If you need a laptop that's able to stand up to more abuse than your average business machine, Dell's semi-rugged Latitude E6410 ATG may appeal. In its base configuration, this 14.1-inch laptop will cost you £1,250. Our configuration packed in a powerful Intel Core i7 processor and touchscreen technology, bringing the total cost to £1,790.
More beast than beauty
Built to the US military's MIL-STD-810G standard, the E6410 is pretty ugly, but that's usually the case when it comes to ruggedised machines. The whole chassis has been reinforced with metal and, as a result, it's quite chunky, measuring 40mm thick. The matte black lid has a textured surface that should help protect against scratches. Most of the ports are covered with flip-down rubber stoppers to help keep dust particles out.
Inside, the laptop looks very similar to other Latitude models, with a matte black finish and small grilles over the speakers that are placed either side of the keyboard. The keyboard uses traditional tapered keys and doesn't include a numerical keypad. But it's very comfortable to use, thanks to its rock-solid build quality and the significant amount of travel in the keys.
As with most of Dell's business machines, the E6410 has both a pointer and a trackpad. The pointer is pleasingly responsive. Although the trackpad is small, its smooth surface feels just right under your finger. But the trackpad buttons are set too far into the chassis for our liking -- your thumb tends to rub against the edge of the laptop when you press them.
It's not just the trackpad and pointer that can be used to control the laptop -- this model has a touchscreen display too. This uses resistive technology, but it's fairly sensitive to touch input, so it's good at registering lighter taps. It doesn't support multi-touch gestures, though, so you can't pinch your fingers together to zoom in on pictures, maps and Web pages.
The screen is LED-backlit, which makes it very bright, and the anti-glare coating helps to cut down on reflections. Its resolution of 1,280x800 pixels isn't exactly amazing, but, as this model is likely to spend a good deal of time outdoors, extra brightness is probably more important than a crisper resolution.
The laptop's connectivity is pretty good, including Wi-Fi and Bluetooth support. You also get four USB ports, both VGA and DisplayPort outputs, a Smart Card reader and a mini-FireWire socket. Storage needs are taken care of by a 250GB hard drive with a free-fall sensor, and there's also a DVD writer.
The E6410 is available in a choice of three different processor configurations. Our model came with the highest-specification CPU -- a dual-core Intel Core i7-620M clocked at 2.66GHz. This is helped along by 4GB of RAM.
Given its meaty specification, we were expecting the E6410 to post a pretty impressive score in the PCMark05 benchmark test. Thankfully, it didn't disappoint, racking up a blistering 8,119 points. You'll have no problem using this machine to multitask, even with the most demanding applications.
Laptops aimed at business users generally rely on integrated graphics and that's the case here -- the E6410 makes do with an integrated Intel HD chip. As you'd expect, this didn't score all that well in the 3DMark06 test. It only managed to push the laptop to a result of 2,055, which means it's not a great machine for 3D business applications, like rendering or CAD applications, but it will deal with most other graphical duties without any problems.
For a laptop that's likely to be used on the go, the E6410's battery performance is disappointing. In the Battery Eater Classic test, it managed to keep running for 1 hour and 31 minutes, which is average for a laptop with a 14-inch screen. That said, the Battery Eater test runs the processor at full tilt to simulate a very heavy workload, so, under real-world conditions, its battery is likely to last significantly longer. If you need longer battery life, you can always go for the optional nine-cell battery, which adds an extra £53 to the price.
The Dell Latitude E6410 ATG is certainly one tough cookie, and it's blisteringly fast performance is also highly impressive. We think it's a good choice if you need a machine that you can use in challenging work environments.
Edited by Charles Kloet