Dell Latitude E6500

The Dell Latitude E is a glimpse into the future of laptops. With high expandability, configurable and a strong design, it should suit most corporate environments.

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Craig was sucked into the endless vortex of tech at an early age, only to be spat back out babbling things like "phase-locked-loop crystal oscillators!". Mostly this receives a pat on the head from the listener, followed closely by a question about what laptop they should buy.

Starting at 2.3kg (with the smallest battery option), the all-black Dell Latitude E6500 somehow manages to produce both the sombre design notes of business along with the style of consumer-oriented notebooks. While the plastic/magnesium alloy chassis is all angles, little touches like the blackened brushed aluminium finish on the back push the new Latitude into new directions.

A key part of business design seems to be matte, and here Dell delivers. Matte screen, matte keyboard, matte surface, the only thing that really qualifies as gloss is the Dell logo itself — a good thing for usability as the usual cavalcade of fingerprints and obnoxious screen glare are kept to a minimum.

You won't find the raft of multimedia buttons here either, with only volume up, down and mute buttons being present. You can, however, create your own hotkeys to do the job using Dell's included software. The usual status lights are along the same plane as the volume buttons, and otherwise things are kept to a minimalist aesthetic.

The Latitude E6500 offers navigation options for both trackpad tragics and joystick junkies, including appropriately positioned mouse buttons for both, and a middle button so scrolling is easy with the joystick.

A few useful trackpad extras we haven't seen before have crept in here through Dell's own software — one being circular scrolling, a technique that allows you to run your finger in a circle either clockwise or counter clockwise for continuous, unbroken scrolling. It's a handy trick that makes life a little easier for those super-long documents. Another trick is using the left-hand side of the control pad in a similar way to the scroll zone in order to magnify the screen.

On the negative side, we often found when using the trackpad that when our finger would stray across the horizontal scroll area the cursor would completely stop and switch to horizontal scroll mode, interrupting our efforts.

Like other trackpad software, Dell allows you to set the scroll zones, but the functionality is nowhere near as customisable as that offered by other vendors, only allowing you to set them to "narrow", "normal" and "wide". You either have scroll zones, or none at all, as opposed to turning off just horizontal or vertical scroll. Dell uses an ALPS-branded trackpad here, although the competing Synaptics solution and software offers a considerable advantage.

The 15.4-inch matte screen is high resolution, weighing in at 1,920x1,200, a resolution usually reserved for 24-inch stand-alone monitors. Despite this, text is sharp and readable, the extra screen real estate is a boon for those working with CAD, 3D, design or video.

It also features an ambient light sensor, this is the second time we've seen this technology on a laptop, which automatically sets the brightness of the screen depending on your surrounding light. In high light situations the screen grows brighter, in low light it grows darker. It's a handy addition that will likely save some extra battery time, and can be turned off if you find it annoying.

Also tied into the ambient light sensor is the keyboard, which can either turn on white backlighting when things get too dark, or simply respond whenever you use the keyboard or mouse. It also means doing work on those long-haul plane trips can be done a little more discretely, without waking up your neighbour by having to turn on the "personal" light above you.

Speakers flank either side of the keyboard, however, their contribution is token overall (despite the huge grille there's only a single tiny cone on each side), and we'd prefer to see them either reduced or moved elsewhere in favour of a full numeric pad.

Our review sample came with a nine-cell battery which jutted out the end, but thankfully didn't get in the way. Smaller options of four- or six-cell are available, as well as a 12-cell "battery slice", which, working in tandem with the nine-cell, sits under the entire base of the laptop and clips into the dock extender should you need as much battery time as possible.

Finally, the power pack has gone on a diet, opting for slim but wide, instead of something you could kill a small child with. This makes it handier to slip inside a carry case and carry with you.

Expandability seems to be the byword of the E6500, even sans docking station, as it seems to have almost everything you could possibly need. The requisite fingerprint scanner is there of course, as is the smart card (SC) slot; however, there's also a contactless area to swipe your SC to the right of the trackpad, as well as three USB ports, an eSATA/USB port, FireWire port, headphone and microphone port, removable DVD+-RW, PCMCIA and Express Card slots, SD card reader, VGA and DisplayPort out, gigabit Ethernet and a modem port.

A Wi-Fi catcher sits on the right, but as usual it's reasonably useless as it only alerts to the presence of Wi-Fi — not if the signal is strong, or whether it's encrypted. Pulling out the battery reveals a space for a SIM slot, should you choose to have a WWAN (3G/HSPA) module installed for an extra AU$299.

The Latitude E series sees the launch of a new BIOS that's comparatively high resolution and mouse controllable, and quite frankly, very nice. Dell wouldn't elaborate on what powers it, so we resolved to pull the laptop apart and catch a glimpse at the BIOS chip. Despite our best efforts however, we were utterly thwarted by the Dell construction pixies, as we couldn't figure out a way to completely remove the casing around the motherboard without breaking things.

