I use laptops every day for both business and personal computing (usually separate laptops) and I regularly test various notebooks and mobile devices for TechRepublic to assess their business usefulness. The general requirements that I look for are speed (in its various forms), portability, and ease of use.
I have recently been testing the Dell Latitude X1 as a machine that a business user or knowledge worker would typically use for everyday tasks. I assumed use of Windows XP, Microsoft Office applications, a Web browser, business e-mail, and a line-of-business application or two. I also assumed occasional use of wireless networking.
The ToolIntroduced during the first half of 2005, the Latitude X1 is quite different from most of the other Dell laptops that you see running around both the consumer-oriented Inspiron line and the other products in the business-class Latitude line. That's because the little secret about the X1 is that it wasn't originally engineered by Dell. It is based on the Samsung Q30. Dell partnered with Samsung to offer a U.S.version of this sleek laptop at a very competitive price. As you can see in the picture below, the Latitude X1 has lot more style than most Dell laptops:
The Latitude X1 that I have been using has the following specs:
- 2.5 lbs and 1 inch thick
- 1.1 GHz Intel Pentium M (Centrino)
- 512 MB of DDR2 SDRAM
- 12.1 inch WXGA wide aspect display (1280x768 resolution)
- Integrated video based on the Intel 915GM/GMS, 910GML Express Chipset (up to 128 MB of shared memory for video)
- 60 GB Toshiba hard drive
- Integrated Broadcom Xtreme 57xx Gigabit Ethernet port
- Integrated Intel PRO Wireless 2200 B/G adapter
- Integrated Conexant Modem
- External CD-RW/DVD combo drive with D/Bay connector
- 2 USB 2.0 ports (one intended for Dell D/Bay)
- 1 Firewire/IEEE 1394 port
- 1 Secure Digital (SD) memory card slot
- 1 CompactFlash (CF) card slot
- Integrated Dell Wireless 350 Bluetooth Module
The Right Tool for the Right Job?
I quickly took a liking to the X1. It is very intuitively designed and extremely usable for business tasks. There are no nagging features or components that are inconveniently or illogically placed, so it is really good at staying out of your way and letting you get your work done. It is highly portable but still powerful enough to quickly handle Web browsing, mail, and Microsoft Office. In fact, it was a lot faster than I expected for a 1.1 GHz notebook. I even did a little bit of work with photos and video files and didn't have any complaints about performance. This is clearly a well-engineered machine.
Naturally, it's not perfect. Its portability doesn't sacrifice much in power, but it does sacrifice battery life. This is not a laptop that you can use on battery all day. The standard battery will only give you about 3 hours of life. The optional extended battery doubles that to 6 hours. Also, when you go to battery power the vibrant display goes very dim. Another thing I didn't like was the touch pad. I'm not a big fan of touch pads anyway, but the one on the X1 is not very responsive. You have to really apply pressure to make it move. And there is no finger joystick mouse as an alternative. All in all, that didn't bother me too much because I typically use a wireless notebook mouse when I'm working on a laptop, but it may be important to some users. Nevertheless, for most business users and knowledge workers, I would highly recommend the Latitude X1. At a price tag between about $1300 and $2200 (depending on the current Dell discount), it is an outstanding bargain for a powerful and highly portable laptop, and is extremely competitive with other ultra-portable notebooks in its class.
There's one other thing about the X1 it has a lot more "Wow!" appeal than the average Dell laptop. While using the X1, I have had at least five or six people go, "Ooooohhh, what laptop is that?" I've never had the reaction to a Dell before. A couple more people approached me to ask the price of the X1 because they were in the market for a new laptop. They naturally asked whether I would recommend it, and after asking what they were looking for, in both cases I did end up recommending the X1.
Here's my list of kudos and caveats to help you figure out if the X1 could make sense for you or your users:
- Extremely portable
- Plenty of power for business tasks
- Well-designed for usability
- Solid graphics and display
- Integrated Intel Wireless adapter with a strong antenna
- Integrated Gigabit Ethernet
- Integrated SD and CF card slots
- Plenty of "Wow!" factor
- Short battery life
- Unimpressive touch pad
- No PC Card slot
- Mediocre speaker quality
- RAM is only expandable to 768 MB
- External disc drive
- Only two USB ports
Don't miss our photo gallery of the Dell Latitude X1.
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Jason Hiner has nothing to disclose. He doesn't hold investments in the technology companies he covers.
Jason Hiner is Global Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Global Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He's co-author of the book, Follow the Geeks.