Dell Latitude D400

To achieve a lightweight, compact package, sub-notebooks typically compromise both speed and battery life. But Dell’s new $4232 Latitude D400 has top-notch speed, provides lengthy battery life and weighs just under 1.8kg.

To achieve a lightweight, compact package, sub-notebooks typically compromise both speed and battery life. But Dell’s new $4232 Latitude D400 has top-notch speed, provides lengthy battery life and weighs just under 1.8kg.

In fact, this Centrino-based compact system offers all the power you need to get even your most demanding work done. Its PC WorldBench 4 score of 129 is one of the fastest we’ve seen — beating notebooks with twice its heft — thanks partly to its new 1.7GHz Intel Pentium M chip. And though its four hours 18 minutes of battery life wasn’t as good as the seven hours that some of our other high-scoring Pentium M test notebooks achieved, those machines were larger and carried notably bigger batteries.

The powerful Latitude D400 we tested carries 512MB of SDRAM, a roomy 40GB hard drive, Intel’s 802.11b wireless and ethernet networking, and a modem. The keyboard is a little less than full size but comfortable. You get both a touchpad and an eraserhead, but the two do not quite work together seamlessly (I noticed a slight lag when I tried to use both). I preferred to disable one.

Dell bucks the trend in ultraportables of including an optical drive, which is unfortunate as the D400 seems thick enough to accommodate one. This means that any kind of CD, DVD or floppy drive has to be external. Our shipping unit came with a somewhat bulky 8X DVD-ROM and 24X/10X/24X CD-RW combination drive; the drive attaches to the notebook via Dell’s odd-looking two-tier D/Bay connector, which doubles as a second USB 2.0 port. The D400 also comes with a FireWire port, a Type II PC Card slot and a Smart Card slot.

My only other complaint regarding the D400 — and most notebook PCs this size — is the 12.1-inch screen. Here the diminutive viewing area seems more noticeable because of the screen’s large bezel, which makes it look like the unit could support a larger display. Such minor quibbles aside, however, the D400 gives you a lot of laptop for your money.

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Anush Yegyazarian

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