RealTime IT News

Dell's Sweeping Laptop Revamp Targets Business

Dell's new notebook lineup for businesses
Source: Dell

SAN FRANCISCO -- Dell today introduced four new lines of Latitude and Precision notebook computers, aimed at a wide variety of business users and featuring advancements in power management and security.

Seven new notebook designs made their debut in all, ranging from the 12.1-inch, 2.2-pound Latitude E4200 to the high-end, 15.4-inch Latitude E6500 -- all showing off improvements signaling that Dell (NASDAQ: DELL) wants to steal even more of the limelight for its business-class notebooks.

To date, the company has sold more units than its competitors, but the standard for excellence in laptops has always been the IBM (now Lenovo) ThinkPad.

Analyst Charles King of Pund-IT, present for the announcement here at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, said Dell's new moves show that it's aiming to compete by raising the bar on its technology.

"This was very much a business-focused announcement and the new features and capabilities really speak to critical needs for mobile business professionals," he told InternetNews.com. "They've incorporated all their latest and greatest service features and these new products are better able to take advantage of the changing needs of business professionals."

For instance, all incorporate Intel's new Montevina mobile chipset, announced last month, as well as Dell's new Internet tracing security feature, also announced last month.

Margaret Franco, director of business notebook product marketing at Dell, said the notebooks and their enhancements address problems of both users and IT managers.

"When we started developing these systems 18 months ago, we focused on the biggest pain points for users and managers alike, and worked to turn those into features that address the problems," she told InternetNews.com.

For users, those are concerns about long battery life, design and durability. IT managers, meanwhile, focus on about security and total coast of ownership. But with new designs, chassis, form factors and other technologies, Dell went beyond improvements aimed at meeting just those concerns.

In the ultraportable category, Dell's new Latitude E4200 includes a 12.1-inch monitor and weighs in at 2.2 pounds, while the new E4300 sports a 13.3-inch screen and weighs 3.3 pounds. Both come with standard or solid-state drives (SSD), Windows Vista or an XP "downgrade," wireless connectivity and vPro management.

Pricing has not been determined but will be announced in a few weeks when the laptops are available.

The new releases also include a midrange line, comprised of the Latitude E5400 and E5500. These come with a 14.1-inch and 15.4-inch screens, respectively, and start at $839 and $869. In addition to the standard features of Core 2 Duo processors and standard or SSD drives, these Latitudes come with Dell ProSupport Mobility Services and a nine-cell battery for six hours of use.

Dell's latest mainstream products include the 14.1- and 15.4-inch Latitude E6400 and E6500, respectively, which are available today starting at $1,139 and $1,169. In addition to the standard features, the main claim to fame for these laptops is up to 19 hours of battery life, thanks to two external batteries.

Finally, Dell unveiled the "semi-rugged" E6400 ATG, the company's second entry into the ruggedly built portable market made for harsh conditions or climates. It can't quite take the abuse of the Latitude XFR but it does meet military 810F standards for dust, vibration and humidity.

The laptops all also offer a new security function called ControlVault, a security sub-processors that holds all security keys in hardware and never touches the software or operating system layer, where most compromises occur. This allows for strong encryption, like a security key, to talk directly to the hardware and avoid any OS involvement at all.

The company today also previewed a new technology called Dell Latitude ON, which lets laptop users quickly power up only a portion of the computer, so they can quickly look up something from Outlook, like a letter, or grab a file without having to go through the entire boot process, which consumes power and takes time. It will only be in the E4200 and E4300 lines, however.

Dell also offered a broader array of colors for many of its new models. As a result, buyers can order their systems in the standard flat black metal, Regatta Blue, Regal Red and Quartz Pink (for the E4200 only) in coming weeks. The E5400 and E5500 are only available in Matte Black.

In addition to the notebooks, Dell also showed off new, smaller port replicators with an improved cabling setup designed to avoid cable snarls while offering the ability to plug in or unplug a laptop while it's running with open applications. Normally, a user would have to close their apps or shut down the notebook entirely to dock or undock it.

The new power supplies for these notebooks are much smaller, as well -- about the size of a BlackBerry, and can charge a notebook to 90 percent or greater capacity in under an hour, Dell said.