Dell Latitude E6400 ATG

Semi-rugged laptop for professionals.

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Dell Latitude E6400 ATG
  • Dell Latitude E6400 ATG
  • Dell Latitude E6400 ATG
  • Dell Latitude E6400 ATG

Pros

  • Semi-rugged design, touch screen, backlit keyboard, solid-state drive, dual-band 802.11n Wi-Fi, ambient light sensor

Cons

  • Ports aren't dust-proof, no ExpressCard slot, touchpad can't be disabled by a Fn key combination

Bottom Line

The ATG should satisfy users who are after a well-performing, semi-rugged notebook, but more demanding users who are looking for a unit to use in a very dusty area might want something that has dust-protected ports and slots as well.

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A tough exterior, along with resistance to dust and vibrations, make the semi-rugged 14.1in Latitude E6400 All-Terrain Grade laptop perfect for road warriors and other users who like to man-handle their computers. It has many user-friendly features to go along with its semi-ruggedness, and it's also a quick machine.

Its 2.54GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P9500 CPU, 2GB of DDR2 RAM, integrated Intel 4-Series graphics adapter and 64GB solid-state hard drive combined to score 106 in WorldBench 6, which is a good deal zippier than the non-ATG version of the Latitude E6400. Additionally, it performed the Blender 3D test in 1min 10sec, which is 3sec faster, but it was surprisingly slower in the MP3 encoding test, by 9sec.

What all these results mean is that you can use this laptop to run most everyday office applications, as well as multitask, without noticing a slow-down in performance. It will also encode files relatively quickly. What you won't want to use it for is gaming and other real-time 3-D rendering, as its graphics card is not powerful enough for these tasks. This was shown by 3DMark06's benchmarks, which returned an overall score of 981.

It's worth mentioning the transfer rate of the solid-state drive. It returned a speedy result of 44.1 megabytes per second in our transfer tests. This is much faster than most conventional notebook hard drives (a 7200rpm notebook drive generally transfers data at approximately 30MBps).

Some of the physical features that make the ATG resilient to vibrations and knocks are its solid-state hard drive, which has no moving parts, and the toughened LCD screen, which is also a touch screen (it's not a tablet-convertible laptop, though). The touch screen can be navigated with your fingers (just be sure to calibrate it). The keyboard is dust- and spill-proof but the ports around the edges of the laptop don't have any covers and are therefore susceptible to clogging if the unit is actually used in a very dusty environment.

For this reason, the ATG probably shouldn't command a floor position in a wood shop, for example, but contractors such as plumbers and electricians should find it to be rugged enough for use at job sites. It would also be a great unit for classrooms, save for the fact the hard drive and optical drive can be too easily removed. Dell is pitching the unit at the construction, manufacturing and oil industries, as well as the police force, but a fully ruggedised laptop such as Panasonic's Toughbook is probably a better option for such environments.

Nevertheless, the rugged features of this laptop are only part of what is on offer. You also get a backlit keyboard, which makes it very easy to type in the dark; dynamically controlled screen brightness, via an ambient light sensor mounted into the bezel of the screen; a powered USB port (D/Bay); an eSATA port; a smartcard reader; and central security management that works in conjunction with the fingerprint reader.

Its keyboard is a joy to type on: it's full-sized, doesn't have any keys in odd positions, and provides plenty of bounce-back. We also like the dual pointing devices: both a touchpad and a TrackPoint-style pointer are available for use, although the touchpad can't be disabled. The ambient light sensor did its job well. In a brightly lit environment the laptop's screen was at full brightness, and it dimmed down noticeably when used in a darkened room.

The powered USB port on the left side of the laptop is there to facilitate a connection to Dell's D/Bay external media devices. Originally, we thought it was a 'Sleep-and-Charge'-style USB port, which could charge USB devices while the laptop was powered down, but this isn't the case. A 'Sleep-and-Charge'-style port would be a nice inclusion for this laptop.

Its 85Wh-rated battery lasted 2hr 52min in our DVD rundown test, with the screen at full brightness, which is a very good result for a 14.1in laptop. An extra battery can be installed in the unit's modular bay instead of the optical drive. A battery level indicator has been installed on the battery, which allows you to see, at the press of a button, how much power is left.

Another notable feature of the ATG is its dual-band 802.11n network adapter, which allows you to connect to 2.4GHz and 5GHz networks.

In the end, the ATG should satisfy users who are after a well-performing, semi-rugged notebook, but more demanding users who are looking for a unit to use a very dusty area might want something with dust-protected ports and slots.

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