Dell D400 has a lot of get-up-and-go

Box Score

Dell Latitude D400

J. Adam Fenster

It's robust, thin and comes with a variety of ports

If you're looking for a lightweight workhorse of a notebook PC for the road, try the Dell Latitude D400.

At 4 pounds and only an inch thick, it's an ideal size for traveling. And with an average benchmark score of 6,165 on the GCN Lab's test suite from Alterion Corp. of Conshohocken, Pa., the D400 performs as well as a desktop replacement system.

It's 18 percent faster than the Dell X300 that took top place in the lab's recent comparative review of ultraportable notebooks. And it's 12 percent faster than the 10-pound Fujitsu LifeBook P2000 desktop replacement and only 11 percent slower than the desktop replacement average.

Much of its speed comes from a robust 1.8-GHz Pentium M processor supported by 512M of RAM, all packed into a lightweight chassis with a 12.1-inch XGA screen.

On the road, the only cumbersome thing was that the optical drive isn't built into the chassis. Running a DVD in an airplane seat was difficult.

Battery life was surprisingly good, however. The D400's little brother, the ultraportable X300, ran only an hour and a half before running out of juice. I expected the same with the D400, but it didn't need recharging until the second hour of constant use.

One particularly nice feature is the 40G, 5,400-rpm hard drive'good for multitasking.

Another nice feature is the embedded Intel Pro Wireless 2200 IEEE 802.11b/g card. I got an average of 34-Mbps bandwidth in places where I normally wouldn't expect more than 20 Mbps.

Although graphics performance could have been better, I was satisfied with the embedded Intel 82852 graphics card, which helps keep the price down to $2,366.

That price includes an external 4X DVD+ rewritable drive powered by its USB connection. Although the drive adds about another pound to the weight, it's not very noticeable.

For security reasons, the hard drive is removable'but you need a small Phillips screwdriver. The battery comes out much more easily and without tools.

I like the variety of ports: serial, analog-video, four-pin FireWire and two USB 2.0 ports. But I'd prefer to see the port locations changed.

The USB ports are over at the left corner of the chassis, a little far for plugging in a headset or microphone in cramped airplane seating. One USB port is way at the back of the machine near the serial, video and Ethernet ports. USB ports are frequently used and should be easily accessible.

Despite these minor flaws, the D400 is one of the most robust notebooks around. Its sleek design and light weight make it as useful on the road as in the office.


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