Hardware

Break free from the desktop with Dell's Latitude C840

The Latitude C840 is a very fast, well-equipped desktop replacement for the business set. But it's pricey, and its hefty weight and girth are better suited for short hops to conference rooms and local clients. Read on to find out more.


By Stephanie Bruzzese

Intel recently bumped up the speed of its mobile Pentium 4 processor to 1.8 GHz, and Dell wasted no time incorporating the chip into its corporate-focused Latitude C840 laptop. The decision was a wise one; in CNET Labs' benchmark tests, the Latitude C840 tied with Gateway's 600XL as the fastest notebook we've tested to date. Unfortunately, it's also one of the bigger, heavier, and more costly notebooks we've seen. Click here to configure and price the Dell Latitude C840 laptop.

Faster than a speeding bullet
The Latitude C840 (Figure A) got down to business in CNET Labs' benchmark tests. Equipped with 256 MB of DDR SDRAM; a smoking 64-MB Nvidia GeForce4 440 Go graphics chip; a 40-GB, 4,200 rpm hard drive; and Windows XP Pro, the notebook posted an overall SysMark score that tied with the 1.7-GHz P4-M-based Gateway 600XL and finished a hair ahead of the Toshiba Satellite 5105-S607, even though both competitors carried double the Dell's RAM. Battery life was good; the C840's powerful, 14.8V/3.9Ah lithium-ion battery held out for 162 minutes in our drain tests, 75 minutes longer than the Toshiba's weaker 10.8V/3.6Ah cell, and 7 minutes behind the Gateway 600XL's 11.1V/5.7Ah battery. The P4-M's ability to knock its power consumption down from 1.3V to 1V during less battery-hungry periods undoubtedly helped.

Figure A
CNET editors rated the Dell Latitude C840 an 8 out of 10 for good reason. It offers great performance; long battery life; excellent warranty and support; integrated wireless; a large, crisp screen; and solid keyboard.


Stuffed to the gills
The Latitude C840 is pricey at $3,297, but it's configured to take on anything your boss might throw at you. The DVD/CD-RW and floppy drives are fixed, but the C840's one removable media bay can take any drive that fits into a Latitude C400, C500, or C600. You also get two Type II and one Type III PC Card slots, 802.11b wireless hardware, and 56K modem/Ethernet jacks. Dell retained legacy ports such as serial, parallel, and PS/2 to please any corporate customers who still use peripherals based on these technologies. But the company also threw in cutting-edge connections such as IEEE 1394 and S-Video-out. The Latitude C840 even ships with a splitter that plugs into the S-Video port and expands its options to include S-Video-out, composite/NTSC/PAL video-out, and digital audio-out.

Most important for hard-working employees, the Latitude C840 includes an outstanding screen and keyboard. The 15-inch, UXGA, active-matrix display features a native 1,600 x 1,200 resolution with beautifully crisp text. The keyboard includes both a touchpad and a pointing stick, with corresponding mouse buttons for each. The keys themselves are solid with very firm feedback.

Before you get too excited about the Latitude C840's generous configuration, remember the downside: its leviathan 1.75 x 13.03 x 10.87-in., 8-pound (base weight; 9.2 pounds with AC adapter) chassis, which would fill even occasional travelers with dread. This system is better left on your desk, where you can plug in plenty of peripherals and extras, or limited to short hauls to conference rooms or local clients.

Superb support
As with many Dell Latitudes, the C840 comes with an excellent, three-year, onsite warranty for parts and labor and unlimited, toll-free, 24/7 phone support for the life of the system. Dell also provides its enterprise Latitude customers with their own pages on Dell's support site, which businesses can fill with the FAQ, drivers, and other tech info relevant to their notebook fleets.

Although it will make a pricey dent in the bottom line, the Dell Latitude C840's incomparable speed, ample features, and outstanding support make it a smart corporate choice, especially since you can exchange its parts with those of other Latitude lines. But based on its weight and girth, this notebook is best for employees who only rarely get out of the office.

CNET Labs performance
Performance test

Table A
100=performance of a test machine with a PIII-800, 128 MB of PC133 CL2 SDRAM, Creative Labs GeForce Annihilator 2 32-MB, and Windows 2000 (Service Pack 1).
Longer bars indicate better performance.


The new 1.8-GHz mobile Pentium 4 processor gave the Dell Latitude C840 a good kick in the pants. Its overall SysMark score tied with the 1.7-GHz P4-M-based Gateway 600XL and finished a hair ahead of the Toshiba Satellite 5105-S607, even though both competitors carried double the Dell's RAM (see Table A).

Battery life test

Table B


Battery life was good; the Dell's powerful, 14.8V/3.9Ah lithium-ion battery held out for 162 minutes in our drain tests, 75 minutes longer than the Toshiba's weaker 10.8V/3.6Ah cell and 7 minutes behind the Gateway 600XL's 11.1V/5.7Ah battery (see Table B).

Complete specs
Click here to configure and price the Dell Latitude C840 laptop. Complete product specifications are listed in Table C.
Table C
Product specifications
Processor
Processor manufacturer Intel
Processor type Pentium 4-M
Clock speed 1.6 GHz (Reviewed: 1.8 GHz)
Memory
RAM installed 256 MB
Cache size 512 KB
Storage
Hard drive size 20 GB (Reviewed: 40 GB)
CD / DVD drive Internal 8X DVD with Software MPEGII
CD / DVD read speed 24x (CD) / 8x (DVD)
CD / DVD write speed 8x
CD / DVD rewrite speed 8x
Display
Diagonal screen size 15"
Display technology UXGA TFT active matrix
Video / Audio
Video RAM installed 64 MB
Software
OS provided Microsoft Windows XP Professional
Warranty
Service / Support 3 year limited warranty
Disclaimers

Processor speed:
The unit "MHz" measures microprocessor internal clock speed, not application performance. Many factors affect application performance.
 
Hard disk:
The unit "GB" represents 1,000 million bytes of hard disk capacity.
 
Modem max. data rate:
56k modems are capable of receiving data at speeds up to 56 kbps. However, due to FCC rules that restrict power output, maximum download speeds are limited to about 53 kbps. Data transmitting speeds are limited to 33.6 kbps. Actual speeds depend on many factors and are often less than the maximum possible.
 
Speed of CD-ROM drive:
Data transfer rates and transfer speeds will vary, depending on a variety of factors.
 

This review was originally published by CNET on May 2, 2002.


 

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