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Dell latitude d630 review

TheLatitude D630 is Dell’s latest update to the D620, a light-weight business class machine. The Dell D630 comes with the very anticipated Santa Rosa platform but is visually the same as its predecessor. The machine starts at $899 (as of this writing) and most upgrades are reasonably priced.

D630 configuration:

  • Processor: Intel T7300 Core 2 Duo (2.0GHz, 800MHz FSB, 4MB Cache)
  • Graphics: Intel GMA X3100
  • Operating System: Windows Vista Business 32-bit
  • Display: WXGA+ 1440 x 900 (matte)
  • Hard Drive: 80GB 540RPM
  • Memory: 512MB (512MB x 1), up to 4GB max
  • Ports:
    • 4 – USB 2.0 (two in the back and two on the right)
    • FireWire (left)
    • Security lock (left)
    • Headphone out & microphone in (left)
    • VGA out (back)
    • 56k modem (back)
    • Gigabit Ethernet (back)
    • Power (back)
    • Serial (back)
  • Slots:
    • 1 PC Card Slot
    • Smart Card Slot
    • Docking station
  • Optical Drive: DVD +/- RW
  • Battery: 9-cell 85WHr
  • Security: UPEK fingerprint reader
  • Pointing device: Touchpad or Track Stick
  • Intel 3945 WLAN (802.11a/g) mini Card
  • Dell Wireless 360 Bluetooth Vista Module
  • USA keyboard
  • Dimensions: 13.3″ x 9.37″ x 1.09 – 1.27″ (337mm x 238mm x 27.6 – 32.3mm)
  • Weight: 5.1lbs with DVD drive and 6-cell, 5.8lbs with 9-cell, 6.6lbs with AC adaptor and 9-cell
  • 3 Year warranty, In-Home Service, International

Total Price As Configured: $1,372

Some of you are probably wondering as to why I chose so little RAM and a rather small hard drive. Like I said, most upgrades are reasonably priced. I purchased 2GB from Newegg for $80, Dell’s upgrade would have been $200.

Battery

I need my machine to last as long as possible. I chose the nine-cell dell latitude d630 battery despite the fact it sticks out from the battery site. I truly believe I made the right choice because this thing lasts a very long time. With Firefox, Office, Wi-Fi, and screen at max (8/8) the battery lasted (I ran it until the laptop shut off) an astounding 5 hours and 15 minutes. Same test bed but no Wi-Fi landed me with 5 hours and 45 minutes.

I did not have enough time to test it with the screen at a medium level but Vista tells me I can safely say it can push a little over six hours with Wi-Fi. If you get the Media Bay battery to go along with the nine-cell, I would venture about 7.5 or more hours. Of course, this is assuming you are using it for lightweight programs and you have 1GB or more of RAM.

At the bottom of the battery there is a button that allows you to check the battery level.it is same as the dell d620 battery It goes by five levels, giving you an estimate of how much charge is available. I consider it helpful because you don’t need to turn the laptop on to check the battery level.

Build and Design:

This thing feels like a tank and is extremely sturdy. The hinges on the machine are stiff but not difficult to open and the screen will not wobble. There is no flexing of the screen and you truly have to try to press the back to see ripples. When closed, a small, shiny hinge holds the screen locked. The top and bottom of the machine are made of magnesium. I still wouldn’t recommend dropping the machine in order to test if the material is durable.

The speakers are (I think) inside the laptop because I saw no openings for them. The battery sticks out in the front rather than the back. You are also able to add another battery to the DVD bay or replace the drive with something updated down the road. It is very simple to replace the drive in case something happens.

I do have one complaint: I frequently use my USB slots and I dislike having the other two ports in the back. I prefer them on the side. The USB slots are also a bit stiff. Sometimes you have to try to jam the connector into the slot.

Screen

Many people complained about the terrible brightness level of the D620. Unfortunately, I don’t have a D620 to compare it to. I do, however, have a Viewsonic VX2025wm desktop monitor that has been color calibrated with a Spyder2 Suite. This seems like an apples to orange type of comparison but if I am to compare it, I must use something that has been in my possession for at least one full year. The added benefit is that this comparison shows how far the colors differ from a screen that has near-perfect color reproduction.

I am happy to report the 14.1-inch, 1440×900 screen is surprisingly brighter than I expected. I was able to easily see it indoors with the sun behind me. This was tested with highest screen brightness level (8/8).

Speakers

The speakers output at about two watts and are under the left palm (I could feel them vibrating). There are the quick mute and volume buttons on the top of the keyboard, all very handy to have. The speakers are loud … much louder than I expected. Depending on what is being played they might be able to fill a small room. Unfortunately, a loud speaker does not always equal quality output. At high and sometimes even medium levels distortions start occurring. Granted, this is a business machine that was primarily designed to just output warnings and the like. It’s like Dell bought out all the extra Gameboy speakers and super sized them.

