Dell Latitude Z600

  • Editors' rating
    8.0 Excellent

Pros

  • Superb screen
  • Good keyboard
  • Excellent software extras
  • Distinctive looks

Cons

  • Instant ON operating system adds little value
  • No integrated optical drive
  • Wireless docking and inductive charging units are expensive options
  • Moderate battery life

Dell's Latitude Z was the first notebook to be launched with wireless docking and inductive charging. It was also touted at launch as the 'world's thinnest and lightest' 16in. notebook, sports a clever fingerprint-free touch interface, incorporates Dell's Latitude ON instant-on OS and has several other clever and attractive tweaks. This Latitude certainly packs in the features.

There are two versions of the Latitude Z600 currently available in the UK. We had the top-end 'Advanced' model, which costs £2,261 (ex. VAT) direct from Dell online. The lower-spec 'Base' model costs £1,211.

Latitude Z600: a feature-packed 16in. notebook with an unusual design

Design
The Latitude Z600 is visually striking: when closed, its black-cherry-coloured lid looks different without being too garish for business users, while the angled back section with its bright silver hinges is distinctive. The lid section is made from the kind of rubberised material we're more used to seeing on smartphones. It makes a nice change from the shiny fingerprint-magnet finishes we often see on notebook lids.

The Latitude Z600's other striking feature is its size. At 39.64cm wide by 27.22cm deep and 1.45-2.01cm thick, it's large and, at 2.0kg, quite heavy too. Despite those 'thinnest, lightest' claims, you won't want to carry this notebook around too often or too far.

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The 16in. screen is the reason for this notebook's large footprint. Its 1,600-by-900-pixel resolution suits it perfectly to media-rich applications or complex spreadsheet work. You can easily have two word processing documents open simultaneously, and it's not out of the question three.

The WLED display technology makes for a sharp and bright display. There's an ambient light sensor, which is enabled and disabled via a Fn key combination with the right cursor control on the inverted-T key cluster on the bottom right of the keyboard. Brightness controls are on the up and down cursor keys.

A 2-megapixel webcam with autofocus sits in the bezel above the screen. The camera's autofocus feature is useful for web conferencing, but also comes into its own with an innovation that Dell has introduced with the Latitude Z600 — Capture, for document and business card scanning.

Software extras with the Latitude Z600 include FaceAware (security) and Capture (document and business card scanning)

You have to align your scan target with a window that appears on-screen, and wait for the camera to photograph it. You can edit the fields from scanned business cards before exporting to Outlook, while documents can be rotated and edited if they are off-centre, and then saved to PDF.

This system is a bit fiddly to use: you'll need a steady hand, and when scanning an A4 document we found it tricky to see the screen in order to make sure it was framed accurately and square on. Still, there are instances when the system could prove useful.

Another innovation on the Latitude Z600 is a touch panel called EdgeTouch. This activates when you press a touch-sensitive rectangle on the bottom right screen bezel. A vertical panel then appears down the right-hand side of the screen, offering icons for a range of settings and applications. Tap the bezel next to the icon you want and it's invoked.

Available EdgeTouch options include launching Internet Explorer, controlling volume and media playback, operating the built-in document scanner and managing FaceAware, a service that locks the notebook down to the login screen when the camera has not seen a face for a set period. You can run this in two modes: private, where your face is the controller; and collaborative, where any face will keep the notebook awake.

When the bezel is not being used to launch these services, it doubles up as a vertical scrollbar for web browsing.

You can use the touchpad for both horizontal and vertical scrolling. There's also multitouch support for pinch-to-zoom, rotation and privacy — the latter minimises all windows when you sweep your hand downwards over the touchpad. It's simple to configure these multitouch settings to your preference.

The touchpad itself is very smooth and feels remarkably comfortable in use. It's wide enough to get almost all the way across the screen with a single horizontal finger-sweep.

A 16in. notebook has room for a good-sized keyboard and Dell could easily have included a separate number pad, but didn't. This means there's plenty of unused space either side of the keyboard, and the individual keys are well spaced. There's even room to the right of the keyboard for a fingerprint scanner.

