updated 01:00 pm EST, Tue February 8, 2011
Dell Latitude for 2011 gets hardened shell
Dell this morning undertook a sweeping remake of its pro PCs, headlined by its Latitude notebooks. The new designs are both more modern, with real aluminum and magnesium instead of plastic, but also designed to take much more real-world abuse. The frame is about 112 percent more durable, including a break-resistant barrel hinge rare on Dell notebooks, and has a unique single access door that lets users replace virtually anything if parts are available.
The designs are also much more uniform and have the same quiet, backlit keyboard, the same battery and the same dock. Companies can thus have a much easier time swapping out parts since they can replace many of the more commonly broken parts by cannibalizing another Latitude, even if it's a different size. A 30 percent larger trackpad is also present and now supports multi-touch gestures.
Apart from the already launched, Atom-based Latitude 2120 netbook, the range is based entirely on Intel's Sandy Bridge (second-generation Core) processors and differs mostly on peak specs such as the display resolution and graphics. The 14-inch E5420 and 15.6-inch E5520 aren't as toughened as their counterparts but still use more real metal and are intended as budget models with Intel-only graphics. The 12-inch E6220, 13-inch E6320, 14-inch E6420 and 15.6-inch E6520 all meet US military grade standards for casing and have more durable displays. Apart from the two smallest systems, all have options for NVIDIA's NVS 4200M or Optimus-capable N12P dedicated video.
Two specialized models are on tap as before and start with the E6420 ATG, an ultra-tough outdoor model with a detachable handle and an integrated but removable port cover to keep out dust or rain. A Latitude XT3 convertible tablet is also coming but hasn't been given details.
Dell hasn't outlined full pricing or specs but expects the Latitude line to start out at about $859 with the least expensive E5000 series updates. Dell doesn't plan to detail shipping until sometime in the "coming weeks" and may be affected by the Sandy Bridge chipset flaw that has led to HP and many others at least temporarily postponing their releases.
E6420 and E6520
E6420 ATG and close-ups