labs' SysMark 2004 tests, the Latitude D810 delivered a competent performance. It scored slightly higher than the Latitude D800, showing that for office-productivity and Internet-content-creation applications, the Sonoma platform delivers more of a speed bump than a burst. On the other hand, the Latitude D810 gave an outstanding performance in CNET Labs' Unreal Tournament 2004 tests that evaluate 3D application performance. It even bested entertainment-focused behemoths, such as the HP zd8000 and the Gateway M520X Plus, which contain more powerful CPUs and/or more video RAM. The Latitude D810 also excelled in our battery-drain tests, lasting a solid 299 minutes--almost an hour longer than the Latitude D800 and quite good for a desktop-replacement system.
The Latitude does not have a FireWire or parallel port, both of which were featured on the Latitude D800. Otherwise, it has all of the essential business connections, including four USB 2.0 ports, Gigabit Ethernet, S-Video out, one Type II PC Card slot, and a smart-card slot. For security, Dell solders a TPM (Trusted Platform Module) chip onto every D810 motherboard; the password-protected chip serves as a hardware repository for your sensitive info. Our test unit included Windows XP Professional and Dell's OpenManage application for helping IS reps manage all of the systems on their networks. You won't find an expensive office suite in the box, because corporations will generally load their own suites onto the laptop post-purchase. But Dell throws in a couple of useful apps: CyberLink PowerDVD and Sonic RecordNow 7.1 Deluxe for playing and burning discs, respectively.
Dell protects the Latitude D810 with a generous three-year standard warranty that includes free parts and labor with convenient onsite service. You can also get help through Dell's 24/7, toll-free telephone line for as long as you own the laptop. The company has three support Web sites for home, small-business, and medium/large-business customers, though each links out to Dell's main sections and includes downloads, FAQs, and hardware-specific user forums.