I've had a good experience with this Dell laptop. The best thing is the screen quality. I avoided the true-life (glossy) version and went for a standard finish with high resolution display. This gives absoloutly loads of screen space and increases the usability of the laptop. The battery life is quite reasonable, even listenting to music / videos you manage to get a couple of hours usage, whereas normal web browsing you'd get over 3.5 hours.
I have had a couple of minor problems which haven't been consistent. Once or twice the screen hasn't been sufficiently bright when running off the battery. Upon shut down and re-start everything has been ok. I've also had a couple of blue screens but these have been fairly in-frequent. One or two keys on the keyboard have occassionally flicked off, but are easy to put back.
Don't be put off by these minor gripes as this has generally been an extremely good laptop that is quick, has a nice screen and good quality sound.
I got this laptop through my Job, which they kindly brought for me. I mainly got it because of the serial port on the back (which most laptops nowadays dont have). But i find this laptop will handle every application that is going today. Also one of the great functions that is on the laptop is a built in light sensor so if its in a light area the screen goes dimmer to save battery and visa versa. The battery lasts 6.5 hours which is incredible, even running the more challenging apps.
I left my old company a couple of months ago and took up my new position with my current company who very kindly issued me with a brand new Dell Latitude D820 laptop. I've had an opportunity to put it through its paces for the last 8 weeks and this review will cover my experiences to date.
In terms of specification this laptop is much more powerful than my old one.
For starters it has a dual core processor. For those of you not familiar with dual core, this means that the main processor actually consists of 2 processors within a single chip. Each processor or 'core' can be used to perform a different task. E.g. one may be running Microsoft Office applications whilst the other could be running an application that plays your music files.
This is slightly different to having a computer that has 2 discrete CPUs and there are logistical advantages to having 2 processors contained within the one chip. For instance the power requirements are reduced and it's also cheaper to produce a single chip containing 2 processors than having a 2 chips each with a single processor. However unlike a machine with 2 CPU's, a dual core system is at most likely to provide about a 70% performance improvement over a single core so its still possible to have a single core system operating at a higher clock speed that is quicker than a dual core system running at a lower clock speed.
It has a whopping 2Gb of memory (default is 1Gb) along with an NVIDIA Quadro NVS 110 graphics card, which has a 512Mb cache (my old laptop had 128mb which was taken from the 512mb RAM)
Dell offer highly configurable machines and it's unlikely that any two D820's will have the same specification as each other. For the record my machine has the following specification:
- Core Duo T2500 CPU @ 2.0 GHz, a front side (memory) bus operating at 997MHz and a 2MB L2 cache. (A level 2 cache is one that is separate to any built within the processor chip)
- 15.4" WSXGA+ (1680x1050) display
- 2048Mb DDR2-667 RAM (2x1024MB DIMMS)
- NVIDIA Quadro NVS 110 graphics solution with 512MB TurboCache
- 100GB hard disk @ 7200RPM
- 8x CD-RW/DVD RW dual layer drive
- Dell Wireless 1490 (802.11a/b/g 54Mbps)
- Wired: 56K V92 internal modem 10/100/1000
- Gigabit Ethernet network interface adaptor
- Bluetooth radio
- Integrated Smart Card reader
- Fingerprint scanner
- 4* USB 2.0 ports
- 2 * PC Card slots
- Stereo Speakers
- 9-Cell/56 WHr Primary Battery (standard is a 6 cell battery)
- Microsoft Windows XP Professional
- Separate 12V power adaptor (can be charged using your car battery)
- 3-year Warranty
- Weight: approx 3kg (depends on configuration)
- Dimensions 1.39 in (H) x 14.21 in (W) 10.34 in (D)
The laptop was deliberately over specified due to the nature of my job though it is not the top of the range. My job requires me to hold remote workshops and demonstrate CPU and memory intensive software to potential clients around the globe. I'm also required to produce solutions for problems that companies have and work as a kind of technical presales person demonstrating our software. All this requires a fast machine capable of running our software along with video conferencing software to allow me to demo solutions over the Internet. My colleague has the predecessor to this machine; a single core laptop called the D810. My laptop is not only more powerful but lighter and slightly thinner at the same time.
It has the standard touch pad which I very rarely use as I've now got my Logitech wireless mouse and numeric keypad and there's also a pointing 'nub' in the centre of the keyboard, which works optionally either as a pointing device, or if you wish you can set it to just scroll up/down and left/right. It can also be completely disabled too if you wish as can the touch pad.
