Dell Latitude D420

Dell Latitude D420

Editor's ChoiceStep 2: Dell Latitude D420
Price
£1,149
  • Broadband on the move; excellent warranty; high security; compatible with all D-series
  • No integrated optical drive; average battery life; smallish hard disk

The D420 is the latest model to emerge from Dell's business range and despite the diminutive dimensions, it packs a punch well above its 1.5kg weight. It's a high-end ultraportable through and through, being powered by Intel's U2500. This is the Ultra Low Voltage version of the Core Duo and while the 1.2GHz speed might sound old hat, it's more than quick enough to handle Microsoft Office 2003. Its benchmark score of 0.67 might be half of the Samsung's 1.23, but in daily use you'll be hard pushed to notice the difference between the two when typing documents or editing spreadsheets.

The benefit of this speed sacrifice comes in battery life: the small battery lasted just over four hours with minimal use, and almost two hours with heavy use. If this isn't enough, you can buy a second 6-cell battery for 60 or opt for a 9-cell for 80 which will last almost seven hours with light use. It protrudes from the front of the chassis, but doubles as a useful wrist rest and only adds 200g.

When you're on the move, the D420 is more adept than most at keeping you connected. There's Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and a Dell 5505 HSDPA adapter. Better known as Super 3G, the latter works with Vodafone's HSDPA network. In London, we saw download speeds of up to 1.2Mb/sec and if you travel out of an HSDPA area the network seamlessly transfers to 3G (which covers 73% of the UK) or GPRS (99%). Super 3G coverage is limited to London, Birmingham, Manchester and a few other major cities but you can check your area at http://www.vodafone.co.uk/ukcoverage.

Security isn't skimped on. The D420 has a fingerprint scanner, a TPM encryption chip and is the only one here to boast a smart card reader, the securest way of preventing unauthorised access to your data.

Built around a magnesium alloy chassis, the Latitude is sturdy. It has an excellent keyboard with every key in the 'right' place and is comfortable to use for long periods. There's a choice of touchpad or trackpad - both are built in and you can switch between them at will.

Dell opts for a 12.1in, 1,280 x 800 TFT. Sensibly, for a machine aimed at use in the office, the screen has no reflective coating. It offers a good level of brightness but viewing angles are fairly poor. But, this could be a benefit as it prevents prying eyes from reading your emails on planes and trains.

Offering 56GB, the hard disk isn't overly spacious but the main problem is the absence of an optical drive. But, the 1,149 price includes a MediaBase docking station which fits flush onto the D420's base and includes a combo drive as well as a DVI output and more USB 2 ports.

Finally, the three-year, next-business-day warranty is the most comprehensive here. For those with security and mobile connectivity as higher priorities than an integrated optical drive, the D420 is the clear choice here. Considering the warranty and MediaBase it's not overpriced either: it's well deserving of the main honours.

Verdict

The current king of ultraportables, the D420 beats others on security and mobile connectivity. It has a great warranty and the price includes a docking station - it's excellent value.

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