Dell is back with a slimmed-down version of its fully rugged 14-inch laptop, the Latitude E64 XFR. An upgrade to the Latitude XFR D630, the E64 gets an internal tuneup, boasting better processing power (with an Intel Core2Duo chip) and discrete graphics enabled by better cooling.
The XFR is strengthened by a new exterior material the PC maker is calling Ballistic Armor, which replaces the magnesium alloy used in its other laptops. It's allowed the machine to be trimmed down -- it's now 3.9kg instead of 4.1kg -- and also strengthened: it meets military specifications for ruggedness and can withstand a 1.2m drop rather than just 90cm.
The new XFR also keeps most of its original features: a touchscreen, a
solid-state drive, mobile broadband, GPS and long battery life. In this
case, Dell says an additional battery pack will keep the laptops going
for up to 13 hours.
Ballistic Armor was developed by a partner company and licensed exclusively to Dell. It's a hybrid, nonmetal polymer designed to better absorb shocks and withstand the elements. That Dell is experimenting with different materials is intended to signal its willingness to try new things and focus on creating different options for targeted customers.
In this case, that's military contractors, government and utility company workers out in the field, law enforcement, and other groups not known for being particularly gentle with their computers.
Oddly, Dell doesn't feel bashful about launching a laptop that starts at $4,299 (£3,100) at a time when many people are having trouble paying their mortgages and others are afraid to even glimpse at their pension fund. Unlike its most high-profile upcoming launch, a high-end consumer laptop called Adamo -- about to hit shelves as consumer spending drops off of a cliff -- Dell believes the XFR is almost perfectly timed for its target demographic at this particular moment. The machine is nowhere close to being considered cheap, but that's not a problem for the government agencies the XFR is aimed at -- not anymore anyway.
"With the stimulus package under way, we're getting lots of interest," said Patrick Burns, a member of Latitude's US product marketing team.
The Latitude E64 XFR will be available in the UK soon, but Dell hasn't released prices or dates yet.