• Monday, May 20, 2024
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We’ve been making the grand tour of Windows 8 hybrids running low-powered Atom processors, and our latest stop is Dell’s Latitude 10. While some similar systems, such as the ASUS VivoTab Smart and the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2, focus on portable designs and long battery life, the Latitude 10 takes after that group of devices with “Smart” and “Pro” in their name.

Indeed, like the Surface Pro and Samsung ATIV Smart PC Pro, the Latitude 10 flaunts a large variety of corporate-friendly features, such as TPM, a productivity dock, a Wacom-certified stylus and a Bluetooth keyboard. The entry-level configuration will set you back a tolerable $499, but adding on business essentials such as the dock and keyboard could soon have you looking at a price above the $1,000 threshold. Does the Latitude 10 work well enough to warrant the dough – and satisfy on-the-go professionals? You know where to look if you want to find out.

Look and feel

“Inoffensive” is the word we’d use to describe the Latitude 10’s design – and we imagine that’s exactly what many corporate customers will want. Though we have no qualms with the straightforward, black-rectangle aesthetic, we do take issue with the extremely wide bezel surrounding the 1,366 x 768 display. This cheapens the device’s feel, and it makes the 10.1-inch panel seem smaller. At 1.45 pounds and 0.4 inch thick with a 30Wh battery, this isn’t anywhere near the wispiest 10.1-incher around, but it does feel plenty sturdy in the hand. This is thanks to a reinforced magnesium-alloy frame, and the coating of Gorilla Glass doesn’t hurt either. The back sports a soft-touch finish that makes for a comfortable grip – you shouldn’t have to put this tablet’s solid build to the test with any accidental drops.

By and large, button and port placement makes perfect sense on the Latitude 10 – and there is no shortage of connections on board. The physical Windows 8 Start button sits in its typical spot underneath the screen. Oddly, though, the button is slightly recessed rather than raised, and as a result it’s a bit tricky to press. We had to apply more pressure than we’re used to, and it was especially difficult to register a press when the tablet was angled upright in the bundled dock. The only other feature you’ll notice on the front is the 2-megapixel, front-facing camera.

The top edge of the Latitude 10 is home to a full-size SD card slot, the power button and a toggle for auto-rotate. The Enhanced Security model, which we got a chance to play with, includes a smart card reader along the top. The combo headphone/mic jack, USB 2.0 port and mini-HDMI connection sit on the right edge, while you’ll find the volume rocker and Kensington lock slot on the left. Finally, the power connector and a micro-USB port line the bottom side. Turn the device over, and you’ll find plenty going on.

In addition to the 8MP rear shooter with LED flash, the Dell logo and two small sets of speakers, the swappable 30Wh battery sits prominently on the backside, with a slide lock allowing for its removal. (A larger 60Wh battery was included with our review unit.) Our unit offers 3G connectivity, and the micro-SIM slot is located under the removable power pack. The battery takes up a good half of the surface, and while this interrupts the otherwise clean lines, the promise of longer battery life trumps any superficial design concerns. We had to wiggle both the two- and four-cell batteries loose when switching them out, as the latch system got stuck halfway when we tried to move it.

ETC

The variety of configuration options for the Latitude 10 verges on confusing. Not only are there Essential, Standard and Enhanced Security models, but there are a slew of optional accessories as well. We checked out a Latitude 10 bundled with the productivity dock, a $100 add-on. This 1.8-pound peripheral adds to an already impressive number of ports, with four USB 2.0 connections, a headphone jack and a full-size HDMI for hooking up an external monitor. There’s also a power connector for charging the tablet while it’s docked.

It was easy to attach the Latitude 10 to the stand, but it felt rather wobbly; lifting up on the slate detached it from the base – and that was without applying much pressure. We imagine the dock won’t move far from users’ desks, though, and it offers a comfortable – though non-adjustable – viewing angle for both watching movies and composing emails and documents. Other accessories include a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse combo (ranging from $40 to $86, depending on which of the three bundles options you choose) and a $40 soft-touch case that can act as a stand. Our review unit also came with the $40 Dell KM632 keyboard and mouse package, along with the case.

Speaking of the Bluetooth keyboard and mouse, we had to force ourselves to use the device in tablet mode after enjoying this setup. You’ll definitely want a set of hardware keys if you plan to do any real work, and both the chiclets and the mouse were responsive and comfortable for navigating Windows 8. That said, the Bluetooth keyboard is desktop-size, meaning the slate’s 10.1-inch screen feels small in comparison. One other nitpick: the top of the mouse is removable, allowing you to insert the two AA batteries, and it comes off far too easily. We had to reattach it on several occasions during our hands-on time. Dell doesn’t offer its own keyboard case; rather, it sells the Kensington KeyFolio Expert through its website.

Display, pen input and sound

The Latitude 10’s 10.1-inch screen sports a 1,366 x 768 resolution, which is par for the course when it comes to Atom-based tablets. More impressive than the pixel count is the 450-nit brightness rating; images really pop on this panel. When we watched Netflix, played a few games and surfed the web, all content appeared crisp, and colours looked accurate. Like the screens on the ASUS VivoTab Smart and the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2, this display uses IPS technology, so you can expect wide viewing angles. We had no trouble making out a video from both the far left and right. Visibility would be even better if the display didn’t have such a glossy finish, but that should only be an issue in settings with bright overhead lighting.

An active Wacom digitiser is available for about $34, and it’s only compatible with the higher-end configurations of the Latitude 10. (The lower-end Essentials version will only work with a passive stylus.) We used the pen in programmes such as Windows Journal, which includes handwriting recognition, and Paint. The stylus itself feels cheaply made; it doesn’t provide as good of a grip as Samsung’s S Pen, for instance. Still, it works well for selecting small objects on screen, and the capacitive display offers very good palm rejection. Only once or twice did the panel detect accidental input when we were writing with the digitiser. The Latitude 10 itself doesn’t have a built-in slot for storing Wacom’s device, but the soft-touch case that came with our review unit sports a penholder.

Audio doesn’t get very loud on the Latitude 10. The two small stereo speakers are located on the back of the device, which means music and dialogue come through muffled when the tablet is on your desk (or your lap). Songs streamed via the Slacker app don’t pack much punch at all, though – as we always say with slates – donning a pair of headphones allows for louder, slightly richer sound.  

BEN UZOR JR

Culled from Engadget