Dell is Back with a Latitude
October 1, 2009
Innovation is always associated with being first, being a leader, winning. Last year Dell found this out in a hard way. By definition Dell came out as a follower in an attempt to draw even with Apple's MacBook Air. It created the Adamo. A nice machine but from the start it was compared to the Mac Air - considered a 2nd best and a wane-be. Dell learned a valuable lesson. Making things smaller is not a substitute for innovation, it is a result. Being first with the utilization of new technologies makes one a leader in the field.
Dell is back with an amazing technology treat - a fully wireless and diskless Latitude Z laptop.
Anybody who uses a laptop as the primary machine to get the work done and does it for more than a year will appreciate these new features.
The Wireless Charging "Pad" - a bit large on first sight, but it provides space for the keyboard.
Dell's Latitude Z - is leading a crowded field of competitors with a laptop that sparks with lots of industry-firsts. A completely wireless laptop.
"Look Mom - no Cables!" Sorry - it might be a "Look Boss - no Cables!" Because, touted as a business system this is one machine your mother probably won't ever see - or buy - for you.
Dell "learned" something from Apple. Being first is expensive: $4,000 [almost] fully loaded with two solid-state-drives - batteries included, but not a[wireless] keyboard and mouse.
So what's the really new stuff on this machine? Let's see:
- First laptop with wireless inductive charging system
- Wireless USB
- Wireless connection to external monitor
- Auto-focus webcam that allows scanning of documents and reading of business cards(!)
- Face-aware security system - logs you off when you walk away from your computer.
- Dell's Edge-touch LCD - (nice, but more of a gimmick since it's a laptop which places the screen a bit too far away)
- Standard Solid State drive (64GB, 128 GB, or 256GB) with an optional 2nd SSD.
- No magnetic hard disk anymore - not even as an option.
The Rest of the Package (worthwhile mentioning)
- 16" LED backlit, HD+ LCD screen with a resolution of 1600 x 900 pixels
(exactly the format HD-TVs have)
- Display Port for external display connection
- 2 USB with one USB able to serve up an eSATA connector
- Face-aware lockout system (uses the webcam - (love it))
- Battery options: either a 4-cell standard or an 8-cell
- Standard: Wifi, Bluetooth, speakers
- Standard? - a relatively slow processor (1.4 or 1.6 GHz) for a system like this?
Form and Function
The case - nothing unusual besides wedged corners that hold some of the connections. Too dark for our taste but it seems to go well with briefcases.
Going with a 16" display required some extra material but sure did not make the slate that much heavier. It comes in at a low 4.5 pounds with the 4-cell battery. We like the HD+ format of the display.160 pixels wider the the MacBook Pro 15". Great for viewing biz-documents side-by-side or those larger spreadsheets. Great for movies as well - since most of them break the 16:9 aspect ratio those extra 160 pixels come in handy. However, an external DVD drive is needed if we still believe in those 4" discs...
Functionality and Unwired Convenience
The integration of wireless charging and the wireless connections to hard drives, printers and a monitor is the stuff that makes the Latitude Z an outstanding machine, a technical marvel. It makes it absolutely wireless.
It is amazing to walk into your office, place the Z on its stand, open it (and close it!), see your big monitor light up, start checking emails and continue working on your Google-doc in the "cloud."
It starts with the optional "Wireless Charging Stand". Just place the Z on it and it starts feeding electrons into its Li-Ion-based batteries.
Going fully wireless requires an UWB (ultra-wide-band) radio inside the Z (which needs to be installed at time of purchase) and a transmitter box that acts like a hub and connects the Z to printers, hard drives and a monitor.
Congrats to Dell's engineers. The Z is grabbing the stage with first out, great features. Outing all those trivial but all so necessary cable connections. Leaving you with a clean desk, no cable clutter anymore. And even after two days, having to go back to our "old" laptops feels like having lost the TiVo remote!
It looks like Dell will be keeping up holding first place for quite a while, looking at Apple's release cycles (if they even have anything like the above on their to-do list.) One interesting aspect is that this Z has all the markings a wireless tablet computer needs to have: being totally wireless.
It's all speculation at this time but for us this means Dell will have a tablet out within weeks of Apple's introduction of its iTab. Maybe even earlier... And let's not underestimate HP. We need the competition in this field, yielding smart integration and reasonable pricing. Right now however, we are in the early-adopter phase and the guy first out can demand a premium.
And no - we did not miss the "Instant On" or "Always On" feature, which the Z accomplishes by employing a whole system-on-a-chip on a little daughterboard running Linux. If that is what it takes to do what a Mac does in 3 seconds coming out of sleep state, so be it. Still - innovative but not new. HP beat Dell to the punches with a very similar tech.