Out and about the machine works well. It has a handy feature whereby a small light comes on when the machine is within range of any unsecured WiFi hotspot. This uses the built-in Dell WiFi catcher and saves you from having to keep booting up the machine to see if there are any wireless networks nearby. When the light does come on, you simply power up the machine and by the time you've logged onto Windows, it has already established a connection to the unsecured wireless network. (You'd be surprised at how many there are out there :) ).
Integrated Bluetooth allows it to sync with my Nokia 6320i mobile and you can if you wish, operate Bluetooth separately to WiFi. I've had no problems with range or speed.
Another nice touch is that in addition to the standard mains power lead, they also supply you with a 'travelling' power supply. This allows you to leave one at home permanently plugged into your wall and allows you to travel about with the second one. It's a minor thing but it's very handy to be able to just unplug your laptop from your home power supply, stick it into your laptop case without having to also unplug the mains adaptor from the wall. This second power supply also allows you to use the laptop abroad but more importantly for me it allows you to plug it into the 12V power adaptors that you find in cars these days and use your car battery to charge it up. This is very handy when you're sitting in your car in a car park, connected to an unsecured wireless network. You can practically work out of your car all day. How convenient is that? Who needs an office! Mind you how SAD is that too! :)
Having said that, its not often that you'd need to charge up the battery. Depending on what you are doing (e.g. running Microsoft Office applications) the 9-cell battery can last up to a staggering 5 hours. This goes down when WiFi is being used or when watching a DVD but still even then you get a good 3 to 4 hours of use before needing a recharge. The 6-cell battery will obviously run down quicker but as I don't have one it's difficult to say how quickly. Logic suggests it will last about 2/3 of the time the 9-cell battery will.
A fingerprint reader along with the supplied software will allow you to configure the machine to allow access by swiping one of your fingers across the sensor. This avoids having to enter passwords when logging on.
The 15-inch wide screen TFT screen is bright and clear and the laptop comes with an ambient light sensor, which supposedly adjusts the brightness/contrast of your screen to suit the light levels in the room that you are working. Personally I find that in this mode the screen is just not bright enough despite me playing around with the setting so I've disabled this option. The screen resolution goes up to a ridiculous 1,900x1,200 which is great for watching DVD's but just not practical for everyday use as the text size is microscopic. I have it set to a much more reasonable resolution.
Watching DVD's on this would be great but unfortunately Dell supplies some pretty poor stereo speakers with practically no bass coming out of them at all. It's okay for situations like when you are in a hotel room and there's nothing worth watching on the TV but you wouldn't want to use this to watch DVD's on a frequent basis.
So far I've had two problems with it.
Firstly the supplied Intel Pro Wireless software doesn't seem to work well with my wireless router at home. It keeps crashing the router. However when I use Windows to manage the WiFi connection everything works fine. So not a big deal as I have a workaround.
Secondly I noticed an intermittent fault with the right arrow key. At times instead of moving the cursor to the right it would randomly enter the letters 'b', 'n' and '/'. I logged onto the Dell website, registered with them using a code on a sticker underneath the case and in 24 hours was talking to a lovely lady from Bangalore in India. She talked me though checking the drivers on the machine and of course it being a new laptop she confirmed that my drivers were up to date. She then talked me through removing the keyboard and checking that the ribbon cable connecting the keyboard to the motherboard was seated firmly. I was a bit reluctant to do this first as I thought it might invalidate the warranty but she assured me that if I damaged the machine in anyway Dell would provide me with a replacement free of charge. It turned out that her second hunch was correct and I've not had any problems with the laptop since. So top marks for Dell support especially with the bad press Indian call centres receive all the time. The nice lady has also called me back to check that everything is still okay with the machine because she was aware that it was an intermittent fault. In fact Dell Support officially closed my call only this morning after a final check to ensure all was well.
In terms of warranty, it comes with a 3-year warranty and Dell throw in on-site repairs within 24 hours (assuming you can't fix the problem yourself under the guidance of the Dell support team). Dell also provide access to their support website where you can download the latest drivers or diagnostic software or chat in forums with other users and you can on a good day even engage in an online chat with Dells support team.
This is entirely dependant on the configuration of the machine. The entry level is around the £800 mark but you can pay up to around £1400 if you go for the top of the line model with all the extras. On top of that business users get their discounts so its very difficult to put an exact price on it.