Dell Latitude XT2 Tablet PC

Go on, grab the Dell Latitude XT2--it just feels good. The rugged metal-alloy casing gives it a solid, substantial frame. Pick it up, and the 13.3-inch machine is deceptively light (3.8 pounds). Put all of that together, and you seem to have a premium choice for mobility-minded businessfolk in need of a tablet PC. It has style in spades and a host of great features. But is this $2653 (as reviewed, as of 7/23/09) ultraportable package good for the long haul?

Well, I can tell you that the XT2 didn't exactly produce scorching results in our WorldBench 6 tests. Running this show, along with 3GB of RAM, is Intel's 1.4GHz Core 2 Duo U9400 CPU, the same processor you'll find in the Acer Aspire 3810T (aka the Timeline). Unsurprisingly, the XT2 scored in the same ballpark as the Acer, notching a mark of 60 in WorldBench 6. That shouldn't come as anything shocking or new: Tablets rarely have ample horsepower. A tablet maker that adds too many components--a discrete GPU, say--runs the risk of creating a machine that's too bulky for users to grab and hold. The biggest shock to me is that the XT2 didn't wind up in the slow lane.

In fact, the XT2 seems downright spritely and manageable compared with the likes of the tiny, almost netbook-like Fujitsu Lifebook U820. Especially when you start taking advantage of Dell's sweet multitouch screen, the XT2 pulls ahead of many tablets we've seen.

No doubt, the iPhone-like ability to pinch your fingers to zoom in and out of Web sites and photos is incredibly handy on the crisp, colorful 1280-by-800-pixel screen (which, by the way, looks good both indoors and out). The integrated GPU surprises with fairly fluid motion; resizing windows wasn't a drag, and neither was rotating images or scrolling down pages.

And if you have a need to push a physical button, a "CTRL" button replaces the trusty three-finger salute, calling up the option to log out or start the Task Manager. Another button quickly shifts the screen orientation, and a convenient settings button brings up the Dell ControlPoint app for tweaking just about anything on the machine. And if you're not careful, you might miss the scroll rocker button hiding by the hinge.

Of course, since the XT2 is a convertible, you can rotate the screen and use the machine as a more conventional laptop. The hinge mechanism is good, but like those on most tablets, it doesn't lock into an upright position. (On flights, the screen will flop around, guaranteed.)

Don't like the touchscreen? The XT2 also has a touchpad and an eraserhead nestled between the keys. Speaking of the keys, the more I play with this machine, the more I find myself appreciating the solid keyboard. It may not be as luxurious as, say, the offerings of Lenovo's ThinkPad line, but it is certainly firm enough, with springy feedback.

Our review unit came with an amazingly robust set of features--but considering the price tag, I'd expect no less. Check out this laundry list: You get a pass-through-power USB port (two USB ports total), eSATA, a PC Card slot, an SD Card slot, FireWire, a fingerprint reader, Bluetooth, and 802.11n Wi-Fi.

The machine lacks an optical drive, as well as DVI, HDMI, and DisplayPort outputs. But for $171 more, you can buy the MediaBase docking station to alleviate some of those woes; the accessory houses an 8X DVD-RW drive and sports more USB and FireWire ports, plus a DVI-out. The drawback is that the add-on gives the XT2 the girth of a beefy all-purpose laptop.

Otherwise, the only real downer with the XT2 is its 3-hour, 21-minute battery life. Among tablets that result isn't horrible, but compared with many ultraportables to come through our labs, that's a pretty sorry endurance run.

Overall, the superslick Dell Latitude XT2 will make you the envy of the boardroom. It offers most of the bells and whistles you might need, and it runs briskly enough for you to get your work in order. This machine offers more than enough to like--except for maybe the price tag.

This story, "Dell Latitude XT2 Tablet PC" was originally published by PCWorld.

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