Dell Latitude D510
The least assuming of Dell's business notebooks, the Latitude D510 lacks the flashier features of its siblings--the D610's smart card reader and the D810's wide screen, for instance. What it does have is a handsome charcoal-colored case, a good keyboard, a handy multipurpose bay, and a long-lasting battery, all for a good price.
The $1509 D510 packs a 1.6-GHz Pentium M 730 processor, a 15-inch XGA screen, a DVD-ROM/CD-RW drive (a $59 upgrade from the standard CD-ROM drive), and a 40GB hard drive. You can bump up the configuration to include a DVD burner for an extra $90, an 80GB hard drive for $99, and a 1.86-GHz processor for $190; or you can shave a bit off the price and the weight by ordering a 14.1-inch screen and a hollow travel module instead of an optical drive. Bluetooth and software cost extra ($49 for Bluetooth and $125 for Microsoft Office Basic Edition).
Connections offer a good balance of old and new, including parallel and serial ports for legacy peripherals and four USB ports, two on the right side for quick access and two on the back, plus a FireWire port for digital video downloads.
I liked the quietness of the keyboard and its pleasantly mushy feel. The layout is fine except for the location of the <Delete> key, which is buried in the second row from the top--not the most convenient place for a frequently used key. (It's more commonly placed in the top right corner.) The touchpad's mouse buttons have a flared box shape I found easy to use. The D510 has no dedicated shortcut buttons for applications, volume control, or anything else. On the plus side, the power status lights are in a quick-to-spot location on the right screen hinge. The front-mounted stereo speakers are loud enough for making presentations to a small group.
The D510's battery life and modular design really shine. It lasted 4 hours, 41 minutes on one charge in our tests--more than an hour longer than the average portable. You can check how much power is left without turning on the notebook by pressing the battery's handy external gauge, and you can work even longer untethered to an electrical outlet by using two batteries at once: The $119 media cell battery fits into the modular bay in place of the optical drive. All of the interchangeable bay devices, including a secondary 80GB hard drive ($150), have built-in spring-loaded releases, a small luxury that saves me from having to fumble around the bottom of the laptop for a release every time I want to swap devices. The D510 does not work with the highest-end docking station Dell sells for the Latitude line (the D/Dock Expansion Station, which includes an internal media bay), but a 240-pin bottom connector accepts the $179 D/Port Advanced Port Replicator, which adds a DVI digital monitor port and a S/PDIF port.
The D510 performed well in our speed tests, earning a WorldBench score of 76--slightly slower than the other all-purpose notebooks that we've seen, but not significantly so. The D510 comes with good documentation, although mostly in the form of an unindexed, unlinked electronic user manual inconveniently buried in the Windows Help and Support Center. However, the manual is comprehensive and well-organized enough for finding information fairly easily, so the lack of an index is no great problem.
A standout in battery life and modular expansion, the Dell Latitude D510 is a fine mainstream business laptop.
Dell Latitude D510