If you like to listen to music, bring your own external speakers and possibly your own sound card.

Processor and Performance

CPU: My machine came equipped with the new Santa Rosa platform. Upgrades to the processor include a faster front-side bus and a new level of power state. According to an Intel rep (I used to work in retail), I was told these new chips are about 10-15 percent faster and equally consume less battery life than the previous Centrino generation. This will not, however, make minor application usage (office programs) run any faster. The design behind this is most likely for the battery use and people that need a faster processor (multimedia users).

HD: The hard drive is an 80GB SATA drive running at 5400RPM. My plan was to buy a 160GB drive and a notebook enclosure from Newegg, replace the 80GB drive, and convert the machine’s original drive to a portable HD. Due to financial reasons, I did not go through with it. The faster transfer speed (higher density) and larger storage are nice ideas but we can’t have everything.

GPX: I’ll be blunt, this machine was not built for gaming. Intel upgraded this generation’s integrated graphics but it is still no match for a dedicated card. Essentially, the X3100 can run old games but don’t expect F.E.A.R. or an equally graphically intensive game to be playable.

RAM: If you wish to run multiple applications, get the 2GB. Vista recommends (read: needs) 1GB to run the OS and any other application(s) smoothly. Before I upgraded the machine with 2GB, it came with 512MB. It was crawling and nearly always accessing the hard drive (and consuming more battery in the process). After the upgrade to 2GB, it ran as smooth as a hot knife through butter. I needed 2GB because Photoshop is a huge memory hog. If you plan to use this machine for office use, 1GB will most likely be enough to accommodate your needs.

Wireless

My machine came pre-equipped with the Intel 3945 Wireless card offering a/b/g wireless reception. I did not opt for the 802.11n because it is still in draft mode and the G reception will be around for a while. Chances are, when I get my next laptop (years from now), a new standard will be accepted for wireless and the N reception will be rendered obsolete.

I was able to test the connection with my Linksys WRT54g router, a somewhat common router. I was able to go anywhere in the house and pick up a signal. No matter where I went, I could not get the laptop to drop the connection, I had to go outside and walk all the way towards the opposite side of my neighbor’s yard to kill it. To put it in perspective, that is about 150 feet.

My D630 came configured with Bluetooth. I tested it with my PDA and was able to synchronize it with no issues.

Operating System and Software

I ordered my machine with Windows Vista Business. The machine came with practically zero useless software. In fact, aside from the amazing bundled security software, it only comes with Roxio Creator 9 and Cyberlink PowerDVD 7. The only thing that I uninstalled was Google Desktop and Google Explorer Bar.

Security and others

The machine came bundled with a security package by Wave Systems. The software comes with a wizard that assists you in selecting what level of security you wish to implement. You are granted the option to ask for a password and /or fingerprint at boot-up. You can even encrypt the hard drive with the same password/fingerprint.

Trying to make use of the fingerprint reader, I opted to prompt for my fingerprint at boot up. The interesting thing about this option would be that if you don’t have either the password or a fingerprint, you cannot even access the BIOS. Essentially, if the laptop is stolen and if the BIOS is properly configured, the thief will have a hell of a time trying to access your data. Business users take note, if you tend to lose laptops, you must purchase this device. I’ve heard one story too many about how company X lost a laptop with employee and/or other sensitive information.

I tried setting the machine to go to sleep only to find out that it asked for both. Basically, if the laptop ever logs-off or goes to bed, you will be asked for both or either types of security, depending on your choice.

Even though the machine is externally very well protected, there are very few firewall programs for Vista. The one bundled with Vista is pretty useless. Just be careful checking important information on an unprotected connection; common sense, people.

Warranty and Customer Support

I chatted with Dell customer support several times to get a feel for the support they would provide. I am extremely happy to report all the customer support reps that I talked with were very knowledgeable. They all answered my questions without hesitation and correctly, all are very polite if you too are polite. The longest I was on hold was for five minutes.

I’ve heard of horror stories from the consumer line of Dell but the business line is unbelievably good. I know I made the right choice by paying for the $100 for in-home service. If some of you are more “butterfingered,” get the Complete Care package.

Upgrading

Upgrading the machine was an interesting journey. The machine originally came with a stick of 512MB and it was upgraded to a matched pair of 1GB sticks (2GB total).

The RAM slots are in two places, under the keyboard and under the laptop. I decided to start with the most difficult, under the keyboard. Let me warn you right here, it was difficult for me to do it and I’ve built more computers than I have fingers and toes. I had to remove the hinge, which felt like it could crack at any given second, followed by the keyboard. After many sweaty but careful minutes, I was able to replace the RAM. The other slot, on the other hand, was extremely easy: one screw and I was done.

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Originally posted 2004-06-07 22:53:38.