Dell Latitude Z 16" thin-and-light revealed; Lamborghini angles hide boardroom muscle

Dell Latitude Z 16" thin-and-light revealed; Lamborghini angles hide boardroom muscle

Summary: It's the first Latitude with attitude. Dell on Tuesday pulled back the curtain on the rumored Latitude Z thin-and-light laptop, a 16-inch slab of angular portability packed with an array of business-centric features.


It's the first Latitude with attitude.

Dell on Tuesday pulled back the curtain on the rumored Latitude Z thin-and-light laptop, a 16-inch slab of angular portability packed with an array of business-centric features.

First mentioned just 10 days ago as a high-horsepower executive power system, the Latitude Z makes quite an impression in person. I had a chance to take a sneak peek and manhandle the laptop last week, and it's an impressive piece of kit.

Dell reps said that the Latitude Z is intended to be an executive laptop to be coveted and bragged about -- "executive bling," they said -- somewhere in the same space that the MacBook Air or Sony Vaio Z currently occupies.

Clearly, the Latitude Z is certainly unlike anything on the market right now.

[Image Gallery: Dell Latitude Z]

[Image Gallery: Hands-on with Dell Latitude Z]

As you can see in the images, Dell continues to distinguish its offerings on the basis of style. The Latitude Z has been designed to evoke a strong reaction, but backs the visual claim up with a bevy of business features that the other laptops don't offer.

First, the outside: with hard angles all around and a demure black cherry "soft-touch" finish that appears black from certain angles, the Z is the world's thinnest and lightest 16-inch laptop: it's just over an inch thick and weights 4.5 lbs. -- the same specs as my 13-inch MacBook Pro.

Open the Latitude Z up and you'll notice a redesigned Dell-style backlit keyboard (slightly scalloped, but with isolated keys) and a bigger, gesture-enabled touchpad. The interior of the clamshell is trimmed in a real aluminum border, and you'll notice a fingerprint reader and a contactless RFID card scanner (yes, that's right: security via your company ID) where your palms rest.

The 16-inch HD (1600x900) LCD WLED backlit matte display is topped off with an optional 2-megapixel autofocus webcam and microphone for videoconferencing. In a nod to business types, the Latitude Z comes with Dell Capture Business Card Reader and Document Scanner software, which allows you to hold up a business card or document to the built-in webcam and it will literally pull the information off the photographed document and put it in usable text form, no extra equipment needed.

(I tried this myself in person, and while it takes a little practice lining up a business card appropriately with a "target" that appears on the screen, it's pretty neat to have someone's business card info completely typed up and organized, ready to go.)

The built-in webcam also works with Dell FaceAware, which locks out others when you step away from the system.

The other real news is Dell EdgeTouch, an almost-hidden capacitive strip along the right side of the display's bezel that's activated by a finger touch on a small outlined sensor at the bottom-right corner. When activated, a taskbar-like touch menu appears on the right edge of the display, allowing for shortcut access to useful items.

Around the edge, you'll find two USB 2.0 ports (one doubles as an eSATA port), 1 DisplayPort and an audio in/out port. All of these ports are on the right side -- the left edge is purely for ventilation. On the 45-degree zinc hinges that flank the color-matched battery, you'll find an RJ-45 Ethernet port and Dell's barrel-shaped power port.

Speaking of that battery, by the way: in typical Dell fashion, the Latitude Z comes with a 4-cell (four hour) battery that sits flush with the hinges; an 8-cell (eight hour) version adds a bumper-like hump to the system.

The final new business feature is Dell's Always ON technology, an instant-on, no-boot miniature operating system that allows for Web browsing, e-mail, calendar and contact access. (Dell reps said they're working on incorporating instant messages into the environment; for now, no dice.) Believe it or not, this environment uses an entirely different, secondary mini ARM processor that sits beneath your palms, saving battery life.

Inside you'll find a choice of Intel Core 2 Duo processors: the 1.4GHz SU9400 or the 1.6GHz SU9600, which come with 2GB and 4GB of dual-channel 1066MHz DDR3 memory, respectively. (This doesn't include the mini CPU for the Always ON environment.)

Storage is solid-state only, and supports up to two drives in your choice of 64GB non-encrypted, 128GB encrypted or 256GB encrypted capacities apiece.

Graphics are provided by Intel's GMA 4500MHD, and connectivity comes by way of Bluetooth, mobile broadband (EVDO; HSUPA) and WLAN 802.11a/g/n. (WiMax is an option.)

For the green-minded, the system is Energy Star 5.0 compliant, achieves an EPEAT Gold rating, and is made from mercury- and arsenic-free glass and halogen-free components.