Although we do strongly suspect that the BIOS may be Linux-based (Everest seems to think it's developed by Phoenix, while everything else says it's Dell), like the upcoming "Latitude ON" quick-boot operating system. Sadly Latitude ON isn't present here — at the moment, it's only available in the ultraportable Latitude E4200 and E4300 machines.

Present is the ability to turn off pretty much everything in the machine, as well as USB PowerShare — Dell's name for the technology that allows USB ports to stay powered even when the machine is off. You can even stipulate at what battery level to turn PowerShare off.

A new entry we'll see across all laptops shortly is the ability to plug in the powerbrick, keep the battery in, but not recharge it. After the exploding Sony battery fiasco last year that affected many laptops across many brands, airlines got a little tetchy about letting batteries charge up mid-flight. This works around this issue.

The hardware spec is decent and Centrino 2 certified. Our review sample was built on a Core 2 Duo T9500, 2GB RAM, Nvidia's Quadro NVS 160M (256MB, DDR3) GPU, a 160GB 7200rpm hard drive and featured wireless N and Bluetooth. Quadro is Nvidia's professional graphics range, and the high-speed hard drive also gives it away as a machine more suited to graphics/visual production. Anyone else purchasing the unit as a result (aside from gamers) will find it delivers more than enough power for their needs.

As usual for Dell, a huge variety of hardware options are available — our review unit came in at AU$3,771, however, a base unit comes in at AU$2,000, reducing the screen to 1,280x800 and the graphics to Intel's X4500. If you really want to go the full monty, you can get a 64GB SSD hard drive for an additional AU$1,183, bringing the price of fully "pimped" E6500 to around AU$5,000. Of course, your prices will vary depending on your negotiations when purchasing on a corporate scale.

VPro is also included for remote administration (supporting Active Management Technology 4.0), and the Latitude E6500 is the first system we have seen from Dell which the company is offering to ship with Windows Vista 64-bit, with a config allowing up to 8GB of RAM.

Our E6500 came very light on pre-installed software, including Roxio DVD Creator, Adobe Flash Player and Sun's Java. The system also came with Dell's management software known as "Control Point", which provides a central terminal for managing all the features of the E6500.

The Quadro spat back a 3DMark06 score of 1,996, a respectable result for a laptop. PCMark05 made the most of the configuration, returning a huge 6,092, and a creditable 829 in Cinebench. Battery life was pretty miserable, although considering our super-specced hardware and the high resolution screen, this is unsurprising.

Turning off all power-saving features, setting screen brightness to maximum and playing back a DVD, the E6500 lasted a meagre 91 minutes with the nine-cell, 85Whr battery. Obviously with the bevy of power-saving features turned on and a lower-specced machine, this would increase massively.

The Dell Latitude E is a glimpse into the future of laptops. The gauntlet has been thrown. Toshiba, Lenovo, Fujitsu — your turn.

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BOBBYJOHN posted a review   

The Good:the term "Good" doesn't exist for this computer

The Bad:when using the track pad, the mose jumps from here and there, pointing stick, slow, memory, hideous, heavy, hindge get loose over time, battery life, freezes, crashes,

I'm glad my school bought this trash becuase I would have thrown this computer out bay window. Too many bugs makes this computer almost unusable. Just becuase my school recently put Windows 7 on this piece of garbage doesn't mean it makes it better. Out of all the wonderful Dell computers and other brands but my school had to pick this... I can't wait to go to college to invest in a reliable computer, after all its the performance and reliability that counts. Please do yourselves a favor and when ever you see this Dell e6500 being used, just punch it as you walk by.


dm posted a review   

The Good:backlit keyboard,,,,,

The Bad:2 hard drive failres in 11 numeric key pad, keyboard not nice to type with,

Have had this Dell E6500 for 11 months as a work computer. Have had two hard drive failures - one after 5 months, with the second one happening this morning. Under warranty - dell will/have replaced HD but wont replace computer. Very inconvenient. Dont waste your money on one of these - too unreliable. I wont be buying Dell again.


Ryan posted a review   

The Good:not much

The Bad:Wifi fails to detect routers sitting only feet away, battery life is minimal at best

I've had this laptop at work for over a year, and it's got the worst built-in wireless I've ever experienced. Battery life sucks. It's bulky. I hate this thing. I suppose mine has never crashed, but my co-workers constantly have to restart theirs (at least one time per day each).


war-n posted a review   

The Good:decent speed and capabilities, good graphics

The Bad:fundamentally flawed trackpad, annoying wireless kill-switch, fails to go to sleep when closed

All-in-all the capabilities of this machine are fine for a basic user like me. It runs programs at a good speed, it plugs into a dock nicely, it shows streaming videos and DVDs just fine. Screen resolution can go as high as my 24" monitor so I can easily share remote desktop/VNC setups with my other computer. It has every imaginable port, expansion card port, smart media port, etc. -- none of which I use now or probably ever.

