Dell's new Latitude has CD, lacks staying power

When the GCN Lab awarded Dell's Latitude XPi notebook a Reviewer's Choice [GCN,
July 29, Page 37], the only thing lacking was a CD-ROM drive. Now it has one.

In July, the Latitude XPi weighed just over 6 pounds with a 133-MHz Pentium chip and an
11.3-inch display. By September, my test unit, a preproduction Latitude XPi CD P150ST, had
the new 150-MHz Pentium, 16M of RAM, a 12.1-inch active SuperVGA display and a weight of
almost 71/2 pounds.

The computer did slightly better in raw benchmark scores, and it had a six-speed
internal CD drive, but the fast battery drain disappointed me. I hope this was just a
preproduction problem, because Dell representatives had told me to expect 41/4 hours of

My first test of the XPi's fully charged lithium-ion battery failed to reach an hour,
and a second try didn't quite make 1 1/2 hours--far short of the 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 hours
delivered by the 133-MHz XPi.

This XPi feels thicker and heftier. The 6X CD drive is built in, so you can't upgrade
it or swap it out for an extra battery. Dell located the disk-spinner just above the 3
1/2-inch floppy drive, obscuring it when the tray is open. The very recessed CD button
must be jabbed with a pencil or pen to open.

In case design, Dell followed the oval shaping hinted at on previous models. In fact,
you'd almost think the folks who designed the new Ford Taurus had some input on this sleek

There are infrared data transfer ports in front, as well as Type II/III PC Card slots.
Speakers have been moved from the front to the sides. Although they still produced good
sound, I noticed more vibration than with the 133-MHz unit.

The display is larger but seemed somewhat dimmer than on other Dell Latitudes--again,
probably a preproduction effect. Final models should be 30 to 40 percent more luminous, a
Dell representative said.

On GCNdex32 benchmarks, the XPi 150ST pushed somewhat higher than its 133-MHz sibling
in floating-point and integer math scores. Of course, only a small gain should be
expected, since the bus on a 133-MHz notebook runs at 66 MHz and the 150-MHz version of
the bus at 60 MHz.

Dell claimed a 10 percent performance gain for the new processor, and that estimate
wasn't far from the GCNdex advantage of about 7 percent for the Pentium 150. Integer math
performance was 3.42 times that of the GCNdex baseline's 66-MHz 486.

Video scores were up just a bit. My test notebook contained Dell's impressive 128-bit
video controller, though it fell far short of the outstanding video of Dell's Latitude LM
100 [GCN, Aug. 5, Page 1].

Hard-drive access scores improved about 5 percent, at 2.3 times faster than the GCNdex
baseline. The Latitude's 6X CD drive performed to perfection, scoring 3.01--the highest
disk-spinner score I've seen on a notebook so far and truly six-speed, because the GCNdex
benchmark for a double-speed drive is 1.0.

Over time, the Latitude XPi CD P150ST grew on me, though I wish it had a modular bay
for a choice of CD drive, floppy or extra battery, and I remain concerned about the short
battery life.

Dell Computer Corp., Austin, Texas; tel. 800-727-1100 

Price: $4,294 on GS-35F-4076D with 810M drive

Overall grade: B+

[+] An excellent performer in most respects

[+] 6X CD-ROM drive built in

[-] Fast battery drain

[-] Heavier than some comparable notebooks

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