The power adapter is a slim, redesigned model that might eventually replace current options on the rest of the Latitude line.

Not content with all this, Dell's also got a Latitude Z-specific wireless charging station in the pipeline that doubles as a monitor stand, as well as a small wireless dock station (DVI, USB). Both can be seen in the image gallery.

The Dell Latitude Z600 is available today in the U.S., Canada and select countries in Europe and Asia, starting at $1,999. The wireless charging stand and the dock will be available in late October.

My impression: After seeing and playing with the Latitude Z in person, it's a formidable machine. I don't think the style is for everyone, but the array of business-friendly features means it's not just eye candy. Above all, the Z is an immensely useful system that means business. I wonder, though, if users would really drag a 16-inch machine around, despite the light weight and thin profile. (If you're worried about flex on such a thin, large system, fear not -- it felt pretty sturdy when I held it by one hand.) I also wonder about the decision to release the system ahead of the Windows 7 launch.

More impressions from around the web:

  • Engadget: "A pretty tight design from Dell, and oozes quality."
  • Gizmodo: "Chock-full of some kick ass tech."
  • LAPTOP: "A premium business machine that’s worth the splurge."
  • Ars Technica: "Not every aspect of the Z600 is an obvious win, but it represents a step in the right direction."
  • Computerworld: "The question is whether corporations have lifted themselves enough out of the recession doldrums to purchase what is, in essence, a luxury item."

Love it or hate it? Tell me what you think of Dell's new Latitude Z in TalkBack.

Topics: Laptops, Dell, Hardware, Mobility

Andrew Nusca

About Andrew Nusca

Andrew Nusca is a former writer-editor for ZDNet and contributor to CNET. During his tenure, he was the editor of SmartPlanet, ZDNet's sister site about innovation.

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  • So Sweet.

    Thats all I got, that thing is frigg'in cool!
    • AnotherWay to Spend Lots of $$$ on the Boss' Nephew

      Does anyone think these things will go to people who actually know how to use them?

      <a href=""> Wine Arbitrage</a><br><br>
      Seamus O'Brog
  • I just can't see paying that much...

    For so little. I would honestly rather buy a mac, and that's saying a lot, as they're horribly overpriced.

    I travel 75% of the year, and everything that implies: planes, rental cars, subways, metro bus/rail, the usual life of the contracting employee. I drag around a 15.6" and 17", depending on the durationg of my trips.

    I'm careful with my electronics, and my laptop bag rolls. I can carry 2 extra lbs for and 40% cost savings over this unit. If I ever get to where I can't, I need to hit the gym.
  • RE: Dell Latitude Z 16

    Wow, "same specs as my 13-inch MacBook Pro" except it's half the battery life and 65% the processing power for more money! No thank you. I'll take my MBP 13" 2.5 GHz C2D running WindowsXP all day over a 1.6 GHz running half a day. For business? What business? Running a half-day Preschool-Learn-To-Use-The-Mouse program?
  • RE: Dell Latitude Z 16

    No 10-key pad, no buy.
    • Agree

      I guess they sacrificed it for the other bells and whistles, i.e. RFID card scanner and fingerprint reader, instant on, etc. I haven't bought into the smaller units because they don't have the 10-key pad either which makes them unusable for me other than as a video/internet terminal.
  • RE: Dell Latitude Z 16

    Lenovo or Acer will knock it off and no one will pay that price.

  • RE: Dell Latitude Z 16

    Too much bling. They sacrified a bigger battery and a bigger processor for eye candy.

    I miss the days where bussiness machines were that: bussiness machines. Personally, I don't think my ThinkPad T41 is boring at all and, most important, it is still a great workhorse. I don't need something that looks nice to get my work done.
    • "Bussiness machines"

      Doesn't look like [b]your[/b] "bussiness" machine caught your misspelling.
  • Really, this is what passes for 'sexy' at Dell? Seriously?

    It looks like a Lenovo laptop with a glossy metallic finish.
  • Lipstick on a pig...

    Nice but not enough to compel me to give up my current notebook which cost 40% less.

    I've owned Dell, IBM, Quantex, Gateway, HP, Compaq, Toshiba and Apple laptops over the years and I currently rely on a 13" Macbook Pro aluminum (the 5th Macbook I've purchased since 2006). The finish still looks fantastic after nearly a year (much better than the polycarbs of the previous generation) and the unit has performed flawlessly thus far. It has everything I need and then some. And it looks, feels and performs like a premium piece of hardware. VMWare Fusion ensures that I have my Windows apps at my fingertips.

