Simple, plain and no flashy, as business line machine would be, still apply to the beginning of the new Latitude series, XT. At first sight, it looks like Thinkpad series of Dell indeed--solid construct, beautiful design (at least to me.)

Dell Latitude XT Dell Latitude XT Dell XT

The machine itself looks slim while it isn't that slim. If it's not a tablet PC and use thin screen, I think it can be fight with Sony VAIO competitively. However, it's tablet PC, then the screen is thick due to the active digitizer which required a circuit to build EMF, electromagnetic field, around the screen to catch a pen for input.

Dell XT -- surface Dell XT - bottom

Talking about the material a bit, Latitude XT seems to be solid, but I feel it fragile somehow. With the material and so on, it just doesn't feel *tough* like you can find with Thinkpad. It's more like Macbook Aluminum which makes you feel solid and fragile at the same time. Probably it's like the chassis might be prone to scratch or similar.

stack1-thumb stack2-thumb stack3-thumbstack4-thumb

As you see above when Latitude XT stacks up with Thinkpad X61 Tablet and HP Pavillion tx2500z, their thickness is pretty close.

Dell XT - LED status inside Dell Lat XT - LED status on the lid

Black - Blue is theme of this machine and quite a lot of recent machines. It used to be cool to have blue LED while LED technology was boom firstly. But I feel like blue LED's color is too intensive and too bright since I like to use PC in the dark room, so if this is Alienware, I would change it to yellow or anything similar indeed :-P Anyway, regardless the color, I wish I had non-blink dedicated sleep indicator and power-on indicator like Thinkpad because that is much more convenient to see the status. Also I'm pleased to see indicator on the lid; I do like that a lot when using Thinkpad X61T.

Dell XT power adapter is another interesting thing, perhaps Dell think it so good. Thus they don't care that much about battery life :-P As you can see below, it's 45W adapter, very light and slim, yet has pretty long cable suiting any situation. However, it runs hot because of too small heat sink, maybe. Nothing effects performance though. Kudo to Dell for having this.

Dell XT vs Thinkpad X61T vs hp tx2500z adapter Dell XT vs Thinkpad X61T vs hp tx2500z adapter Dell Latitude XT - adapter Dell Latitude XT - adapter Dell Latitude XT - adapter - cable


Screen probably is the selling-point for Latitude XT since it is equipped with N-Trig dual digitizer which cannot be found elsewhere. Active and capacitive digitizer are new combination that Wacom are trying to enter, but with unknown reason Wacom still cannot make paper real thing. So N-Trig took the advantage cooperating with Dell producing Latitude XT first. By putting capacitive digitizer on the screen, it does make screen grainy, but fortunately in an acceptable level. If you have iPhone or iPod touch, you know what it's like. When you look at it indirectly, esp. when backlight is off, you will see like the net all over the screen. That's the digitizer. For the active one, it's underneath the LCD layer, thus it's not an issue here.

Dell XT - horizontal viewing angle

When it comes to quality of LCD, XT screen, which is matte, may not have exaggerated contrast ratio like glossy one. It's a choice of preference here. For viewing angle, all tablet PC screen supposes to be a great one; this might not truly right for this screen. Horizontal viewing angle is great. There is no invert or washout color at any angle, but, for vertical one, the viewing angle is just too narrow in my opinion (Probably I expected it to be as great as X61T screen)

Dell XT - vertical viewing angle

Tablet Features

Dell Latitude XT Dell XT - jog dial

Jog-dial like what you found on Sony Clie or Blackberry is the navigation I like most for tablet PC. It's real easy to navigate--UP/DOWN, click and back button are so nice. It just works beautifully as we want, nothing more.

Dell Latitude XT -- tablet buttons Dell Latitude XT -- LED - light sensor

In tablet mode, Latitude XT flies beautifully. I can tell that I'm enjoy using Latitude XT as a tablet PC more than X61T. I don't know if it is form factor that matters. But it seems XT just fits better in this role. For the buttons on the screen, there are power, ctrl+alt+del, rotate the screen, Dell Tablet setting, and E-mail. 2 latter buttons are able to customize fitting you need with press and press - hold options which is a big plus. If Dell allows to change all 4 buttons freely, that would be awesome. Close to the indicator, there is a ambient light sensor which will help changing screen brightness to suit the environment. However, I found that's not that practical and too sensitive to the light. As a result, screen brightness changes frequently even your hand pass over that sensor. Thus, I choose to disable it.

