Dell Latitude C840

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  • Editors' rating
    7.5 Very good

Pros

  • Good performance
  • integrated 802.11b wireless networking
  • large 15in. screen.

Cons

  • Bulky and heavy
  • lacks aesthetic appeal
  • expensive.

Dell delivered the first Mobile Pentium 4 notebook that we reviewed, the Inspiron 8200, back in March. Now Intel’s latest mobile chip has made it into the business-orientated Latitude range, which concentrates on corporate-friendly factors like platform stability and manageability. The Latitude C840 is a solid piece of technology in every sense of the word -- it’s well constructed and a good performer, but it's also bulky and heavy.

The Latitude C840 is no bargain at £2,160 (ex. VAT), but its specification allows it to cope with most tasks with some ease. Our review sample was based around a 1.6GHz Mobile Intel Pentium 4 Processor-M, but clock speeds for the MP4-M are now available from 1.4GHz up to a maximum of 1.8GHz. The CPU was supported by 256MB of DDR SDRAM, which is expandable to 1GB. The chipset, as in all other Mobile Pentium 4 notebooks we’ve reviewed so far, is Intel’s 845MP.

The system’s basic design is the familiar three-spindle arrangement, with a fixed optical drive on the left-hand side, in this case a Samsung CD-RW/DVD combo drive, and two front-mounted bays, one modular and the other containing the battery. The modular bay contained a floppy drive in our review system, but Dell supplies a variety of options that are common to the whole Latitude range. The hard disk is a 20GB Hitachi drive with a rotational speed of 4,200rpm.

As far as I/O and expansion is concerned, you get a pair of stacked Type II PC Card slots, built-in 802.11b wireless networking on a Mini PCI card, plus integrated 56Kbps modem and 10/100Mbps Ethernet connectivity. Unlike many notebook manufacturers, Dell retains legacy ports such as serial, parallel and PS/2, as many corporate customers will need to support older peripherals. However, newer connections such as USB (2), IEEE 1394 and S-Video-out are also provided. S-Video-out, composite video-out and digital audio-out are supported via a splitter cable that plugs into the S-Video port.

The Latitude C840 features an excellent graphics subsystem, with nVidia’s cutting-edge 64MB GeForce4 440 Go chip driving a top-quality 15.1in. active-matrix display with a native resolution of 1,600 by 1,200 pixels. The 88-key keyboard is sensibly laid out and the keys provide good feedback. There are dual navigation options, courtesy of a touchpad and a trackpoint (or pointing stick), with a pair of mouse buttons for each device.

Like other Mobile Pentium 4 notebooks we’ve tested, Latitude C840 is a solid rather than spectacular performer. It beats the only other 1.6GHz model we’ve tested -- Toshiba’s Tecra 9100 -- on both Business Winstone 2001 (33.9 versus 29.8) and Content Creation Winstone 2002 (22.1 versus 16.5), although the Dell system did have twice the RAM fitted (256MB versus 128MB). However, it falls a long way short of the highest figures we’ve recorded -- 47.5 on Business Winstone 2001 from Dell’s Precision M40 and 26.8 on Content Creation Winstone 2002 from Hi-Grade’s UltiNote M6400. Although it’s not high on the list of corporate requirements, the Latitude C840’s 64MB GeForce4 440 Go graphics chip will ensure excellent 3D graphics performance if necessary.

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Clearly the Latitude C840 is well specified and a pretty good performer. So what are the drawbacks? Mainly, they’re to do with look and feel. Corporate customers may value functionality above aesthetics, but the Latitude design is utilitarian to a fault: it’s a big and bulky grey slab that undoubtedly does the job, but not with any style.

As befits a business-orientated product, the C840 comes with generous three-year, on-site warranty for parts and labour.

It’s not exactly cheap at £2,160 (ex. VAT), but the Dell Latitude C840's combination of speed, features and support make it a good choice for the corporate power user -- particularly as optional components are interchangeable with other Latitude models. However, it won’t win any design awards, and you won’t want to carry it much further than the distance from your desktop to a meeting room.

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