    Dell would have to move a mountain for me to change the poor opinion [of its products] I have earned after dealing with dozens of Dell PCs and notebooks over the years.

    As the saying goes, "you can put lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig."
    • --> "the 5th Macbook I've purchased since 2006"

      Out of curiosity, why is this the fifth Macbook you've purchased in three years?

      As you stated it, this is left wide open to interpretation, some negative, some positive and I'd like to know for certain why that many in three years.
      • I'm with Polly...

        What's with all the Macbooks?
        BL PUMPK9
      • An excellent question

        First, PollyProteus, thank you for pointing out the ambiguity of my statement rather than making an assumption about the hardware that would have been incorrect.

        I purchased our first Macbook in early 06 and the second in early 07 for my small consultancy (which already owned an HP DV9000R at the time). I then replaced both Macbooks - one in late 07 and one in early 08 - with newer models sporting the Santa Rosa chipset (Intel Core 2 Duo, Intel GMA X3100 graphics, 800MHz bus and 4GB RAM capacity).

        And when the first aluminum Macbook 13" shipped in late 2008 I added it to the stable. Once again a faster chipset with improved LED backlit display. The body is more rigid than the older polycarb Macbooks and not prone to cracking or discoloration. And the new touchpad and backlit keyboard are a pleasure to use, especially in a dimly lit room.

        Since 2006, the only incidents I have had with the Macbooks are one failed drive in the 3rd Macbook which Apple replaced under warranty, and spilled pineapple juice on another one which required disassembly of the keys, thorough cleaning with alcohol, dry lube, and reassembly and it worked perfectly afterward. We did the work ourselves since Apple would never cover such an accident.

        I do plan to turn over one or both older Macbooks and purchase a new 13" Pro in 2010.

        I should also mention that prior to 2006 I had never owned an Apple product. I always considered them too expensive even though I had used Apple products extensively in the 80s and early 90s in high school and college. I spent well over a decade developing Windows applications and overclocking my home-built PCs so folks would be hard-pressed to claim that I'm some some sort of Apple fanboy.
        • I'm with you, dumping Dell Vostro 1700s for Macs in Jan.

          For different reasons. We switched our employees to Dell Vostro 1700s in August of 2006 (we abandoned desktops at that time). The Vostros came loaded with Vista. The amount of lost time attributable to Vista driver and other issues, including employee dissatisfaction, was incalculable. Since then we have installed Windows 7 on one machine and it clearly is what Vista should have been but we are offended that we will have to pay Microsoft for dozens of Windows 7 licenses simply to get what Vista should have been in the first place. So when we evaluated new systems for our planned replacement program in 2010, we made the decision to abandon everything related to Microsoft and are in the process of ordering 35 17 inch Macbooks. Although the price of these machines is substantially higher than Dell machines, had we done this two years ago we have calculated that we would have saved several thousand dollars overall had we avoided Vista at that time.
    • Why so many macbooks in only 4 years?

      I still have my 17inch that is slow as piss, it
      runs, but it is a really slow laptop.
      • See my "excellent question" response

        Hi David,

        It's less about necessity and more about our desire to have the latest improvements.

        Contrary to popular belief (esp among Macbook Pro owners), the plain-jane 13" Macbook (esp since late 2007) is a quite capable laptop. I have used it for mild 3D modeling, software development, image editing, and video editing.

        I've paid a premium each time, but I have not yet been disappointed. This is not to say I will never invest in another non-Mac notebook. If one comes along that we like, we'll add it to the stable.
        • Sadly I agree. Dump MS GO Mac. Vista is Virus, Windows 7 should be a freeup

          Premium cost for a Mac is recovered quickly due to not having to support a faulty product, i.e. Vista. MS sales pitch is always increase productivity, lower cost of ownership, desktop optimization... bullshit. As an experience IT manager, I refused to believe the dribble, saved a fortune by not rolling out Vista enterprise wide. Sadly I am now recommending to all - going Mac for home user small business if you can, save you a fortune in the support costs long run. Vista is a Virus; Windows 7 should be a free upgrade to fix a faulty OS.
    • What a load of...


      Not the comments about Macbooks, as I'm a big fan. But I have to
      question how you appear to embellish things a bit. That 13" Macbook
      Pro that you've relied on for about a year? It's not a Macbook Pro. Just
      an expensive unibody Macbook.

      Sorry. The Pro version of the 13" Macbook was not introduced until this
      past June. So, you can put your lipstick on your Macbook and it is still a
      Macbook and not a Macbook Pro. This doesn't lend credence to the rest
      of your opinions.
    • Amen!

      Apple Rules!!...I wrote reply with my DELL XPS 13" and miss my MAC.....