Dell has unveiled its first rugged notebook PC that the company designed expressly for the purpose of withstanding humidity, altitude, dust, and vibration. The Latitude ATG D620 -- priced at $2,499 -- is expected to appeal to computer users who work in demanding environments.
The new laptop sports a shock-mounted 80-GB hard drive that is encased by rubber so the drive is not affected by dropping the machine. In addition, the D620 sports a spill-resistant keyboard and an extra-bright display meant to offer better viewing in full sunlight.
The new Latitude will put Dell in competition with Hewlett-Packard and Panasonic, both of which offer ruggedized notebooks that can deal with temperature extremes and rough handling.
In announcing the laptop, Dell said the 14.1-inch display is unique in the ruggedized laptop scene in that it has an ambient light sensor, glass overlay, and antireflective coating.
Dell also said the display is about one and a half times brighter than most mainstream corporate notebooks, making it a better option for employees who frequently use their laptops outdoors.
One customer Dell cited in the press release announcing the new laptop is TaylorMade Golf, which plans to use the new Latitude to analyze golf swings outdoors so it can develop better clubs.
But the display has a drawback as well: It uses more battery power to attain its level of brightness. Dell has acknowledged that the new display will drain a battery more quickly than other LCDs, but said the impact is a tradeoff to meeting customer needs.
Although Dell's new offering likely will appeal to a certain type of consumer, ruggedized laptops are not expected to spawn a widespread movement toward tougher machines, noted Loren Loverde, an analyst at IDC.
"Ruggedized systems are a small niche of portables, so a move by Dell there could affect the niche," he said. "But it would not have much impact on the overall market."
It is also likely that the system's cost will keep it from being a mass-market pick. However, Loverde noted, the new Latitude could have an impact on Dell's competitive edge against HP and other computer makers, and could win some customers who have been using ruggedized PDAs instead of laptops.