For the last 3 and half years, My main computer for home and work has been this trustworthy-but-heavy Dell Inspiron 8000 laptop that I started using since February 2001. It was purchased by the company I worked for. Through out all these years, while many things have changed, it just kept on going and going. But 700Mhz Pentium III and only 256Mb of RAM feel slow with today's applications, and has started to show its age.
However, recently work is trying to consolidate the network and operating systems, which means my computer needs to run Windows XP Pro to join our NT domain and Outlook to talk to the Exchange server. Instead of teaching the old dog to play new tricks and loose a few days of work, they decided that they would just buy me a new computer. We are pretty much a Dell shop, and my other colleagues were using the Latitude D600 as it has good balance on weight/size and performance, so another D600 was ordered for me.
And now I have used this new notebook for almost 2 weeks, I guess I shall share what is good and what is not that good about my new Latitude D600.
- Fast. Probably due to the fact that I am so used to that old 700Mhz Pentium III, the 1.7Ghz Dothan core Pentium M with 2Mb L2 cache and 1Gb RAM feels like Ferrari to me (not that I have driven one).
- LCD monitor. The screen size is slightly smaller (14" comparing to 15" in my old I8k), but resolution stays the same at 1400x1050. However, the new LCD panel has much better contrast than my old one. I can actually see the shades and gradients now in some web pages that I thought was "plain white" before.
- Light weight. Well, at 2kg it is not super lite weight, but I can definitely feel the difference than carrying my old 3.5kg I8k home everyday.
- Connectivity. 802.11g, Gigabit Ethernet. All built in, and that pretty much covers everything I need.
- Long battery life. Last Sunday I used it to take minutes at MBF leaders meeting. Wireless turned on, LCD dimmed, and it still lasts a good 3-4 hours. Almost as good as my iBook :)
As you see, it is faster, smaller, lighter, having more feature, etc, just like what a new model should be. But it does not have any "Wow"-factor, unlike the iBook when I first received mine. At the same time, it has somethings that are not that good.
- Keyboard. Inspiron 8000's keyboard is a blessing to use, and I found it much better than many desktop keyboards. At the same time, Latitude D600's keyboard is disappointing. It has louder clicking sound, and it sort of wobbles when you try to type fast. The key travel is not very good either - actually the whole keyboard feels cheap compare to the performance that it delivers. Even the tiny iBook keyboard feels better.
- Heat. The left palm rest would heat up after a few minutes of use, regardless whether the computer is loaded. Maybe it is common in today's notebooks, but combining with a dodgy keyboard, it does make typing unpleasant.
- Audio. It uses Sigma Tel C-Major Audio, and the quality is truly dissatisfying. Moreover, it lacks line-in jack which makes recording much difficult. You can tune the mic-in to accept line signal without getting too hot, but then the sound coming though mic-in cannot be echoed back to speaker.
- Overall finish. While better than the old chunky Inspiron 8000, D600 does not feel like a notebook that will survive much abuse. I am making a comparison with my iBook here, which was quite rugged. But I guess Latitude was designed for business use, and business man does not usually drop his notebook from table tops...
I guess if I have $3,000+ to spend on a notebook for myself, Latitude D600 will probably not going to be my choice. It doesn't matter now as work has bought it for me to use at work (and at home). Hopefully it will last another 3 years.