January 26, 2013

Dell Latitude E6330 PC Notebook Reivew

Our review model, which costs £1,281 as configured (on a semi-permanent dicsount from £1,73 , has a third-generation Intel Core i7-3520 processor, 6GB of RAM, and a 128GB solid-state drive. The Latitude E6330 also sports a dual-pointing backlit keyboard, an Intel Centrino Ultimate-N 6300 wireless mini card, and a DVD-RW drive. Like many business-oriented laptops, the Latitude E6330 can be optionally fitted with 3G or 4G networking service, though our review unit did not come with either of these. The E6330 runs the 64-bit version of Windows 7 Professional.

The laptop's interior isn't very stylish, but it is businesslike. A thick, matte-black plastic bevel frames the matte screen. The wrist-rest area is made of a soft rubbery material, and the keyboard is slightly indented and surrounded by a brushed-aluminum border. On the left side of the keyboard are small lights that indicate Wi-Fi connectivity and whether the Dell Latitude E6430s battery is charging, and on the right side are volume-up, volume-down, and mute buttons. The power button is located above the keyboard, on the right side.

Get the performance you need in a compact and lightweight laptop. The Latitude E6330 monitor has a 13.3-inch display and is designed for the purpose of being on the move.

The keyboard features pseudo-island-style keys, or keys that are not completely separated but have flat tops. The keys are slightly curved and offer excellent tactile feedback, which makes them excellent for typing on. The orange-accented keyboard is backlit and has a Dell Latitude E6230 battery spill-proof design (holes on the bottom of the machine allow any spilled liquid to run right through it).

The Latitude E6330 sports a 13.3-inch matte LED-backlit display with a native resolution of 1366 by 768 pixels. Business-oriented laptops aren't expected to have breathtaking displays, but the E6330's screen is a little disappointing, even so. It's not very bright, even at its brightest setting, though the antiglare coating does help a tiny bit in brighter settings. The antiglare coating seems to do more harm than good, though, since fluctuations in display quality are noticeable when you move even slightly to the side. Color looks accurate but a little washed out, and HD video plays with lots of Dell LATITUDE E6330 battery artifacting and stilted movement.

The Latitude E6330's 128GB SSD booted Windows 7 Professional (64-bit) in a modest 46 seconds, just 6 seconds faster than the category average. However, the drive took just 30 seconds to complete the LAPTOPFile Transfer test, which involves copying 4.97GB of mixed media files. That's a rate of 169.6 MBps, five times the category average.

Without any pricing to go on, the ultimate appeal of Dell’s Latitude E6320 hangs in the balance. But as a business laptop that manages to blend the indestructible feel of a rugged Panasonic Toughbook with the sex appeal of Apple’s MacBook, this year might see the Latitude series genuinely come of age.

The back houses an HDMI port, a Kensington lock slot and an Ethernet connector. The left side contains a SmartCard slot, a headphone/mic jack, a VGA port and a USB 2.0 port. Click to EnlargeThe 1.3-megapixel webcam provided sharp, noise-free images, even in low light. However, colors were bland and our face appeared shadowed, even when we were sitting in a well-lit room.

Our review model, which costs $1832 as configured, has a third-generation Intel Core i7-3520 processor, 6GB of RAM, and a 128GB solid-state drive. The Latitude E6330 also sports a dual-pointing backlit keyboard, an Intel Centrino Ultimate-N 6300 wireless mini card, and a DVD-RW drive. Like many business-oriented laptops, the Latitude E6330 can be optionally fitted with 3G or 4G networking service, though our review unit did not come with either of these. The E6330 runs the 64-bit version of Windows 7 Professional.

The Latitude E6330 sports a 13.3-inch matte LED-backlit display with a native resolution of 1366 by 768 pixels. Business-oriented laptops aren't expected to have breathtaking displays, but the E6330's screen is a little disappointing, even so. It's not very bright, even at its brightest setting, though the antiglare coating does help a tiny bit in brighter settings. The Dell LATITUDE E6230 battery antiglare coating seems to do more harm than good, though, since fluctuations in display quality are noticeable when you move even slightly to the side. Color looks accurate but a little washed out, and HD video plays with lots of artifacting and stilted movement.

Thanks to the frugality of Intel’s Sandy Bridge platform, Dell Latitude E6330 battery life even on this pre-production model was immensely promising. It’s clear Dell has had to sacrifice battery capacity to retain the E6320’s figure – the three-cell, 2,620mAh battery is hardly capacious – but with the battery lasting 3hr 45mins on a single charge in our light use battery tests, Sandy Bridge’s efficiency isn’t in any doubt. With optional six-cell batteries and clip-on nine-cell battery slices soon to be available as optional extras, as well as a three-cell battery which replaces the optical drive, we wouldn’t be surprised to see that figure stretch close to the 20-hour mark with a fully kitted out E6320.

The E6330 is housed in a sturdy, if not terribly fashionable, plastic chassis. The cover features a dark gray brushed-aluminum plate, which adds a little style to the otherwise mediocre design. Unfortunately, this aluminium plate is a fingerprint magnet. There's a mirrored Dell logo in the centre of the cover, and a matte-silver plastic border around the plate.

The Latitude’s tough-guy exterior looks and feels every inch the luxurious business laptop, and ergonomics are no exception. The twin touchpad and trackpoint is a winning combination, and the backlit keyboard is superb. The rigid chassis makes for zero flex in the keyboard’s base, while every keystroke finishes with a soft, padded thunk that feels great under the fingers.

