Dell has announced a refresh of its popular Latitude notebook line, including options for customization and the ability to check e-mail without completely booting up the machine. Models range from what the company calls "ultra portable" to "semi-rugged."
The new "E"-series laptops are clearly targeted to corporate users, where Dell has an especially strong installed base of customers. Dell claims to have solicited input from more than 4,000 IT professionals and business users in the production of the new line, and product management says it invested more than one million hours in the engineering process.
In the announcement, CEO Michael Dell said the company has shipped more business laptops since 1995 than any other computer manufacturer. Dell is number one in the U.S. market, according to analysts, but trails HP in world sales.
From Slim to Rugged
The ultra-light Latitude E4200 weighs in at a mere 2.2 pounds with a 12.1-inch screen. The Latitude E4300, with a larger 13.3-inch screen, weighs 3.3 pounds. Both ultra-portables will be available in a few weeks. Pricing was not released on these models.
The Latitude E6400 and E6500 models, available now, are targeted as desktop replacements, and sport 14.1-inch and 15.4-inch screens. They start at $1,139 and $1,169, respectively. According to Dell, the Latitude E6400 ATG with a 14.1-inch screen is a "semi-rugged" laptop that meets the military 810F specifications for durability against dust, vibrations and humidity. The unit will be available next week for $2,399.
Additional models round out the launch in the mid-tier, with a balance of weight and performance. In all, Dell unveiled 10 new models.
Battery Life, Customization and Latitude ON
The company claims to have made a breakthrough in battery technology that enables the new Latitude series to perform for up to 19 hours on a single charge. Reports are that the battery is larger than normal, and an additional flat battery attaches to the bottom.
As with current Dell laptops, the systems are available in a variety of colors. Other standard features include a fingerprint reader, all-metal magnesium-alloy frame construction and, in an environmental push, halogen-free motherboard construction.
At the announcement event, Dell also previewed its latest mobile software Latitude ON, which allows Latitude owners to almost instantly access e-mail, contacts, calendar, attachments and the Web by using a dedicated low-voltage subprocessor that boots a partial operating system. Estimates from analysts peg the price for Latitude ON at about $300, although Dell could not be reached for comment. Latitude ON will be available for purchasers of the Latitude E4200 and E4300 models in a few weeks, with no word whether other models will support the feature.
In addition, Dell opened up an online community site on Twitter for mobile professionals called Digital Nomads. The site allows users to swap road stories, post reviews and information, and keep in touch when they are on the road.
The Dell announcement comes on the heels of last week's release of IBM's Lenovo ThinkPad 17-inch-screen laptop, characterized as a mobile workstation.