November 22, 2010

560 words 3 mins read

Review: Dell Latitude E4200 Ultralight

As of late, I’ve been on a “light and portable” kick. First it was the Dell XT2, then the ASUS Eee PC 1215N and now I’m onto the Dell Latitude E4200 which falls under the “ultralight” category. While I enjoyed the XT2, the digitizer (aka the touch sensitive or “poke” screen) just wasn’t really “there” yet for me. The E4200 was, I thought, simply the non-touchscreen version. It is… and it isn’t.

The first thing I noticed about the E4200 is that it certainly lives up to the title of “ultralight”. Between the E4200 and the 1215N, they are almost exactly the same size. Comparing the Dell in hand to the 1215N, it is close to the same weight, but the E4200 definitely

feels a little lighter. The two other major differences are the E4200’s screen, which is 16:10 (as opposed to the Eee’s 16:9) and it’s got a 1.6 GHz Core 2 Duo, which is technically a little better than the 1.8 GHz (Dual Core) Atom of the Eee PC.

So now that you’ve got the picture, you understand that the machines are damn close in size, weight, and system specs. The really big difference? The Dell Latitude E4200 costs about $2000 (granted it does have an SSD) whereas the Asus Eee PC 1215N costs $484 out the door (on Amazon). Between the two of the machines, my preference has been for the netbook and I’ve got a few reasons for that.

In order for the E4200 to get down to that truly ultralight level, you have to opt for the 4 cell battery as opposed to the 6. The battery life is only about 2 hours (tops) where as the Netbook gets 4-5. At first, I wasn’t too concerned with this but I’ve grown to enjoy the fact that I can charge the netbook once a day, use it for all my BART travels, plus some time at night, and still have some battery time left over.

The second major con, and I realize this is very odd for me to nitpick, is the speaker on the E4200. I’m fairly sure the E4200 only has a single mono speaker, like the XT2, BUT it sucks. I’m not an audiophile by any stretch of the word, which is why I normally don’t nitpick on speakers. The problem is that the E4200 has a speaker that starts to distort horribly anytime it is turned up to a volume higher than what you need to hear it in a quiet room. If I use my (noisy) exercise bike or have a fan going in my bedroom, I need to turn up the speaker output on the laptop I am using; this is normally not an issue, except when I tried it on the E4200. Once I turned it up enough to hear my TV show over the bike (which isn’t terribly loud) the audio was distorted pretty badly. Badly enough for me to discontinue the using the laptop in that capactity.

If sound isn’t your deal (or you will be using headphones), then the E4200 does have some redeeming qualities when compared to netbooks. It’s got a real, honest to god keyboard (instead of chiclets). A nice feature on top of that is the keyboard backlighting. I’ve not had many machines with keyboard backlights, and it is quite nice to have.