Dell Latitude D800 Takes Mobile Computing to New Levels

A month and a half ago, I replaced my main desktop computer at home

with Dell's stunning Latitude D800, a Pentium M-based wide-screen

laptop that takes mobile computing to new levels of performance and

capability. Like last month's laptop, HP's Compaq Presario X1012, the

Latitude D800 is a true desktop replacement. When equipped for travel,

the Latitude D800 weighs about 7 pounds, so it's not a device you'll

want if you spend most of your time at conventions and hotels. But if

you thought a laptop couldn't take on some of the fastest desktops and

provide stunning battery life, think again--the Latitude D800 is a

near-perfect machine in these areas.

Size- and weight-wise, the Latitude D800 is slightly heavier and

bulkier than the Presario X1012. The Latitude D800 features a nice,

one-hand-operation "Bugs Bunny" latch on the front that makes opening

the screen easy. The machine has a 1.6GHz Pentium M processor, an

NVIDIA GeForce4 4200 Go video card, and 512MB of RAM, which combine to

deliver impressive performance and excellent frame rates in the latest

3-D games. The Latitude D800 screen is an epic expanse of space, and

although you can configure it in a variety of high resolutions, I

chose the eye-friendly 1280 x 800 choice for the review system. On

such a screen, applications such as Microsoft Office Outlook 2003,

Adobe Photoshop, and Microsoft Excel take on an all-new persona, with

vast amounts of horizontal room. Wide screens are a true productivity

booster.

The Latitude D800 comes equipped with a CD-RW/DVD combo drive,

three USB 2.0 ports, a four-pin FireWire port, one PC card slot,

Gigabit Ethernet network, a modem, and the usual selection of legacy

ports. You can configure this system in true Intel Centrino style,

with an Intel 802.11b wireless adapter, or go for speed and get Dell's

more impressive 802.11b/g card, which delivers up to 54Mbps on a

Wireless-G network. I definitely recommend the faster model.

Dell offers a unique docking station option, which lets you mount

the Latitude D800 (or other Dell systems) and a port replicator on a

swiveling, adjustable-height platform you can place on a desktop

surface. Attach a keyboard and mouse and lock in the Latitude D800,

and you have a full-featured workstation. Flip a switch and pick up

the laptop, and you're good to go, with no wires and plugs to mess

with. This option, which will set you back a few hundred dollars

extra, cements the Latitude D800's purpose as a desktop replacement

for the occasionally mobile or, as I like to think about it, the

locally mobile. The option is great for people who don't travel with

their laptop, but would like to take it around the office or home each

day and wirelessly work from another room.

If the Latitude D800 has any flaws, they're minor. Compared with

some of the IBM systems I've tested recently, the Latitude D800's

keyboard felt a bit low quality to me and makes a slight clicking

sound when used. And although the unit features dual pointing devices,

which I usually like, the mouse buttons for the eraser-head point

device were too difficult to press, rendering them nearly useless. Of

course, neither of these shortcomings is a problem when the system is

docked, and even in regular use they're definitely not a deal-breaker.

Overall, the Latitude D800 is an excellent performer, with more than 4

hours of battery life (thanks to the Pentium M processor) and Dell's

vaunted quality. I highly recommend this device.

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