Pros: Numerous communication ports, well-built, does not overheat easily compared to other laptops.
Cons: Somewhat heavy, no LPT port
Simply put some laptop computers should be given medals for their unwavering performance. The Dell Latitude D830 laptop is one such candidate for this medal of honor. I cannot count the number of business meetings where the only computer that could get a good 802.11b WIFI signal was this system. Modern laptops are highly configurable devices that can sometimes perform more tasks than a traditional desktop system. As you read this review, keep this in mind and try to purchase yourself a laptop that suits the needs of your computing lifestyle.
Our IT workhorse laptop is configured as follows:
Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, 2.00Ghz
2.0Gb, DDR2-667 SDRAM, 2 DIMMs
Mobile Intel GMA X3100 graphics accelerator
Windows XP Professional, SP2 installed
The laptop weighs about 6 lbs and measures 1.4” x 10.4” x 14.25”. You would not want to carry this laptop through a busy airport terminal without a case because it can get quite heavy on the run due to its dimensions and weight.
The back side of the laptop has several ports for you to maintain a connected lifestyle. USB, RS-232, VGA, SVideo, RJ-45, modem and power ports all reside on the back of the laptop. A cool feature that I am guilty of using is the SATA port. I use this to get old SATA drives on the network to back up their files.
The left side of the laptop features a 1394 port (Firewire), stereo headphone jack, microphone jack and two expansion slots.
The right side of the laptop is where the DVD drive is located. Two USB 2.0 ports are also located on this side.
First and foremost, you need to know that this laptop does not have an LPT port which means you may be forced to get a new printer or host it on another machine in your network if you wish to continue use.
The memory can be increased to a maximum of 4Gb of DDR2 RAM with a minimum of 512Mb required to operate the laptop. The system uses SODIMM sockets and operates at 533 or 667Mhz depending on the Intel processor you choose.
The motherboard in the Dell Latitude D830 does a great job of reducing power consumption while the laptop is idle. To monitor this behavior, I used the CPU-Z V1.51 monitoring utility. I can get a clear read out of all the voltages and bus speeds of the Intel T7300 cpu using this free software package.
The processor, the main power draw of a laptop, is throttled back using two distinct methods: core voltage reduction and multiplier down clocking. When the system is idle, the core voltage of the processor can get as low as 1.013 VDC. At full load the core voltage spikes to as high as 1.364 VDC. The multiplier speed is also adjusted dynamically based on cpu usage. When idle, I saw a reading as low as 6x which equates to 1200Mhz. At higher loads, the system returns to its full speed of 10x which equates to 2000Mhz. I feel it is important to cover this before discussing the power consumption of a laptop because the battery life can vary greatly depending on how you use the laptop. For example, if you only used the laptop to write product reviews in Microsoft Word 2007 then you can expect a battery life of over 6 hours. On the other hand, if you were watching a DVD, then the system will run a peak output and consume the battery at an accelerated rate, giving you a life span of just a few hours.
My system came configured with one external power supply that I really enjoy. The cord is long enough to reach many places in my large office at work. Sometimes I can even get the cord to reach the server racks.
I plugged a Kill A Watt P4400 meter into the Dell DF266 power supply get these results:
Plugged in but not connected to the laptop, the Dell DF266 pulls 1 watt.
Charging the Dell DF192 Li-ion rechargeable battery with the laptop powered off, the AC adapter pulled a peak of 71 watts. After 103 minutes the battery was fully charged and took a total of .07 kwh.
Being able to put out a peak power of 71 watts without over heating is sign that this is one very efficient power supply. A good design means your laptop computer is protected from power surges. To illustrate put your hand on a fluorescent bulb, the bulb is hot even though it only pulls 10 watts to put out the light. However the charger is only luke warm at full operation, to you this means the charger consumes less than 5 watts as thermal waste which in turns shows that the laptop is receiving more than 90% of the power consumed from the wall. Most computer power supplies can only achieve 70%.
