Some laptops are sleek, sexy beasts, with delicate patterns, often adorned with works of art from acclaimed artists or industrial designers. Companies work for years to achieve design nirvana in machines that look as good as possible.
Then there's the Dell Latitude XT2 XFR, which looks like it's been carved out of a block of concrete.
The XFR is the ruggedised version of, and everything — and we do mean everything — has been sealed, screwed down or locked away, and the aesthetics do suffer as a result. Let's put it this way — we suspect the R in the XFR stands for rugged, and we've got sneaking suspicions about what the F stands for, but can't mention that word in polite company.
The core system specifications of the XT2 XFR aren't that stunning in laptop terms, but in case you missed the introduction, this is a tablet that's all about utility in being tough rather than being a multimedia powerhouse. An Intel Core 2 Duo ULV SU9600 1.6GHz processor powers the XT2 XFR and its 12.1-inch WXGA display screen. Our review sample had 3GB of RAM and an on-board 160GB 5400rpm hard drive, although there are options available for 64 or 128GB SSD drives. Networking is via gigabit Ethernet or 802.11b/g, although again 802.11n is an optional upgrade. The standard installation is Windows 7 Professional Edition 32-bit, although 64-bit can be selected when ordering at no additional cost. Overall, the XFT doesn't have a terrible system specification for a tablet, but it's not revolutionary either. Again, though, the XFR is all about being tough.
How tough is tough? Dell states that the XT2 XFR is rated at IP54 and meets US military standard MIL-STD-810G. For those not into toughness ratings, the IP5 level means it should be effectively dust proof — dust isn't entirely prevented from entering, which would be level 6, but it's dust contact proof and dust shouldn't be able to enter the unit in a way that stops it working. The 4 in the IP54 rating relates to water, and means it's protected against water splashes, but not against direct water jets or immersion. This isn't an underwater laptop, but for heavy industrial applications it should work quite well. As for the military specification, Dell lists it as being tested to survive a 91.4cm drop, rain, blowing dust, vibration, functional shock, humidity, altitude and temperature extremes (operating: -23°C to 60°C; non-operating: -40°C to 70°C). If it's -23°C or 60°C we'd probably be more concerned with our immediate survival rather than whether we could access an Excel spreadsheet, but these things shouldn't fuss the XFR. Lacking the necessary lab equipment to test these extremes, we'll have to take Dell's word on it.