New Dell Latitude Z laptop charges wirelessly

Dell Inc. introduced an ultra-thin premium business laptop on Tuesday that is the first to let users do away with most of the cables and wires -- including the power cable.

Starting at $1,999, the Latitude Z can be recharged by placing it on a special notebook stand that creates an "inductive charging" field similar to cordless toothbrush or electric shaver chargers, said Steve Belt, vice-president of engineering for Dell's business client hardware group.

The induction charger works with an induction coil on the Latitude Z to refill its battery as fast as a conventional wired charger, Belt said. It is also 70% efficient, making it better than typical inductive charging systems that waste 50% of the electricity sent through them. Despite the power surging within its field, Belt said the charger won't affect any nearby devices.

Besides the inductive charging, Dell is also offering an optional wireless docking station based on Ultrawideband technology . Placed near the user's desk, the docking station includes several USB connectors, a DVI video connector, and audio jacks, which are connected via wired connections.

The Latitude Z needs to be brought only within about 9 feet of the docking station for it to be connected wirelessly to those ports and devices, Belt said.

Belt said the devices were "architected and conceived by Dell," and would help Latitude Z users create a "nice, clean desk." The devices were built by Dell partners whose identities he declined to disclose.

The coil and elevated notebook stand come together as a $199 set, while the docking station also costs $199, meaning that users wanting the near-wireless environment must add almost $400 on top of the Latitude Z's $1,999 base price.

The Latitude Z, which weighs 4.5 pounds and is as thin as 0.5-inches, will also be the first notebook to ship with the instant-on environment Dell announced last year called Latitude ON , Belt said.

Latitude ON is a small secondary motherboard inside the Z that includes an ARM processor, graphics and Wi-Fi chips and more, and runs a heavily-modified version of Linux which Belt declined to name, other than to say it is not, contrary to one report , Novell Inc.'s Suse Linux Enterprise Desktop.

Latitude ON users will be able to write e-mail, browse the Web, even connect via a VPN to their Microsoft Exchange server, Belt said. In its lowest-powered mode, Latitude ON can synchronize wirelessly via Wi-Fi every six minutes and run for up to 48 hours , he said. Real-time modes can run for up to 12 hours.

Latitude ON will come standard on all Latitude Zs. It will also be available as an $199 option for Dell Latitude subnotebooks, the E4200 and E4300. It does not come with a desktop video player such as QuickTime, but Adobe's Flash media player will come later, Belt said.

The Latitude Z's CPU options include either an Intel ultra-low-voltage (ULV) Core 2 Duo SU9600 (1.6 GHz) or the similar ULV SU9400 (1.4 GHz). Its 16-inch screen comes with 1600x900 resolution.

To go with the Latitude Z's business-premium features, Dell is striving to give the new notebook a "luxurious but professional" look, Belt said.

Most of the Latitude Z is covered with a "soft-touch" black-cherry finish on its predominantly magnesium alloy frame, he said. Plastic is also used.

The triangular hinges in the rear are made of black chrome-coated zinc. They are stronger than current Latitude hinges, and also make room for users to add an extended battery, he said.

Depending on how well the Latitude Z sells, Dell may create more business notebooks sharing the Z's brand and look-and-feel, Belt said. There are no plans to phase out the look of the E subnotebook line. "We are pretty happy with those," he said.

Dell also introduced a low-end desktop workstation, the Precision T1500, which it says can run Autodesk's AutoCAD software well. It starts at $949.

It also introduced the Optiplex 780 business desktop, which starts at $544.

Dell would not comment on boot and shutdown times the new laptops running Windows 7 , but said that the Latitude Z can wake up from sleep in about 1 second.

Lenovo is bragging about the boot and shutdown times of its new Windows 7-specific laptops.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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