By hitting Fn + right arrow, we were able to configure the keyboard's backlighting, choosing between five modes: off, 25 percent, 50 percent, 75 percent and 100 percent brightness. Even at 100 percent, the light was not particularly bright, and it shined up from the crevices between the keys.

While it feels a bit heavy and expensive for average consumers to look into, the addition of the Tri-Metal casing and the impressive spec sheet may have folks thinking twice. This Dell LATITUDE E6430s battery is perhaps one of the sexiest "rugged" laptops you'll find, and considering that even the keyboard is resistant to spills, we're fine with labeling it as such. For $1745, we expected the $99 NVIDIA NVS 5200M GPU option to be tossed in; the integrated GPU occasionally bottlenecks the overall performance of an otherwise aggressive machine. If you're lucky enough to have your IT manager put one of these on your desk, however, you can safely know that you have a pretty darn good gig.

Posted by: miko at 07:51 AM | No Comments | Add Comment
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January 09, 2013

Review: Dell XPS 14 Laptop

Nowadays, the high-end laptop market is full of some pretty machines. Dell XPS 14, which belongs to Dell's ultrabook range, is one such laptop. But we have seen that getting aesthetics as well functionality right has proved a bit difficult for most laptop makers.

The base model of the XPS 14 will come with a 400-nit brightness 1600×900 display, an Intel Core i5 processor with HD 4000 GPU, 4GB of RAM, and a 500GB hard drive. Just about everything can be configured, so you can bump the CPU up to a Core i7, the RAM up to 8GB, add in NVIDIA’s GT 630M GPU, and swap out the standard hard drive for a 512GB SSD at the top end. Ports for the laptop includes two USB 3.0, HDMI, DisplayPort, Ethernet, and an SD card slot. Overall thickness isn’t too bad at 0.81-inches, and all in all it weighs around 4.6lbs.

Whereas the XPS 14 was designed for portability and Dell XPS L401x battery life, the XPS 15 is more focused on performance. The 15.6-inch model ships only in discrete graphics configurations with either Nvidia's GeForce GT 630M or 640M under the hood, up from last year's GT 525M. The cheapest variation comes stock with 6GB of RAM, whereas the mid-range and high-end versions come with either 8GB or 16GB. Storage ranges from the 500GB HDD/32GB SSD combo found in the XPS 14 to a full 1TB HDD with secondary 128GB SSD. Dell has also bumped up the screen quality, making 1920 x 1080 resolution standard across all models. Unlike its driveless sibling, the $1,299 and $1,399 XPS 14 ship with a DVD-RW drive, while the $1,699 and $1,999 configurations come standard with a read-only Blu-ray drive.

Dell's software bundle is fairly typical, including the starter edition of Office 2010 (with ad-supported, limited-functionality versions of Word and Excel), Skype, Windows Live Essentials, and the annoying 30-day trial of McAfee Security Center (annoying because you have to uninstall it to stop the constant appearance of pop-up nag windows), as well as Dell-branded webcam and online backup software.

Dell’s new 14 inch notebook is a thin and light laptop that has all the features you’d expect from an ultrabook — but one of those features is optional. In order to meet Intel’s requirements, an ultrabook has to have a solid state disk, but Dell is offering the XPS 14 with the choice of a SSD or a slower (and cheaper) spinning hard drive.

Thoughtful design.It’s a design that goes beyond beauty. Your Dell XPS 17 battery is less than 1 inch (20.7mm) thin, built for maximum portability. Machined alumi:

Intel Core i7 3517U Processor 1.9GHz
8 GB DIMM RAM
500GB 5400 rpm SATA HDD and 32GB mSATA SSD
14-Inch Screen
Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit

After spending several days testing the Nvidia GeForce GT 630M-equipped laptop, we discovered the video game framerates on our particular notebook were extremely erratic, regardless of the game or configuration.

The speed and responsiveness that Ivy Bridge affords. Considering this isn't targeted towards the casual email checker or a video editor, the XPS 14 took everything I could throw at it and performed admirably. With 50 or so tabs open in Chrome (loaded with resource-heavy pages, mind you), along with Chrome and the machine was still able to play back an Vimeo video in full screen HD.

Back to Dell's promise. The Reader’s test by Dell XPS 14 battery Eater simulates the reading of an e-book with minimal brightness, wireless modules turned off and the processor graphics active. With these settings the XPS 14 exceeds the manufacturer's claims and reaches the convincing 12 hours and 32 minutes. In everyday use the Dell XPS 15 battery runtime is anywhere between 4 and 8 hours, depending on the load of the system.

The unit feels solidly build overall. We didn't experience any bending in the chassis (which is aluminium) or keyboard tray, and the hinges that hold the screen are strong. The lid did bend a little when we applied force to it, and this produced puddling on the screen, but it wasn't too bad. The Gorilla Glass protects the screen from the front, but the downside is that its glossy finish will reflect lights, which Dell XPS L401x AC adapter can be very annoying unless you turn up the brightness. The screen is very bright on this notebook, and this will mitigate a lot of reflections. Be sure not to use the maximum screen brightness in a dark environment — we found it to be too bright and uncomfortable to look at . A lot of the time, we used the lowest brightness setting.

While the XPS 14 roughly performs twice as fast as the included Intel HD Graphics, it still couldn't manage our most forgiving test, Batman: Arkham Asylum at lowest detail, making us wonder why the 630M was included, at all. It is technically more capable, but not by a useful amount.

It doesn't come cheap, but if you're looking for performance on the move and don't want a chomped apple shape on the front of your laptop, the new Dell XPS 14 battery is definitely worth checking out. Also weigh up the excellent Samsung Series 9 for around the same price.

Posted by: miko at 07:48 AM | No Comments | Add Comment
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