Dell Latitude D630 Review

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$2117

Pros: Sturdy magnesium-alloy body; Excellent productivity performance; Discrete graphics; Very good endurance with nine-cell battery; Wealth of security features

Cons: Battery is in front of the machine; Heavier than Lenovo T61; Not the best wireless range

Verdict: Packing mobile broadband, a host of security options, and a sturdy design, the Dell Inspiron D630 is a top-notch business notebook.

The Dell Latitude D630, the update to the very popular D620, packs in all the essentials needed to keep road warriors productive on the go: a speedy Intel Next Generation Core 2 Duo processor, excellent Wi-Fi throughput, and blazing-fast mobile broadband, courtesy of Verizon Wireless. Factor in the rich security options, the 120GB hard drive (with Dell's patented StrikeZone shock-absorption technology), solid battery life, and discrete Nvidia graphics, and you have an excellent notebook for demanding business users.

The D630 sports the same ergonomics that we loved about the D620: a pointing stick, dedicated volume and mute buttons, and a roomy, spill-resistant keyboard with minimal flex. The attractive black and gray body feels as solid as a tank with its magnesium-alloy build and sturdy, reinforced hinges. The only oddity is the battery; it sticks out of the front of the notebook, rather than the back.

A biometric fingerprint reader is nestled between the smallish mouse buttons that, combined with TPM circuitry and a SmartCard slot, grants corporate-level security. We would have liked to see a dedicated ExpressCard slot as an additional expandability option (the D630 offers up ExpressCard connectivity via USB) and a webcam for videoconferencing. Mobile professionals should note that at 5.8 pounds, the D630 is a bit heavier than the 5.2-pound Lenovo T61.

While viewing our Batman Begins DVD, we noted that the 14.1-inch matte display (with 1400 x 900-pixel resolution) produced bright images, although the colors lacked vibrancy. The movie looked good from most horizontal angles, but shifting the LCD up or down resulted in a distorted picture. The D630 packs in surprisingly loud speakers, which are good enough for giving presentations.

The D630's 2.2-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor and 2GB of RAM enabled the system to produce a strong PCMark05 score of 4,568. That's slower than the ThinkPad T61 we tested, but that system had a beefier 2.4-GHz processor. The Nvidia Quadro NVS 135M graphics card (with 128MB of memory) notched a 3Dmark03 score of 3,256, which is twice the performance you would get from an integrated graphics solution..

On our DVD rundown test, the D630's nine-cell battery lasted 3 hours and 22 minutes, which is sufficient power for a full-length movie or two, and much better than the average thin-and-light system. Users can expect even longer battery life while engaging in typical business tasks. Users who want more endurance can swap out the 8X DVD+/-R drive for a six-cell battery ($119) to nearly double the D630's runtime.

Our model was outfitted with Verizon's EV-DO Rev. A 3G mobile broadband ($179), which let us download a 1MB file from our FTP server at a lightning-fast 13.2 seconds. Similarly, the upload speeds were also quite good; our 1MB file was posted to the server in 17.1 seconds. Buyers can also choose to outfit the D630 with Sprint EV-DO ($179) or AT&T HSDPA ($219) connectivity at the time of purchase.

The D630's 802.11n connection delivered a solid Wi-Fi performance, but not the best. We measured a data-throughput rate of 16.2 Mbps at 15 feet away from our access point, and 13.1 Mbps at 50 feet. The ThinkPad T61 notched scores above 18 Mbps from both distances. One especially nice perk is the included Wi-Fi Catcher (activated by pushing the Wi-Fi switch to the far right), which lets users see the available Wi-Fi networks in their vicinity, even if the notebook is closed.

Our configuration came with Windows Vista Buisness, which ran smoothly in our tests, but you can also choose Windows XP Professional or Windows XP Home as your operating system of choice. Also bundled with the machine is a 90-day trial of Wave's Embassy Trust Suite virus protection. Dell offers a generous three-year warranty that includes toll-free, 24/7 technical support.

Overall, the Dell Latitude D630 leverages the new Centrino platform well and is a worthy successor to the D620. We prefer the Lenovo Thinkpad T61 because of its unique display protection, lighter weight, and stronger wireless range, but the D630 offers all of the security, durability, and performance a business user could want for a reasonable price.

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Laptop Mag & Tom's Hardware
CPU 2.2-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7500
Operating System MS Windows Vista Business
RAM 2GB
RAM Upgradable to 4GB
Hard Drive Size 120GB
Hard Drive Speed 7,200rpm
Hard Drive Type SATA Hard Drive
Display Size 14.1
Native Resolution 1440x900
Optical Drive DVDRW
Optical Drive Speed 8X
Graphics Card Nvidia Quadro NVS 135M
Video Memory 128MB
Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n
Ports (excluding USB) Headphone
Ports (excluding USB) Firewire
Ports (excluding USB) Ethernet
Ports (excluding USB) serial
Ports (excluding USB) Docking Connector
Ports (excluding USB) VGA
Ports (excluding USB) Modem
Ports (excluding USB) Microphone
USB Ports 4
Card Slots PC Card
Card Slots Type II
Card Slots Smart Card
Warranty/Support Three-years parts and labor/24/7 toll-free
Size 13.3 x 9.3 x 1.3 inches
Weight 5.8 pounds
Company Website www.dell.com