The monochrome, sunlight-readable displays remain largely synonymous with e-readers, but they're moving into other devices large and small.
Caption by: Charles McLellan
Windows 8 tablets, as opposed to convertibles of various kinds, are often ultrabook-class devices with third-generation Core processors that usually have some sort of optional keyboard attachment that effectively turn them into ultrabooks. The canonical example is Microsoft's, which costs between $899 (64GB, no keyboard cover) and $1,129 (128GB plus Type Cover).
Another species of Windows 8 tablet is exemplified by Dell's Latitude 10, reviewed here: this business-class slate tablet runs a less powerful (but less power-hungry) Atom processor and has a useful optional desktop dock, but no keyboard attachment. Preconfigured Latitude 10 bundles start at $499 (32GB, non-removable battery) and top out at $849 (64GB, removable 2-cell battery, mobile broadband, dock). If you add options, the price can go higher, of course.
Our review model, with 2GB of RAM, 64GB of SSD storage, mobile broadband, a 4-cell 60Wh battery ($79), the desktop dock, a Wacom stylus ($49) and a soft case ($39.99), came in at $1,016.99.
A black-clad slate-style 10.1in. tablet with edge-to-edge Gorilla Glass, the best one can say of the Latitude 10's industrial design is that it's unobtrusive. A tablet to show off with it is not.
The display itself is a high-quality 1,366-by-768-pixel IPS unit with very good viewing angles. From the front, there's little else to distract you, beyond a Windows button in the middle of the bezel, at the bottom, which takes you to the Start screen — or from there to the last app you were using. The only Dell branding is discreetly on the back, in shiny black contrast to the otherwise matt-black livery. There are front (2MP) and rear (8MP with flash) cameras, plus a selection of buttons, ports and slots around the edges.
With the standard 2-cell battery fitted, the Latitude 10 is noticeably thinner than the Surface Pro, measuring 10.5mm (0.4in.) compared to 13.5mm (0.53in.). With the optional 4-cell battery, which protrudes slightly from the back, the maximum thickness rises to 15.9mm. Dell's tablet weighs less whatever battery is fitted (658g/820g versus 903g) and is much less angular, with gently rounded corners and none of the Surface's chamfering on the sides.
The battery compartment is at the back: the standard 2-cell 30Wh unit fits flush with the surface, while the 4-cell 60Wh we were supplied with protrudes by about half a centimetre. Irritatingly, on our review sample at least, the battery-release latch was very fiddly to operate. When you do get the battery out, you'll find a Micro-SIM card slot in the compartment. Also, with the high-capacity battery fitted, it's tricky to shoehorn the tablet into the optional soft case. On the plus side, the folio case does include a housing for the optional Wacom active stylus, although there's no on-tablet home for it.
The tablet itself is sparsely equipped with ports and slots: there's a single USB 2.0 port on the right-hand side, along with a Mini-HDMI connector and a microphone/headphone combo jack. The left side has a volume rocker and a Kensington lock slot. At the top there's an SD card slot, the power button and a screen-autorotate on/off toggle button. The bottom houses the docking/charging connector and a Micro-USB port.
The dock is a solidly built unit with four USB 2.0 ports (three at the back, one at the front), an Ethernet port, an HDMI port and an audio-out jack, along with a power connector. It's a useful addition, as many users will want to attach a keyboard, mouse and large monitor for working on desktop apps, keeping the touchscreen tablet handy for modern-style apps. However, the hinged tablet-dock connection feels a little wobbly, it only docks in landscape orientation, and the docked screen angle can't be adjusted.
The Latitude 10 is built around a low-power (TDP of just 1.7W) 1.8GHz Atom Z2760 with 2GB of (non-upgradeable) RAM, running 32-bit Windows 8 Pro. Graphics are handled by the integrated PowerVR SGX 545 (Clovertrail UMA Graphics) GPU running at 533MHz.
The Latitude 10 is available with 32GB or, as on our review unit, 64GB of solid-state eMMC storage, which isn't over-generous. If you need more capacity, you'll need to bring the SD card slot or the USB port into play, or use cloud-based storage such as SkyDrive.
There's no wired Ethernet connection on the tablet itself (for that, you'll need the dock), which provides dual-band Wi-Fi (802.11a/b/g/n) via a Broadcom chipset (along with Bluetooth 4.0). Mobile broadband, on Latitude 10 models that support it, comes courtesy of a Dell Wireless 5565 HSPA+ Mini-Card.
Business-class security and manageability features available on the Latitude 10 include firmware-based Intel Platform Trust Technology, TPM 1.2 and Dell Data Protection (encryption) software. There's also talk on Dell's website of an optional fingerprint/smartcard reader combo, although this wasn't present on our review unit.
Performance & battery life
The Atom-based Latitude 10 can only be described as a moderate performer, with a Windows Experience Index (WEI) of 3.3 out of 9.9. The overall score is determined by the lowest-ranking subsystem, which in this case is Gaming graphics (3D business and gaming graphics performance) — no surprise given the system's integrated PowerVR/Intel GPU. The remaining scores range between 3.4 and 5.5, with the best-performing subsystem being the (solid-state) storage:
Turning to browser benchmarks, we can see that the Latitude 10's performance is much closer to the ARM-based Surface RT than the ultrabook-class (Core i5-based) Surface Pro
It may be no great shakes as a performer, but the Latitude 10 does shine when it comes to battery life. To estimate longevity with both the 2-cell (30Wh) and 4-cell (60Wh) batteries, we measured the tablet's power consumption with a Voltcraft VC 940 Plus multimeter, under idle and load conditions, with screen brightness settings of 25, 50 and 100 percent. Dividing the resulting figures into the battery capacity gives a spread of battery life estimates under different conditions (Wh/W=h).
If you keep the screen brightness to around 50 percent and spend the working day with the tablet mostly doing work and sometimes idling, you can expect well over 10 hours' life with the optional 4-cell battery fitted, and around half that with the standard 2-cell battery. With the standard battery, the Latitude 10's longevity is on a par with the Surface RT and well ahead of the disappointing (in this respect) Surface Pro.
The Atom-based Latitude 10 cannot compete with ultrabook-class Windows 8 tablets like the Surface Pro in terms of performance. However, it delivers much better battery life — especially with the optional 4-cell battery. Although some aspects of the industrial design and build quality could be better, this is a decent business-class Windows 8 tablet.
Caption by: Charles McLellan
Caption by: Charles McLellan