Dell is for Desktops

By eweek  |  Posted 2003-04-15 Print this article Print

So, what about Dells new Pentium M offerings? Unquestionably, Dell sells a lot of notebook PCs and is invariably at the top of the market-share heap, thanks in part to the lock-in contracts it signs with corporate customers. Because of its great supply controls and tight relationship with Intel, its also always among the first to get the fastest processors. Ive often suspected, however, that this has led them to slack a bit in the notebook department. Indeed, while Dell has made every desktop PC Ive ever purchased, Ive avoided the direct merchants notebook PCs. My aversion wasnt completely capricious since, as with the Vaios, I did experience problems with the early Latitudes that aped the original PowerBooks. But hadnt Dell redeemed itself since then?
Unfortunately, it hadnt, at least in terms of consumer-line aesthetics. For the past few years, Inspirons, with the asymmetrical color patches across the bottom, begged the question if the companys name was an acronym for Dreadful Exteriors Lessen Laptops. The new silver Inspirons look better, especially if you pass on the Trapper-Keeper-themed covers, but still have disconcerting blue accents. When will Dell understand that garish two-tone notebooks went out with Apples lime iBook?
So, if youre looking at styling, maybe the Inspiron line isnt for you, after all. Dells Latitude line, catering to the corporate crowd, is nothing if not more reserved; its uninspired, bulging bezels left you as cold as a dead battery. It says something when a vacuum cleaner introduces a more appealing industrial design than that of your flagship laptops. However, that seems to be changing with the D series. These are easily the best-looking laptops Dell has ever produced, and probably the most ergonomic as well. They are sleek and stylish if a bit of a "me-too" silver slab. (In some pictures, the casing looks almost bronze, which would be nicely differentiated.) Overall, the flexibility of the D600 is impressive. Dell offers integrated Bluetooth and a combo 802.11a/b/g card that really lets you cover all your wireless bases if youre willing to forego the Centrino label. Dell even supports two flavors of infrared. The company offers SXGA support on the 14-inch variety and serviceable 3D with a 32 MB Mobile Radeon. All the standard ports are there, as well as relatively recent notebook additions such as USB 2.0 and the somewhat more dubious Gigabit Ethernet. Dell also has a good half-pound or so advantage over the Gateway 450s.


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