- Well designed and attractively styled
- thin and light system unit
- docks and undocks easily from the Media Base
- good performance with mainstream applications.
- Poor battery life with the standard 6-cell unit
- integrated graphics
- no TV-out port.
Dell's Latitude range received a shot in the arm earlier this year with the release of the impressive C400 model, a 1.7kg ultraportable system that received an Editors' Choice award in our January group test. Now Dell has taken the same basic look and feel, and designed an even more ultraportable system featuring a docking base and an optional external media bay. Stripped to its bare essentials, the Latitude x200 weighs just 1.27kg, according to Dell.
The X200 is based around an ultra-low voltage 800MHz Mobile Pentium III-M processor, supported by Intel's Mobile 830MG chipset and 256MB of PC133 SDRAM. Memory is expandable to a maximum of 640MB by complementing the motherboard’s 128MB with a 512MB module in the single memory slot. The 830MG chipset also handles the X200's graphics, commandeering up to 48MB of main memory for this purpose. The display is a good-quality 12.1in. TFT unit with a native resolution of 1,024 by 768 pixels.
As far as design is concerned, the X200 has the same basic look and feel as the C400 model, featuring rounded edges and a sober but reasonably stylish metallic grey livery. The system unit is commendably thin and light, measuring 27.3cm wide by 22.6cm deep by 1.98-2.4cm high and with a claimed weight of just 1.27kg -- although our review sample actually tipped the scales at 1.31kg.
The system unit's only spinning media drive is a 30GB Ultra-ATA/100 IBM Travelstar 40GN hard disk, but there's a good set of ports and connectors that should allow you work productively on the road. You get VGA, a pair of USB, FireWire (6-pin, powered), modem and wired Ethernet, plus audio ports and a Type II PC Card slot. Wireless 802.11b networking is available via a Mini-PCI card, but was not present on our review system. This is a factory-installed option costing £79 (ex. VAT).
The keyboard has 84 keys, and is both sensibly laid out and reasonably responsive. Unlike the C400 model, the X200 has only one pointing device, a two-button touchpad.
The Media Base adds 2cm to the system's depth and carries two front-mounted bays for removable-media drives. The right-hand bay hosts a floppy drive, while the left-hand one accepts a range of optical drives -- our review system came with a Samsung DVD-ROM/CD-RW combo unit. With these two options fitted, the Media Base boosts the overall system weight to 2.38kg. It also hosts a number of extra ports and connectors -- serial, parallel, PS/2, VGA, USB (2), FireWire (4-pin), RJ-45 and digital audio (SP/DIF) out -- as well as a pair of beefier speakers and, believe it or not, a subwoofer on the underside. A notable omission from the Media Base is a TV-out port, which means you won't be able to watch DVD movies on your TV screen.
The docking/undocking process under Windows XP Professional is straightforward, aided by an undock button at the front of the Media Base between the two drive bays.
If you don’t want to take the Media Base on your travels, but do need to use an optical drive, Dell supplies an optional external FireWire-connected Media Bay. One of these with a 24X CD-ROM drive costs £105 (ex. VAT).
The 800MHz Mobile Pentium III Processor-M-based X200 is well equipped to handle everyday productivity applications, delivering a Business Winstone 2001 score of 31 that’s almost identical to its 1.2GHz C400 stablemate’s score of 31.5. When it comes to more demanding applications the X200 falls back slightly compared to the C400, scoring 16.6 on Content Creation Winstone 2002 versus 18.7. With the standard 6-cell 2,700mAh Li-ion battery installed, battery life under BatteryMark 4.01 (with power management turned off) was a disappointing 1 hour 50 minutes. Dell offers an optional extended-life 8-cell battery for £106 (ex. VAT), and working travellers would be well advised to consider buying this.
We liked the Latitude C400 enough to award it an Editors’ Choice back in January, and in our opinion the X200 is an even better ultraportable. The basic system unit is extremely thin and light, yet carries a good set of ports and connectors. This is an excellent mobile platform, perhaps in combination with the external Media Bay, although battery life with the standard 6-cell battery is a concern. Adding the Media Base turns the X200 into a credible desktop replacement system – albeit one with moderate graphics capabilities and a relatively small screen.