Dell Latitude D830 User Review

Overview and Introduction

This is a review of the Santa Rosa refresh Dell Latitude D830. First, let’s start with a little background of Dell’s Latitude series.

The Latitude series of laptops is part of Dell’s business line. As business machines, they are more focused on reliability, durability and subtlety (whereas the more consumer-oriented Inspirons tout more powerful media-centric features such as a high-end discrete graphics solution, dedicated media keys, more attractive price points, etc.).

Other series in this lineup include the Precision series (high-powered mobile workstations aimed mostly at high-end graphics professionals, particularly those with the need for 3D rendering) and the newly-released economy-class Vostro series, introduced to replace the now long-in-the-tooth business Inspirons. The Latitude sits squarely in the middle of both lines, providing a balance between high performance and price.

The Latitude comes in a wide variety of flavours, but for most people the choice really lies between the 14.1” 630, and the 830 which is the larger, 15.4” model. This model comes in as a desktop replacement, as its weight isn’t suited to lugging all around town.

The configuration I ended up getting was:

  • 2.2GHz Core 2 Duo T7500, 800MHz FSB, 4MB L2 Cache
  • 2GB DDR2-667 SDRAM
  • 120GB 5400rpm SATA HDD
  • 8X DVD±RW Dual Layer drive
  • 15.4” WUXGA screen
  • 256MB NVIDIA Quadro NVS 140M
  • Touchpad with integrated UPEK Fingerprint Reader
  • Intel 4965 WLAN (802.11a/g/n)
  • 9-cell battery
  • Dell Bluetooth 2.0 (EDR)
  • Windows Vista Ultimate with media
  • 4-Year Next-Business-Day Parts and Labor On-Site Response Gold Warranty
  • 4-Year Accidental Damage Warranty

I also opted for a few accessories:

  • Logitech VX Revolution Cordless Mouse
  • Belkin Travel Surge Protector
  • Extra 90W AC Adapter
  • Western Digital Passport 120GB Portable Hard Drive
  • Interlink Electronics Bluetooth Remote Control

My total cost came to around $2,700, inclusive of shipping and taxes. This was a little more than I was prepared to spend, but I’ll go into more detail later on.

Reasons for Buying:

The reason I needed NEEDED to buy a new laptop was because my last Windows PC, the Compaq Presario X1000, was in serious need for repair. The hinges and power button action were cracked badly, the hard drive was heating up obscenely and the battery held a charge just longer than it took to hard boil an egg. I was, however, impressed with the high quality of the screen, in particular the high WSXGA+ resolution and the computer’s overall performance. I still had the MacBook Pro, but I wasn’t willing to sacrifice both performance and precious hard drive space on running two operating systems and maintaining project and work files for both OS’ on that same tiny hard drive. I work in advertising and events, and my primary use for the system would be Office 2007 Professional, especially Excel (for my cost estimates and budget controls), Project (for project management, especially critical when running multiple promotions and events at the same time) and PowerPoint (for presentations to clients). As I tend to take on other roles when needed, my computer had to be capable of handling Adobe CS3 (for rendering stage designs, advertising collaterals and other items), Premiere (for Audio-Visual Presentations)

I knew then that I would settle for no less than a 15.4” widescreen laptop with at least WSXGA+ or better resolution – preferring to move up to WUXGA. The system also had to be powerful enough to handle the load of specific software I needed to do my job without buckling or slowing down. Finally, my experience with the X1000’s flimsy plastic parts led me to look for a solid and durable, if not rugged build.

I was initially looking at three manufacturers:

  • Dell (on the primary recommendation of my wife, whose experience with them was top-notch),
  • Lenovo (First-hand experience with IBM Thinkpads was overall a good experience, not to mention the generally high reputation they enjoy with many people), and
  • HP (due to the overall aesthetic appeal and excellent after-sales service here in the Philippines.

On top of these three, I was also reviewing Asus’ latest laptops - in particular the G1. I wasn’t too sold on the look and feel of the current Toshibas, and I certainly didn’t like the “cheap” feeling I got with Acers.

The refresh came just in time for my purchase, actually. I was originally planning to get the Inspiron E1505 based on a recommendation from a friend, who has been a Dell user for a few years. Being from The Philippines (where Dell is neither a prevalent brand nor one with real significant retail market share), it was difficult for me to find and units to personally inspect. Ordinarily I would not have qualms with ordering a notebook I had never seen before, but I was getting worried with reviews of the E1505 being a bit on the chunky side. Thankfully, I found a reseller, CoolToyz, about an hour and a half from my house that would CTO various laptops and resell them in-store. When I found their website, I decided to drop by the store to check out the wide variety of laptops they had on sale. I was honestly not that impressed with the look and feel of the E1505, as it was bulky, felt a bit flimsy (especially the lid) and those white bumpers really rubbed me the wrong way. I had not considered the Latitude until I saw the D820 there, and I definitely liked its look and feel a lot more than the Inspiron, in spite of its subdued, very business-y appearance. Plus it felt like a tank (at least, compared to the 1505). With that experience, I decided the Dell laptop for me would be the Latitude series, in 15.4”.

Another unit they had in the store was the Lenovo Thinkpad Z61t. Now I loved the look and feel of this machine – almost enough to make me switch to the smaller screen size - but its relatively low resolution, lack of discrete graphics and ridiculously tiny touchpad turned me off. It was only when I read of the m and p variations did I start to take this series seriously.

Finally, there were the HP Pavillions in 15.4” and 17” models. Unfortunately, while I like the new look and styles of HP’s entire line of notebooks, their popularity made me reconsider. What good is a stylish notebook (assuming you buy it for that) if everyone and their grade school math teacher’s dog’s got it? Plus the lack of anything higher than WXGA+ on the majority of their notebooks made me scratch them off my list completely.

So that left me with only the Latitude and the Z61 Thinkpads to choose from.

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