When you want to buy a good looking business notebook you are typically limited to industrial designs which are rugged and durable but not really stylish. Usually the only attractive option was the Apple MacBook Pro up until recently. Dell hopes to change that with the new Latitude Z ... a super thin, high-end, 16-inch notebook aimed directly at business professionals.
Our Dell Latitude Z 600 Specifications:
It has been a long time since I have opened box containing a new notebook where I had to step back and just say "Wow." The Latitude Z makes that sort of impression on you from the moment you start to take it out of the box. The quality of everything down to the packing materials is a step above anything else I have seen. The next thing you realize is how huge the footprint of the notebook is when compared to the thickness of the chassis. Most thin and light notebooks are based on the 13.3" form-factor, whereas the Dell Latitude Z is 16". The Z is razor thin for a notebook of this size making it stand out even when compared to a MacBook Pro.
The looks are nothing short of amazing. Dell has given the Z a perfect mix of stylish brushed metal, clean side panels, and industrial rubbery surfaces. It is almost as if Apple and Lenovo collaborated to make a high-end business notebook. The screen cover has a rubbery metallic-paint trimmed with chrome-plated screen hinges. The side panels walk a fine line between function and form with ports sparsely scattered around the edges ... keeping just above the bare minimum to keep users happy. Apple crossed this line with the MacBook Air and its infamous single USB port. Opening up the notebook we see the clean design continued with a wide brushed-metal bezel surrounding the rubbery keyboard tray and touchpad. If you hadn't already picked up on it I really like the looks of this notebook.
Screen and Speakers
The Latitude Z offers a spacious 16-inch display with a resolution of 1600x900. Compared to most thin and light notebooks the Z offers more screen real estate and is much easier on the eyes after a long day of typing. The panel offers LED-backlighting and rates above average compared to other similarly sized displays. On completely dark screens like those seen while booting the computer we noticed some mild backlight bleed but it was only apparent with the screen brightness turned up. Even with its matte finish display the screen still offered good color reproduction and nice contrast. The matte finish also helped reduced glare and when paired with the higher brightness backlighting it was still usable outdoors. Vertical viewing angles were better than average with colors staying accurate until tilting the screen 20-degrees forward or back. Horizontal viewing angles were good to nearly 90-degrees but some color dimming was noticed at the 45-degree mark.
Dell mounted the speakers on the Latitude Z on the bottom edge of the notebook which muffles the sound if you have it resting on your lap. Compared to other similarly-sized notebooks the Z sounds above average with a hint of midrange and plenty of volume. It might not hold a candle to systems that include a subwoofer, but it sounds very good for a notebook so thin. For the discreet professional on the road headphones are still the preferred choice.
Dell designed a great keyboard for the Latitude Z. It has the visual qualities of an island-style keyboard with the concave keys of a standard keyboard. The typing surface was responsive and offered excellent support. Even with heavy typing the keyboard didn't flex under pressure. I had no problems typing for hours at the keyboard, including typing most of this review on the Z itself. For low-visibility conditions Dell includes a LED-lighting for the keyboard which can be set in on, off, or auto positions. In auto the light will activate when you start typing and turn off after a short delay to save power.
Ports and Features
Port selection on the Latitude Z is limited compared to other 16" notebooks. Users are limited to one USB port, an eSATA/USB combo port, DisplayPort-out, LAN, and a headset jack. If you plan on hooking up a lot of peripherals at your desk the optional wireless docking station is highly recommended.
The Latitude Z packs quite a few surprising features inside its thin chassis. You can configure the Z with an inductive charging system that lets you power the notebook without connecting any wires. The Z also offers EdgeTouch which is a touch-sensitive strip built into the edge of the screen bezel. With the included software you can configure tap-zones to launch programs or use the strip as a huge scroll wheel. As someone who doesn't like multitouch-enabled screens for the hazy screen covering or fingerprints this is a great alternative. Another cool feature of the Latitude Z is the touch-sensitive volume controls. This in itself isn't a surprise to see on a notebook, but its haptic feedback when pressed is. Each tap is met with a soft beep and vibration that gives you a very noticeable indication that you pressed the button.
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