According to Dell, the Latitude D420 is designed for highly mobile users who value size, weight, battery life and durability over all other aspects of computer use. It's seductively small and light and has the added bonus of an integrated 3G data card, which allows it to get online anywhere with or without a Wi-Fi hotpsot.
The Latitude D420 is attractive for a business laptop. It's not in the same realm as the Sony Vaio TX series, and its ugly gunmetal exterior doesn't do much for it, but its matte-black interior is very easy on the eye. The unit is extremely portable thanks to its 12.1-inch screen and 1.5kg chassis, which is barely noticeable when carried in a briefcase.
Dell has managed to incorporate an almost full-sized keyboard. The Return key is of the standard size and shape; the Tab, Caps Lock and Shift keys are of the right size and the Ctrl key is positioned to the left of the Fn key -- where it should be. As well as the ordinary mouse trackpad, Dell has managed to incorporate a trackpoint mouse 'nipple' between the G and H keys -- complete with corresponding selector buttons below the space bar. The mouse trackpad selector buttons are separated by a fingerprint reader for secure logins.
There's no integrated webcam on the Latitude D420, so you can't make a visual record of meetings. Nor does it have an integrated optical drive, so you'll have to connect the accompanying Media Base for this luxury. To the left of the laptop is a PC Card slot, memory card reader and a couple of audio jacks. You'll find the power button on the right side near the hinge, a single USB port, and a hardware switch for enabling the Wi-Fi adaptor. This doubles as a Wi-Fi sniffer -- seeking out wireless networks whether the laptop is switched on or off.
Dell has chosen to position the majority of the ports to the rear of the laptop. There are three USB ports, one four-pin FireWire port, an infrared port, a D-Sub video port and LAN and modem ports. Having most of the ports at the rear helps to keep everything neat, but you may run into difficulties when using the D420 on small desks when large USB devices stick out at the rear.
The Latitude D420 is one of the first sub-2kg laptops to use an Intel dual-core processor -- most use a Core Solo or single core Pentium M processor. In this case it's the ultra-low voltage (ULV) 1.2GHz Intel U2500 -- the slowest in the mobile dual-core range. This is paired with 1GB of RAM -- an ample amount that shouldn't require users to reboot every few hours or close application windows to free up memory.