Review: Dell Latitude E4200
January 28, 2009
After an August 2008 product announcement, Dell made its Latitude E4200 12-inch widescreen notebook available for ordering in September 2008. The E4200 is based on Intel's Montevina/Centrino2 notebook platform and supplants the Latitude D430 as Dell's smallest and lightest Latitude. This review is a follow-up to an earlier product note.
Design and Changes
The Latitude E4200 weighs 2.2 pounds and its enclosure is approximately the same size as the Latitude D430 it replaces. However, along with all of Dell's E-series Latitudes, the E4200 has a completely new brushed black and aluminum look and feel and includes new ports such as eSATA and SmartCard. In casual use, it feels almost too light to users familiar with the often dense feel of many enterprise class 12-inch and 13-inch notebooks - but it's certainly a positive over time to have so little to carry (even the power supply is notably thin and light).
A backlit keyboard is optional and multiple color options are available at extra cost. Unlike some other current 12-inch notebooks, the Latitude E4200 does not offer an integrated web camera.
The Latitude E4200 includes two significant software enhancements from previous generation 12-inch systems, but both of these changes are as yet incomplete. The first, only available if the 1.4 GHz processor is selected, is designated Latitude ON. Latitude ON uses a dedicated low-voltage sub-processor and a Linux-based operating system that allows access to locally cached Exchange-based email, calendar, and address book without booting the installed Windows operating system. This saves both time and battery life when quick access to an email message or meeting information is needed and Dell plans to add connectivity capability to Latitude ON within the next few months.
The second software change is a complete rewrite of Dell's Control Point Connection Manager software for Latitudes. Though a good start at building an integrated connectivity utility, Control Point sadly does not yet include support for Wi-Fi connectivity, so users who need to connect to these networks will need to use other utilities (connectivity to Ethernet, GPS, and WWAN is functional).
The Latitude E4200 has received an EPEAT Gold rating and is also Energy Star 4.0-certified. Power usage information for the E4200 and other notebooks and desktops in use at the University is available here.
Several notes when ordering a Latitude E4200:
See ISC's Notebook Purchasing Guide for more configuration advice. As of January 2009, configuring a Latitude E4200 to the lightweight notebook specification can be done for approximately $2,000. A configuration that meets and sometimes exceeds this specification is available from the Computer Connection.
Windows Vista Performance
ISC tested a Latitude E4200 with 1.4 GHz Core 2 Duo ULV SU9400, 1066 MHz 3.0 GB RAM, integrated Intel 4500MHD graphics, and a 128 GB solid state drive. It received a Windows Experience Index base score of 3.2, with individual scores of:
These scores suggest that Windows Vista Service Pack 1 performance will be acceptable to good for most users of a Latitude E4200 configured in this manner. The primary hard disk score reflects the speed of the solid state drive.
With the E-series, Dell has moved to rationalize the naming conventions and marketing strategies of its Latitude line. In the case of the E4200, E is for the series, 4 for the model line, and 2 for the screen size (12 inches with the 1 truncated). It seems reasonable to expect that the model following the E4200 will be the E4210.
ISC sees the Latitude E4200 as being a competitive choice among lightweight notebooks available in early 2009, especially for the traditional thin and light customer (someone who is replacing an older lightweight Latitude or ThinkPad). Pricing continues to be higher than 12-inch notebooks that are available with hard disk drives, but this pricing delta will continue to decline. Especially price sensitive 12-inch buyers may wish to consider Lenovo's ThinkPad X200 and X200s, which are available with hard disk drives.
When correctly configured to the lightweight notebook specification in the Notebook Purchasing Guide, the Latitude E4200 is approved for general use at the University.
Latitude E4200 graphic courtesy of Dell
--John Mulhern III, Lead for Client Technologies, ISC Technology Support Services (January 28, 2009)
Information Systems and Computing
University of Pennsylvania
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