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Rfrb Dell Latitude D410

In the past months we have looked at several refurbished desktop PCs, and have found that most of the things that people use computers for (with the exception of gaming and video editing) will run just fine on just about any modern business class machine. These refurbished PCs offer basic PC functionality that is "good enough" for most people to use as their primary machine, and even make a great second PC for enthusiasts--and they do so at a relatively low price point. Since so many people are using notebooks nowadays as their primary PCs this got me to wondering if the same findings hold true in the Cheap Laptop market? The laptop we chose for testing is the refurbished Dell Latitude D410 Pentium M 1.73 GHz 12.1-inch Notebook. As usual thanks go to Geeks our main site sponsor for providing us with the laptop featured in today's review.

The Latitude D410 laptop arrived without damage in typical OEM style packaging. The laptop itself was situated in a box inside a box. The larger box was filled with the now common air pillows; in the middle of this was the actual laptop box itself. Inside this box was a cardboard shell backed with foam that the laptop was attached to with a piece of form fitted clear plastic, (which I have removed for photography purposes). On top of that sat a Dell Windows XP Professional SP2 Re-installation CD, as well as a surprisingly small power adapter. Unlike several of the previous items I have reviewed here which cosmetically appeared to be new but were advertised as refurbished the Latitude D410 laptop was most obviously used. Not abused, mind you; everything was intact and there were no deep gouges or broken or missing parts, but there was a few light scratches on the LCD lid and the keyboard was starting to lose its luster in places, as well as the green pointing stick was worn down and almost gone like a well-used pencil eraser. The LCD itself, though, was clean, with no scratches, smudges, or any other signs of wear. Unlike the rest of the laptop it was either new or it had received much more TLC than the rest of the unit.

D410 Bundle

Features/Specifications:

Dell Latitude D410 Pentium M 1.73 GHz 12-inch Notebook

General Features:

Microsoft Windows XP Professional pre-installed w/CoA
Intel Pentium M 1.73 GHz processor
512 MB DDR2 RAM (expandable up to 2 GB)
40 GB hard drive
No Optical drive
No Floppy drive
Integrated video
Integrated audio
Modem
Integrated Ethernet
Keyboard with Touchpad
12.1-inch XGA display

Expansion slots:

One (1) Type I/II PC Card slot

I/O ports:

Four (4) USB ports
One (1) RJ-45 Ethernet port
One (1) RJ-11 modem port
One (1) 15-pin VGA port
Microphone in
Headphone out

Package Includes:

Dell Latitude D410 Pentium M 1.73 GHz 12-inch Notebook
Microsoft Windows XP Professional pre-installed w/CoA
Windows XP Professional Operating System Re-installation CD
Power Adapter (100-120V)
Power cord
Li-ion battery

The Latitude D410 has a height of 1.25", a width of 11", a depth of 9.4", and a weight of 3.8 lbs, making it the smallest laptop I have ever worked with. As a matter of fact, it is less than half the weight of the IBM ThinkPad G40 I was previously using. The frame and LCD cover are a magnesium alloy; while the case shell is plastic, it seems to be quite sturdy and not at all flimsy feeling. Overall I like the looks of this gray and black laptop, especially the black lid latch and the 1/4 black seam below it that wraps the whole of the exterior--resembling pin-striping on a sports car. The magnesium alloy in particular should be quite durable; although, as noted above, mine does have a few scratches on the LCD cover. The LCD hinges are robust and hold the LCD firmly in place dead center like you would expect they should, but don't always do on some other notebooks.

Powering up the Latitude D410 for the first time I noticed that the laptop I was sent exceeded the item advertised specifications in a couple of areas. First, instead of a Intel Pentium M 1.73 GHz processor, the unit I received had a Intel Pentium M 1.86 GHz processor. Second, instead of 512 MB DDR2 RAM, the unit I received shipped with 1 GB DDR2 RAM. Both of these finds were somewhat surprising but not unprecedented: the recently reviewed refurbished EVGA GeForce GTX 260 video card also arrived with better than advertised specs. Of course, you shouldn't expect these sort of free upgrades when purchasing refurbished items, but you should be aware that it COULD happen. The third thing I noticed, which was perhaps more shocking, was that the Latitude D410 wasn't loaded with Crap Ware that most end users are stuck having to fight to remove. In fact, I couldn't find one single piece of it loaded on the hard drive. Kudos go out to Dell for that.

