Review: Dell Latitude D420
October 4th, 2006
Dell's Latitude D420 is Dell's first single-spindle widescreen laptop in the Latitude line that is fully compatible with their standardized Latitude D-series peripherals. With it's 3.0-pound weight and trackpad/trackpoint combination, it has the potential to meet the needs of many of the University's Windows-based 'road warriors'.
Introduced in June 2006, the Latitude D420 closely resembles other current members of the Latitude family (the 14.1-inch Latitude D620 and the 15.4-inch Latitude D820) in look and feel, with the most obvious similarity being the 16:10 widescreen. This design marks a change from Dell's previous single-spindle widecreen, the Latitude X1, which was not designed in-house. The D420 is intended to replace both the X1 and the Latitude D410 and slots between the two in weight.
The Latitude D420 carries most of the ports you would expect on an enterprise-class single-spindle laptop. Relatively unusual ports include a 4-pin FireWire port and a SecureDigital card slot. The D420 also includes Dell's Wi-Fi Catcher wireless network locater.
The Latitude D420 is certainly not going to blow any user away with it's raw speed, but it has enough processor capability to get most general computing tasks done. Firefox 1.5.x (running University web-mail and other web applications), Microsoft Office 2003 Professional, MeetingMaker, FileMaker Pro 8.5, and other University-centric applications ran in acceptable fashion.
The Latitude D420 should be configured and purchased with the Core Duo U2500 processor instead of the Core Solo U1300. The significant savings in battery life and slight savings in cost gained by going with the U1300 does not begin to make up for the loss in performance.
Having at least 1.0 GB RAM is essential for the optimal functionality of a modern single-spindle laptop, especially since almost all such models (including the D420) use Intel's integrated video.
As with any 'road-warrior' laptop, ISC suggests purchasing both a high-capacity (6-cell or 9-cell) and a low-capacity (4-cell) battery along with an extra AC power adaptor for the Latitude D420.
See ISC's Laptop Computer Purchasing Guide for more configuration hints. As of October 2006, configuring a D420 to these specifications can be done for approximately $1,650.
Windows Vista Performance
A tested Latitude D420 (1.06 GHz Core Solo U1300, 533 MHz 1.0 GB RAM, integrated Intel 950 graphics, 4200 RPM 30 GB hard drive) has a Windows Experience Index base score of 2.0, with individual scores of:
These scores suggest that Windows Vista will be marginal at best on a Latitude D420 configured in this manner.
Thanks to Jason Trumpy and Sam Wadhwani for their help with this article.
--John Mulhern III, Senior Project Leader, ISC Technology Support Services (October 4th, 2006)
Information Systems and Computing
University of Pennsylvania
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