When we purchased my machine, Dell was having a sale which involved a $350 instant rebate on all Latitudes, sweetening the deal some more. I configured the machine on the Dell Small Busines website. Almost every component of the machine was highly configurable, something that IBM/Lenovo and HP could learn from, and the online shopping experience was, overall, very pleasant. After having pulled the trigger, I realized that I did not select the option for the Bluetooth card. I called up Dell Small Business and asked them to add the card. It was too late to modify my original order but the associate was very helpful. Though the sale price was no longer in effect for the new order, she let me add the discount retroactively. The wait times to speak to an agent were negligible (definitely not the case with my past experiences with Dell Home) and the agent herself was polite and helpful. The total price for my Dell Latitude D820 (after adding the Bluetooth card) came to $1496.25, which I felt was a good deal, especially since the Latitude line rarely goes on sale.
When I first uncased the D820 from its Styrofoam packaging, I was impressed by the solidness of its build. It felt sturdy and the laptop casing didn’t flex when handled. The case is billed as being magnesium alloy and most of the notebook’s body looks as if it is. The laptop was about as thin as I expected but it was a bit heavier than I thought it would be. It’s not an uncomfortable heft but one that implies a certain quality of build. At first glance, the notebook is not awe-inspiring but it is pleasing to the eye with an understated charcoal gray finish. At first blush, a tastefully styled (though by no means beautiful) and well-built notebook. Also included in the packaging were the user manual, software and OS CDs, and the AC power adapter.
Build & Design
The D820 has a magnesium alloy body that is supposed to protect the laptop from flexing and the wear-and-tear of corporate travel and use. The whole underside and lid of the laptop feel like metal but, unfortunately, the wrist rests are plastic. Thus, there is some amount of flex when handling that area but by no means is the amount of flex disturbing. The rest of the notebook, however, is very rigid.
The screen is most likely the Achilles heel of the D820, if it has one. The screen is 15.4″ diagonal and is matte, not glossy. The trend in most consumer notebooks is towards the glossy screens which feature vivid colors and higher brightness for the benefit of gaming, movie-watching, and photo-viewing. Most business machines, however, still come with the old-style matte screens which are more suited for office rather than multimedia tasks. Unfortunately, the D820’s matte screen is not very bright and the higher brightness settings drain the battery quickly. A cool feature is the automatic light-sensor which adjusts screen brightness based on ambient light conditions. This is useful when running on battery power or when using the notebook in different settings but I ended up turning this feature off because it oftentimes results in an unacceptably dim screen.
My D820 came with the WSXGA+ (1680×1050) screen. The other options were the base WXGA+ (1280×800) screen and the ultra-high resolution WUXGA (1900×1200). I am used to the WSXGA+ resolution on my Dell monitor and I chose it because I thought it was a good balance between screen real estate and legibility of fonts and icons. I could have gone with the highest resolution option and increased the Windows DPI and font sizes (indeed the WSXGA+ and WUXGA models ship with 120 DPI setting out of the box) but browsers and other applications do not always adhere to Windows settings. I changed the 120DPI setting to 96DPI because it made Windows fonts too large and screwed up graphics on web pages. I think I made the right choice here because the WUXGA display would have yielded fonts and icons too small for even my young eyes.
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