D410 Top     D410 Bottom

Powering off the Latitude D410 I popped the memory compartment on the back of the Latitude D410 to check out the memory configuration. I had expected to find two memory slots, each equipped with a stick of 512 MB DDR2 RAM. It turns out I was wrong on both accounts: there was only one memory slot and it was equipped with a single stick of 1 GB DDR2 RAM. This configuration was unusual enough to me that I went over to the Dell site to see what was up. After pulling up the documentation for the Latitude D410 it turns out that there is in fact the standard two memory slots; one of the slots, however, is on the topside of the laptop. To access it you have to remove the Central Control Cover (trim piece) and take out the keyboard! While I am not an engineer and cannot state the actual laptop design reasoning that led to putting the memory slot behind the keyboard, as a repair technician I can state that this is a terrible location for the second memory slot.

Even though Monster-Hardware normally promotes a hands-on do it yourself mantra when it comes to dealing with your PC—in fact it is one of the main reasons the site exists—in this case, if you are a novice user seeking an easy five minute memory upgrade, I would suggest you consider having someone else upgrade the memory in the Latitude D410 here for you—either an enthusiast or even a professional, since it would be quite easy to break the "Center Control Cover" while removing it to get to the memory slot. I can personally attest that removing the Center Control Cover without breaking it was not something I would want to do everyday. Since I had planned on having a look at the second memory slot I figured that and the fact it was Christmas time was a good excuse to add another stick of 1 GB DDR2 RAM while I had the keyboard out. Despite claims to the contrary as far as I can tell the Latitude D410 doesn't support dual channel memory. This was verified in both the BIOS as well as by running CPU-Z.

The Latitude D410 comes with a 12.1-inch XGA (1024x768) display. This is the much-loved old style 4:3 aspect ratio that you don't see much anymore on modern laptops which I sorely miss. I prefer this to the 16:10 widescreen aspect ratio of which I am not overly fond. Worst of the lot IMO, though, is the 16:9 widescreen ratio which is fine for DVD watching but tends to makes most games and web pages look somewhat funny. Another thing that I like about the Latitude D410 screen is that it doesn't use the popular new glossy finish, but sticks with the tried and true matte finish—something else that unfortunately seems to be on the way out. I was also pleased to note that the Latitude D410 screen didn't have any dead pixels which can be really annoying if you stare at a screen all day as I do. While a larger 14 or 15-inch LCD would have been easier on my middle aged eyes, that is asking a lot for a sub 4-pound laptop that is several years old.

D410 Keyboard     D410 Under Keyboard

As stated earlier the keyboard on the Latitude D410 shows a fair amount of wear, and the green pointing stick in particular is not long for this world. Key stroke travel is also odd and not at all smooth. For instance, the Space Bar, when pushed seems to go down about halfway down and momentarily sticks there before completing its path. This all makes it difficult to assess how much of the problems I had with the keyboard were related to the fact that the keyboard is just plain worn out, and how much is related to poor Dell design. Fortunately after searching eBay this looks like an easy fix as new DELL keyboards for the D410 are widely available for as little as 12 usd, a purchase that I plan on making soon. As to the size of the Dell Latitude D410 keyboard it seems slightly small but don't read too much into that, because with my over-sized hands most laptop keyboards present a challenge for me as my hands are cramped and uncomfortable, and I often strike multiple keys at the same time. My wife, however, didn't have any such issues when touch typing; although, she did remark that the Enter key and Space Bar, while properly positioned, seem somewhat small.

The Latitude D410 comes without an optical drive. To my thinking this is a big negative; although I appreciate that some people might like the weight reduction, I just lament the loss of functionality. This got me to thinking about adding an external DVD. While it is not something I would use every time I used the laptop, still it would be there when I needed it. This started me looking on the back and sides of the Latitude D410 to see how many USB ports there were. If I was going to be using one on a external DVD I wanted to make sure there were at least a couple more. At first glance I saw four USB ports just like the above specs state, but on further inspection one of those four USB ports was not a USB port at all. This ended with me doing a little research and discovering that DELL had planned for many of its users wanting to add a external DVD. One of the several ways to do that is by using a DELL D/BAY (not included). It is an external drive housing equipped with two plugs—one goes into the USB port over the the not-USB port. The not-USB port is really a proprietary power connector for the external drive. I will leave you to quibble about what this means about the number of USB ports the Latitude D410 comes with. Is it 4 is it 3?, or is it umm, 3 1/2 USB ports?

D410 Left     D410 Right

If you are not satisfied with an external DVD messing with the Feng Shui of your laptop, Dell has another solution: they call it a Media Base. Most of the rest of the world, though, knows it as a Docking Station. The Media Base (Docking Station) is a one piece unit that plugs into the Latitude D410 via a proprietary connector on the bottom of the laptop. Along with the various assorted rear connecters (10/100 Ethernet Port, Phone Jack, 2 x USB 2.0 Ports, PS/2 Port, Parallel Port, SVGA Port, Serial Port, Headphone Jack, Power Connector, Security Lock Slot) you can add a DVD ROM/CDRW to the base. For those of you concerned with the extra power drain, the Media Base also has a slot for a second battery. The two downsides I see with this option are that the added weight and the added height of the base seemed to make extended periods of typing somewhat awkward—more like my 25 year old Smith Corona typewriter than a modern laptop.

