Muscling in on Toughbook territory, Dell has launched its first semi-rugged notebook, the Latitude ATG D620. With its sturdy case, data protection features, and ultrabright display, plus optional mobile broadband, this system should satisfy demanding field workers and anyone else who needs a fast Core 2 Duo notebook that can take a beating. But what separates this laptop from its competitors is the peace of mind that comes from having the same drive image and docking solutions as other Dell portables.
Weighing in at an even seven pounds, the ATG (All Terrain Grade) D620 weighs nearly two pounds heavier than the non-ruggedized D620.
However, this system feels as though it can stand up more punishment than a typical "business rugged" laptop. You get a magnesium-alloy chassis, shocked-mounted hard drive, and high-durability, scratch-resistant paint. The notebook even looks the rugged part with its black pebbled lid and hinges that resemble darkened concrete. The back of the machine also features strategically placed rubber housings that cover and protects the four USB ports, VGA, and Ethernet jacks. You won't find a memory card slot, which Dell says was excluded for security reasons at customers' requests.
Durability even permeates the 14.1-inch (1,280 x 800-pixel resolution) widescreen display, which is shock-mounted to withstand 30 percent more force than traditional LCDs. The ATG D620 also sports an ultrabright screen of 500 nits (about 2.5 times brighter than the regular D620), which makes the display easily viewable outdoors. When you're typing in the dark, two red lights glow on top of the display to light up the keyboard. The panel delivered good color saturation and generous viewing angles.
We found the spacious, spill-resistant keyboard conducive to an enjoyable typing experience, although the keys would've benefited form a sturdier feel. We liked that Dell included a pointing stick as an alternate navigation option over the standard touchpad. Above the keyboard are handy volume control buttons.
Powered by the 2-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, the ATG D620 turned in a very good score of 251on MobileMark 2005. The 9-cell battery included with this configuration provided 6 hours and three minutes of battery life with Wi-Fi off and 5 hours and 51 minutes with it on. (The standard 6-cell battery will save you only $19, so we recommend the 9-cell for extra runtime.) The Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 950 produced a solid 3DMark03 score of 1,704, which when paired with the 1GB of RAM in this configuration ensures a good Windows Vista experience.
It's easy to stay connected when you're out of hotspot rangeusing theembedded Dell Wireless 5700 Built-in EVDO Mini-Card for Verizon Wireless service, which delivered an average thoughput of 511 Kbps--good enough to load most Web pages quickly and download e-mail and other critical data in the field. (You can also opt for a Sprint or Cingular wireless WAN modem.) We also saw impressive Wi-Fi data rates in our testing, with scores of 16.8 Mbps from 15 feet and 14.3 Mbps from 50 feet. Early adopters will be happy to learn that the ATG D620 is 802.11n ready.
The security-conscious will appreciate the Wave Embassy Trust suite, Computrace anti-theft solution, TPM, and an optional fingerprint reader. The system comes with a three-year limited warranty with next-business-day on-site service. Bundled software includes CyberLink PowerDVD, Roxio Digital Media, and a free 90-day trial of Norton Internet Security.
Dell's first semi-rugged notebook is a commendable effort; the ATG D620 looks more like a reinforced Latitude than a system that's been designed from the ground up for field use, but it delivers a better balance of speed, features, and durability than other systems in its class. On the other hand, Panasonic's Toughbook CF-74, which features a 13.3-inch touchscreen and weighs a pound less, is a better bet for frequent travelers.
Nevertheless, this machine should please buyers looking for a rough-and-tumble notebook who would rather deal with only one vendor for all their mobile IT purchases.