We had no trouble touch typing at normal speed, and the gentle action and slight click of the keys as they depress felt extremely comfortable. The keyboard is backlit, and a Fn key combination lets you turn the light on or off, or set it to automatic operation.

Features
Our review sample of the Latitude Z600 ran the 32-bit version of Windows 7 Ultimate, although other configurations are available (you can also get a downgrade to Windows XP Professional). There are two processor options: our review sample ran a 1.6GHz Intel Core 2 Duo SU9600, while the lower-spec model makes do with a 1.4GHz Core 2 Duo SU9400. There was 4GB of 1,066MHz DDR3 RAM in our review sample. Graphics are handled by the GMA 4500MHD module that's integrated in Intel's Mobile GS45 Express chipset.

The Latitude Z600 also runs Dell's Latitude ON pre-boot OS. You can run this at startup instead of booting straight into Windows, or invoke it from within Windows by pressing a dedicated button above the screen. It takes a good few seconds to kick in when started in this way.

Once Latitude ON, which you must password-protect, is up and running it gives access to email, the web, contacts and calendar data. Corporate users will appreciate its ability to handle Citrix thin-client apps, VPN, plus Groupwise and Microsoft Exchange 2003 (not higher) email. It can handle DOC, XLS, PPT and PDF documents, so most — but not all — email attachments are catered for.

Latitude ON relies on a subprocessor and runs a little slower than we'd like. Despite its ability to conserve battery power, we probably wouldn't use it much day to day.

The Latitude Z600 includes Wi-Fi (802.11a/b/g/n) and Bluetooth (2.1+EDR), with mobile broadband (HSDPA) available as an option. Hard drives are solid-state, with primary and secondary drive options running between 64GB, 128GB and 256GB — the latter two with encryption. Our review unit had a single 128GB encrypted drive. There's no integrated optical drive, which is disappointing. An optional external (eSATA) optical drive (DVD-RW or BluRay) is available.

Ports and connectors are somewhat thin on the ground. There are just two USB ports, one of which is shared with an eSATA connector, side by side on the right-hand side. The right side also houses a DisplayPort connector and the headset jack. There are two ports built into the angled edge of the chrome hinges at the back: the Ethernet (RJ-45) port on the right and the power input on the left. If you need more ports, you'll have to fork out £162 (ex. VAT) for the wireless docking station.

A big talking point for this notebook is its inductive wireless charging feature. This relies on an optional charging station, which costs £244 (ex. VAT). This is very large, and has to be tethered to the mains using the same power cable that powers the Latitude Z600 directly. It's bulky as well as expensive, and frankly we're not sure it's worth the outlay.

Performance & battery life
The Latitude Z600's Windows Experience Index (WEI) of 3.3 (out of 7.9) is disappointing. This is the score given to poorest-performing subsystem — Gaming Graphics (3D business and gaming graphics performance). The other graphics element, Graphics (desktop performance for Windows Aero) fared slightly better with a score of 3.8. The top WEI component score, 5.9, went to Primary hard disk (Disk data transfer rate), while in between came Processor (calculations per second) with 4.4 and RAM (Memory operations per second) with 4.9.

The Latitude Z600 comes with 4-cell, 40Wh battery as standard, although an 8-cell, 80Wh alternative is available for £24 (ex. VAT) extra.

There's no integrated optical drive to run our usual video playback test, so we asked the notebook to play movie footage that we copied to the hard drive instead. With Wi-Fi left on, we got video for 2 hours and 11 minutes, which is distinctly underwhelming.

Sound output from the built-in speakers is very good — loud and with good depth. One of the real strengths of this notebook would be delivering multimedia presentations.

Conclusion
Dell's Latitude Z600 is an impressive notebook in many respects. It looks refreshingly different, the software extras Dell has bundled are useful (if sometimes a little tricksy to manage) and the screen is superb. However, battery life is disappointing, while the wireless docking and inductive charging units are expensive options. The latter is a particularly bulky, space-hogging affair.

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