Mobile package means business anywhere
Despite the prevalence of ultra-slim laptops and subnotebooks on the market, there is still a lot of demand for huge desktop replacement notebooks with large screens.
Many mobile corporate executives and power road warriors today are abandoning desktops and using the same notebook in the office, at home and on the road.
For that they need desktop computing in a mobile package. Dell's new Latitude CPt C333GT notebook computer fits the desktop-replacement category well, although die-hard power users might want to opt for Pentium II processor models rather than the Intel Celeron 333MHz processor in our test unit.
Take one look at the box that it ships in though - almost the same size as the box that desktop PCs come in - and you realise that this notebook means business. What you get with the large form factor is a 14.1-inch TFT screen that all but fills up the lid, a keyboard with full-size qwerty keys, a touchpad pointing device with generously sized left and right buttons and lots of arm-rest space for typing.
Dell, known for powerful but brick-like corporate notebooks, seems to be changing its ways - the Latitude has a slight curve to it in the front. But Dell is no Apple Computer when it comes to taking liberties with curvaceous designs.
What the Latitude lacks in design flair it makes up for in utility. The speakers mounted on each side of the notebook are quite powerful. The sound from the NeoMagic MagiMedia 256 sound card is crisp, with distortion only at high volumes, but like most notebook sound systems there is a lack of bass.
You cannot seriously expect to watch movies or listen to audio CDs through the notebook's speaker - external speakers are highly recommended.
I connected a pair of Harman-Kardon speakers to the Latitude's audio-out jack and popped in an audio CD. The sound was impressive.
Driving the Latitude's screen is a 256-bit NeoMagic MagicMedia display card with 4MB of video memory that supports screen resolutions up to 1024 x 768 with 16 million colours. The maximum resolution possible is 1280 x 1024, but with just 256 colours.
This graphics card allows you to connect a large monitor to the Latitude's video port and still enjoy true colour.
Despite its size, you cannot have both the CD-Rom drive and the floppy disk on board at the same time. Many smaller notebooks have both the CD-Rom and the floppy disk built in. Instead, the Latitude has a modular bay that alternately holds the CD-Rom drive, the floppy disk or optional modules such as a DVD-Rom drive, a second hard drive or an LS-120 super-floppy drive.
Unfortunately, the drives cannot be changed while the PC is on.
To reduce weight on the road - it weighs just over three kilograms with the CD-Rom drive on board - Dell has included a travel module for the modular bay. This reduces the weight of the notebook to 2.7 kg.
Standard features include two PC Card slots (one of which supports Zoomed Video), a USB port, an S-Video connector and a connector for an optional port replicator or docking station.
The Latitude CPt is a worthy desktop replacement laptop thanks to its good display card, a large bright TFT screen, a comfortable keyboard and great sound when used with external speakers.
I was disappointed that Dell did not include an internal modem, and the 32MB of Ram and 4.3gb hard drive that came as standard on the test unit could have been a bit more generous.
For some reason the Latitude we were given to test was running Windows 95 rather than Windows 98.
PROS & CONS Product: Dell Latitude CPt C333GT Price: HK$15,327 Platform: Windows 98, Windows 95 Pros: Long battery life at four hours; good TFT display, comfortable keyboard Cons: No internal modem; Ram and hard-disk capacity on the stingy side; bulky design