Rather than the flashy sprinter that's first to cross the finish line, the mainstream Dell Latitude D510 is the decathlete of business notebooks, flying under the radar as it does a little bit of everything. With a mix of old and new technology, the Latitude D510 delivers reliable performance and four hours of battery life for businesses of all sizes -- but it lacks the digital creature comforts and the security hardware of its peers. From AU$1,923 (as of July 2005), which includes Dell's three-year warranty with onsite support, the Latitude D510 is a competitively priced, sturdy laptop for employees who want basic computing on the road.
It may look unremarkable and commonplace, but the Dell Latitude D510's angular gray case is about as sturdy as you'll find these days. With its shock-mounted hard drive; aluminum, magnesium, and steel frame; and magnesium case, the Latitude D510 is designed to withstand heavy everyday use. By contrast, the ThinkPad R52 has a plain old plastic case. Weighing 2.36kg and measuring 35.5mm thick, 338mm wide, and 273mm deep, the Latitude D510 wider and heavier than the R52, which places its size places it around center overall in the mainstream notebook market. With power adapter and cord, the Latitude D510 has a reasonable travel weight that's about 2.5 kilograms.
Because it's a wide-body machine, there's plenty of room for a comfortable keyboard, trackpad, and mouse buttons -- although the pad has neither a scroll button nor a dedicated zone. Our test unit came with a 15-inch XGA display that was bright and comfortable for viewing multiple windows side by side. There's also room for a modular bay that can be filled with your choice of optical drives or an extra battery; our test machine came with a CD-RW/DVD drive, but Dell offers an 8X DVD burner for a reasonable AU$88 upgrade.
The Dell Latitude D510 features all the ports most businesspeople will need, plus a few oldies but goodies. In addition to headphone and microphone jacks and four USB 2.0, FireWire, VGA, and S-Video ports, the Latitude D510 features antiquated serial and parallel ports. A Type II PC Card doubles as a slot for the upcoming high-speed ExpressCards. Mobile workers can connect to the network using a modem, Ethernet, or the integrated Intel 802.11b/g Wi-Fi radio; the Latitude D510's 100Mbps wired networking, however, might be a big turn-off for businesses looking to standardise on Gigabit Ethernet. If those connections are not enough, Dell's AU$171.60 D/Port port replicator has pass-through of all ports except for FireWire and adds S/PDIF audio and DVI connections.
As well equipped as it is, the Latitude D510 has one chink in its technological armor: it lacks a flash card reader that would make using the laptop with a digital camera or a voice recorder much easier. The system also lacks both a fingerprint scanner and a Trusted Platform Module for data encryption, so it can't match the security provided by ThinkPads.
Our test unit was loaded with Windows XP Professional; like most business-minded laptops, it came without a productivity suite. Given the Latitude D510's large screen, we'd expect to see DVD playback or other handy software preloaded on the system; however, our test unit featured only an Intel wireless-connection management utility.
Our test unit included a quick, current-generation Centrino 1.6GHz Pentium M processor, a 40GB hard drive spinning at 5,400rpm, 512MB of swift 400MHz memory, and an integrated Intel graphics accelerator. All these components add up to a surprisingly nimble performance on CNET Labs' mobile benchmarks. The Latitude D510 came in less than 5 percent behind the more expensive ThinkPad R52, which has a faster processor. The Latitude D510's battery pack ran for just over four hours on a charge, 24 minutes past the ThinkPad R52.
The Dell Latitude D510 is made with many of the same components -- such as optical drives, memory, and batterie -- as others in the Latitude D series, which can simplify troubleshooting and help reduce inventory for firms with other Latitude notebooks in use. And when it comes time to retire the laptop, Dell will help you recycle or sell the old units and move the data to your new systems.
The Latitude D510 we looked at came with a three-year economy warranty and onsite support, with service available in 90 countries. Dell's support Web site offers the expected downloads (manuals, spec sheets, and software updates) and setup tips, as well as a great chat room to help resolve problems. If all else fails, you can call the company's 24/7 toll-free support line or send e-mail at any time during the warranty period.
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
||BAPCo MobileMark 2002 performance rating|
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
||BAPCo MobileMark 2002 battery-life minutes|