Dell XT - fingerprint

Fingerprint sensor also is a nice plus if and only if you are changing the default security program, Wave, to UPEK Protector Suite QL. Since Wave can gain nothing from fingerprint sensor, but for logging in. With UPEK Protector Suite QL, you will be able to use you finger as password manager for ie, Firefox and some other applications without any hassle. One drawback of both programs Dell provided is you will not be able to swipe you finger in another direction. In other words, it won't recognize your fingerprint if you enroll your finger by swiping from left to right, but using from right to left. It's just a bad algorithm from the developer which you won't find in Thinkpad X61T. If this is regular notebook, it should be alright because no one will turn notebook around for swiping finger, but that's not the case of tablet PC.

N-Trig Technology

This review will not be completed if I haven't talked about this. You guys may wonder how good this is comparing to Wacom for both for pen and for finger.

Active digitizer -- EMF pen

Dell XT - pen-silo Dell XT - pen

Although N-trig pen has every features it should have, pen itself has nothing to compare with Wacom since N-Trig is the only provider and that means you don't have a choice like Wacom which you can buy from any 3rd party you like while performing the same. Well, especially lacking the intuitive erase at the top of the pen, that almost every Wacom pens have, and inconvenient erase button size on the pen are killing this pen. Probably because I was using Wacom pen first, so I have a bias about this, but I thought if anyone has tried both of them, more than 70% would choose Wacom pen instantly. However, the weight and balance of this pen is good, not too heavy or light. There also are choice of pen tip which are blue and black one. The blue one is softer while the black one is hard--good to have choices.

For the feeling while inking, I could tell that Wacom gives a bit better feeling to ink and more importantly much better in term of compatibility such as pen pressure sensitivity in Adobe product family. I would suggest N-Trig firmly that you should work on this immediately if you are expecting to have better market share.

Capacitive touch

Inkseine - with touch

This is the real selling-point of N-Trig and only thing N-Trig cares perhaps. As you may know, that N-Trig released pre-beta Multitouch driver for Windows 7; It SUCKS. No pen support, new features which is good, but the thing is they couldn't even give the quality on par with the old driver for Vista. In other words, when you hold the title of the window steadily by finger, it supposes to be as steady, doesn't it? But the window is jerky around continuously, not even a sec that it sits unmoved. It might sound good to have newer features; however, stability is much more important in order to work. If they can't get back in the right track on time, I expect to see Wacom release its own capacitive touch and N-Trig would be only the history. Nonetheless, Wacom don't have it so far and N-Trig driver in Vista work quite well--not the best you could imagine, but it can keep up your expectation. One thing I like to notice is the matte screen might not give such a fluid experience when dragging finger around like iPhone, but it works reasonably well, I must say.

Comparing to pressure touch or passive digitizer, they all have their own strength. Regardless of how smooth capacitive touch can be when controlling, moving something around or drawing some simple line or curve, it cannot beat passive digitizer in term of precise touch and flicks at all. You may imagine using Windows Mobile with capacitive touch and you have to tap very small icon/option, it just could do comfortably because your finger will block what you see completely. But with iPhone and passive digitizer would be not a good match as capacitive touch too because its interface implements for finger--probably not big fat one :-P, but reasonable size should tap just fine. Flicks in Vista is another I like most for tablet PC; I just can't do that as often as I did with X61T because of this kind of touch screen. So it always ends up with a tradeoff, you have to choose.

Before go to the next topic, I would like to mention that there are 4 modes when using N-trig dual digitizer: pen only, touch only, auto mode, and dual mode. Pen or touch only is straight forward. Dual mode is using both digitizer simultaneously, but when pen is close to the screen, capacitive touch will disable instantly. I found that I have a problem with this mode a lot while inking since my writing behavior is lifting pen up too high sometimes. As a result, my palm which sits on the screen is registered as a dot or line as always. Thus, auto mode is the only solution I have and it works great. Auto mode is a mode which gives pen more priority than finger; which means when pen gets closer to the screen, finger will be disable as expected. However, when moving pen out of EMF range, finger will not be resume yet--no palm rest problem. What you have to do to enable finger again is double tap finger on the screen twice to let it know that we want to use finger to navigate now. Then capacitive touch will work as normal. I think it's quite nice idea.

