Review: Dell Latitude Z600
September 29, 2009
In late September 2009, Dell announced the Latitude Z600 16-inch widescreen, which is based on Intel's Montevina/Centrino2 notebook platform. The Latitude Z600 adds a new lightweight (4.5 to 5.0 pound) 16-inch form factor to the Latitude line.
Design and Changes
The Latitude Z600 inherits little design language from the Latitude E-series systems introduced in 2008. Most obviously, the outer case is a matte-finish black cherry metallic and the display is 16:9 (instead of the 16:10 displays present in other current Latitudes).
The Z600 also includes optional wireless charging and UltraWideBand docking, both leading edge features at this time (the wireless dock will not be available until late October 2009). In addition, a 2.0 megapixel integrated web camera with autofocus is standard on the Latitude Z600. This camera allows for the functionality of several Dell-specific middleware applications, including a business card scanner, a document scanner, and a face recognition system. The only display choice for the Z600 is a 1600 x 900 screen with an LED backlight. This screen has a customizable sensor on the right edge, which aids in scrolling and system control.
All Latitude Z600 configurations ship with a significantly enhanced version of Latitude ON from what first shipped with the Latitude E4200 and E4300 in 2008. Latitude ON uses a dedicated low-voltage sub-processor and a Linux-based operating system that allows access to calendar, contacts, email, and web browser without booting the installed Windows operating system. This saves both time and battery life when quick access to an email or meeting information is needed. Information Systems & Computing (ISC) plans to evaluate the latest version of Latitude ON as soon as possible.
What is missing compared to a Latitude E6500 is the option of discrete graphics, an internal optical drive, wired docking ability, some expansion choices, and some other build-to-order choices. The Z600 also only carries two USB ports, as opposed to the four available on an E6400 or E6500.
The Latitude Z600 weighs between 4.5 and 5.0 pounds (depending on battery) with a travel weight of about 5.0 to 5.5 pounds including the power adapter (choosing to carry the external optical drive adds an additional 0.8 pounds). Though it ships with a specific styled power adapter, the Z600 can use the same power adapters as the Latitude E-series.
The Latitude Z600 is EPEAT Gold-compliant and Energy Star 5.0-certified.
Several considerations when ordering a Latitude Z600:
See ISC's Notebook Purchasing Guide for more configuration hints. As of September 2009, configuring a Latitude Z600 to the Lightweight Notebook specification can be done for approximately $2,000 to $2,350. The University's Computer Connection (PennKey authentication required) will have at least one Z600 configuration available shortly.
ISC tested a prototype Latitude Z600 with 1.6 GHz Core 2 Duo SU9600, 1066 MHz 4.0 GB RAM, integrated Intel GMA 4500MHD graphics, and 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 and Windows 7 performance will be good for most users on a Latitude Z600 configured in this manner.
ISC sees the Latitude Z600 as an interesting new form factor, giving users who prefer a larger screen but don't need class-leading performance a substantially lighter choice than before (the 16-inch Z600 weighs approximately a pound less than the 15-inch E6500, depending on battery configurations). Please note that the Z600 has approximately the same resolution (1600 x 900) as the lower-end Latitude E6500 display - the pixels are larger and thus more comfortable to some eyes.
The Latitude Z600 marks Dell's second recent attempt to move upmarket in the notebook. The first, the Adamo 13.4-inch widescreen, was more of a consumer-oriented attempt. The Z600 is definitely more in the enterprise arena, but even prototypes showed an attention to packaging and design not commonly seen from Dell.
The biggest compromise in the Latitude Z600 is the Intel integrated video, which is not competitive with the NVIDIA integrated video most notably available in Apple's current MacBooks and MacBook Pros. If Intel's next generation integrated video (due in early 2010) is a substantial upgrade, ISC may be willing to consider an updated version of the Z600 as a mid-weight desktop replacement.
ISC expects to see some features of the Z600 in future versions of the Latitude E6400 and E6500 and expects to see at least some other enterprise-class systems with 16-inch 16:9 displays. The final question to be answered is how big the market is for an expensive, lightweight but relatively underpowered notebook with a large screen.
Recommendation and Credits
When correctly configured to the lightweight notebook specification in the Notebook Purchasing Guide, the Latitude Z600 is approved for general use at the University.
Thanks to Steve Zamarripa, Erica Hilgeman, Chuck Wilkinson, Jason Trumpy, and Lana Sveda (all from Dell) for their help with this review.
Latitude Z600 graphic courtesy of Dell
--John Mulhern III, Lead for Client Technologies, ISC Technology Support Services (September 29, 2009)
Information Systems and Computing
University of Pennsylvania
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