The typical small business notebook may get the job done, but it won't win any beauty contests. With its new line of Latitude PCs, Dell shatters the barriers between today's stylish consumer-grade PCs and their staid corporate cousins.
This week, Dell took the wraps off its latest generation of its Latitude laptops, which not only sport sleeker casings, but also a simplified model numbering scheme that dispenses with the alphabet/numeral soup of past efforts. Now categorized by screen size, the new Latitude systems fall into 3000, 5000 and 7000 series.
Latitude Ultrabook 7000
Sitting atop the heap is the company's Latitude 7000 series of Windows 8 "business-class Ultrabooks." Available in 12- and 14-inch sizes, they feature low-wattage, battery-boosting Intel Core i processors and a thin-and-light form factor in keeping with the Ultrabook PC specification. Designed for portability, the 12-inch model is a mere sliver of a PC at 20 millimeters thick and just 2.99 pounds.
The Dell Latitude 7000 series pricing starts at $1,049. Non-touchscreen models are available now; the touch-enabled versions will be available on September 12.
We experienced the Latitude 12 7000 series and its reassuringly sturdy, flex-free "Tri-metal" chassis during a hands-on demonstration in Dell's New York City offices. Build quality, design and materials are generally on par with premium laptops, albeit a bit more conservative (the new Latitudes are largely a monotone affair). WiGig wireless docking beamed the Windows 8 interface to a larger, nearby display.
Corning's scratch resistant Gorilla Glass NBT safeguards the displays on the touch-enabled Latitude 7000 models, while the woven carbon-fiber back invites touching and a fair amount of ogling. Options include a matte 1,366 x 768 LED backlit display or a 1,920 x 1,080, full-HD touchscreen optimized for Windows 8.
Evolving Small Business Laptops
Chalk up Latitude's evolution to strides in operating system (OS) stability and BYOD's effect on business IT, says David Ruth, director of Dell's commercial PC division. Noting that in recent years Microsoft has delivered fairly stable OSes—Windows 8 included—Dell can now tackle details that matter to users.
For instance, a stable and maturing OS and micro-architecture ecosystem freed Dell to "think of materials selection in a different way," said Ruth. The result is soft-touch surfaces that increase grip and comfort and internals that are protected and braced with strong metals.
Customers have clout, too. Accustomed to polished and highly portable computing experiences from their personal systems, customers increasingly expect the same at work. Devices like the new Latitude 7000 series Ultrabooks stand as an example of the customers' "ability to influence IT at an institutional level," said Ruth.
Intel vPro extenstions enable remote management capabilities, and automated tools for Microsoft System Center and Dell KACE allow administrators to configure and manage the laptops. On the security front, the Latitude 7000 offers several options, including FIPS 201-certified smartcard and fingerprint readers and built-in encryption.
A More Traditional Latitude
Dell also rolled out the new 3000 and 5000 series for businesses seeking to deploy more traditional, non-Ultrabook portables. Available in 14- and 15.6-inch sizes, the systems are designed for businesses of all sizes that want secure, manageable and reliable notebooks, according to the company.
Latitude 5000 models offer optional Intel Core i7 ultra low voltage processors, solid-state drive (SSD) storage and Gorilla Glass touchscreens. The budget-friendly 3000 series house Intel's fourth generation Core processors, feature integrated microphones and HD webcams and can be outfitted with optional touchscreens.
Latitude 3000 systems start at $599 and are also available on September 12. Latitude 5000 laptops ship in October.
Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Small Business Computing and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.
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