The bad stuff:
Unpredictably, the trackpad will either start tracking very slowly or just stop altogether at times. The 'nub' stick will still work flawlessly (if I could get the hang of using it) but the trackpad is lame. The up-down scrolling region is hit-or miss and it supports no gestures of any kind.

If you run your hand along the right side of the laptop as you shift position or stand up, you risk shutting down off the wireless. Best case you just have to wait for the machine to re-make wireless contact, worst case, you have to re-login to your corporate VPN with a dongle you have to fish out of your pocket or wherever. I guess this is great if you're on and off an airplane every day, but it is just too easy to accidentally hit.

When I close the laptop, I don't expect it to keep running, no matter what. Several times, I'll come back to the closed laptop and find that it did not stop running and has been running like a little nuclear generator in the laptop bag -- that's if I get to it before the battery is toast.

I haven't had a lot of laptops, but this one feels mediocre.


MikeG posted a comment   

The Good:Nothing

The Bad:Bug ridden, crashes often

If you plan on getting any work done, but an abacus. It is much faster than this POS Dell 6500 I wasted my money on. Dont take my word for it, take a shot. I'll await your formal appology for not listening to me later.


Steve posted a review   

The Good:Workhorse that connects everywhere and runs everything I throw at it

The Bad:Pointing stick, fan outlet on side vs back and noisy, no TV out and can't connect w/o using two connectors

9 cell battery life is over 4.5 hours, the ambient light sensor and backlit keyboard work well, it connects to every WiFi I encounter (lots of airports and hotels), boots up fast (WinXpPro), DVD/CD player is fast and not noisy, very solid (no flex when I type or on the chassis), eSATA works everytime.

One thing I do not like (vs my D610) is the loss of the menu key but it is not a fatal flaw.

I really like this machine, It is a beast, especially with the 9 cell battery, but it works great and is fast.


mess posted a review   

The Good:It hasn't crashed yet

The Bad:It's like carrying a dinorsaur

Heavy and cheap plastic are two things that should never be combined when making a laptop. Yet these are all too fitting for this piece. School purchased it for me thank God! If I would have paid for it, I would be throwing it through Mr. Dell's office window.


andy posted a review   

The Good:...

The Bad:docking station usb failure with Windows 7, docking station driver incompatibility with XP, graphics glitches with Windows 7

I have installed two of these machines. The first was XP Pro. When the machine was in the docking station and you shut it down, the system would hang. I replaced the docking station: same result. I replaced the machine with an identical one running Windows 7. The graphics frequently glitch. Also, the USB ports in the docking station do not work. It amazes me that Dell is sending these units out with such a dysfunctional configuration.


Dmitry posted a review   

The Good:Keyboard back light.


Really BAD Oe. use it for more then a year.
Have to replace battery - Dies in 6 moths.
I paid almost $2.000 for this one. Got extra "FAST" HDD (7200 rpm), extra "LONG LIFE" battery.
Turns out - HDD way to slow (Tried to install Windows 7 and abandoned it - HDD too slow).
Now "DURABLE" paint - Went off in 6 months.
Battery - runs for 3 hrs and then dies.
Dual Core CPU - is a"bluff".
USB Ports - are slowest in industry.
I compared performance with $459 ACER from COSTCO and was shocked to see how it was fast compare to so called "GOOD BRAND".
This is my worst laptop EVER and I can't wait when it will die so I can throw it away.

Ah! Wat is Good: Keyboard back light, self adjusting screen brightness.


Timmy posted a review   

The Good:Sturdy build, Backlit Keyboard, Quiet, Hi-res Matt Screen, No Crapware, Loads of Connectivity Features (PCMCIA, ExpressCard, SD Reader etc. etc.)

The Bad:Expensive, no button to quickly deactivate Touchpad, built-in Speakers not great, Battery Life not great, Built in Dell WiFi connection manager causes problems so uninstalling it is a must

If you can get it for a decent price then I highly reccommend this laptop. My experience with Dell business laptops is that they have the features that you need and they tend to be fairly stable and reliable. They have a simple design and are a pleasure to use. Are not usually very attractive bit this latest model also improves on that point.

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User Reviews / Comments  Dell Latitude E6500




    "I'm glad my school bought this trash becuase I would have thrown this computer out bay window. Too many bugs makes this computer almost unusable. Just becuase my school recently put Windows 7 on th..."

  • dm



    "Have had this Dell E6500 for 11 months as a work computer. Have had two hard drive failures - one after 5 months, with the second one happening this morning. Under warranty - dell will/have replace..."

  • Ryan



    "I've had this laptop at work for over a year, and it's got the worst built-in wireless I've ever experienced. Battery life sucks. It's bulky. I hate this thing. I suppose mine has never crashed, bu..."

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