Dell's tablet isn't cheap, but it'll appeal to the business crowd who desire a solidly built system.
In its notebook form, Dell's Latitude XT2 tablet doesn't look much like a Dell laptop at all. There's no shiny plastic, there's no exciting media buttons, and the whole thing looks black and somewhat intimidating.
Mind you, some people like that kind of thing.
Still, if there's a notebook that the XT2 looks like, it's not a Dell but a Lenovo Thinkpad of the old school "they're boxy but they're good" mindset. This is a notebook that isn't just geared (and almost certainly priced) for business in an arbitrary way; it's a model that looks and feels like it's built only for getting things done.
As the name suggests, it's also a Tablet PC with a slate form factor. The XT2 feels really solid when you pick it up, and the act of flipping it between notebook and slate formats reinforces this feeling. Admittedly, if you don't like black you're plumb out of luck, but at least it's not smudgy fingerprint-prone piano black.
Tablets to date haven't exactly been working powerhouses as vendors struggle to keep operating weight down and battery life up. Dell equips the XT2 with either an Intel 1.2GHz Core 2 Duo ULV SU9300 processor or a 1.4GHz Core 2 Duo ULV SU9400 CPU. Neither options are going to do tons of number crunching compared to a full notebook. Our review sample came with the slightly speedier 1.4GHz part running on Windows 7 Enterprise edition, although at the time of writing Dell was still also offering up the various flavours of Vista to customers as well.
The display on the XT2 is a 12.1-inch 1280x800-pixel LED backlit model, with the option for an "exceptionally bright" daylight viewable panel as an option. There's no in-built optical drive, an omission we're more used to seeing on truly thin and light systems such as Dell's own Adamo XPS range. Instead, a Media Base docking station is included with the XT2 which includes a DVD Super-Multi drive. Our review sample didn't come with the Media Slice, so we can't really comment on it.
In connectivity terms, the XT2 supports 802.11n wireless, bluetooth, FireWire, eSATA, Ethernet and a rather disappointing two USB ports. Again, we'd be more forgiving of this on a system with a more sleek profile, and it's worth bearing in mind that without the Media Base in place you'll be limited in terms of the USB gadgets you can attach to it.
The XT2 isn't the prettiest critter on the block, but many of those systems suffer from their beauty only being skin deep, with poor keyboards and screens. The XT2 doesn't, as its keyboard had excellent travel characteristics, and the choice of trackpad or trackpoint for mousing should appeal to just about anybody.
The XT2's integrated graphics don't measure up in an entertainment sense with a rather ordinary score of 553 in 3DMark06, but that's no great shock. In productivity terms its score of 2970 in PCMark05 is much more relevant and certainly a step above many other tablets that have sacrificed performance for power saving gains.
There's a price to pay for those performance gains, however. Despite using a low voltage CPU part, the XT2's six-cell battery lasted a rather ordinary two hours and 40 minutes of full-screen video playback from a connected USB flash drive — the lack of an on-board optical drive meant we couldn't test it with DVD playback as we would other notebook units. Our test is designed to be a bit brutal, with power-saving features disabled and screen brightness at full, but it's still not a great result if you're after an all-day tablet.
Tablets still occupy a useful space in certain business markets, and certainly if they already make sense to you, the XT2 is well worth considering for its robust build quality alone. Just don't expect the battery to run that long. For regular laptop buyers, the premium pricing of tablets remains a distinct disincentive to purchase, and the XT2 doesn't do anything to dispel that particular problem.