The Latitude D410 comes standard with a 6-cell 53 WHr Lithium-Ion battery. For those needing longer battery life the Latitude D410 can be equipped with a optional 9-cell 80 WHr Lithium-Ion battery. The battery in the Latitude D410 is positioned somewhat peculiarly in the front of the laptop, and there seemed to be a very faint warmth radiating from the palm rest area of the keyboard. The other areas of the laptop are a different story as there is substantial heat radiating from the rear and left side of the notebook and I wouldn't want it on my lap, especially if the Latitude D410 was being driven hard. Although I didn't have the opportunity to personally test the optional 9-cell 80 WHr battery, judging from the pictures it doesn't sit flush and looks to form sort of a crude protruded wrist rest at the front of the laptop. With the standard 6-cell 53 WHr battery, Wi-FI disabled and using the default Windows XP Portable/Laptop power scheme run time was approximately 2 hours 35 minutes. This was while web browsing, word processing, downloading some files, playing some Solitaire, and a brief run of Disk Defragmenter. While the battery life numbers on the Latitude D410 may seem a little underwhelming for a laptop with a 12.1 LCD, do keep in mind that this is a refurbished laptop that only reads a 90% battery charge in the BIOS after several days of being plugged into the wall. Speaking of being plugged in, the Latitude D410 comes with a feature Dell bills as ExpressCharge which recharges your battery to 80% in just one hour and to 100% in two hours.

D410 Rear

The speaker(s) on the Latitude D410 are something of a mixed bag. On the one hand, there is only one of them so that means all your audio from watching movies to listening to music will be in mono instead of stereo—obviously a less than ideal setup. On the plus side this is the first laptop I have ever used that during usage I actually had to turn down the volume instead of struggling to hear things over the ambient noise. Maybe this was because the lone speaker is located on topside of the laptop just above the keyboard. My suggestion is that if you are an audiophile or if stereo sound is important to that you make use of the headphone jack. Since we are talking about sound I guess I should say something about the noise level produced by the Latitude D410. I judge it to be pretty quiet, not dead silent like some of the notebooks (& netbooks) I have seen but it is much quieter than my IBM ThinkPad G40. If you are not extremely sensitive to fan noise you will do fine with the Latitude D410.

The Latitude D410 I received came with 802.11b/g Intel ProWireless 2200. The network access icon in the system tray looks to be the generic Intel configuration utility. There is a LED indicator for the wireless connection with the other notebook LEDs but no on/off switch. Instead you will have to settle for toggling the Wi-Fi on or off by using the Fn + F2 key combination. Although I still use a wired network connection before disabling Wi-Fi I did notice that signal strength doesn't seem to be an issue with the Latitude D410 because as I type the Latitude D410 "sees" eight networks, five at full strength, and three of them appear to be open, tsk tsk.

Conclusion:

Several years ago when new the Latitude D410 sold for north of 2,000 usd, definitely not the sandbox I play in; the same unit refurbished we tested sells for a tenth of that. As such I am willing to overlook some slight cosmetic issues, as well as a keyboard that probably should have been replaced, I also miss the fact that the Latitude D410 doesn't have an optical drive (although there are several options to remedy this). I would guess this was done to preserve the laptops sub 4-lbs weight. Having said all that, I really liked the Latitude D410. Laptops that offer good performance and use the 4:3 aspect ratio are getting hard to find. To round things out I just ordered a new Dell keyboard, a Media Base (Docking Station), an finally an additional 1 GB DDR2 RAM. I got all this for less than 75 usd at eBay. With these items I expect the Dell Latitude D410 to become my main laptop. Even without the additional items I ordered, you would be hard pressed to find this level of functionality in a laptop at this price point.

Pros:

  • Inexpensive
  • Clean LCD (no dead pixels)
  • Lightweight (3.8 lbs)
  • Windows XP Pro (includes recovery disc)
  • Decent battery life
  • No Crap Ware found on drive

Cons: 

  • No Optical drive
  • Keyboard on last legs
  • Slight cosmetic issues
  • Battery doesn't hold full charge

I would like to thank Geeks for providing us with the refurbished Dell Latitude D410 for review. This item can be purchased at Geeks for 199 usd.

Geeks

Added: February 8th 2010
Reviewer: JimAdkins
Score: 8  
Related Link: Dell
Hits: 6386
Language: english

  

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