That Dell is releasing a new laptop, the Latitude Z, is the opposite of surprising. But the fact that it has a wireless charging system certainly is.
Much about the new Latitude Z is expected: it's yet another very thin laptop (just 14mm at its narrowest point), with a different kind of exterior finish -- soft-touch, in this case -- and comes in a black cherry colour. But as far as we can tell, it's the first laptop to charge its battery without a power cable. Surprised that this is coming from Dell? You're not alone.
The wireless charging is handled elegantly. An inductive pad built into a laptop stand (pictured left) can accomplish a full recharge in "about the same amount of time" as a standard-issue cabled charger, according to Dell. While smart phone maker Palm has a similar, smaller, wireless charging system for the Pre, called the Touchstone, and companies such as Visteon and Wild Charge have debuted wireless charging accessories for phones, no PC maker has incorporated the idea until now.
It's part of what Dell is calling its new "wireless ecosystem". Besides being able to juice up without wires, the Latitude Z will also be able to dock without them. A smaller separate adaptor can hook up the laptop with any accompanying monitor, whether it be at your desk or in a conference room.
Both cost extra, and are by no means cheap at $199 (£125) for each, on top of the £1,319 for the laptop, but the intention is for companies to buy them, not necessarily individual consumers.
Other cool things Dell is introducing: touch-sensitive controls on the screen's bezel, and its first take on 'instant on'.
The sliding touch controls -- not visible to the naked eye -- are located on the right side of the bezel and appear when contact is made. Any controls can be customised and placed there, such as screen brightness, volume or easy access to specific applications. When controlling an application such as Excel or a Web browser, the right side of the bezel can be used as a touchpad for scrolling through a spreadsheet or Web page.
The instant-on capability works exactly the way it sounds. Instead of waiting for Windows to boot up, the computer uses a second smaller motherboard and a separate ARM processor. Through a separate, non-Windows interface, it allows email, contacts, calendars and a Firefox-based Web browser to be accessed straight away. Email, contacts and calendars are always running in the background and are constantly being synced.
The ARM processor doesn't have access to the main motherboard or the ports, which should alleviate security concerns, according to Todd Forsythe, vice president of Dell's commercial client product group. The secondary processor -- used mostly in smart phones -- also draws much less power than a more robust desktop or laptop processor and so while it's running in the background it doesn't drain the battery as fast. Using just the instant-on mode will provide up to two days of battery life; when using Windows and the accompanying Intel Core 2 Duo processor, it will get four hours.
The Latitude Z is on sale now direct from Dell, starting at £1,319. The wireless charging dock is not yet available in the UK.