Input devices

Dell Latitude XT - touchpad - trackpad

Dell is kind enough to put both Touchpad - TrackPoint for you to choose what you like best. Touchpad is a regular one; just plain pad with 2 buttons. These 2 buttons are below the palm rest level, which is annoying a bit, but there is no/very minimal click noise from this which is very nice. The sensitivity is nice, no scroll bar as a default like many machine. You, nonetheless, can tweak in Dell TouchPad software for vertical or horizontal scroll bar or even disable the pad and/or any button. It's great to have highly customizable options, but I rather want simpler software which more embedded to the OS than this--that's only my taste though.

Dell Latitude XT -- trackpoint

TrackPoint or PointStick or anything you want to call is likely the be the primary pointing device on business machine with unknown/unclear reason. Probably this market used to have only Thinkpad and they get used to TrackPoint, I guess. It's sort of love or hate stuff. Some people, like me, love to use this; some might want to get rid of it completely. But I got to say that this track stick on Latitude is a shame, required too much pressure, less sensitivity, lack of middle button to scroll, and last but not least 2 buttons aren't not well place. They are almost below the level of palm rest which is not so comfortable using it. Like touchpad, you can disable this if you don't want. You might want to know which one I primarily use on XT. Believe it or not, TrackPoint is still my preference over Touchpad any time. (my finger, touching directly on the screen, rules them all though)

Dell Latitude XT - touchpad Dell Latitude XT - touchpad

One thing I like to comment about this is flat design of these 2 devices. I suspected that this might design to avoid the problem that some people face from Thinkpad Tablet which the screen lid touches TrackPoint causing moving cursor while inking. Although I still haven't faced this issue myself, that should be painful while experiencing that. However, with this design, it might be too expensive trade-off between functionality and possible annoying problem. If I were Dell, I might find the way to disable TrackPoint in tablet mode and make this more usable. That should be hell lot better.

Dell Latitude XT -- KeyboardKeyboard, another important thing for convertible tablet PC, on Dell Latitude XT has a nice feedback, very minimal audible feedback. Although it's far from Thinkpad's level, it's nice enough to touch typing for long article without a problem. Most people may like the fact that Ctrl button is on the left most, unlike Thinkpad which Fn is there. I found using these 2 machines back and forth make me confused and frustrated, not their fault at all :-S For this keyboard layout, PgUp - PgDw are on odd place--next to arrow keys, but very useful. I found myself use it quite a lot. Also, Del, Home, Insert, and End are on the top of backspace which can be complained. I can use all this button w/o seeing it with only a little time practicing. Nevertheless, down side of this keyboard is full of Fn + button. I much prefer to have dedicated buttons for volume control rather than 2 hand-operation for just increasing/decreasing volume.

Array of ports

I like the fact that Dell provides port on the back, esp. Ethernet port, which you rarely find these days. I just think it's much cleaner to plug LAN cable and Power cord on the back and have a clean space around the laptop.

Dell XT - right
Right: Wireless switch, Wi-Fi Catcher switch, USB 2.0, SD card reader, Express Card/54 slot, headphone and microphone jack.

Dell XT - left

Left: N-Trig pen silo, WWAN antenna connector, IEEE1394 4-pin port, USB 2.0, Air vent, and speaker

Dell XT - front

Front: Nothing.

Dell XT - back

Rear: Power jack, VGA port, Gigabit LAN port, and USB 2.0 + power port [as far as I know, it provides 5VDC with enough current to run DVD burner at full-speed, sadly nothing else will work with this special port though]

Dell XT - bottom

Bottom: Expansion port for Media base/Slice Battery

Audio & Speaker

Dell XT - right

Although no one expects portable machine to have a good speaker, it's good to have a nice speaker that's loud enough to work in noisy environment. As usual, bass you won't find here, but I can confirm that mono speaker on Dell Latitude XT is nice and loud both in notebook and tablet mode. Thanks to design team that put the speaker on the side, so it would work well in any situation. By the way, for built-in array microphone, I still am not able to confirm if it's working great or not since I find it too low sensitivity. In other words, I have to yell in front of the screen like insane just to record my voice clearly or on another end will hear me.

Well, this is not the machine of the speed, but I will talk a bit about that in [Dell Latitude XT -- spec - performance](