Review: Dell Latitude D430
October 1st, 2007
The Latitude D430 is Dell's new single-spindle widescreen laptop in the Latitude line, fully compatible with their standardized Latitude D-series peripherals. From release, it offers an option of the solid-state drive first made available late in the life-cycle of its Latitude D420 predecessor. The D430's competitive 3.0-pound weight and useful trackpad/trackpoint combination give it the potential to meet the needs of many of the University's Windows-based 'road warriors'.
Introduced in June 2007, the Latitude D430 closely resembles the Latitude D420 it follows along with other current members of the Latitude family (the 14.1-inch Latitude D630 and the 15.4-inch Latitude D830) in look and feel, with the most obvious similarity being the 16:10 widescreen. The D430 is intended to replace the D420, and there is very little reason at this point to purchase a D420 instead of a D430.
The Latitude D430 carries most of the ports you expect on an enterprise-class single-spindle laptop. Relatively unusual ports include a 4-pin FireWire port and a SecureDigital card slot. The D430 also includes Dell's Wi-Fi Catcher wireless network locater.
By far the most unusual hardware feature on the Latitude D430 is the 32 GB solid-state drive, made by SanDisk. Information Systems & Computing (ISC) believes that this makes the Latitude D430 somewhat of a preview of the future, with solid-state becoming much more prevalent in light and mid-weight notebooks over the medium term.
The Latitude D430 is certainly not going to blow any user away with its raw speed, but it has enough processor capability to get most general computing tasks done effectively. The solid-state drive certainly helps performance, substantially lowering boot time and generally increasing speed. Firefox 2.0.0.x (running University web-mail and other web applications), Microsoft Office 2007 Professional, MeetingMaker, FileMaker Pro 9.0, and other University-centric applications ran in acceptable fashion.
The Latitude D430 should be configured and purchased with the Core 2 Duo U7600 processor instead of the Core Solo U1400. The significant savings in battery life and slight savings in cost gained by going with the U1400 (less than $100) does not begin to make up for the loss in performance.
Though Dell has bumped up the base-line RAM to 1.0 GB in the Latitude D430, having at least 1.5 GB RAM is essential for the optimal functionality of a modern single-spindle laptop, especially since almost all such models (including the D430) use Intel's integrated video.
As with any 'road-warrior' laptop, ISC suggests purchasing both a high-capacity (9-cell) and a low-capacity (4-cell) battery along with an extra AC power adaptor for the Latitude D430.
See ISC's Laptop Computer Purchasing Guide for more configuration hints. As of October 2007, configuring a D430 to these specifications can be done for approximately $1,650 (with hard drive) or $1,900 (with solid-state drive) with an additional $100 for a media slice.
Windows Vista Performance
A tested Latitude D430 (1.2 GHz Core 2 Duo U7600, 533 MHz 2.0 GB RAM, integrated Intel 950 graphics, 32 GB solid-state drive) has a Windows Experience Index base score of 3.6, with individual scores of:
These scores, in some areas substantially improved over scores for the D420, suggest that Windows Vista performance will be acceptable to good for most users on a Latitude D430 configured in this manner.
Updating the Latitude D430's BIOS in mid-November 2007 raised the primary hard disk score from an already impressive 4.9 to a somewhat astounding 5.6.
Thanks to Jason Trumpy and Jonathan Hart (both of Dell) for their help with this review.
--John Mulhern III, Senior Project Leader, ISC Technology Support Services (October 1st, 2007)
Information Systems and Computing
University of Pennsylvania
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