Quick Review of my New Latitude XT2 with Windows 7 Beta

Update: I recently purchased an Intel X-18M second generation solid state drive, and it has made a huge difference. Read more about it here.

I took advantage of the deal I mentioned in my last post and picked up a Dell Latitude XT2 Tablet PC. I have always liked Tablets, ever since I began programing an e-Textbook program on an HP TC1000, which was a great tablet but a bit small and slow. Last year I took advantage of a similar deal to purchase a Latitude XT, but it was quickly annexed by my significant other, which left me using my old Fujitsu s2110, which wasn’t the fasted machine when I bought it 3.5 years ago, though still a great laptop.

Fast forward to today – I now have a Latitude XT2 with Windows 7 Beta installed. The Latitude XT line is one of only two Tablet PC models that have a multi-touch capacitive screen, which Microsoft is integrating tightly into Windows 7. You can have a look at a demo here (notice that they use a Latitude XT). In this review, I will be analyzing my new Latitude XT2 and comparing it with the Latitude XT to determine if it is worth the upgrade. Keep reading for benchmarks, pictures, and thoughts on both the machine and Windows 7.

img_2967

Specs

Here are the specs:

  • 12.1 inch, WXGA LED display
  • Intel Core 2 Duo Processor SU9400 (1.40GHz, 3M L2 Cache, 800MHz FSB)
  • 120 GB SATA Hard Drive (5400 RPM)
  • Mobile Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 4500MHD
  • 3 GB DDR3 SDRAM 1066MHz (2 DIMMs)
  • Intel WiFi Link 5300 802.11a/g/n Draft Mini Card
  • Dell Wireless 365 Bluetooth Module
  • 6 Cell Primary Battery
  • Fingerprint reader
  • Windoes 7 Beta (came with Vista Ultimate)
  • Weight: 3.78 lbs

I ordered refurbished, and my computer didn’t come with an external DVD-ROM drive. As I already have a rarely used external DVD-RW drive from my XT, I wasn’t too concerned. I was a little disappointed not to even receive a restore disk (the restoration information is a 2GB partition), but as I’m moving on to Windows 7 anyway, it didn’t bother me too much.

What came in my box

What came in my box

Overview and Body

I used Vista for a few days before installing Windows 7 instead. Vista SP2 isn’t really that bad, but Windows 7 is more lightweight and battery friendly, two things I have noticed since the trasition. While using the beta, I had occassional issues with the mouse pointer and aero graphics, which I’m assuming are an issue with the Vista driver on Windows 7. Since installing the Release Candidate, I have seen those issues.

The feel of the XT2 is quite nice. It is very light, even lighter than the XT. It feels quite solid as well – I would have preferred aluminum, but the magnesium composite is fine. The dimentions are almost the same as the XT, though there is an overhang at the top of the screen which makes it easier to open. Unfortunately, there are only 3 quick access buttons on the XT2, as opposed to 4 on the XT.

img_2913 Comparisons between the XT and XT2. As you can see, they are almost the exact same size.
Comparisons between the XT and XT2. As you can see, they are almost the exact same size.

I purchased the LED screen rather than the daylight view, and I’m quite happy with it. The screen is bright and vibrant, and viewing angles are quite good. The selection of ports is very nice, with the following:

  • 1 Standard USB
  • 1 Powered USB
  • 1 USB/eSATA
  • 1 4-pin Firewire 400
  • Gigabit ethernet (10/100/1000)
  • SD card reader
  • Expresscard 54mm
  • Headphone & microphone jacks
  • VGA out

Certainly a respectable number of ports. Once prices come down, I may purchase an Expresscard SSD and run my main hard drive off of that.

Noise, Heat, and Battery Life

My Latitude XT2 exhibits a slight hum when operating. It isn’t really noticable in an office or home with background noise, but in a quiet room it certainly can be heard. I’ve identified the hard drive as the culprit, but for now, it isn’t problematic enough for me to send in. I’ve also noticed the occasional high-pitched noise when on battery power, though this is a known Intel problem.

The fan rarely comes on, and when it does it is very quiet. The XT2 can get a little warm underneath, but nothing that you can cook an egg on.

I haven’t done a strict test of battery life, but I got just over 3 hours with regular use (documents, web browsing) on Vista on 50% brightness. Since moving to Windows 7, I can get about 3.5 hours with typical use at 50% brightness. 50% brightness is still perfectly usable – in fact, I usually only operate at about 70% brightness even on AC power.

