by Peter Whalen, Ohio USA
I am a college student and bought the Dell Latitude D810 mostly as a powerful desktop replacement, but also to be portable enough to carry it around campus when needed.
Dell Latitude D810 closed above view (view larger image)
A little background -- the big thing for a college student these days is to buy a nice computer after high school graduation and before college. Initially I knew I wanted roughly a 15" screen with a gratuitous amount of RAM, a good processor, gigabit Ethernet capability, wireless and Bluetooth enabled, and a nice screen. I had my eyes set on the Sony FS series, but that didn't have the 10/100/1000 Ethernet I needed (here at my college, we have the second fastest network in the world -- besides NASA). After discovering that very few notebooks on the market offered the gigabit Ethernet I turned towards Dell. The university has an agreement with Dell that allows us to buy Dell products online discounted, so I went for it. Although I have had problems with Dell desktops in the past, so far the D810 has been fantastic.
A business perspective -- the D810 is only available on Dell's website through the business section of the site. Dell claims it is excellent on large networks. It also has a very "business-y" feel due to the design simplicity.
Here is the configuration of the Dell D810 that I got (in August 2005, almost all of these options were the highest Dell offered)
I also bought the A215 speakers, a port replicator (which is very convenient at my desk), the Dell optical mouse, and separate keyboard. I truly wanted it to feel like a desktop when I'm at my desk.
As far as price, after the discount, it ran me $2800 roughly. I know, it's obscenely expensive, but it needs to last. Don't be turned off and think all configurations are going to run expensive you can get a nicely configured one for over $1000 cheaper.
Build and Design
As you can see in the pictures, it is a very plane, unexciting notebook. Dell really didn't try that hard to make it flashy or particularly fashionable. The casing is very sturdy and is gunmetal gray. The keyboard is a typical notebook keyboard and is a very dark grey. One thing missing is that there are no external media buttons (pause, play, stop, etc.), remember, this is a business computer. As far as weight is concerned, the computer is meant to be a desktop replacement, but can still able to be carried around on occasion. I've never physically weighed the machine, but I'm guessing it's around 8-9 pounds. For a younger person with a backpack, weight really isn't an issue, but you may want to think twice before buying it with the intention of daily and/or long range portability. As far as durability goes, the case feels very sturdy -- there is very little give and the screen is well-protected. All-in-all, a sturdy notebook.
Dell Latitude D810 front side view (view larger image)
Dell D810 left side view (view larger image)
Dell Latitude D810 back side view (view larger image)
Dell Latitude D810 right side view (view larger image)
As mentioned earlier, I ordered the WUXGA screen whose native resolution is 1920x1200 -- this is very high resolution and consequently very tiny text. It is incredibly clear, very sharp and bright. No dead pixels from what I can see and perfect backlighting. A few words of warning...I can only speak for the WUXGA computers, but there are only three widescreen resolution options (1920x1200, 1680x1050, 1280x800 and 1280x768 -- the last two I counted as the same). The rest are regular screen resolutions and consequently, if you try one of these, everything is stretched out. I also felt mislead by Dell. They recommended the WUXGA for gaming, DVD watching, and other graphic-demanding applications. I bought the WUXGA and it is tiny -- I have since gotten used to it, but it's hard on my 19-year-old eyes. If you drop the resolution to the next best wide-aspect resolution (1680x1050) it's a good size, but not as clear. Bottom line; think very hard before getting the WUXGA. I'd go with the WSXGA+.
Dell Latitude D810 front view screen open (view larger image)
Another issue -- almost every laptop I saw in stores from other companies (Gateway, Sony, etc.) had very shiny, very bright, almost glossy screens. Not so with my Dell. It's like comparing flat paint with glossy paint. Don't get me wrong, the screen is amazing, but not quite what I was expecting.
All-things said, think carefully about the native resolution you choose.
Quite simply great speakers. They're about as good as laptop speakers can get. Obviously, they are small and have a slightly tinny sound, little bass, but good for watching DVD's or listening to music. My set up is at my desk with a port replicator and separate speakers. It's a matter of personal preference.
I bought this laptop with performance in mind. With a 2.0GHz processor and 2.0 GB of RAM, this laptop tears apart almost anything, no kidding. Boot-up is quick and opening basic programs (Word, Outlook, my IE, iTunes, etc. are practically instantaneous). The 80 gig hard drive writes at 5400 RPM which will suit most people's needs. A few issues -- my hard drive is only at 30% capacity, so that helps it move faster; I don't let things muck down my computer and I try to generally keep it as clean and stream-lined as possible. I can run games flawlessly at the highest graphical settings. When I exit demanding games, it takes only a few seconds and there is no lag thereafter.
The program Super Pi forces the processor to calculate Pi to a selected number of digits of accuracy. Below is a table comparing how long it takes various notebooks to calculate Pi to 2 million digits of accuracy:
Comparison of notebooks using Super Pi to calculate Pi to 2 million digits (plugged in):
|Dell Latitude D810 (2.0GHz Pentium M)||1m 33s|
|Fujitsu S6231 (1.6 GHz Pentium M)||2m 6s|
|Sony VAIO FS680 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)||1m 53s|
|IBM ThinkPad T43 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)||1m 45s|
|Asus Z70A (1.6GHz Pentium M)||1m 53s|
|Fujitsu LifeBook N3510 (1.73 GHz Pentium M)||1m 48s|
|Dell Inspiron 6000D (1.6 GHz Pentium M)||1m 52s|
|Dell Inspiron 600M (1.6 GHz Pentium M)||2m 10s|
|Sony VAIO S360 (1.7 GHz Pentium M)||1m 57s|
|HP DV4170us (Pentium M 1.73 GHz)||1m 53s|
|Sony VAIO S380 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)||1m 45s|
HD Tune Results for Latitude D810 Hard Drive (80GB / 5400 RPM):
|Min Transfer Rate||7.6 MB/s|
|Max Transfer Rate||35.6 MB/s|
|Average Transfer Rate||24.9 MB/s|
|Access Time||23.1 ms|
|Burst Rate||63.7 MB/sec|
Bottom line, this super-high-end computer is powerful, but even a high-end one would be very respectable.
