dell latitude d800 Overview
The Dell Latitude d800 is the successor to the Latitude D820, a mid sized business notebook with a 15.4" screen and the new Santa Rosa platform. Weighing in at nearly six pounds it tips the scales at the upper end of the thin-and-light category. Pricing as of this writing starts at $899, and like most Dell notebooks there are plenty of customization options available.
My Latitude d800 is configured as such:
Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, 2.00GHz
15.4 inch Wide Screen WUXGA LCD
2.0GB, DDR2-667 SDRAM, 2 DIMM
256MB NVIDIA Quadro NVS 140M
80GB Hard Drive 9.5MM 7200RPM
90W AC Adapter
8X DVD+/-RW w/ Roxio Creator and Cyberlink
Intel 4965 WLAN (802.11a/g/n)
9-Cell/85 WHr Primary Battery
6-Cell/48-WHr Modular Battery
Vista Business, with media English
Dimensions are 1.39" x 14.2" x 10.34"
Weight is 6.5lbs with 9-cell battery and optical drive
Reason for Buying
When I began looking for a laptop nearly a month ago my primary objective was to find a solid machine that would last me through four years of college. My last notebook was an old Inspiron 500m which I deemed sufficiently thin-and-light for heavy travel and light tasks so I began looking into a larger, more powerful machine though I did not want a full-out desktop replacement. As this notebook would also be a graduation gift, price was not an object and I wanted something that was really something!
Being a long time Dell user, my initial inclination was towards a Dell, but I looked into machines of other brands as well. HP and Asus dropped out early on due to cosmetic preferences, but I put some consideration on the 14 and 15 inch Lenovo T60 series.
A few of my friends own older Thinkpad models and have nothing but praise for them. Indeed, Lenovo is known for superior build quality though typically at a price. By all means the T60 is a beautiful machine, but I was put off by a couple of small details. My biggest qualm is that I cannot stand having a battery stick out. Apparently that seems to be the current trend with a lot of smaller machines sporting bigger batteries and the 14-inch T60 was no exception. I wasn't terribly fond of the port configuration either, particularly the positioning of display and telecom ports on the side of the chassis and the lack of an S-video output. The small touchpad and some very minor aesthetic points also put me off. The 15 inch T60 was a bit better but it still lacked an s-video output and was a tad bit too heavy.
Subsequently I went to Dell. After deciding against Inspiron and XPS notebooks - I hated those big white Inspiron bumpers and there isn't a 14 or 15 inch XPS - my choices came down to the Latitude D630, d800 and Precision M65. The D630 was the thin-and-light of the group but suffered from the same issue as the 14 inch T60 in that the battery stuck out and it was missing an S-video port. Reviews I read about the D630 also mentioned poor sound and a loose battery. The d800 addressed most of my concerns with the D630 but I fretted over the weight of a 15 inch notebook. After changing my mind several times, the d800 finally won me over.
After deciding on a machine I poked around the Internet for coupons and discounts, though I did not find many for the Latitude line. I did discover that Dell was offering $400 off the price of each Latitude configured over $1,600 and figured it wouldn't get much better than that. Dell's customization and order process is very straightforward and I made sure to spend plenty of time agonizing over choices like integrated versus discrete graphics or 9-cell versus 6-cell batteries. All in all it was a smooth and pleasant shopping experience. The machine arrived just over a week after I ordered it.
The computer shipped with everything shown here. The container was divided into two sections, a cardboard container for the power supply, media bay battery, resource disks and documentation and a styrofoam crate for the actual computer. I was actually somewhat surprised that the notebook came with printed documentation; the last few Dell machines my family bought came with a short pamphlet telling you how to plug in the computer in several different languages.
When I first pulled the d800 out of its protective envelope boy was I impressed. Things have changed since the days of my 500m. I expected the build quality to be good, but it was unexpectedly good. It's really quite solid. It's also very pleasant to look at it; I think the rather subdued appearance is much nicer than the flashy white-bumper Inspiron.
When I first opened up the machine I found the hinges quite stiff with pretty much no play. The outer shell of the notebook is made of a magnesium alloy though the inner surfaces are still made of plastic. The chassis has no flex whatsoever; I can pick it up by a corner without a problem. Unfortunately though there is a bit of flex in the screen and palmrest, but it is much less than that of older Dell machines. The latch is a bit loose but the travel is very small. The overall build quality might not be on par with that of the Thinkpad series but it is getting close.
The right side houses the optical drive and two USB ports. The optical drive can be removed and replaced with the media bay battery while the computer is on; it acts like a plug and play device.
The left side has an air vent, an IEEE 1394 port, mic and headset jacks, ExpressCard and PC card slots and something called a wifi-catcher which tells you whether you're in range of a wireless network. It is triggered by the small switch to the left.
