Technology

Dell Latitude X200

Verdict: Docking station elevates Dell Latitude from good to very good.
CFO.com StaffSeptember 1, 2002
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Dell Latitude X200

Bang for Buck: 7

Street Price: $2,299
Inside: 800 MHz Pentium III-M, 256MB RAM, 30GB HD, 8MB AGP 3D graphics card; 3.5 inch floppy drive and 8X DVD/CD-RW combo drive (docking unit)
Outside: 12.1 inch XGA display, EZ Pad pointing device, fullsize keyboard
Ports: 2 USB, FireWire (IEEE 1394), PC Card slot (Type II); 2 USB, FireWire (IEEE 1394), Parallel, PS/2, Serial and VGA (docking unit)
Communications: Integrated V.92 56K modem, integrated 10/100 Ethernet, integrated 802.11b wireless networking
Dimensions: 10.7 inches (W) x 9.2 inches (D) x .94 inches (H), 3 lbs; with docking unit, 5.37 lbs.

Skinny: Dell’s been making superior notebooks for almost a decade. In the main, company’s best portables have been from the Inspiron line. Those machines, while virtually indestructible, have tendency to induce sciatic in non-weightlifting types. The latest from the lighter Latitude line, however, is a huge step forward for Dell’s Twiggy line. In fact, X200 may be the best portable Dell has ever made.

It’s definitely the best portable Gateway has made. While we could not get exact confirmation from either company, Dell’s X200 and Gateway’s 200 appear to have the exact same chassis — albeit in different shades of metallic gray. Both portables were made by the same contract manufacturer, which may explain the similarity. And what similarities they are: Both units come with identical bottom docking units. Both notebooks offer same port configurations. Both portables feature 12.1 inch screens, with precisely the same contours. In fact, outside of slightly different pointing devices, slightly different keyboards, we couldn’t tell the two machines apart.

What we couldn’t figure out, though, is what ruler the companies used to measure the two notebooks. Dell claims the X200 is a hair smaller and lighter than its twin from Gateway. Maybe they only used one coat of paint…

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Latitude passed the MD test, playing Sketches from Spain just fine, although sound was a bit tinny. At least the portable didn’t vibrate when we played a CD — like our test unit from Gateway.

As with almost all Dell luggables, X200 has a swell keyboard. Full-sized, with that familiar Dell clicky feel (yes, we said clicky)… While we loved X200’s docking unit, we had some troubles with the DVD/CD combo player. It worked fine, mind you. But when we put notebook in our lap, we kept accidentally hitting the eject button with our belly. This may say more about our belly than the notebook.

Undocking unit from slice was a breeze. Machine blinked once, then told us to immediately remove computer from the base unit. We did, too — we didn’t want the machine mad at us. About a half-second after undocking, we were right back to our original screen. Wonderful stuff. Just a few years ago, you couldn’t hot-swap a battery without knocking out the half the power grid of the eastern seaboard.

Even undocked, unit features two USB ports, VGA, serial port, and a FireWire port. Docking unit adds to the ports of call with parallel, serial, and PS/2 inputs. Floppy drive in docking unit was about as fast as continental drift, however.

Base station also includes 3.5′ floppy drive and optical drive. Our test unit came with an 8X DVD/CD-RW combo drive. That drive no longer available — now you have to spring for a 24X optical drive… Latitude boasts three-year warranty, along with Dell’s top-notch customer service. Plus, Dell notebook comes with MS Office Professional — a nice touch.

All in all, another fine computer from Round Rock. Would have garnered an even higher rating, but X200 seems a bit on the pricey side to us. Without docking station, Dell portable costs close to $2,000 (and that’s after a recent price drop). Similar Gateway model has same sticker — but includes swell docking unit. If you want the Dell X200 with the multimedia slice, you’ll have to pay about $2,300. Yes you will.

(Editor’s Note: Thin is in for notebook computers, but how about the computer makers themselves — how much cash do they keep on hand? See for yourself with the CFO PeerMetrix interactive scorecards.)