Tablet PC as a platform has never really caught the imagination as much as Microsoft imagined it would. The result being that it is seen as a niche product selling predominantly to business users.
Dell's entry into this market should raise the profile of the platform but the Latitude XT is aimed firmly at the core market. So, you won't find anything too unusual on offer but at least it feels as though Dell has worked hard to create a well balanced machine.
Weighing 1.6kg, it's an incredibly light notebook to carry around. What's more, the light weight means you can hold this tablet in the crook of your arm and write on the screen without it being an obvious burden.
We were impressed with the build quality, as the XT feels solid in the hand and it will certainly withstand the odd knock or drop.
The design follows the popular clamshell design, so you can use the XT as a standard notebook for most occasions, switching to tablet mode only when you need to write directly on the screen.
The design allows for a nicely sized keyboard that we found a pleasure to use. With a touchpad as well as trackpad you can navigate on screen in whichever mode you prefer.
To help keep the weight to a minimum, you'll find a 12.1-inch screen in place. Instead of being a resistive screen, this is a capacitive display, which means that instead of having to use a digitised pen to activate the screen, this panel is touch-sensitive, and so you can write on it with any available stylus – even your fingertip.
There are obvious benefits to this technology, it's slightly cheaper to implement, but more importantly, it means there isn't as heavy a haze to the screen, so looks more like a standard notebook screen that a digitised tablet. The screen has a more than acceptable 1280 x 800 pixel resolution and is one of the most usable tablet screens we've seen.
When using the XT in slate mode – with the screen folded back over the keyboard – there are four function buttons that allow you to rotate the screen or launch your favourite applications. You'll also find a biometric fingerprint scanner embedded in the bezel, so you can instantly log into your account.
When it comes to performance, this unit is powered by an Intel 1.2GHz Core 2 Duo U7600 and backed by 2048MB of memory. This is an ultra-low voltage chip, designed with battery life instead of raw processing power in mind. To this end, we found that while performance was fine for data entry and for use as a word processor, you won't really be able to multitask on this system.
When it came to battery life, we were more than satisfied, as we got close to 4 hours from the system. The small size means compromises had to be made. For instance, there isn't an optical drive fitted but it comes with a docking station that houses a DVD rewriter, as well as a host of extra ports. On the unit itself, you'll find 802.1n Wi-Fi and Gigabit Ethernet at the latest high-end speeds.
The Dell Latitude XT isn't going to replace your current notebook as it lacks real power. However, if you have specific need for a Tablet PC, this is one of the most cost-effective and easy to use devices we've used for some time, making it a highly recommended choice.