New notebook makes good use of small package




GCNdex32 scores





 





Floating-point
math

4.20

4.50


Integer math
7.81   
7.91


Video
7.04   
7.02


Small-file access   
2.89   
2.71


Large-file access   
2.60   
2.65





Over the last few years, I’ve reviewed about 150 notebook PCs. Few were worth
getting excited about until now.


Dell Computer Corp.’s newest addition to the Latitude line is a lightweight,
full-featured, normal-sized notebook running Microsoft Windows 9x. When it built the
Latitude LT, Dell made few compromises.


The keyboard is not tiny. The active-matrix display measures 11.3 inches diagonally;
the 2M graphics accelerator supports 800- by 600-pixel resolution. The LT has an
integrated 56-Kbps modem, sound and a standard VGA-out port.


Unfortunately, for now, it comes with only a 266-MHz Pentium MMX processor, a 4G hard
drive and 64M of RAM.OK, so it doesn’t have a Pentium II processor. But do you really
need a Pentium II on the road to download e-mail or write a report or presentation? Double
the RAM would be nice, though.


You’re probably thinking, “The battery needs a booster to run a 3-pound,
2-ounce package.” So did I. But on the GCN Lab’s maximum-drain test, the LT
lasted a little more than an hour. I had expected less.


Dell sells a 14-ounce, snap-on external battery that more than quadruples battery life,
to four and a half hours. The external battery gave about 14 minutes of life for every
ounce of weight it added—an excellent ratio when the average for a good notebook is
about eight minutes per ounce. The battery costs $279 and raises the total weight to about
4 pounds. It’s a worthwhile purchase.


A special plug connects an external floppy drive with some remarkable innovations:
parallel, serial and keyboard/mouse ports on the back. It essentially doubles as a port
replicator without a network interface card, which is the only major component that’s
missing.


This near-pocket rocket has one Universal Serial Bus port and one PC Card slot. A $279
CD-ROM package adds PC Card connectivity for loading software. Too bad Dell couldn’t
make it plug into the same port as the floppy drive.


The Latitude LT comes only with Windows 95 OSR2 installed. Dell plans to add other
operating system options, update the processor and increase the RAM. Dell ought to install
its Control Panel for the touchpad instead of relying on the standard Windows mouse
driver. As with all notebook touchpads, a slight brush while typing can send your cursor
flying. Dell’s Control Panel prevents such sensitivity.


The unit’s performance on the GCNdex32TM benchmark suite was average for a 266-MHz
Pentium MMX notebook.


If you have been considering a Libretto from Toshiba America Information Systems Inc.,
check the Dell—it has twice the processing power, keyboard area and screen size for
the same price and weight. Contemplating a Windows CE handheld? The Dell has the same OS
and software as a desktop system.


Innovation makes the Latitude LT an excellent choice for anyone on the go.

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