- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 18, 2002

Dell Computer Corp., which is duking it out with the combined HP/Compaq colossus for top seller of personal computers, has thrown down a challenge to the entire computer industry with its new Latitude X200. It's an $1,800 ultraportable that deserves serious consideration by users who spend time on the road or, for that matter, wandering an office complex going from meeting to meeting.
Sporting a 12.1-inch LCD screen, a full-featured keyboard that isn't too cramping for a ham-handed typist and a host of features that a mobile user will appreciate, the X200 will draw a lot of attention when you use it, as I discovered recently.
This is, really, a "presenter's machine," by which I would suggest it will likely find a home with mobile workers who have to make a lot of presentations. Detached from the optional media base, the X200 is eight-tenths of an inch thick and weighs 2.8 pounds. Compared with the five-, six- and eight-pound wonders I've had to carry, taking the computer to a lecture at World Magazine's journalism institute recently was a breeze.
The main unit features a VGA-out port on the right hand side, making it super-easy to connect the device to a projector. A press of the Function-F8 combination shared the images on the display with the projector, and I was off and running with my presentation. Had I needed to add a DVD-ROM or CD item to my talk, the media base, which includes a CD-RW/DVD-ROM drive as an option, would have added only about 2 pounds to the weight. In fact, I could easily imagine a traveling speaker taking the full unit on the road, peeling off the media base when presenting, and then plugging it back in to watch a DVD movie after a hard day's work.
The X200 is one of those systems that will likely offer little trouble to most users, thanks to the presence of Microsoft's Windows XP Professional operating system and a built-in 802.11b wireless networking card. The former, of course, is the latest revision of Windows, and it provides a stable operating environment and plenty of helpful features to make using a computer less of a hassle. It can be easily configured to meet various needs, supports the Universal System Bus, or USB, interfaces very nicely and can also recognize many "plug and play" items a user might connect, such as digital cameras. Once that recognition takes place, Windows XP can bring in the photos or other external items for storage and manipulation on the computer.
It's also worth noting that both the main computer and the media bay sport "FireWire" ports (also known as IEEE 1394 ports), which allow fast transfer of digital photos and video from devices equipped with FireWire connectors. The X20O's 30-gigabyte hard drive should satisfy most user needs.
Intel's 800 MHz mobile Pentium III CPU and 256 MB of RAM seemed sufficient for the tasks I employed while testing it; buyers will probably find that amount of RAM satisfactory, although boosting the memory to 512 MB would seem a very prudent step.
Documentation for the X200 and its components is extensive, and Dell offers a range of technical support options that should satisfy even the most finicky of users. I've talked with users who have sung Dell's praises and those who were less-than-satisfied with the firm's performance. But the fact that Dell is close to the top of the PC business in sales volume speaks well of the firm. In my testing, the X200 performed very well, and with few hassles that could be directly ascribed to the machine.
That said, prospective buyers will be in for a bit of a shock: Using the "configurator" on the Dell Web site (www.dell.com), adding the media base, a copy of Microsoft Office XP, a CD-RW drive and enough RAM to reach the 256 MB of my test unit brought the total price to just under $2,700, or $900 more than the base computer's list price of $1,800. That means this notebook will ultimately serve not only the mobile presenter, but also the well-heeled one as well. A user could start out with the main computer and add the media base later or just buy a CD-ROM drive and connect that separately, saving some money.
While it's a shame that all this power has a high price tag, the good news is that for those who can afford it or need it the Dell Latitude X200 lives up to its billing as an ultramobile computer with elegance and high performance.

Write to: Mark Kellner c/o The Washington Times, Business Desk, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002. Send e-mail to MarkKel@aol.com, or visit the writer's Web page, www.kellner2000.com. Talk back to Mark live every Friday from 5 to 6 p.m. EST. on www.adrenalineradio.com.

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