The D520 is the latest member of Dell's Latitude laptop line to benefit from a tune-up. Following in the footsteps of the thin-and-light D620 and the midsize D820, the D520 now features an Intel Core Duo processor and a slightly enhanced case design. With these changes, the D520 has delivered faster mobile performance and markedly better battery life than its predecessor.
Unfortunately, the system retains its 15-inch standard aspect display -- a dying breed among laptops (most of today's portables have wide-aspect screens, which we prefer). Still, with a starting price of £938 direct from Dell's site, the Latitude D520 marks a respectable step up for the D500 series and a smart choice for business and home users seeking a well-balanced laptop.
The Latitude D520 weighs 2.8kg and measures 338mm wide, 272mm deep, and 36mm thick. Another business system with a 15-inch standard-aspect screen, the Toshiba Tecra S3, has similar dimensions to the D520's, while the 15.4-inch wide screen on the Lenovo 3000 N100 makes it more broad than the Dell and the Toshiba. However, all three weigh within a few dozen grams of each other. The Latitude D520's average-size AC adaptor tips the scales at 360g. The total package is heavy, but not unreasonable, for regular travel.
The main design differences between the Latitudes D510 and D520 lie in their colouring (the D510 is silver all over) and the D520's lack of a parallel port. Otherwise, they're nearly identical. The D520 offers a spacious, spill-resistant keyboard, as well as a large touch pad and mouse buttons, all of which are quite comfortable to use. The system's crisp, bright 15-inch screen features a typical 1,024x768 native resolution that's too low to render graphics in fine detail but makes text big and readable.
Anchoring the display to the laptop's base are strong steel hinges, and the base itself contains a sturdy magnesium-alloy frame. Finally, the two speakers along the front edge emit adequate sound for a business laptop. While this design will suffice for an average employee's basic tasks, the D520 is entirely devoid of bells and whistles, such as biometric security (a fingerprint sensor) and dedicated volume controls, found on the D620 and D820, not to mention the Lenovo 3000 N100 and the Toshiba Tecra S3.
The Latitude D520 doesn't supply an overabundance of ports, jacks or slots, but its offerings cover all of the standard bases. The laptop includes headphone, microphone, 56Kbps modem and Ethernet jacks, FireWire, infrared, S-Video out, VGA and four USB 2.0 ports, and a legacy serial port to accommodate old peripherals. The D520's single Type II PC Card slot supports the Express Card/34 standard as well. This selection is about the same as the Lenovo 3000 N100's and the Toshiba Tecra S3's, though both of those models include a flash media card reader, which the Dell lacks.
The D520 also omits the WWAN and Trusted Platform Module chip offered on the D620 and the D820, though it does include the same hard drive shock-protection capabilities found on the other Latitudes. In terms of software, the Latitude D520 comes with the typically limited bundle of the average business system: Windows XP Professional operating system (Home edition is not an option on Dell's site), plus a handful of utilities and disc-burning programs.
Our Latitude D520 evaluation unit wasn't brimming with spectacular components, but its base £938 price was reasonable. The system carried a 1.66GHz Intel Core Duo T2300 processor, an integrated Intel 950 graphics engine, 512MB of quick 533MHz memory, a small 40GB hard drive rotating at an average 5,400rpm, and a standard DVD/CD-RW drive. The Toshiba Tecra S3 costs about the same for a prior-generation Pentium M processor and less memory (though we should note that it also ships with a discrete Nvidia GeForce Go 6600 graphics card). At even less, a similarly configured Lenovo 3000 N100 stands as an exceptionally good hardware deal.