To give you an idea of the performance of the Intel Core 2 Duo T7300 processor in this notebook, I used three different benchmarks: Super Pi, BOINC Manager and MCS 2008 CPU benchmark. Each of these benchmarks stresses unique aspects of the processor and are heavily dependent on the supporting hardware around the processor like the memory, hard drive and motherboard chipset. The system the benchmark testing was performed on was a Dell Latitude D830 with two sticks of PC2-5300 (333Mhz) memory operating in dual channel mode at a dram frequency of 333Mhz. The Dell laptop utilizes the Intel GM965 chipset as its northbridge. If you wish to achieve similar results in a similar laptop please make sure you have two sticks of DDR2 ram onboard.
Super Pi V1.1 is an application that extrapolates the specified digits of PI into a text file. Since the task is both processor and file system intensive it can give you an idea of how fast your cpu is. Processors with large on-die cache sizes and high bus speeds tend to do better in this benchmark. The problem is the calculation is single threaded in this version so you only see the performance of one processor.
Here are the results of three runs to 1,000,000 digits on the Intel GM965 chipset laptop:
The Boinc Manager benchmark is designed to stress every available thread on your computer to see how many computations per second it can perform. With the results, the Boinc Manager automatically assigns distributed computing projects to your processors. The benchmark has been improved by scholars at academic institutions over the period of several years and is now a very reliable metric of modern computing performance.
Here are the results of three runs on the Intel GM965 chipset laptop:
#1; 1898 floating point MIPS (Whetstone) per cpu, 4489 integer MIPS (Dhrystone) per cpu
#2; 1894 floating point MIPS (Whetstone) per cpu, 4505 integer MIPS (Dhrystone) per cpu
#3; 1904 floating point MIPS (Whetstone) per cpu, 4444 integer MIPS (Dhrystone) per cpu
The MCS CPU Benchmark 2008 will test the entire system to give you an overall score based on CPU and file system performance.
Here are the results of three runs on the Intel GM965 chipset laptop:
The benchmark results for this processor were very strange. Often we assume that higher clock frequency means faster performance but that is not the case here. Comparing these results to the Intel Celeron 356, 3.33Ghz processor, we find that the T7300 is faster in every single test. In fact the Celeron overclocked to 4.2Ghz was only able to beat the mobile cpu in the Boinc MIPS test. I believe the reason for this is in the fact that the T7300 has 4Mb of cache and the benefit of the Core 2 Duo micro code.
Of course, the Intel Core 2 Duo E8600 is much faster for several reasons, not the least of which is its 3.33Ghz clock speed. The E8600 was able to return a score of 12564 in the MCS Cpu benchmark.
Graphics Performance And Monitor Quality
The laptop came configured with the stock graphics accelerator, Intel GMA X3100, because we have little need to play games. The 1280 x 800 resolution of the 15.4” WXGA LCD display is great though! I can easily see the monitor 5’ away from any viewable angle. However it is not very bright compared to the newer LED back lighted LCD monitors that are available today.
To test out the power of the graphics card, I installed my favorite screensaver from ReallySlick.com, the Lattice. The Lattice screensaver takes you on a fly through of an endless world of linked rings. You can choose from several different textures and depth of rings. However, if you include too many rings or increase the depth to far, your video card will start to slow down to a crawl. The Intel GMA X3100 set to 1280x800 32Bit color was able to display the screensaver with a frame rate of about 20FPS with rather meager video settings in the screensaver.
If you are serious about gaming on the go with your laptop, consider getting these video cards included: nVIDIA Quadro NVS 135M or nVIDIA Quadro NVS 140M. They will turn this boring business boar into a screaming monster!
802.11G Wireless Networking Range And Speed
I found the laptop to have an average wireless networking range which was comparable to my ASUS 1005HA netbook. To determine this range, I carried the Dell Latitude D830 laptop down the street in front of my Linksys WRT54G wireless router which has the stock antennas installed. I was able to walk to a point 74 yards away while still reading a temperature status webpage on my corporate network.
I found the Dell Latitude D830 laptop configured with an Intel T7300 2.0Ghz to be powerful enough to handle all of my business processing needs. The file system and memory are at the peak of their performance, even in my basic configuration.
As a final note, the Intel GM965 graphics card is really bad. You should purchase this laptop with any video card other than the stock Intel unit because it is seriously underpowered and cannot be used for many gaming tasks. If you ever have dreams of one day selling this on Ebay or giving this away to a friend, a good video card will increase its value to the receiving party.