Friday, July 1, 2011

Dell Latitude E6420 ATG

The Dell Latitude E6420 ATG is one of the most well-balanced notebooks we've seen in the semi-rugged class of business notebooks. The system is a bit pricey, however, and suffers in screen resolution options and ease of upgrades. It is also heavy, weighing in at about seven pounds.

If you like the current lineup of Dell business laptops but need something more rugged for use and abuse at work, then Dell's new Latitude E6420 ATG might be the perfect notebook for you. Keep reading to find out more about this semi-rugged laptop. The system is a bit pricey, however, and screen resolution options are limited.

Our Dell Latitude E6420 ATG Specifications:
  • 14.0-inch LED-backlit 1366x768 Anti-Glare Display
  • Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
  • Intel Core i7-2620M processor (2.70GHz, 4MB cache)
  • Intel HD Graphics 3000
  • 4GB DDR3 1333MHz RAM
  • 128GB mobility solid state drive (Samsung PM810)
  • Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6205 802.11a/b/g/n Half Mini Card
  • Dell Wireless 375 Bluetooth Module
  • 8X DVD+/-RW drive with Roxio and Cyberlink Power DVD
  • 9-cell Li-ion battery (97Wh) and 90W AC adapter
  • 3-Year Basic Hardware Service with 3-Year NBD Limited Onsite Service After Remote Diagnosis
  • Weight: 7.06lbs with 9-cell battery and optical drive (5.95lbs advertised starting weight with 6-cell battery and airbay)
  • Dimensions (with 9-cell battery): 14.08 x 10.4 x 1.2-1.5-inches
  • MSRP as configured: $3,037.00
Build and Design
The Dell Latitude E6420 ATG represents a fundamental shift in the way that Dell handles its semi-rugged business notebooks. The old ATG models were essentially nothing more than standard Dell Latitude notebooks with a different lid along with a few other bits and MIL SPEC tests. The E6420 ATG on the other hand features a completely unique chassis design made from generous amounts of magnesium alloy, rubber gaskets covering the data ports and a spill-proof backlit keyboard with drain hole. The E6420 ATG is the first Dell ATG model to meet or exceed MIL-STD-810G and IP5x standards for vibration, humidity, altitude, dust, shock, high temperature and low temperature. In short, the E6420 ATG semi-rugged notebook is a serious step up from those older models that were largely just glorified business notebooks.

Opening the lid on the E6420 ATG reveals the matte black and silver metal top plate and durable spill-resistant keyboard with LED backlighting. Dell decided to trim the keyboard with an orange stripe both for asthetics and to help make the keyboard stand out under low light. The keyboard keys are covered in a rubberized paint to help them stand up to more use and abuse in the field. It's also worth mentioning that this is the first ATG-series notebook to feature an optional carrying handle which bolts onto the front edge of the notebook beneath the touchpad. Who needs a laptop bag when you've got a a notebook that looks and feels like a brick of magnesium?

The chassis of the Latitude E6420 ATG feels extremely well built and resists flexing in the usual spots when you apply pressure. I did notice a bit of flex under the right palm rest, but that is expected since the optical drive bay is located directly under this area. With the notebook closed, the screen cover gives above-average protection for the screen and should prevent any keyboard key marks from imprinting on the LCD even if a small child happens to step on the screen lid. To that end, a lightweight adult could probably stand on this notebook without causing any damage (though I do NOT recommend it). With the notebook open I was unable to produce any ripples or distortions on the display even when "punching" the back of the screen. Again, who needs a laptop bag?

Users looking to upgrade parts or IT staff looking to replacing components will find the Latitude E6420 ATG is a bit of a mixed bag in terms of service. The only easily accessible expansion options are the modular drive bay (more on that later) and the hard drive bay. You can remove the hard drive (or SSD) by removing four screws on the bottom of the notebook and pulling the drive out the side. If you want to upgrade the RAM or the wireless cards, you will have to remove the entire base cover from the notebook by removing seven screws along with the port covers which are also secured by six additional screws. My advice is to configure the notebook the way you want it at the time of purchase unless you want to spend a lot of time with a screwdriver.

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