Dell Latitude D610
Editor's note: We have changed the ratings in this review to reflect recent changes in our ratings scale. Find out more here.
To take advantage of Intel's new Sonoma platform, Dell has given makeovers to the principal models in its lineup of Latitude business laptops. The revised thin-and-light of the bunch, the Dell Latitude D610, looks nearly indistinguishable from the Latitude D600 model that it replaces, but it features a handful of improvements and new components.
Designwise, there's a lot to like about the Latitude D610; it's a dead ringer for the no-nonsense Latitude D600. At 1.2 inches thick, 12.4 inches wide, and 10.1 inches deep, the Latitude D610's dark silver case is just a few tenths of an inch larger than the Latitude D600's; it weighs 5.4 pounds (6.3 pounds with its three-pronged AC adapter)--about average for its class. We like the sleek, silver case and the firm, full-size keyboard; still, we would have preferred the Delete key placed along an edge rather than floating between the F12 and the End keys. In addition to the modest, rectangular touch pad with its own set of larger mouse buttons, there's a handy pencil-eraser-looking pointing stick anchored in the middle of the keyboard (also with its own small mouse buttons), located directly below the spacebar. Though the laptop lacks many of the multimedia controls found on new laptops, there are external volume and mute buttons. New accoutrements include LED status lights that report when Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are activated, as well as case fortifications around the keyboard and the lid that minimize bowing, which can damage the display.
The most noteworthy new Latitude D610 spec is its Intel 915 (Sonoma) chipset, which supports PCI Express; in theory, users should expect accelerated data processing and performance. Dell sells the Latitude D610 through its Web site or via phone, and you can choose from a wide range of components to customize your system; CNET's Latitude D610 series review has more information on the various configurations.
Our Latitude D610, priced at $2,166 (as of February 2005), featured a 14.1-inch display with a fine 1,400x1,050 native resolution and was configured with a rather high-end selection of components, including a 2.0GHz Pentium M 760 processor, 512MB of 400MHz DDR SDRAM, an ATI Mobility Radeon X300 graphics card with 64MB of its own video memory, and an 80GB hard drive spinning at a brisk 5,400rpm. Also onboard was a CD-RW/DVD-ROM combo drive in a terrifically easy-to-swap bay, an Intel Pro Wireless 2200 b/g wireless networking card (note: not the Sonoma a/b/g card), and Bluetooth.
In CNET Labs' benchmark tests, our Dell Latitude D610, equipped with the ATI Mobility Radeon X300, delivered a solid performance, though its Sonoma platform did not appear to pack much extra punch. In fact, the Latitude D610 was just 6 percent faster than the non-Sonoma Latitude D600 CNET tested back in June 2004--a system with a slightly slower clock speed, an inferior graphics card with half the video memory, and a slower hard drive. This isn't to say that the Latitude D610 isn't a good performer; it turned in solid MobileMark scores that were slightly higher than other comparably equipped (and somewhat less expensive) systems we've tested, including the and the IBM ThinkPad T42. Likewise, the Latitude D610's battery lasted 249 minutes in our drain test--a solid showing, but just 3 minutes more than the previous-generation Latitude D600 and an hour and a half short of the ThinkPad T42's remarkable 340 minutes. We also tested a separate Latitude D610 that had integrated graphics (Intel's 915GM Graphics Media Accelerator that drew up to 128MB of system memory) and scored a 208 in our MobileMark test, slightly lower than the Latitude D610 with the Radeon X300, but it lasted 276 minutes in our battery drain test.
In a nod to the ever-increasing supply of USB-based peripherals, the Latitude D610 now features four USB 2.0 ports. For legacy peripherals, the Latitude D610 still includes serial and parallel ports, headphone and microphone jacks, along with S-Video out, Gigabit Ethernet, one Type II PC Card slot, and an integrated smart-card slot. For security, the Latitude D610 features a Trusted Platform Module--a chip on the laptop's motherboard that encrypts and stores secret information which can be accessed only with a key code that you establish. Our system came preloaded with Microsoft Windows XP Professional and Dell's useful OpenManage software, which lets IS managers observe and update systems remotely. The Latitude D610 doesn't ship with productivity software, as most businesses already have software licenses in place, though Dell throws in CyberLink PowerDVD for DVD viewing and Sonic RecordNow 7.1 Deluxe for disc burning.
In an industry where one-year warranties are standard, we applaud Dell for upping the ante and offering three years of warranty protection for every Latitude D610. Though we've received our fair share of e-mail about various customer service issues with Dell, we've also heard good reports about the company's onsite, next-business-day service and the 24/7, toll-free phone support that's available for the life of the system. The company's segmented support Web site has different sections for home, small-business, and enterprise users, with corresponding features for each--still, all draw on the same competent troubleshooting info. Big-business customers can even design their own password-protected support pages. Last but not least are Dell's helpful customer forums, which connect you to other users, as well as Dell's own forum monitors.