Dell unveils super-thin Latitude Z

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:Dell unleashed a new kind of business notebook this morning in the form of the Latitude Z, a super-thin 16-inch notebook packed with a number of high-end features. It’s clear that Dell didn’t rest on its laurels after putting out the Adamo, another high-tech but consumer-oriented notebook that suffered from lackluster sales and mixed reviews.  The new Latitude Z is being billed as the world’s thinnest sixteen-inch notebook, and it’s not hard to see why.

 

Specifications:

  • Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo SU9400 @ 1.4GHz or SU9600 @ 1.6GHz
  • Memory: either 2GB or 4GB DDR3 (integrated)
  • Chipset: Intel GS45
  • Graphics: Integrated Intel 4500MHD
  • Display: 16-inch LED backlit, 1600×900 resolution
  • Storage: 64GB SSD (default), up to 2 x 256GB SSD with hardware encrption
  • Wireless: 802.11a/g/draft-n, Bluetooth, optional WiMax, mobile broadband
  • Optical drive: external 8X DVD+/-RW, optional 4X Blu-ray combo drive
  • 2MP webcam with autofocus
  • 45W AC adapter
  • Secondary ARM CPU
  • Inputs: 1x USB2.0, 1x USB/eSATA combo, DisplayPort, Gigabit Ethernet, headphone jack

The new notebook measures 15.6 inches wide, 10.7 inches deep and varies in thickness from 0.57 inches to 0.79 inches. Dell lists a starting weight of 4.5 pounds, so while it’s definitely thin, the sixteen-inch display keeps it from being too light.  Part of that thin form factor is the result of choosing a squared-off section that sits behind the display hinge just like in the Adamo (not the Adamo XPS). In that section sit the larger inputs, like the Ethernet port and AC adapter.

 

Despite the sleek appearance, Dell is aiming the new Latitude Z squarely at the business segment of the market by including a number of innovative features geared toward mobility and productivity. The outside of the new Z is done in a ‘black cherry’ finish, with a soft, almost rubberized feel we’ve seen on other notebooks. Inside, the chiclet style keyboard is backlit and sits beneath dual power buttons. The larger power button, on the right, is the main power button for the notebook. The smaller button to its left activates the secondary CPU in the computer, an ARM-based chip that runs Dell’s Latitude ON operating system. This ‘instant-on’ setup is designed to let power users on the go gain access to their email and office documents without waiting on a full system boot.

 

The webcam doubles as a security lock, as Dell includes software that supports facial recognition algorithms to be used at passwords and logon prompts.  Thanks to its autofocus capability, it can also be used as a simple scanner for business cards, reading the relevant information off of them and automatically adding it to your contacts database. For those not up to using their faces, there’s also a fingerprint reader and contactless Smart Card reader for additional security. Combined with the available hardware-encrypted storage options, and Dell’s put together a surprisingly high security notebook option. Those aren’t the most intriguing aspects of the new Latitude Z, though. Not by a long shot.

 

A row of capactive touch sensors sit on the lower right corner of the display, adding additional customizable laptop controls. The touchpad is multi-gesture aware, and fortunately features separate buttons for easier control. Easily the coolest part of the new laptop, though, is the wireless capabilities. For an additional four hundred dollars, Dell has developed a wireless, inductive charging solution. Similar to the recent Palm Pre Touchstone, or a Sonicare toothbrush, the laptop can sit on the new dock and start charging without having to plug anything in. Unfortunately, it’s pricey, and it must be configured with the wireless charging option when ordered — it’s not something that can be added on later on.  Dell took the wireless idea to heart, though, and also gave the option of wireless docking; using ultrawideband, it’s also a bit pricey, at an extra $200. So for six hundred bucks all told, you can leave all the wires behind and just use and move the notebook when and where you want. Hard to swallow, maybe, but it certainly bodes well for what we can expect at lower price points in the future.

With all this talk about price, then, we do have to mention how much the new Latitude Z runs.  The entry price of $1799 gets users a 1.4GHz Core 2 Duo, 64GB SSD and 2GB of RAM. There are also two $2198 configurations available at launch; one includes the same specs as the $1799 package but includes the inductive charging solution while the second bumps the CPU up to 1.6GHz and includes another 2GB of RAM.  It’s worth pointing out that those are technically sale prices, too, saving two hundred bucks on the “low” end and about $240 on the other two packages; Dell could raise the prices at any time. 

If nothing else, the new Z offers a number of high-tech features in a sleek, slim package. Expensive, sure, but it’s also pretty innovative. Whether it’ll be a mainstream success remains to be seen, but it wouldn’t surprise us to see it become the new must-have portable for CEOs everywhere.

 

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