Keyboard and Touchpad
All in all, both the keyboard and the touchpad function well. First the keyboard. As you can see, it is a pretty standard, compact keyboard that you will find on most laptops. Because I do a lot of work at a desk (and it is a desktop replacement) I bought a separate keyboard. It is very functional and pretty easy to get used to it. A few issues. Before I bought the laptop, I noticed some users said their fingers catch the bottom of the keys while typing. This does happen to me (albeit rarely) and can be an annoyance, but nothing huge.
Dell Latitude D810 keyboard and touchpad view (view larger image)
Now to the touchpad and buttons. The touchpad is well-made and works well. Sometimes when I tap it to select something, it doesn't register even when it's set at the highest sensitivity, but other than that it is good. There are two sets of buttons -- one set of buttons on top of the touchpad and another set below it. The lower ones are larger and are low quality. They have a cheap sounding click and the left one (that I obviously use the most) is permanently slightly depressed compared to the right. I now try to use the upper buttons because they seem to be more durable. The laptop also has a pointer akin to what is seen in the ThinkPad notebooks. I guess it works well, but I hate using that type of input, so I never use it.
Dell D810 power button and volume controls (view larger image)
Bottom line, solid in this category with a few minor annoyances.
Input and Output Ports
The main complaints I have seen about this laptop is the lack of input/output ports. Let me start with what it has: four USB 2.0 ports, a headphone, a microphone jack, Ethernet port, modem port, infrared port, S-video port, serial port (9-pin), port replicator jack (bottom) and a monitor port. Now, what it doesn't have. No firewire. No media-card reader. No parallel port.
I really wish it had a media card reader so I could plug in my digital camera's SD card. Besides that, I don't have many problems with the ports on the computer. Placement of the ports is good too.
The D810 comes with a wireless card you can choose (Intel b/g card) and optional Bluetooth. I have never used the Bluetooth, but I use the wireless a lot around campus and I have found it works very well. The computer also has an infrared port, but again, I have not used it yet.
Dell gives you the option of a 6 or 9 cell battery. I chose the 9-cell and at 100% capacity it claims to last just over 4 hours. I have never, however, tested it from full to empty. But obviously, depending on tasks performed, it will be different. I am fairly confident doing light work such as word-processing or internet browsing, the battery would last close to 4 hours. Doing more intense graphical work, playing a game, etc. it will be significantly less. Playing the role of a businessman, I doubt the battery would last on a cross country or trans-ocean flight. A wise investment would be a spare battery.
Operating System and Software
The system came with Microsoft Windows XP Professional, SP2. I would highly recommend the professional over the home. All disks to properly restore the system were included -- the operating system disk, the drivers, the pre-installed programs, everything. I can't speak for pre-installed software, I bought it through my college, so they pre-loaded it specially with what they thought I needed. Generally I find free pre-installed software somewhat useless. The Microsoft Office, Windows Media Player, DVD, that came loaded are all very solid.
I have not used the customer service yet because I have not had problems that I am not able to deal with on my own. In the past, however, I have used Dell's customer support and I seem to recall it being mediocre. Nothing to write home about.
Now for the warranty, I paid a hefty amount to have a very nice extended warranty. I have it for three years with a three year complete care (it idiot-proofs the thing in case I do something obscenely stupid). I don't think it was all necessary, but an investment like a computer deserves a little extra.
A few problems. I was very disappointed in the resolution of the screen and the text being so tiny -- now I'm used to it, but at first, I felt very mislead by Dell. They said nothing of it being so small. It looks amazingly sharp (in fact the sharpest I've seen on a laptop), but still. So, my word of advice is don't listen to Dell, listen to me; if you get the highest screen option, the text is tiny. Remember, you can dumb down the resolution, but you only have a few wide-screen options and they're not sharp. Go for the middle option (SXGA) as far as screens. Another issue: the size. It surprised me how bulky the D810 was when I first saw it. Obviously Dell didn't make a huge effort to make it very slim. That goes along with the sort of boring design, you're not going to be winning "coolest looking notebook" competitions with this thing. The system runs hotter than most notebooks, but it's not a huge issue. The lack of external media buttons is a drag, but then again, this notebook is geared towards the business sector.
The pros far out-weight the cons here. It is an excellent laptop. Runs very fast and smooth, rarely if ever freezes, hasn't crashed, etc. The speakers are great (for a laptop), the monitor is amazing crisp and sharp, and the over all feel of the laptop is very high quality.
The Bottom Line
Bottom line is the D810 is a great computer. A few annoyances (see above), but they can be forgiven. If you're a professional looking for an extremely potent, reliable desktop replacement for a good price then the D810 is it. Students, I recommend this to you too. It's a little heavy to be super-portable, but is fine in a backpack.
Pricing and Availability: Dell Latitude D810
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