The back of the notebook has Ethernet, S-video, USB, modem, serial, VGA and power ports. Another USB port would have been nice; even the D630 has four.
Finally, on the bottom of the machine you can see the battery, StrikeZone, memory cover, fan vent and docking port, but the primary battery is actually a tad bit loose, though I didn't notice until I took it out and put it back in. The media bay battery fits nice and tight.
Like I said before, I'm very fond of the somewhat simplistic Latitude design. Save for the small curves that make up the corners of the machine the lines of the laptop are straight and parallel forming a nearly rectangular solid. I think this gives it a more rugged and balanced appearance than wedge shaped notebooks which seem to be appearing more and more these days. The two tone color scheme also contributes to the smart appearance of a business laptop.
The keyboard looks like a typical Dell keyboard; it's very similar in appearance to the keyboard on my 500m. I found that the keyboard is generally more pleasant to use; the keys have a slightly greater travel and a greater amount of feedback as well. There isn't any flex in the keyboard as far as I can tell, though I am not a terribly hard typist. Overall it's a decent keyboard, good, but nothing special.
The touchpad feels the same as the one on my 500m. It's responsive and easy to use, but again, nothing terribly special. I really like the buttons under the touchpad. Instead of having a short, hard click the d800 has buttons that have a longer, softer click to them which I just find to be rather nice. The same can be said for the power button and media buttons.
I don't use a pointing stick very often; in fact there isn't one on my 500m, but I found it to be less responsive than the touchpad and harder to use. I tended to overshoot where I was aiming much of the time. It may just be because I don't have much experience with the trackpoint. The buttons for the trackpoint are the same as those for the touchpad with that same long, soft click.
I don't like having a bunch of multimedia buttons cluttering up the front of my computer, so I am glad that the d800 only has three. There are three buttons to control the speaker volume: higher, lower and mute.
According to the various reviews I read, the D820 seemed to have a rather lacking screen and I was afraid this problem would carry over to the d800. Initially I felt that my fears had come true, but after further consideration and comparison, I find that the screen is quite nice, though it's certainly not perfect.
One of the first things I noticed when I turned on the computer was the unusually large amount of light leakage coming from the bottom of the screen. With both screens set to a blank screen saver under identical lighting conditions the screen on the d800 shows somewhat more light leakage than the screen on the 500m. In the following picture the d800 is on the left and the 500m is on the right.
However, once it's up and running, the d800's screen is noticeably brighter than that of the 500m; you can tell by just how much more light it throws on the keyboard. Again, the d800 is on the left and the 500m is on the right.
Concerning viewing angles; the horizontal viewing angles are pretty good, but the vertical viewing angles leave something to be desired. This seems to be the case with most laptops I've used though.
The fuzziness in the pictures is generated by my poor picture taking skills, but I'd like to mention that I am not using the native resolution. The icon and taskbar sizes at the native resolution were too small for my eyes so I had to revert to a lesser resolution.
I've heard numerous comments about the screen being "washed out" and colors being "faded", but unless I'm running on batteries and thus, less than full brightness, I don't find any of these to be problems, Even without any sort of brightness or contrast tweaks the screen is quite useable and ultimately the high amounts of light leakage don't seem to affect the performance of the display.
Heat and Noise
When the laptop is idling it is very quiet. I can only hear it if I try to. When going about my normal business, it's very easy to ignore. Under a heavy load such as video encoding or benchmarking, the fan will start running at higher speeds. At this point a significant amount of noise is generated, but I believe it is from the moving air rather than the fan itself. Also, the optical drive makes a bit of noise when it is running, though that is pretty typical for optical drives in general.
When the laptop is idling it is also quite cool. The lower half of the keyboard and palmrest stays at room temperature while the upper half just gets a tad bit warmer. Under a heavy load the upper half will heat up a noticeable amount, but the fan does a good job of keeping the temps at a reasonable level. The bottom of the laptop and the air coming out the back can also get pretty warm under these conditions.
Battery and battery life
Tech. of the dell latitude d800 laptop battery.
Battery Type: Li-ion
Voltage : 11.1V (Compatible with 10.8V)
Capacity : 6600mAh
Color : Grey
Dimension : 226.90 x 66.80 x 24.40 mm
Net Weight : 461g
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I did a simple test to emulate light use of the d800 under battery power. I turned the screen down to half brightness and let windows media player play music at a relatively low volume. This test was also done under the default Vista setup, prior to the installation of ForceWare drivers.
The 9-cell dell latitude d800 battery primary on its own reached 10% in a bit under three hours. Together with the media bay battery it reached 10% in just over four and a half hours.
Considering that my 500m could do three and a half hours on its one primary battery, I was a bit disappointed with the battery life at first, especially when owners of D620s and D630s were claiming battery lives of up to five hours. But considering I have a 15 inch WUXGA screen and discrete graphics I guess a drop in battery life is expected.