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It can be difficult for gadget fiends accustomed to shiny finishes and flashing lights to get excited about a comparatively ho-hum business laptop. But the more time we spent with the Dell Latitude D630, the more excited we got. Within its slim and sturdy case (Dell calls it "Road Ready"), the Latitude D630 houses Intel's latest Centrino platform. Those new components (and its optional nine-cell battery) helped our Latitude D630 review unit post impressive performance scores as well as the longest battery life we've seen in a thin-and-light. And the laptop incorporates a thorough set of features for business--including corporate-level security measures and optional WWAN--for a lower price than its competitors such as the Lenovo ThinkPad T61. It's enough to tempt even longtime ThinkPad users to make the switch; businesses can't go wrong choosing the Dell Latitude D630.
|Price as reviewed/starting price||$1,913 / $899|
|Processor||2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300|
|Chipset||Mobile Intel GM965 Express|
|Memory||2GB of 667MHz|
|Hard drive||120GB at 5,400rpm|
|Graphics||Mobile Intel Graphics Media Accelerator X3100 (integrated)|
|Operating system||Windows XP Professional|
|Dimensions (LWH)||13.3 x 9.3 (10.3 with extended battery) x 1.3 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||14.1 inches|
|System weight/weight with AC adapter||5.8 / 6.7 pounds|
We like the subdued design of the Dell Latitude D630; its gray exterior and black interior will fit into even the most buttoned-up corporate environments. More important, the laptop's magnesium alloy case brings an extra sturdiness that you don't see on consumer laptops, and its display hinges are reinforced for the long haul. With its standard battery, the Latitude D630 weighs 5.1 pounds, but our review unit included an extended battery that brought its weight up to 5.8 pounds. That's near the outer limit for a thin-and-light, though just 0.4 pound heavier than the Lenovo ThinkPad T61. With its AC adapter, the Dell hits the road at 6.7 pounds, which is manageable for travel but not something we'd want to carry with us every day.
The Latitude D630's 14.1-inch wide-screen display is remarkably bright (223 cd/m^2 in our Labs measurement). Its 1,440x900 native resolution is as sharp as some desktop replacements', which unfortunately can make text and icons appear small. The screen's matte finish makes it a winner for typical office productivity work, though, and its wide aspect ratio lets you comfortably work with two to three windows open side-by-side. Missing above the display are a Webcam and microphone, both of which can be found on competitors' systems, such as the Lenovo ThinkPad R61. It's not a great loss unless you find yourself frequently engaging in Web conferences.
In a world where manufacturers regularly adjust key width and placement to fit the width of their laptops, we appreciate the Dell Latitude D630's standard keyboard, which is quite comfortable for pounding out e-mails and Word documents. If you don't like the nubby, flat-headed pointing stick (not unlike that found on a ThinkPad) with two dedicated mouse buttons below the spacebar, you can use the wide, rectangular touch pad, which has its own activation buttons on the wrist rest. If you opt for biometric security (as we did on our system), Dell squeezes a fingerprint reader between the touch pad's buttons; we appreciate the added security but wish the buttons were a bit larger. Above the keyboard sit all the media controls you'll need on a business laptop: volume up, volume down, and mute. For a business system, the Latitude D630 has some pretty nice speakers; though the sound became muddled at high volumes, sound in the lower three-quarters of the volume range was full and balanced.
|Dell Latitude D630||Average for thin-and-light category|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||4 USB 2.0, mini-FireWire, serial, smart card reader||3 USB 2.0, mini-FireWire, multiformat memory card reader|
|Expansion||PC Card (ExpressCard with adapter)||PC Card or ExpressCard|
|Networking||modem, Ethernet, 802.11 a/g/draft-n Wi-Fi,optional Bluetooth ($29), optional WWAN||modem, Ethernet, 802.11 b/g Wi-Fi, optional Bluetooth, optional WWAN|
|Optical drive||DVD burner||DVD burner|
The Dell Latitude D630 includes most of the ports and connections we'd expect on a thin-and-light, plus a few extras. Though it lacks S-video-out and a multiformat card reader (neither of which is essential to business), the Latitude D630 does add one more USB port than average, plus a serial port for use with older, specialized peripherals. In addition, the Latitude D630 piles on corporate-level security measures, including not only a fingerprint reader but also a smart card slot and an internal Trusted Platform Module. Another feature of note is the Latitude D630's Wi-Fi On/Off switch, which incorporates a Wi-Fi finder. Sliding the switch past the On position lets you test for nearby Wi-Fi networks, whether you're booted up or powered down--you don't even have to turn your system on to find a network.
The $1,913 Dell Latitude D630 we tested was built on Intel's hot-off-the-presses Centrino Duo platform. It also runs Windows XP, the better to help enterprise users who haven't yet made the switch to Vista (though Windows Vista Business is available at no extra cost). We certainly have no complaints about its performance. On CNET Labs' application benchmarks, the Latitude D630 showed modest gains over a Lenovo 3000 V100 running Windows Vista Business on Intel's previous-generation Centrino platform, and the Dell vied for dominance with a similarly configured (though Vista-based) Lenovo ThinkPad T61. Most notably for business users, the Latitude D630 bested its competitors on our Office productivity module, which measures the computer's ability to multitask with Microsoft Office applications.
Our Dell Latitude D630 included a nine-cell battery that extends one inch in front of the machine (a bit awkward, considering batteries usually extend off the back); a six-cell battery is available and would knock $29 off the price. The extended battery served the Latitude well in our taxing DVD battery-drain test, where it held out for 4 hours, 45 minutes, the longest life we've seen (to date) for a thin-and-light. The Latitude ATG D620, which also included the extended battery but was built on Intel's previous-generation platform, fell off 50 minutes before the D630, while none of the competitors' laptops we tested--which had smaller, six-cell batteries--last much more than two and a half hours. If you can stand the extra weight and depth, the D630's extended battery is well worth it, especially if your work involves a lot of time on planes and other locations away from a power outlet.
Dell's baseline warranty lasts for three years--once the standard among corporate laptops but now somewhat rare; its inclusion of next-business-day, onsite service is further beyond the business norm. Of course, toll-free, 24-7 tech support is also part of the term. In addition, you can attempt to troubleshoot your own issues using various features on the great Dell support Web site, which provides FAQs, troubleshooting tips, real-time chats with a support representative, and a user forum.
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Find out more about how we test laptops.
Dell Latitude D630
Windows Windows XP Professional SP2; 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300; 2,048MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 384MB Mobile Intel 965GM Express; 120GB Hitachi 5,400rpm
Windows Vista Business Edition; 2.2GHz AMD Turion 64 X2 Mobile TL-64; 2,048MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 128MB ATI Radeon Xpress 1270; 120GB Toshiba 5,400rpm SATA/150
Windows Vista Business Edition; 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300; 2,048MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 128MB Mobile Intel 965GM Express; 100GB Seagate 7,200rpm
Windows Vista Business Edition; 2.0GHz Intel Core Duo T7200; 2,048MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 32MB Mobile Intel Express 945GM ; 100GB Hitachi 5,400rpm