Dell's latest revision of its Latitude notebooks borrows stylistic elements from its XPS consumer lineup, while retaining a traditional focus on the enterprise. The most important addition, however, is full touch capability.
Last-generation products like the Dell Latitude 3330 offered either Windows 7 or Windows 8, but not a touchscreen to take full advantage of the new Windows 8 operating system. That's been fixed in the current generation, with Corning's Gorilla Glass NBT to boot. Larger operations may be slower to roll out Windows 8, however, so while customers can opt for a touch display, a Windows 7 option is still there, as is Ubuntu.
As Dell has done before, the Latitude line is offered in three families--the basic 3000 series, the midrange 5000 series, and the premium 7000 series. Dell's 3000 series will be priced at $599 and higher, with the option of either 14-inch or 15.6-inch displays. Dell will offer both 14.1-inch and 15.6-inch options in the 5000 series, though it did not disclose a base price. Dell classifies the 7000 series as ultrabooks, with 12.5-inch and 14.0-inch options, beginning at $1049. Both the 3000 and 7000 systems are available immediately; the 5000 series arrives in October, Dell said. All use Intel's fourth-generation Core or "Haswell" processor.
According to Kirk Schell, executive director and general manager for Dell's Business Client Product Group, businesses loved the Inspiron innards, but asked Dell why only the XPS lineup should look like a premium device. Dell obliged, taking the carbon weave from the XPS and applying it to the Inspiron line.
Dell executives said that the notebooks would launch with Windows 8, upgradeable to Windows 8.1 when the OS update is released on Oct. 17.
The 7000-series specs
At press time, Dell only made available the spec sheet for the Latitude 7000 series. The Inspiron 7000s can be configured with Core i3, i5, or i7 processors and up to 16GB of RAM. Both only use Intel's 4400 integrated graphics. Dell offers a range of connectivity options, from 802.11g/n Wi-Fi and WiGig, plus three USB 3.0 slots, an HDMI output, and a mini DisplayPort connector. Dell's spec sheet does not mention SD card storage.
Both ultrabooks are backward-compatible with Dell's existing E-series docks, and can be configured to dock wirelessly, using WiGig. In addition to the Gorilla Glass, both have been ruggedized to MIL-STD 810G specs.
The E7240 uses either a 12.5-inch 1366 x 768 non-touch display or a 1920 x 1080 touch display, with only SSD options, up to 256GB, available as storage. The battery options are a trifle smaller, with either a 3-cell (31Whr) or a 4-cell (42 Whr) available. (Both batteries are user-swappable.) The E7440 provides a larger, 14.5-inch display, with the choice of the cheaper 1366 x 768 display, or the 1920 x 1080 display in either touch or non-touch options.
The E7240 measures 12.2 inches wide by 8.3 inches deep by 0.79 inches thick, weighing 2.99 pounds, while the E7440 measures 13.2 inches wide by 9.1 inches deep by 0.8 inches thick, and 3.6 pounds.
The 3000 series is available in two models: the Latitude 15 3000, with a 15.6-inch display; and the Latitude 14 3000, with a 14.0-inch display. Both ship with either 1366 x 768, 1920 x 1080, or 1366 x 768 touch options.
The Latitude 15 measures 14.8 inches wide, 10.2 inches deep, and between 0.99 inches and 1.33 inches high depending on the battery selected and the display chosen. The weight of the Latitude 15 ranges from 4.8 to 5.1 pounds. The Latitude 14 measures 13.62 inches wide, 9.65 inches deep, and from 0.98 inches to 1.3 inches deep. The Latitude 14 weighs between 4.3 pounds to 4.6 pounds, depending on the configuration.
Detailed specifications for the Latitude 5000 series were not available. The 5000 series adds an ultra-low-voltage Core processor for extended battery, and both the 3000 and the 5000 series provide a discrete graphics option.
Services and support
A few years back, "99 percent of the story would have been the hardware, and the rest software and services," Schell said. Now, Dell, like other hardware makers, would like to bundle up its hardware with related software and services, selling them to customers as a complete package.
As such, Dell didn't disclose what it would charge customers for services like Dell ProSupport, which offers unlimited repair, plus support for third-party software; if your tax software breaks, Dell can fix it, Schell said. Dell's DDP Protected Workspace also "sandboxes" the OS and many applications, so if a user clicks on an infected document, it will just poison the sandbox, where it can be isolated and eradicated. The technology, first announced in June, will be offered free for a year, then for an annual subscription fee after that. Like an antimalware subscription, customers can let that subscription lapse and then later renew it, Schell said.