Dell’s AMD-powered Latitude D531 is unlikely to win any awards for its looks. However, it does have a fast dual-core processor, 2GB of memory and a nice display plus Wi-Fi connectivity as standard, making for a versatile business notebook at an affordable price.
The first thing you notice is the 15.4-inch display. On the downside this makes the D531 a little large to carry about, but with an ATI Radeon video controller and a resolution of 1,280 x 800, it’s man enough for most day to day tasks. Moreover, specify a Dell TrueLife display (at a remarkably affordable £13 + VAT) and the resolution rises to an impressive 1,440 x 990 pixels. Either way the end result is a large, bright display plenty big enough for presentations, with a wide viewing angle and sufficient adjustment to deal with a range of lighting conditions.
The keyboard is nice too, with full-size keys, a comfortable action and the usual touchpad pointer. A DVD+/-RW drive is a standard option and despite its relative bulk, we didn’t find the D531 to be overly heavy, making it suitable for regular mobile use as well as desktop PC replacement. Power comes from a 4-cell Lithium-Ion battery enabling us to use the laptop for around 4 hours away from a mains socket.
On the downside, the processor isn’t exactly state of the art. But then performance is all relative these days and the dual core 1.8GHz AMD Turion 64 X2 Mobile employed here is far from slow. A 2GHz version can also be specified for an extra £25 + VAT plus you get 2GB of DDR2 memory and a 120GB SATA disk as standard. A pretty good combination given the price.
Connectivity options abound with a choice of both Gigabit wired and 802.11g wireless Ethernet interfaces. Bluetooth is, similarly, built in along with a FireWire (IEEE 1394) port plus four USB 2.0 connectors to attach external disks, scanners and other devices. And there’s a PC-Card slot to, for example, add a 3G card for totally wireless connectivity.
Windows Vista Business comes pre-installed on this model complete with Aero 3D visual effects. We then installed Office 2007, a SQL Server database and an accounts package, all of which the D531 coped with very well indeed.
OK, it’s no oil painting and the price only includes Dell’s standard one year collect and return warranty, but extended warranties are available. You also get a large padded carry case as part of the package, to help protect what turns out to be a well specified and practical budget business notebook.
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