Tablet Operation

The Latitude XT2 is a joy to use as a tablet. The capacitive touchscreen is very finger friendly, and Windows 7 gestures work well. The pen is easy to grab and quite accurate. I have noticed one area at the bottom of the screen where the pen occasionally skips, but it isn’t enough of a problem to send in. I wish the XT2 had 4 shortcut buttons rather than 3 (a strange change from the XT), but it isn’t a huge concern.

Benchmarks

The Latitude XT was often cited as being too slow, thanks to the ULV Intel processor and PATA hard drive. My XT has a 1200 MHz Core 2 Duo and 5400 RPM hard drive, but even with those, I found it to be a little slower than I’d like, though still quite usable.

Thankfully, the Latitude XT2 is a step up in speed. With the new Centrino 2 chipset, 1400 MHz Core 2 Duo processor, DDR3 RAM, and a 5400 RPM SATA hard drive, I’ve found the XT2 to be noticeably faster than the XT. I’ve run several benchmarks that seem to confirm the XT2’s superiority in just about every area.

Windows Experience Index

WEI is not the best measure of performance, but it is a good starting point.

WEI scores: Processor - 4.4, Memory - 4.9, Graphics - 3.2, Gaming - 4.9, Hard Disk - 4.6

WEI scores: Processor - 4.4, Memory - 4.9, Graphics - 3.2, Gaming - 4.9, Hard Disk - 4.6

I was suprised at first to find that graphics and gaming graphics had such a disparity, but a quick Google search showed that this could be a bug with Windows. I never meant for the XT2 to be my primary gaming machine (I have a desktop for that), but I’m quite pleased with the scores I recieved. The RAM score of 4.9 is excellent, and the main difference between the XT2 and the XT (which had a 4.1).

PC Mark 05

PC Mark is a staple of computer benchmarking, and I took the XT for a spin, with the following results:

3090 PCMarks

3090 PCMarks

Not an amazing score, but certainly respectable. The Latitude XT scored 2,692, about 400 points less than the XT2.

3D Mark 06

Another benchmarking staple, I hoped to get more information about the differing WEI graphics scores from this test.

614 3DMarks

614 3DMarks

614 3DMarks is hardly groundbreaking, but following the pattern it is an improvement over the Latitude XT’s score of 445. As this is a new chipset, the graphics performance will hopefully improve with new drivers. Still, Aero is fine, and as I’m not doing serious gaming on this machine, I’m happy with the scores. I was able to play .h264 720p video using VLC without a problem.

HD Tune

Rates (in MB/sec): Min - 13.1, Max - 41.3, Ave - 31.9, Burst - 70.7, Access Time - 21.3ms

Rates (in MB/sec): Min - 13.1, Max - 41.3, Ave - 31.9, Burst - 70.7, Access Time - 21.3ms

Decent scores, and an improvement over the Latitude XT’s scores, particularly in burst (51.8) and Max Rate (36.7).

Super Pi

Two million calculations took 1 minute and 16 seconds, which is a huge improvement over the Latitude XT’s 1 minute and 47 seconds, and puts the XT2 in company with the 1.6 GHz Core 2 Duo processor on the Lenovo ThinkPad X61.

Final Thoughts

The Latitude XT2 doesn’t blow the XT out of the water, but it improves on it in almost every area, and is noticably faster. With a refurbished XT2 going for $300 more than a similary speced Latitude XT however, it could be a tough call. For me, personally, I think the added speed was worth it, but either one is a great machine.

  • http://none ben

    Hie

    Do you have try a higher definition than .h264 720p like 1080p… because I look for a lightweight tablet able to deal with 1080p.

    In my reading two fact comes up :
    – for 1080p you need a 2Ghz processor
    – Windows 7 had hardware (GPU) video acceleration

  • Josh

    I just tested a 1080p video encoded with WMV3 and another with .h264. Both worked fine at full screen on the tablet (although that is only 1280×800). It seems that the new integrated Intel graphics can handle it.

  • Tam Vu

    You need the right codec for 1080p; not the CPU. I had 1080p worked fine via 54Mbps wifi network with my HP 2710p that has a U7500 1.06Ghz; The codec is CoreAVC.

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  • Vida

    Does the multi-touch screen work when you play a video? I tried to play a .avi and a .mov file formatted type of video, but when i tried to resize and move the window by touching the screen, the video didn’t resize nor moved. Would you know what type of video files would function well with the multi-touch feature of the Dell XT2?

  • http://www.joshuamorse.com Josh

    I’m not aware of any video players that take advantage of the multi-touch aspect of the screen for resizing. I think you are stuck using the standard windows controls (press and drag a corner or use the maximize button) to resize it.

  • http://www.widgetsandgadgets.com Latest gadgets

    I never thought this laptop could be of good performance with windows 7…