Dell Latitude D505

Last week, Dell incorporated a new budget chip from Intel into its thin-and-light Latitude D family, creating a wireless notebook for less than $1,100. The Latitude D505 features the new Celeron M processor, a discount version of the Pentium M that all of the Centrino notebooks run on. The new chip is based on the same processor core but comes with a 512KB secondary cache and runs at slower speeds.

Upside: Dell continues to drop notebook prices while packing in the features, and the Latitude D505 is no exception. This 5-pound business notebook can be purchased in dozens of configurations, including the aforementioned Celeron M, or you can opt for the speedier Pentium M. Display choices are 14.1 or 15 inches, hard drives range from 20GB to 60GB, and memory tops out at 2GB. Three wireless choices round out the package: Intel Pro Wireless (802.11b) or one of two Dell TrueMobile solutions, 802.11a/b/g or 802.11b/g.

Downside: As with the Pentium M, the Celeron M will incorporate features designed to cut down on energy consumption, but it won't have as many. The Celeron M, for example, doesn't include Intel's SpeedStep technology, which allows the processor to slow down and conserve energy when a laptop is running on batteries. It remains to be seen how those changes will affect performance and battery life.

Outlook: At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, some computer makers were quietly questioning whether the Celeron M is a good move for Intel. Some vendors say that consumers are confused by the Pentium M's gigahertz number, which is lower than that of other Pentium processors. In other words, a desktop Pentium 4 might run at 2.8GHz, for example, while a typical Pentium M runs at 1.6GHz, even though it's a newer chip designed for notebooks. Some vendors think the addition of Celeron M might confuse computer buyers even more. (Consumers tend to focus on the megahertz number when choosing a notebook.) Will the new Latitude D505 help consumers get the picture? Check back for a full review.